You find a puddle of a clear liquid on your driveway. It is either water, vinegar, or battery acid from the car. how can you safely test the liquid to determine the identity?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
You can determine the identity of the liquid by testing the pH. The pH will tell you the acidity or basicity of the liquid. Each of the possible identities have different pH values. The pH scale ranges from 0-14. A value of 7 is a neutral solution (neither an acid or a base). Values ranging between 8 and 14 are bases and between 0 and 6 are acids. The further away from 7, the stronger the acid or base. For example, pH = 3 is a stronger acid than pH =5 and pH=10 is a stronger acid than pH = 8. The best way to test for pH is a pH meter. It is a device similar to a thermometer, but instead of reading temperature, it reads pH value. Another method for testing pH would be by using an indicator that changes color in the presence of varying pH ranges depending on the indicator used. Taste is not a safe way to test for the identity (although in this case it would distinguish between the possibilities.) Water is typically neutral so the pH would be approximately 7. Vinegar is a weak acid so the pH would be between 2-3. Battery acid is typically sulfuric acid which is a very strong acid, so the pH would be approximately 1.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial