Baking Soda & Vinegar Chemical Volcano

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Baking Soda & Vinegar Volcano Materials

You need baking soda, vinegar, detergent, flour, oil, salt, and water to make the classic science project volcano.
You need baking soda, vinegar, detergent, flour, oil, salt, and water to make the classic science project volcano. Nicholas Prior/Getty Images

The baking soda and vinegar volcano is a chemistry project you can use to simulate a real volcanic eruption, as an example of an acid-base reaction, or can do simply because it's fun. The chemical reaction between baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar (acetic acid) produces carbon dioxide gas, which forms bubbles in the dishwashing detergent. The chemicals are non-toxic (though not tasty), making this project a good choice for scientists of all ages. A video of this volcano is available so you can see what to expect.

What You Will Need for the Volcano

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • Empty 20-oz drink bottle
  • Deep plate or a pan
  • Gel food coloring
  • Dishwashing detergent
  • Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • Vinegar (dilute acetic acid)
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Make the Volcano Dough

Father and Daughter Making Homemade Play Doh
Laura Natividad/Moment/Getty Images

You can cause an eruption without making a 'volcano', but it's easy to model a cinder cone. Start by making dough:

  1. Mix together 3 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup water, and 2 tablespoons of cooking oil.
  2. Either work the dough with your hands or stir it with a spoon until the mixture is smooth.
  3. If you like, you can add a few drops of food coloring to the dough to make it volcano-colored.
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Model a Volcano Cinder Cone

Caucasian girl standing with model volcano
JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Next, you want to make the dough into a volcano:

  1. Fill the empty drink bottle most of the way full with hot tap water.
  2. Add a squirt of dishwashing detergent and some baking soda (~2 tablespoons). If desired, you can add a few drops of food coloring, too.
  3. Set the drink bottle in the center of a pan or deep dish.
  4. Press the dough around the bottle and shape it so that you get a 'volcano'.
  5. Be careful not to plug the opening of the bottle.
  6. You may wish to dribble some food coloring down the sides of your volcano. When the volcano erupts, the 'lava' will flow down the sides and will pick up the coloring.
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Cause a Volcanic Eruption

students working on science volcano project
Hero Images/Getty Images

You can make your volcano erupt over and over again.

  1. When you are ready for the eruption, pour some vinegar into the bottle (which contains hot water, dishwashing detergent, and baking soda).
  2. Make the volcano erupt again by adding more baking soda. Pour in more vinegar to trigger the reaction.
  3. By now, you probably see why I said to use a deep dish or a pan. You may need to pour off some of the 'lava' into the sink between eruptions.
  4. You can clean up any spills with warm soapy water. If you used food coloring, you could stain clothes, skin, or countertops, but the chemicals used and produced are generally non-toxic.
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How a Baking Soda & Vinegar Volcano Works

Erupting volcano
Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images

The baking soda and vinegar volcano erupts because of an acid-base reaction:

baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) + vinegar (acetic acid) → carbon dioxide + water + sodium ion + acetate ion

NaHCO3(s) + CH3COOH(l) → CO2(g) + H2O(l) + Na+(aq) + CH3COO-(aq)

where s = solid, l = liquid, g = gas, aq = aqueous or in solution

Breaking it down:

NaHCO3 → Na+(aq) + HCO3-(aq)
CH3COOH → H+(aq) + CH3COO-(aq)

H+ + HCO3- → H2CO3 (carbonic acid)
H2CO3 → H2O + CO2

Acetic acid (a weak acid) reacts with and neutralizes sodium bicarbonate (a base). The carbon dioxide that is given off is a gas. Carbon dioxide is responsible for the fizzing and bubbling during the 'eruption'.

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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Baking Soda & Vinegar Chemical Volcano." ThoughtCo, Oct. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/baking-soda-and-vinegar-chemical-volcano-604100. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2017, October 3). Baking Soda & Vinegar Chemical Volcano. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/baking-soda-and-vinegar-chemical-volcano-604100 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Baking Soda & Vinegar Chemical Volcano." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/baking-soda-and-vinegar-chemical-volcano-604100 (accessed November 17, 2017).