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Is Dissolving Salt in Water a Chemical Change or Physical Change?

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Sodium chloride breaks into its ions in water.

Sodium chloride breaks into its ions in water.

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When you dissolve table salt (sodium chloride or NaCl) in water, are you producing a chemical change or a physical change? A physical change results in a change of the material's appearance, but no new chemical products result. A chemical change involves a chemical reaction, with new substances produced as a result of the 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 an example of a chemical change.

If you search online for the answer to this question, you'll see about equal numbers of responses arguing that dissolving salt is a physical change as opposed to a chemical change. The confusion arises because one common test to help distinguish chemical and physical changes is 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.

So, you've read the rationale. What do you think? Would you agree dissolving salt in water is a chemical change?

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