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How is Salt Made? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Learn about the chemistry of salt (sodium chloride) and the ionic bond that connects sodium and chlorine to make the salt on your table. Also learn how we get salt from the ocean or salt mines and purify it to make table salt, kosher salt, and other types of salt.

What Is Salt?

Salt: it's on everyone's table. In fact, we need salt to live - if you didn't get any salt, you'd die. But do you know where it comes from?

The chemical formula for salt is sodium chloride, or NaCl. Na stands for sodium, and Cl stands for chlorine. The sodium and the chlorine are connected by an ionic bond. The sodium is positively charged and the chlorine is negatively charged, so they're attracted to each other - just like magnets with opposite charges. When they join together, they form sodium chloride, or NaCl.

The ionic bond between Na and Cl
Ionic bond

Where Does Salt Comes From?

Table salt mostly comes from two places:

1.) The ocean. The ocean is really salty. If you leave out a dish of ocean water in the sun and all the water dries up, you'll be left with a big pile of salt.

2.) Salt mines. Some places on earth used to be underwater but aren't any longer. When the water dried up, it left a lot of salt behind. Some salt is taken from these big deposits of salt.

Big pans of ocean water drying to make salt
Salt

Before it goes on the table, the salt is ground up into grains of the same size. Then the grains are purified so there's nothing in them but salt. For example, salt from the ocean sometimes has other minerals mixed in with it. To make table salt, those minerals are taken out.

Most salt makers also add a chemical to stop the salt from clumping up, so it's easy to sprinkle on your food.

What is Iodized Salt?

When we make salt, we usually add a mineral called iodine. The chemical abbreviation for iodine is I. Iodized salt is salt with iodine added to it.

Iodine is a mineral that you need to be healthy. People who don't get enough iodine may develop a goiter, or an unusually big thyroid gland, which is located in the front of the neck. Around the 1920s, a lot of people had goiters because they weren't getting enough iodine. As salt is something that everyone eats, manufacturers started putting iodine in salt. Today, very few people have goiters because most of us eat iodized salt.

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