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Chemistry in Everyday Life

Learn about chemistry as it relates to everyday life. You'll find out how things work, see the humorous side of science, get ideas for home experiments, and catch the latest chemistry news.
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Chemistry in Daily Life
Chemistry is a big part of your everyday life. You find chemistry in daily life in the foods you eat, the air you breathe, your soap, your emotions and literally every object you can see or touch. Here's a look at some everyday chemistry.

What Is the Importance of Chemistry in Everyday Life?
Have you ever wondered about the importance of chemistry in everyday life? This is a question you may ask yourself if you're taking chemistry. Otherwise, finding an answer is one of the most common chemistry homework assignments. Here's a look at why chemistry is important.

Why Is Chemistry Important? - Reader Responses
Why is chemistry important? If you take chemistry or teach chemistry, you'll be asked to answer this question. It's easy to say chemistry is important because everything is made from chemicals, but there are a lot of other reasons why chemistry is a big part of daily life and why everyone should understand basic chemistry. Why do you think...

Household Product Recipes
You can use home chemistry to make many of the everyday household products that you use. Making these products yourself can save you money and allow you to customize formulations to avoid toxic or irritating chemicals.

Chemistry Questions You Should Be Able to Answer
These are questions an educated person should be able to answer relating to chemistry in the everyday world.

Dangerous Household Chemicals
Many common household chemicals are dangerous. They may be reasonably safe when used as directed, yet contain toxic chemicals or degrade over time into a more dangerous chemical. Here's a list of some of the most dangerous household chemicals, including the ingredients to watch for and the nature of the risk.

Examples of Chemistry in Daily Life - Reader Answers
You encounter chemistry every day, yet might have trouble recognizing it, especially if you are asked as part of an assignment! What are some examples of chemistry in daily life? Share your examples or read reader submissions.

Chemistry Quotes
This is a collection of chemistry quotes, relating to the science of chemistry or quotations from chemists about chemistry.

Elements in the Human Body
Find out what elements are in the human body and what these elements do.

Common Household Chemicals - Dangerous Mixtures
Labs have lists of chemicals that don't go together, but it isn't as easy to avoid dangerous mixtures with home chemicals because they aren't pure substances. Here's some help. Be safe and don't mix these common household chemicals.

Expiration Dates for Household Chemicals
Some common everyday chemicals last indefinitely, but others have a shelf life. This is a table of expiration dates for several household chemicals.

Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics
Some of the ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products are chemicals that may be hazardous to your health. Take a look at some of the ingredients to watch for and the health concerns raised by these chemicals.

Absinthe Chemistry
Absinthe has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity, as countries lift the ban on making the green wormwood and anise-flavored spirit. Learn about the history of the liqueur, why it was banned, a bit about its chemistry, how to make absinthe, and how to drink it.

Are Copper Bowls Better for Whipping Egg Whites?
Using a copper bowl makes it more difficult to overbeat egg whites. Other bowl materials don't offer this advantage. In this article, your Guide explains the principle behind this cooking phenomenon.

Baking Ingredient Substitutions
Do you need to replace one ingredient with another in a recipe? This is a table of ingredient substitutions that you can make when baking.

Before You Buy a Rock Tumbler
Learn about the two main types of rock tumblers and get some selection tips and helpful advice to prepare for your first tumble. Links to related resources and support sites are also included.

Before You Buy Gasoline
This is a guide to help you choose the best gasoline for your auto, with quick 'what you need to know' facts. There is information about octane ratings, additives, reformulated and leaded fuel, and links to sites offering complementary or comprehensive information.

Bend Water with Static Electricity
Use static electricity to bend a stream of flowing water. This is an easy science activity that illustrates how opposite electrical charges attract each other.

BHA and BHT - Food Preservative Chemistry
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are added to many foods to prevent fat spoilage. This article describes what BHA and BHT are, what they do, and how they do it. There is a fairly lengthy list of references because there is controversy over the health effects of BHA, BHT, and other additives.

