Making salts by neutralisation

When an acid reacts with a metal hydroxide (an alkali), a salt and water are produced:

acid + metal hydroxide \rightarrow salt + water

The name of a salt has two parts:

  • the first part comes from the metal in the metal hydroxide
  • the second part from the acid used
Hydrochloric acidSulfuric acidNitric acid
Potassium hydroxidePotassium chloridePotassium sulfatePotassium nitrate
Sodium hydroxideSodium chlorideSodium sulfateSodium nitrate
Calcium hydroxideCalcium chlorideCalcium sulfateCalcium nitrate

Write a word equation to describe the reaction between hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide.

hydrochloric acid + sodium hydroxide \rightarrow sodium chloride + water

Formulae of salts

To work out the formula of a salt you must know the charges of the ions involved.

Common cationsChargeCommon anionsCharge
Hydrogen ion, H++1Group 7 ions, e.g. Cl--1
Ammonium ion, NH4++1Hydroxide ion, OH--1
Group 1 ions, eg K+, Na++1Nitrate ion, NO3--1
Group 2 ions, eg Mg2+, Ca2++2Carbonate ion, CO32--2
copper(II), Cu2++2Carbonate ion, CO32--2
Iron(II), Fe2++2Sulfate ion, SO42--2
Iron(III), Fe3++3

Transition metals can form ions with different charges, eg iron can form Fe2+ ions and Fe3+ ions. Their charges are shown in the name of the compound, eg iron(II) oxide and iron(III) oxide.

The formula for a compound must produce no overall charge. For example:

  • sodium hydroxide is NaOH (one positive charge and one negative charge)
  • calcium hydroxide is Ca(OH)2 (two positive charges and two negative charges)

What is the formula of sodium sulfate?

Na2SO4 (two positive charges and two negative charges)

Balanced chemical equations

To write a balanced chemical equation first write the word equation. Replace the name of each compound with the correct formula.

Mass is conserved during a chemical reaction. No atoms are created or destroyed, so the numbers of atoms of each element on the left of the equation is the same as on the right. For example:

CuCO3(s) + H2SO4(aq) \rightarrow CuSO4(aq) + CO2(g) + H2O(l)

  • copper sulfate is formed from Cu2+ ions in the metal carbonate and SO42- ions in the acid
  • carbon dioxide and water are formed from H+ ions in the acid and CO32- ions in the metal carbonate

Write a balanced chemical equation for the reaction of dilute sulfuric acid with sodium carbonate, Na2CO3.

H2SO4(aq) + Na2CO3(s) \rightarrow Na2SO4(aq) + CO2(g) + H2O(l)