Weak Acids: Properties & Examples

Weak Acids: Properties & Examples
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  • 0:00 Weak Acids
  • 1:07 Properties
  • 2:01 Examples
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth (Nikki) Wyman

Nikki has a master's degree in teaching chemistry and has taught high school chemistry, biology and astronomy.

Whether you realize it or not, you eat or use weak acids on an everyday basis. In this lesson, you'll learn about the definition and properties of weak acids and become familiar with some examples.

Weak Acids

Chances are, you interact with weak acids on daily basis. They may be in the food you eat, the vitamins you take, or in the cleaning supplies you use. Weak acids also appear in our lives in less desirable ways. Have you ever had the misfortune of tasting spoiled milk? That sour, sticky flavor you taste is from a weak acid. Have you ever exercised so hard your muscles cramped up or got tired? Your exhausted muscles are dealing with the build up of a weak acid.

According to both the Arrhenius and Bronsted-Lowry definitions of an acid, an acid is a substance that produces hydrogen ions (H+) when it is in an aqueous solution, also referred to as a watery solution. The pH scale is used to measure the acidity of a solution. Acids have pH values of 0 - 7. A weak acid is an acid that does not produce many hydrogen ions (H+) when it is in an aqueous solution. By contrast, a strong acid is an acid that produces many hydrogen ions.

Properties

Weak acids taste sour, feel sticky and often burn the nostrils when smelled. Weak acids have low pH values (2-7), but not as low as strong acids (0-2). If in high concentrations, weak acids can be corrosive and even dangerous. Most of the time, however, weak acids are encountered in low concentrations.

Weak acids react with bases to produce neutral solutions. A base is a substance that is the chemical opposite of an acid; bases have high pH values and contain hydroxide ions (OH-). When strong bases need to be cleaned up, weak acids are used to neutralize them so that they will no longer be dangerous. When a weak acid reacts with a base, the hydrogen ions from the acid react with the hydroxide ions from the base to make water, a neutral and safe product.

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