Biodiesel from Vegetable Oil Tutorial
As the price of diesel continues to climb, you may wish to consider making your own diesel from cooking oil, called biodiesel. It's easy and could save you money.

Bubble Science
Learn about the science behind bubbles. Find out what bubbles are and how they behave.

Caffeine Chemistry
Learn about the chemical and biological properties of caffeine, the methylxanthine stimulant found in coffee and other foods.

Can a Candle Burn in Zero Gravity?
Can a candle burn in the absence of gravity? Here's the answer to this frequently asked question about fire.

Can You Drink Too Much Water?
It's important to drink plenty of fluids, but can you overdo it? Learn the truth about water intoxication and hyponatremia.

Can You Use Laundry Detergent in the Dishwasher?
Yes, you could put laundry detergent in your dishwasher. Should you? Probably not. Here's why.

Candy Triboluminescence
Wintergreen Lifesavers aren't the only candies that can make a spark in the dark. Take an in-depth look at the mechanism behind this special chemiluminescence caused by friction.

Chemistry of Autumn Leaf Color
Why do leaf colors change in the fall? What causes the different colors? It's mostly a matter of photochemistry rather than of temperature. Find out more!

Chemistry of Firework Colors
Fireworks combine art and science. This article focuses on the chemistry behind firework colors, including the mechanisms of color production and a table listing colorants. There are links to websites about fireworks - some with instructions for making your own!

Chemistry of Hard and Soft Water
Do you have hard water or soft water? Both? Do you know why? Get the definitions for hard and soft water, learn about their chemistry, and examine the pros and cons of each type of water.

Chemistry Scavenger Hunt
A chemistry scavenger hunt is an educational game where you find items that match a description. It's a great way to learn key concepts. Here's a list of chemistry scavenger hunt clues and items that match.

Chemistry Questions and Answers
Is there a chemistry question you think a person with a command of chemistry should be able to answer? Here's your chance to educate or to learn. Pose a chemistry question and answer it or read what others asked… See submissions

Christmas Tree or Floral Preservative Recipe
Is there a secret special ingredient in those little packets of floral preservative? No! It's easy and economical to make your own Christmas tree or cut flower preservative, using ingredients found at home.

Chromatography with Candy and Coffee Filters
Analyze the dyes used in your favorite candies with paper chromatography using a coffee filter, colored candies, and a salt solution.

Copper Plating Christmas Ornament
Copper plate a holiday decoration as a Christmas ornament or for other decorative uses.

Cut Flower Preservative Recipes
It's easy and economical to make your own cut flower preservative. Adding floral preservative will help keep your flowers beautiful much longer than if you simply filled a vase with water.

DEET Chemistry
Learn about the insect repellent called DEET. See its chemical structure, find out how it works, get information about the risks of using DEET, and find out how to reduce your need for bug spray.

Does Eating Turkey Make You Sleepy?
Find out why everyone wants to take a nap after Thanksgiving Day turkey dinner. Let's talk turkey and learn about L-tryptophan and carbohydrate metabolism.

Firework Periodic Table
Use this special periodic table to find out what elements are found in fireworks and how they are used. Just click on an element to learn more.

Food Additives
This is a list of common food additives and a description of their uses.

Fruit Ripening and Ethylene Experiment
Measure the ripening of fruit from exposure to the plant hormone ethylene by testing starch levels with an iodine solution. This easy experiment can be performed on several types of fruit, such as apples, pears, and bananas.

Gasoline & Octane Ratings
This article from your About Guide discusses what octane ratings are, how they are calculated, and how to determine the best octane rating to use. There are links to gasoline and alternative fuel sites, as well as to definitions and molecular structures.

Gold Alloys
None of the gold used in jewelry is pure gold. Some gold isn't even 'gold'-colored (e.g., white gold). The different colors are due to the presence of other metals alloyed with the gold. This table gives common compositions of the different colors of gold.

