Uses for Acids and Bases

Aside from being important components of various industry productions, acids and bases are also important in maintaining a physical health. The acid-base balance in the human body is important in various organ functions.

Combining acids and bases typically results to chemical reactions resulting to the formation of salts and water. Specific acidic or base water solutions tend to conduct electric current (electrolytes).Although a number of food contain acids and bases, many offer potential health risks, especially concentrated ones.


An acid generally tastes sour. When tested with a litmus paper, the sample of the acidic material changes from blue to red. Common examples of acids include citric acid from citrus fruits, ascorbic acid from vitamin C supplements and certain fruits, carbonic acid from carbonated drinks, lactic acid (milk acid), and vinegar (5 percent acetic acid).

Hydrochloric Acid

Hydrochloric acid is a colorless, fuming liquid with a pungent odor. This mixture of hydrogen chloride and water is generally stable under ordinary conditions of use and storage. As a strong mineral acid, extreme heat may result to bursting of its container. It is best to keep it out of direct sunlight and away from heat and water.

Hydrochloric acid is highly corrosive and is one of the most common strong mineral acids in chemistry. This acid is also present in the stomach’s gastric acid. In common products, it is used in the production fo gelatin, food additives, leather processing, and cleaning goods.

Sulfuric Acid 

When cutting an onion, the gas called propanethiol X-oxide is released in the air and when it reaches the eyes, sulfuric acid is produced and tears start irrigating the eye to flush out the sulfuric acid. When concentrated sulfuric acid gets on the skin, it immediately starts taking out water from the skin molecules which causes an acid burn. Volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and decaying vegetation cause the release of sulfuric acid in the atmosphere. 

It is also used for making dye, soap, detergent, plastic, alcohol, glues, film, paint, pharmaceutical products, petroleum products, pulp, and paper.


Bases generally taste bitter. They are typically slippery or soapy. When tested with a litmus paper, the sample of the base material doesn’t change the color of the paper. They can also turn a red (acidified) litmus paper back to blue. Common examples of bases include soap, lye, detergents, and household ammonia.

Sodium hydroxide 

At room temperature, sodium hydroxide is a white, crystalline, odorless solid that absorbs moisture from the air. When dissolved in water or when it is neutralized with acid, it produces heat that may be enough to ignite combustible materials. Sodium hydroxide usually reacts with acids to form water and the corresponding salts. It is used as a strong chemical base for the production of pulp and paper, soaps and detergents, and textiles.

Serious exposure to sodium hydroxide, especially in concentrated amounts, may cause potential health effects. Inhaling it may cause serious sneezing, sore throat, runny nose, and it may also damage to the upper respiratory tract. Severe pneumonitis may also occur. If ingested, it may cause severe burns in many parts of the digestive system. Prolonged contact with dilute solutions or dust also has a destructive effect on tissues, depending on the severity of exposure. 


A compound of nitrogen and hydrogen, ammonia is a colorless gas characterized by a pungent odor. Lighter than air and easily liquefied due to its strong hydrogen bonding between its molecules, this type of base is miscible with water. An aqueous solution of ammonia provides a basic solution. It is known as a building block for the synthesis of a number of pharmaceuticals. 

Ammonia around the house must be treated with caution and it should be kept away from children and pets. It is widely used in many household cleaning products especially those that eliminate stains and tarnish. It is effective in removing soap build-up in hard-to-remove places such as those in sinks, bathtubs, and bathroom tiles. It is also used in cleaning silver or brass, and even gold. It can also remove clothing, carpet, and upholstery stains from pen markings, perspiration, blood, wine, and other food and drinks. It can stop mildew, keep garbage cans odor-free, eliminate paint odors, and repel moths as well. Typically used as an ingredient in industrial food processing additives and fertilizers, proper mixture of ammonia and water provides powerful plant foods for plants and flowers that prefer alkaline environments.

“Alkaline Foods – Acidic Foods,” Connective Tissue Disorder Site.

“Definition: Hydrochloric Acid,” Webster’s Online Dictionary.

“Acids and Bases,” Vision Learning.

“Sulfuric Acid,” Florida State College at Jacksonville.

“ToxFAQ for Sodium Hydroxide,” Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

“List of Acids and Bases,” Eastern Michigan University.

“What are Some Household Uses of Ammonia?” Wisegeek.