Here are some common household substances that might be needed for production.
- NaCl (table salt)
- NaHCO3 (baking soda)
- CaCO3 (clam shell)
- MgSO4 (Epsom salts)
- Cu (copper wire)
- NaOH (from drain cleaner)
- MnO2 (from alkaline battery)
- H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide)
- HC2H3O2 (distilled white vinegar)
- Al (aluminum foil, aluminium nail)
- Fe (iron nails)
- C (carbon rod from carbon-zinc cell)
- Stainless steel
- HCl (muriatic acid)
- NH4OH (household ammonia)
- Li (lithium from lithium battery)
- Sn (pewter, solder)
- Pb, Sb (lead sinker, bullet)
- Ca(OH)2 (lime)
- ascorbic acid (pure Vitamin C crystals)
- H2SO4 (battery acid)
- Na2B4O7 (borax)
- Pure nickel coin (obtained from old Canada nickel or spark plug electrode)
- KOH (alkaline battery)
- Mg (magnesium fire starter)
- CuSO4 (algae remover)
Metal oxides and hydroxides
Many metal oxides can be made by heating the precipitate formed by electrolysis of a NaCl or NaHCO3 solution with the metal on the anode and the cathode. Here are my repeated observations:
- Cu - NaCl (forms blue-green Cu(OH)2 and yellowish Cu2O, turns to Cu2(OH)2CO3 when dried, CuO when heated)
- Cu - NaHCO3 (forms blue-green Cu(OH)2, turns to CuO when heated)
- Zn - NaCl or NaHCO3 (forms white Zn(OH)2, turns to white ZnO when warmed)
- Al - NaCl (do not use aluminium foil, use aluminium sheet or nail, forms white Al(OH)3, turns to Al2O3 when heated)
- Al - NaHCO3 (much slower than above process)
- Fe - NaCl (forms large amounts dark green Fe(OH)2, oxidizes in air to brown Fe(OH)3, Fe2O3 when heated)
- Fe - NaHCO3 (much slower than above process)
- Sn - NaCl (forms white SnO2)
- Sn - NaHCO3 (forms white SnO2 and off-white SnO * H2O)
- Ni - NaCl (forms green NiCl2 that readily sinks to bottom, Ni(OH)2 when bottom and top mix)
- Ni - NaHCO3 (forms nothing)
- Stainless steel - NaCl (forms large amounts dark green Cr(OH)3 and Fe(OH)2, which goes to Fe(OH)3 in air, maybe some Ni(OH)2 depending on type of steel)
- Stainless steel - NaHCO3 (no result)
- Pb - NaCl (surface coating of PbCl2 forms, some Cl2)
- Pb - NaHCO3 (forms surface coating of PbO2, then only O2 as PbO2 is oxidation-proof coating)
Without heating, the hydrated oxides or hydroxides are produced.
Potassium hydroxide can be obtained from alkaline, nicad, and Ni-MH cells (work on a fireproof surface with Ni-MH batteries and be careful of fire). Open them and quickly place the white paper (nicad and Ni-MH) or the entire battery gut (alkaline) in a small amount of water. The potassium hydroxide, being extremely soluble, will leach out. Squeeze the white papers out and decant the solution. Keep in a tightly sealed container to avoid carbonate absorption.
Lithium hydroxide can be obtained by reaction of lithium with a few drops of water. This allows the lithium hydroxide to be made very concentrated. Keep the resulting slurry in a tightly sealed container.
Sodium hydroxide may be obtained by reacting sodium carbonate with calcium hydroxide (lime) until the solution (not the calcium carbonate precipitate) does not fizz in acid any more. It can also be obtained from some drain cleaners, although many of them are no longer pure. Keep all alkalis in sealed containers.
Some metal oxides can be obtained by burning or strongly heating the metal in air. Here are my experimental results.
- Zinc (when in small pieces, yellow zinc oxide forms with blue flame, turns white when cooled)
- Lead (when powdered such as after dissolution of lead solder in HCl, lead burns, releasing red Pb3O4)
- Lithium (when heated, burns to white lithium oxide)
- Copper (makes surface crust of copper(II) oxide, underlying surface of copper(I) oxide)
- Iron (steel wool on a nine-volt battery terminal makes Fe3O4)
- Antimony (heat in air, makes Sb2O4)
- Magnesium (burns with bright white flame, makes MgO)
Semimetal oxides, such as antimony trioxide, can be obtained from antimony by reaction with dilute hydrochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide. This forms white antimony trioxide.