Hair Color Chemistry
Over 75% of women and a growing percentage of men color their hair. Learn about natural haircolor and find out what happens when you bleach hair or use temporary or permanent haircolor.

Hangover Remedies and Prevention
A hangover is the name given to the unpleasant aftereffects of drinking too much alcohol. While a lucky 25%-30% of drinkers are lucky enough to be naturally resistant to experiencing hangovers, the rest of you might want to know how to prevent or cure a hangover. Here's a look at what causes a hangover and some effective hangover remedies.

History of Fireworks
Fireworks are a traditional part of most Independence Day and New Year's celebrations. Learn about the invention of fireworks and the history behind how fireworks are used.

History of Matches
Fire may have been around since the dawn of civilization, but matches are a fairly recent invention. Learn about the somewhat gruesome history of the chemical or friction match and how antimony and phosphorus are used to start fire.

How Do Detergents Clean?
Learn about the chemistry behind the cleaning power of detergents.

How Do Disposable Diapers Work? Why Do They Leak?
Learn about the polymer in disposable diapers, sodium polyacrylate. Find out how the polymer absorbs water and why diapers leak.

How Do Lightsticks Work?
Find out how lightsticks or glowsticks work. Learn about the chemistry behind the process and get on-line purchase information. This article also explains how to make glow sticks last longer or become brighter!

How Do Mood Rings Work?
Mood rings have a stone that is supposed to change color to show your emotions. Do they work? If so, do you know how? Here's your chance to find out.

How Do Pencil Erasers Work?
Learn about the different materials used as pencil erasers and how they work.

How Do Pop Rocks Candy Work?
Find out how pop rocks candy works and whether or not it's true your stomach will explode if you wash down pop rocks with soda.

How Do Pregnancy Tests Work?
Learn how blood tests and home pregnancy urine tests work, how early they can be used, and some reasons for false positive and negative test results.

How Do Safety Matches Work?
Learn about how safety matches work and why they are considered 'safe'.

How Do Sunless Tanning Products Work?
This article discusses bronzers, self-tanning lotions and sprays, tanning accelerators, and pills. Learn how these products work and find out why tans fade.

How Does Soap Clean?
You may use it every day, but do you know how it works? Learn about emulsions, micelles, and soap scum! Then check out links to sites about bubbles, soapmaking, and the regulation of soap chemistry.

How Does Stainless Steel Remove Odors?
Have you heard about the kitchen tip in which you rub your fingers across the blade of a stainless steel knife to remove odors from onions, garlic, and fish? You have now! Learn about the chemistry behind this interesting bit of cooking magic.

How Fireworks Work
Firecrackers, sparklers, and aerial fireworks are all examples of fireworks. Here's a look at the different types of fireworks and an explanation of how they work.

How Sunscreen Works
Find out how sunscreen works, what an SPF rating means, the difference between sunscreen and sunblock, and how to protect yourself from both UV-A and UV-B radiation.

How To Color Fire
Have you ever wanted to color fire? Here are simple, nontechnical instructions for making your own colored flames. Add extra interest to your fireplace or campfire!

How to Dispose of Mercury
Mercury is an extremely toxic metal that is found in fluorescent light bulbs, mercury thermometers, and other household items. If you break a thermometer or a mercury-containing bulb, it's important to dispose of the mercury properly so that you don't accidentally poison yourself or contaminate the area with mercury.

How to Grow Table Salt or Sodium Chloride Crystals
It's easy to grow your own table salt or sodium chloride crystals. All it takes is salt and boiling water. One method even yields crystals within a few hours. Here's what you need to know.

How to Make Aspirin - Acetylsalicylic Acid
Learn how to synthesize aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid, from salicyclic acid. Get information about the history of aspirin, the effects of salicylates, and see the structures of the reactants.

How to Make Moonshine
Moonshine is a liquor made from fermented corn. Learn about distillation, condensation, and how this alcoholic beverage is made.

