Is Everything a Chemical?

Why Everything Is Chemistry

All matter consists of chemicals, whether it's natural or made in a lab.
All matter consists of chemicals, whether it's natural or made in a lab. Jon Schulte, Getty Images

Chemicals aren't just exotic substances found in a chemistry lab. Here's a look at what makes something a chemical and the answer to whether everything is a chemical.

Everything is a chemical because everything is made of matter. Your body is made of chemicals. So is your pet, your desk, the grass, the air, your phone, and your lunch.

Matter and Chemicals

Anything that has mass and occupies space is matter. Matter consists of particles. The particles may be molecules, atoms, or subatomic bits, such as protons, electrons, or leptons. So, basically anything you can taste, smell, or hold consists of matter and is therefore a chemical.

Examples of chemicals include the chemical elements, such as zinc, helium, and oxygen; compounds made from elements including water, carbon dioxide, and salt; and more complex materials like your computer, air, rain, a chicken, a car, etc.

Matter Versus Energy

Something comprised entirely of energy would not be matter. This, it would not be a chemical. Light, for example, has apparent mass, but it doesn't take up space. You can see and sometimes feel energy, so the senses sight and touch aren't reliable ways to distinguish better matter and energy or to identify a chemical.

More Examples of Chemicals

Anything you can taste or smell is a chemical. Anything you could touch or physically pick up is also a chemical.

  • gases
  • liquids
  • solids
  • plasma (including most of a flame)
  • cardboard box
  • Canada
  • spider web
  • a diamond
  • a shoe
  • gold
  • ozone
  • an apple
  • a herd of goats
  • cheese
  • parsley
  • food dye Red #40

Examples of Things That Are Not Chemicals

While all forms of matter may be considered chemicals, there are phenomena you encounter which do not consists of atoms or molecules.

  • heat
  • kinetic energy
  • gravity
  • potential energy
  • ultraviolet light
  • thoughts
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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Is Everything a Chemical?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, August 27). Is Everything a Chemical? Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Is Everything a Chemical?" ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).