Most insoluble metal oxides can be made by reaction of their soluble compounds with dilute alkali. Some metal oxides dissolve in concentrated alkali. Here is experimental data.
- Copper (any soluble copper compound with alkali makes blue-green Cu(OH)2, CuCl with alkali makes yellow Cu2O, with ammonia makes Cu(NH3)4 ion)
- Iron (always precipitates)
- Aluminium (always precipitates)
- Tin (always precipitates, gently heat SnO * H2O to form blue-black SnO)
- Lead (always precipitates, heat Pb(OH)2 to get light yellow PbO)
Fluorine, because of its extreme reactivity is not easily prepared in the home lab.
Chlorine can be obtained by electrolysis of a chloride solution with a carbon anode. It can also be obtained by reacting manganese dioxide obtained from a charged (not dead) alkaline battery with HCl. A quick but dangerous way to make it would be the reaction of NaClO with HCl.
Bromine can be obtained from sodium bromide by various ways, but since sodium bromide is not a household substance, it is not included here.
Iodine can be prepared by electrolysis of a tincture of iodine solution. This forms iodide at the cathode and iodine at the anode. There are better methods, though. Add a few drops of hydrochloric acid to tincture of iodine. Add some sodium hypochlorite, about twice as much as you added of the acid. There should be no chlorine produced, and either the solution turns yellow and clear or dark brown. Then slowly add sodium bicarbonate until the solution turns completely opaque and iodine begins precipitating as lustrous blue-black crystals.
Oxygen can be made by electrolysis of a sodium bicarbonate solution with a carbon anode (slow erosion of the electrode by the gas is evident) or by catalytically decomposing hydrogen peroxide with manganese dioxide. Another way is to react hydrogen peroxide and sodium hypochlorite. This produces a bleachy-smelling oxygen gas.
Hydrogen can be made by the reaction of a metal like zinc with hydrochloric acid or sulfuric acid. Zinc produces a steady stream of hydrogen gas for quite a while when in solid form. Magnesium and aluminium form a large amount of hydrogen gas quickly. It can also be made by electrolysis of sodium bicarbonate solution. The reaction of copper(II) chloride or alkalis with aluminium produces hydrogen gas.
Carbon dioxide can be made by reaction of a carbonate or bicarbonate, like NaHCO3, with any acid.
Sulfur dioxide can be made by burning sulfur in air. Sulfur trioxide can be made in no measurable quantity by heating sulfates strongly in air. It is found as white fumes.
Pewter leaves powdered antimony behind after dissolving in hydrochloric acid. Add zinc metal to the tin solution to precipitate pure spongy tin.
Leaded solder leaves a mixture of lead and rosin behind after dissolving in hydrochloric acid. Reacting a lead acetate solution with zinc metal produces pure spongy lead metal.
Most metal sulfates can be made by reacting the metal, the metal oxide, or the metal carbonate with sulfuric acid. Experimental data has shown these metals can dissolve in this way.
- Copper (forms copper sulfate, but not with metal)
- Lead (only carbonate works, sulfate is just as insoluble as carbonate)
- Tin (tin(II) oxide hydrate works, tin dissolves in hot concentrated sulfuric acid)
- Iron (forms iron(II) sulfate)
- Aluminium (?)
- NIckel (not with metal, but oxide and carbonate dissolve)
- Manganese (react manganese dioxide with hot sulfuric acid)
Copper or nickel sulfate can be formed by electrolysis of copper metal in sulfuric acid solution.
Alkali metal sulfates and ammonium sulfate can be made in various ways. Examples include:
- Lithium, sodium, or potassium sulfate: Lithium, sodium, or potassium hydroxide or carbonate with Epsom salts, filter off magnesium hydroxide or carbonate and evaporate solution
- Lithium, sodium, or potassium sulfate: Lithium hydroxide or carbonate, sodium hydroxide or bicarbonate, or potassium hydroxide with slight excess sulfuric acid, evaporate solution
- Ammonium sulfate: Ammonia and Epsom salts or sulfuric acid, excess ammonia.
Some sulfates can be made by reacting the metal with copper sulfate.