How to Make Silver Polishing Dip
Why use elbow grease to remove tarnish from silver when all you need to do is dip it in this easy-to-make nontoxic solution? I've also included some tips for preventing tarnish in the first place.

If Civilization Ended Today, Could I Still Make Beer?
If civilization ended right now, could I still make beer? Learn about how beer is brewed and what is required to make this popular alcoholic beverage.

Interview: Bill Carroll, President - The American Chemical Society
ACS President Bill Carroll chats about his interest in chemistry, Chemistry Week 2005, and how chemistry impacts our daily lives in this exclusive interview with Stephanie Holbrook.

Is It Safe to Use Kitchen Glassware for Chemistry?
Is it safe to use your kitchen glassware and utensils for chemistry experiments? Here's a look at some of the risks involved in using your dishes for chemistry.

Ivory Soap Microwave Trick
Microwave a bar of Ivory soap and watch it expand to over six times its original size. The foam trick is good clean fun, plus it can be used to demonstrate Charles' Law, physical change, and foam formation.

Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream
Make liquid nitrogen ice cream as a cool cryogenics or phase change demonstration or for a quick and tasty treat.

Melting Snow & Ice with Salt
You know salt is sprinkled on roads and sidewalks to melt ice and prevent it from refreezing, but do you know how it works? Learn about freezing point depression and colligative properties and find out about the pros and cons of several de-icers.

Natural Easter Egg Dyes
These are easy instructions for making your own natural Easter egg dyes, using fruits, vegetables, and spices.

Natural Mosquito Repellents
Looking for a natural alternative to synthetic chemical mosquito repellents? Find out which natural substances repel mosquitoes, how to avoid attracting them, and how to maximize the effectiveness of your repellent.

Nitrogen Cycle
Learn about the processes involved in the nitrogen cycle, the biochemical cycle that describes the transformations of nitrogen as it goes through nature.

Perform the Mohs Test
The Mohs test is one way to determine the hardness of a rock or mineral. You can use the Mohs hardness to help identify an unknown specimen. Here's how you can do the test yourself.

Potato Clock - Make a Potato Battery to Power an LED Clock
A potato can function as an electrochemical cell or battery. It's fun to use a potato to power an LED clock.

Red Cabbage pH Paper
Learn how to make your own pH indicator test strips using red cabbage. This is a fun, safe, and easy chemistry project that you can do at home.

Ricin and RCA - Castor Bean Toxins
Learn about ricin and RCA, the two potent toxins from the castor bean plant. Information is provided about the action, symptoms, and treatment of ricin and RCA poisoning.

Silly Putty Chemistry
Learn about the history of Silly Putty, how it works, how to make your own, and what you can do to explore the interesting properties of this viscoelastic liquid.

Slime Step-By-Step Instructions
Slime is easy and fun to make, plus it only requires glue, borax, and water. Here are step-by-step instructions for making classic slime, complete with photos.

Snowflake Chemistry
Here are answers to common questions about snowflakes. Learn how snow forms, what shapes snowflakes take, why snow crystals are symmetrical, whether no two snowflakes really are alike, and why snow looks white!

Sports Drinks - Better than Water?
Are you exercising or sweating away under a summer sun? Find out what beverage to drink to get and stay hydrated. Do you think water is best? Are sports drinks worth the money? What about a beer? Here's what you need to know.

Tattoo Ink Chemistry
Tattoo inks aren't regulated by the US FDA, so what you don't know can hurt you. This 3-part article examines the pigments, carriers, and other chemistry-related issues concerning tattoo inks and their toxicity. Instructions for making your own tattoo ink are provided.

Theobromine Chemistry
The primary methylxanthine in chocolate is theobromine, a molecule similar to caffeine. See the structure of theobromine and read about its chemistry, effects on people and animals, and uses. There are links to chocolate history and chemical research, veterinary advice for theobromine poisoning, and related resources.

