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I recently heard someone claim that adding table salt to vinegar caused HCl to form which helped them clean coins - clearly not the case - however I thought I'd disprove it by doing an experiment.

So I added NaCl to ethanoic acid and measured a 0.5 reduction (3 to 2.5) in pH using a pH probe. This seemed a bit weird so I repeated using tap water and the same happened (7 to 6.5).

The pH of water when NaCl is added should not change from 7!

The probe measures by detecting a change in voltage through the solution so it could be that, but you'd think that salts shouldn't have such an effect or be adjusted for. Can anyone repeat please?

What's going on?

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This is probably an effect in which sodium ions from the salt are being weakly detected by the glass electrode, giving the appearance of a lower pH. Try add the same concentration of salt to samples of your reference buffers and recalibrate your pH meter to those before measuring the pH of the salt water. I would expect you would see pH 7. Also, keep in mind that the pH of unbuffered water is very sensitive to low concentrations of certain impurities -- from the air or from the added salt. For example, carbon dioxide in the air will lower the pH over time.

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Read about dissociation constants. Nacl added to water puts both hcl and naoh into the water. These compounds have different dissociation constants so there will be a difference in the number of h+ and oh- ions in the mix, resulting in a change in the number of free h+ ions which is what ph is about.

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