- Tin: Tin reacts slowly with copper sulfate, producing a white precipitate of tin oxysulfate
- Zinc: Zinc reacts quickly, forming a colorless solution of zinc sulfate
- Aluminium: Aluminium does not react
- Lead: Lead only forms a surface coating of lead sulfate
- Iron: Iron(II) sulfate is formed
Lead sulfate can be made by reacting lead acetate with any source of sulfate.
Iron(III) sulfate can be made by reaction of iron with sulfuric acid and an oxidizing agent such as hydrogen peroxide.
Calcium sulfate can be made by reaction of calcium carbonate with sulfuric acid or with hydrochloric acid and Epsom salts.
Metal acetates can be made in various ways with acetic acid (vinegar). Here is the experimental data:
- Lead acetate: Lead + acetic acid + hydrogen peroxide, good dissolution speed
- Lead acetate: Lead carbonate + acetic acid
- Copper acetate: Copper oxide + acetic acid
- Nickel acetate: Nickel carbonate + acetic acid
- Iron acetate: Iron(III) oxide + acetic acid
- Lithium acetate: Lithium or hydroxide + acetic acid
- Zinc acetate: Zinc and warm acetic acid
- Magnesium acetate: Magnesium and acetic acid
Many insoluble metal carbonates can be made by reacting a soluble metal compound with sodium carbonate.
- Magnesium carbonate: sodium carbonate + Epsom salts, white precipitate
- Iron(II) carbonate: sodium bicarbonate + iron(II) sulfate, white precipitate, green then brown on exposure to air
- Nickel(II) carbonate: nickel chloride or sulfate + sodium bicarbonate, green precipitate
- Zinc carbonate: zinc chloride or sulfate + sodium bicarbonate, white precipitate
- Copper(II) carbonate: green precipitate
- Lead(II) carbonate: white precipitate
- Manganese carbonate: manganese chloride or sulfate + sodium carbonate
Lithium carbonate can be made by letting a moderately concentrated lithium hydroxide solution sit in air. It will absorb carbon dioxide and lithium carbonate will precipitate.
Sodium carbonate can be made by heating sodium bicarbonate until a cool metal object held above the bicarbonate shows no condensation.
Potassium carbonate can be made by exposing potassium hydroxide solution to air and then heating to evaporate completely.
Metal chlorides can be made by reacting the metal, carbonate, or oxide with hydrochloric acid. Experimental data:
- Iron: Yellow-green iron(II) chloride with metal, yellow iron(III) chloride with iron(III) oxide
- Tin: Slow dissolution, colorless tin(II) chloride (keep tin metal to prevent further oxidation)
- Zinc: Fast dissolution, colorless deliquescent zinc chloride
- Lithium: Violent dissolution, colorless deliquescent lithium chloride
- Magnesium: Violent dissolution, colorless deliquescent magnesium chloride
- Copper: hydrogen peroxide and hydrochloric acid make green copper(II) chloride
- Nickel: hydrogen peroxide and hydrochloric acid make green deliquescent nickel(II) chloride
Other methods include:
- Manganese: Manganese dioxide and warm hydrochloric acid
- Lead: Lead acetate or lead carbonate and cold dilute hydrochloric acid
- Antimony: hydrogen peroxide and hydrochloric acid make colorless antimony chloride or white precipitate of antimony oxychloride (if not acidic enough)
- Copper: Reduction of copper(II) chloride solution with ascorbic acid makes white copper(I) chloride
- Ammonium: Ammonia and hydrochloric acid make ammonium chloride
- Most other metals: Metal carbonate or oxide and hydrochloric acid
- Iron: Yellow iron(III) chloride will form with iron + hydrochloric acid + hydrogen peroxide
- Sodium chlorate is made when bleach is evaporated. Add a small amount of water and decant. This water contains mostly sodium chlorate. Evaporate to furnish crystals.
- Sodium chromate can be made by electrolyzing stainless steel in sodium chloride solution. A large amount of chromium and iron hydroxides will be produced. Add bleach to the dried slurry. A yellow solution of sodum chromate will be produced.
- An extremely dilute permanganate solution may be produced by reaction of manganese dioxide with hydrochloric acid. Lower manganese oxides may react with the permanganate solution to produce manganese dioxide again.
There are many other chemicals that can be made using less common household chemicals such as sodium bromide. This is only a few of the most basic compounds. Contact me to learn more about specific synthesis of any chemical compound.