Vitamins May Hurt Your Health
Your multivitamin may contain more or less nutrients than you think, plus may include some nasty contaminants.

Ways to Lower Fluoride Exposure
Fluoride isn't only found in toothpaste and water. There are many everyday sources and several steps you can take to lower your exposure.

What Are the Elements in the Human Body?
Do you know the chemical composition of the human body? Here's the list of elements, given in percentage according to weight.

What Is a Chemical?
Are you wondering what makes a chemical a chemical? Here's the answer to this frequently asked chemistry question.

What Is Activated Charcoal and How Does it Work?
Activated charcoal isn't the same as your average barbeque briquette! It's a special type of carbon. Learn what activated charcoal is and why it is used in filters and medicines.

What Is Bleach and How Does It Work?
Learn what a bleach is, get examples of different types, and find out how bleach works.

What Is in Chewing Gum?
Learn about the ingredients in chewing gum and find out whether it's true gum stays in your stomach seven years if you swallow it.

What Is Radioactivity? What is Radiation?
Learn about natural and induced radioactivity and alpha, beta, and gamma radiation.

What Is the Chemical Composition of Air?
Learn about chemical composition of the Earth's air. Percentages of the most common compounds are given, according to volume.

What Is the Difference Between Baking Powder & Baking Soda?
Learn about the difference between these two common cooking ingredients, the effect of substitutions, and find out how you can use baking soda to make your own baking powder.

What Is the Most Bitter Compound?
I've had some scorched coffee that I'm sure should have qualified for this award, but it turns out there's a real answer to this question of taste. Do you know what it is?

What Is the Smelliest Chemical?
There are some man-made chemicals with a stench well beyond the gentle perfume of dirty gym socks and skunk spray. Do you know the names of these super-stinkers?

What is the State of Matter of Fire?
What is the state of matter of fire or flame? Is it a liquid, solid, or gas? Learn the answer to this question and get information about the chemistry of fire.

What Is the Sweetest Compound?
Did you know there are sweeteners that are 200,000 times sweeter than table sugar? Take a look at this list to find out how your favorite sweetener rates.

What Makes Lead Poisonous?
You probably know that lead is toxic, but do you know what makes it poisonous? Here's an explanation of what lead does in your body that makes it such a health hazard.

Why Cut Apples Pears Bananas and Potatoes Turn Brown
Learn why apples, pears, bananas, potatoes, and other fruits and vegetables turn brown when they are cut or damaged.

Why Do Clothes Wrinkle?
Learn why clothes wrinkle and how permanent press fabrics work. It's a matter of polymer chemistry and chemical bonding.

Why Do Onions Make You Cry?
Find out why you cry when you cut onions and how you can keep it from happening.

Why Does Ice Float?
Learn about hydrogen bonding and density to understand why ice floats on water.

Why Does the Pool Turn Blonde Hair Green?
Do you think it's the chlorine in the swimming pool that turns blonde hair green? Guess again.

Why is Stainless Steel Stainless?
Learn about the chemistry of stainless steel. This article also includes descriptions of the different types of stainless steels, comments on passivation, and numerous links to sites offering related information.

Why the Flu Vaccine Doesn't Work
A new study conducted by the CDC indicates that getting the flu vaccine doesn't protect you against cold, flu-like illness, or even the flu. Surprised? Here are some reasons why the vaccine may not work.

Household Hydrochloric Acid or Muriatic Acid Uses
Do you use muriatic acid or dilute hydrochloric acid as a household chemical? If so, what uses do you have for it?

What Is the Difference Between... ?
Learn about the difference between two important scientific concepts, especially those relating to chemistry and physical science.

Why Lithium Batteries Catch Fire
Learn why lithium batteries catch fire and sometimes explode and how to minimize the risk of an accident.

Simple Chemistry Life Hacks
These simple chemistry life hacks offer simple solutions to life's everyday problems.

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