Science, Tech, Math › Science Is Dissolving Salt in Water a Chemical Change or Physical Change? Share Flipboard Email Print Neustockimages / Getty Images Science Chemistry Basics Chemical Laws Molecules Periodic Table Projects & Experiments Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated January 13, 2020 When you dissolve table salt (sodium chloride, also known as NaCl) in water, are you producing a chemical change or a physical change? Well, a chemical change involves a chemical reaction, with new substances produced as a result of the change. A physical change, on the other hand, results in a change of the material's appearance, but no new chemical products result. Why Dissolving Salt Is a Chemical Change When you dissolve salt in water, the sodium chloride dissociates in Na+ ions and Cl- ions, which may be written as a chemical equation: NaCl(s) → Na+(aq) + Cl-(aq) Therefore, dissolving salt in water is a chemical change. The reactant (sodium chloride, or NaCl) is different from the products (sodium cation and chlorine anion). Thus, any ionic compound that is soluble in water would experience a chemical change. In contrast, dissolving a covalent compound like sugar does not result in a chemical reaction. When sugar is dissolved, the molecules disperse throughout the water, but they do not change their chemical identity. Why Some People Consider Dissolving Salt a Physical Change If you search online for the answer to this question, you'll see about an equal number of responses arguing that dissolving salt is a physical change as opposed to a chemical change. The confusion arises because of one common test to help distinguish chemical changes from physical ones: whether or not the starting material in the change may be recovered using only physical processes. If you boil the water off of a salt solution, you'll obtain salt.