Leaching: Definition & Process

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Aluminum Hydroxide: Formula & Side Effects

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 All About Leaching: Definition
  • 1:45 The Leaching Process
  • 3:05 Environmental Concerns…
  • 3:54 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Reid

Danielle has taught middle school science and has a doctorate degree in Environmental Health

From its commercial applications to the environmental concerns surrounding it, leaching is a very well known chemical process. Discover what leaching is and how this process works. Then test your knowledge with a short quiz.

All About Leaching: Definition

Even if you don't know the definition for the chemical process of leaching, you've probably witnessed it take place. If you've ever brewed a cup of tea or made instant coffee, for instance, you've seen leaching in action. Leaching is just the process of extracting a substance from a solid material that has come into contact with a liquid.

In leaching, the liquid is very important, as it facilitates the ability to remove, or extract, a given substance from a solid matrix (i.e. material). Let's break this definition down by using the example of brewing tea.

You go into your kitchen and decide you would like to make a hot cup of green tea. Of course you know that a green tea bag, hot water, and a cup is needed to make the tea. Shown in this diagram, we can relate each of these components to the definition of leaching: (1) The tea bag would be our solid matrix, (2) the green tea would be the substance extracted, and (3) the hot water would be our liquid source.

Diagram 1: Example of Making Green Tea To Illustrate Leaching
green tea leaching

Going back to our story on making tea, you proceed with boiling water and add it to a cup. As you steep your green tea bag in the hot water, what do you notice? The water not only changes colors, but more importantly, green tea is extracting from the tea bag into the water. After steeping for a few minutes, you sip from your mug and taste not just hot water, but delicious green tea, too.

Although making tea is a very well known process, it's also an ideal example of how leaching works. You took a solid matrix, like the tea bag, introduced it to a liquid, in this instance the hot water, and extracted green tea, or a substance, to make a cup of tea. Now that we understand what leaching is, let's look at the process in more detail, specifically regarding commercial applications.

The Leaching Process

Within the chemical industry, the process of leaching is commonly referred to as extraction. Let's look at this diagram of how the leaching, or extraction, process works.

First, the solvent comes into contact with the solid matrix. A solvent is usually a liquid that functions to dissolve a substance or solute. A solute is the substance being dissolved by a solvent. Thus, the solvent would be the liquid and the solute would be the substance you would like to extract from the solid matrix. Again, referring to our tea example, the solute would be your green tea extracted while the solvent would be the hot water.

Diagram 2: Step-by-Step Leaching Process For Chemical Industry Use
leaching process

Next, the solvent travels through the solid matrix, separating the substance, or solute, from this matrix so that it can be collected. This step is commonly referred to as percolation, which is really just a fancy word for filtering. You are essentially filtering out, or separating, the solute you desire from the solid matrix, using a solvent.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account