Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!

Home > Science > Chemical and material behaviour > Acids, bases and metals


Acids, bases and metals


Acids in the laboratory

A large black cross

Dilute acids

You will have used some dilute acids at school, such as hydrochloric acid, sulphuric acid and nitric acid. Their bottles are labelled with the warning symbol for 'irritant'.

This means that if any of them makes contact with your skin, it will become red or blistered. You must wash off any spills with plenty of water, otherwise your skin will soon feel as if it is burning.

Concentrated acids

Two test tubes dripping liquid onto two objects. Where the objects have come into contact with the liquids, they have corroded

You are unlikely to have used concentrated acids but your teacher might have shown you some experiments with them. This is because concentrated acids are corrosive. They can attack metals and destroy skin if spilled.

Acids in the home

Laboratory acids are far too dangerous to taste, but you will have swallowed some dilute weak acids. Acids have a sour taste, like vinegar, which contains ethanoic acid, and lemons, which contain citric acid. These are safe to use in food, but they can still hurt if they get into a cut or into your eyes.

Other acids you will find at home are carbonic acid in fizzy drinks, tannic acid in tea and ascorbic acid which is vitamin C, found in fruit and vegetables.

Source Acid


A bottle of vinegar
Ethanoic acid

Fizzy drinks

A glass of cola
Carbonic acid


A cup of tea
Tannic acid

Vitamin C

Fruit and vegetables
Ascorbic acid


Citric acid


Acids, bases and metals activity

Handle with care! Toxic revision material.


Whack Attack

Whack and zap mad professors and aliens!

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.