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Baking Soda and Vinegar Volcano

Baking Soda & Vinegar Chemical Volcano
by Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.
Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and
consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels.
Updated September 05, 2018
The baking soda and vinegar volcano is a chemistry project you can use to simulate a real
volcanic eruption, as an example of an acid-base reaction, or can do simply because it's fun. The
chemical reaction between baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar (acetic acid) produces
carbon dioxide gas, which forms bubbles in the dishwashing detergent. The chemicals are nontoxic (though not tasty), making this project a good choice for scientists of all ages. A video of
this volcano is available so you can see what to expect.
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Baking Soda & Vinegar Volcano Materials
3 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water
2 tablespoons cooking oil
Empty 20-oz drink bottle
Deep plate or a pan
Gel food coloring
Dishwashing detergent
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
Vinegar (dilute acetic acid)
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Make the Volcano Dough
Laura Natividad/Moment/Getty Images
You can cause an eruption without making a 'volcano', but it's easy to model a cinder cone. Start
by making dough:
1. Mix together 3 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup water, and 2 tablespoons of cooking oil.
2. Either work the dough with your hands or stir it with a spoon until the mixture is smooth.
3. If you like, you can add a few drops of food coloring to the dough to make it volcanocolored.
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Model a Volcano Cinder Cone
JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images
Next, you want to make the dough into a volcano:
1. Fill the empty drink bottle most of the way full with hot tap water.
2. Add a squirt of dishwashing detergent and some baking soda (~2 tablespoons). If desired,
you can add a few drops of food coloring, too.
3. Set the drink bottle in the center of a pan or deep dish.
4. Press the dough around the bottle and shape it so that you get a 'volcano'.
5. Be careful not to plug the opening of the bottle.
6. You may wish to dribble some food coloring down the sides of your volcano. When the
volcano erupts, the 'lava' will flow down the sides and will pick up the coloring.
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Cause a Volcanic Eruption
Hero Images/Getty Images
You can make your volcano erupt over and over again.
1. When you are ready for the eruption, pour some vinegar into the bottle (which contains
hot water, dishwashing detergent, and baking soda).
2. Make the volcano erupt again by adding more baking soda. Pour in more vinegar to
trigger the reaction.
3. By now, you probably see why I said to use a deep dish or a pan. You may need to pour
off some of the 'lava' into the sink between eruptions.
4. You can clean up any spills with warm soapy water. If you used food coloring, you could
stain clothes, skin, or countertops, but the chemicals used and produced are generally
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How a Baking Soda & Vinegar Volcano Works
Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images
The baking soda and vinegar volcano erupts because of an acid-base reaction:
baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) + vinegar (acetic acid) → carbon dioxide + water + sodium
ion + acetate ion
NaHCO3(s) + CH3COOH(l) → CO2(g) + H2O(l) + Na+(aq) + CH3COO-(aq)
where s = solid, l = liquid, g = gas, aq = aqueous or in solution
Breaking it down:
NaHCO3 → Na+(aq) + HCO3-(aq)
CH3COOH → H+(aq) + CH3COO-(aq)
H+ + HCO3- → H2CO3 (carbonic acid)
H2CO3 → H2O + CO2
Acetic acid (a weak acid) reacts with and neutralizes sodium bicarbonate (a base). The carbon
dioxide that is given off is a gas. Carbon dioxide is responsible for the fizzing and bubbling
during the 'eruption'.
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