How To Measure Chemicals With A Chemical Balance

This is an explanation about how to measure chemicals with a chemical balance.  Most homeschool parents are not scientists.  If you took chemistry in high school at all, at this point it’s a vague memory.  But chemistry is a valuable, fun, and a not-really-that-hard-to-teach-subject for kids (we start doing “real” chemistry in 1st grade with our kids).

A chemical balance is just a scale, usually electronic.  You can buy one in WalMart in the kitchenware aisle (though this isn’t as accurate as a scale used in chemistry labs, it will do).  People use little scales like this to measure their food for portion size or when following a recipe.  They’re not very expensive and they are easy to use.  If you want a real chemistry scale, which is much more sensitive and can measure the tiny quantities used in chemical experiments, they are available at Home Science Tools and other science suppliers.

High school and college chemistry classes always use balances like these to measure out chemicals in grams, never teaspoons or other inaccurate measures.

The first step is to plug it in and turn it on.  Now you need a container that your chemicals will sit in while being measured.  I like little plastic disposable cups for this job.  You can also use a watch glass (concave piece of glass used in chemistry labs specifically for measuring out chemicals), but you don’t need one.  Depending on what chemicals I’ve been measuring out I either rinse out the cup to use again or I toss it.

Set your container on the balance and hit the button that says “tare”.  On my scale it’s the same as the on button.  This will re-zero out your scale, taking into account the weight of the cup.

Now you can scoop your chemicals into the cup and read the weight.  Some experiments call for a specific weight in grams of chemical and other times you just want to record what you did, including the amounts of chemicals used.

In the Layers of Learning chemistry sections we usually give measurements in grams, CC’s, and also teaspoons, because we know most people at home won’t have or don’t want to bother with a chemical scale.   However, if you have your teenagers use chemical measurements and methods, they’ll be comfortable with the process in college chemistry.

More Chemistry Lessons You Can Do At Home

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One Comment

  1. You are right: the best approach is to first calibrate the scale with the container on it. That way you only get a measurement in grams for the chemical you are weighing. The most common mistake I made when first using these scales was forgetting to calibrate it!

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