So I'm trying to do the sodium acetate tower demonstration that I've seen a ton of videos on. I don't have sodium acetate and I am making it from a liter of 5% distilled white vinegar and pure baking soda. The vinegar is expired according to the package (though I'm not sure if this makes any difference). I've seen a ton of videos on this and it is not going as smoothly as I expected.

Although the vinegar is past the "best if used by" date it is still reacting with the baking soda. Once I hit the point where it's no longer reacting with additional baking soda I have around a liter of volume. One website recommended to slowly heat it up until it reaches about 100 - 150 mL. They recommended not boiling it with high heat as it would appear burnt. So i gently heated it up without boiling. Once it got down to around 600 ml the color started becoming noticeably yellow. Once it got down to around 400 ml the color become more of a brownish tea looking color. When it got to under 300 ml the crystals started rapidly forming. I then attempted to pour out the liquid into a new container so it could cool and I tried to filter out the existing crystals with a paper towel. I got some brown liquid but quickly the entire mixture turned into a crystally sludge.

Am I doing something wrong or is this just trial and error and I need to find the exact volume at which the crystals just barely start to form and then stop heating? I know what's supposed to happen but it doesn't seem to be doing that for me. Is there a reason it's yellow/brown and not clear and does that make a difference?

Thanks for any advice you can give me!

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It looks like vinegar contains some decomposing organic matter, aside of acetic acid, like sugar undergoing caramelization. Try spontaneous evaporation. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Apr 27 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ Please give us numerical information about the quantities of soda and of vineggar used, and about the concentration of vineggar. $\endgroup$
    – Maurice
    Apr 27 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ Maurice, it was 1 liter of 5% vinegar. The baking soda I was less exact about and just put in about 4 tablespoons full and then went a lot slower with adding until the fizzing finally stopped. I would say it was about 6 tablespoons of baking soda. I bought some new distilled white vinegar 5% acidity and I'm going to calculate exactly how much baking soda should react with it and try the whole thing again today $\endgroup$
    – NateL
    Apr 27 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ Went a little differently with fresh vinegar and with more exact number for amount of baking soda. The previous batch with expired vinegar quickly turned yellow and then brown. This one started to have yellow tint by time previous one turned brown. I'm down to solution being about 200 mL (started off with a little less than 1000 mL) and little flakes started forming around 400 mL, i reduced the heat and it kinda lessened. I'm gonna try to get it close to 150 mL and see if i can see a more hardened crystal forming on the top and then turn off heat, pour in a little vinegar and give it a go $\endgroup$
    – NateL
    Apr 28 at 16:02


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