Calculating pH of Salt Solutions

Calculating pH of Salt Solutions

Calculating pH of Salt Solutions : Many enjoy a cool dip in a swimming pool on a hot day, but may not realize the work needed to keep that water safe and healthy. The ideal pH for a swimming pool is around 7.2. The pH will change as a result of many factors. Adjustment can be accomplished with different chemicals, depending on the tested pH. High pH can be lowered with liquid HClHCl (unsafe material) or sodium bisulfate. The bisulfate anion is a weak acid and can dissociate partially in solution. To increase pH, use sodium carbonate. The carbonate anion forms an equilibrium with protons that results in some formation of carbon dioxide.

Calculating pH of Salt Solutions

It is often helpful to be able to predict the effect a salt solution will have on the pH of a certain solution. Knowledge of the relevant acidity or basicity constants allows us to carry out the necessary calculations.


If we dissolve NaFNaF in water, we get the following equilibrium:


The pH of the resulting solution can be determined if the KbKb of the fluoride ion is known. 20.0g20.0g of sodium fluoride is dissolved in enough water to make 500.0mL500.0mL of solution. Calculate the pH of the solution. The KbKb of the fluoride ion is 1.4×10−111.4×10−11.

Solution: Calculating pH of Salt Solutions

Step 1: List the known values and plan the problem.


  • Mass NaF=20.0gNaF=20.0g
  • Molar mass NaF=41.99g/molNaF=41.99g/mol
  • Volume solution =0.5000L=0.5000L
  • KbKb of F−=1.4×10−11F−=1.4×10−11


The molarity of the F−F− solution can be calculated from the mass, molar mass, and solution volume. Since NaFNaF completely dissociates, the molarity of the NaFNaF is equal to the molarity of the F−F− ion. An ICE table (below) can be used to calculate the concentration of OH−OH− produced and then the pH of the solution.

Step 2: Solve.


Hydrolysis equation:F−(aq)+H2O(l)⇌HF(aq)+OH−(aq)Hydrolysis equation:F−(aq)+H2O(l)⇌HF(aq)+OH−(aq)



Step 3: Think about your result.

The solution is slightly basic due to the hydrolysis of the fluoride ion.

Salts That Form Acidic Solutions

When the ammonium ion dissolves in water, the following equilibrium exists:


The production of hydronium ions causes the resulting solution to be acidic. The pH of a solution of ammonium chloride can be found in a very similar way to the sodium fluoride solution in the previous example. However, since the ammonium chloride is acting as an acid, it is necessary to know the KaKa of NH+4NH4+, which is 5.6×10−105.6×10−10. We will find the pH of a 2.00M2.00M solution of NH4ClNH4Cl. Because the NH4ClNH4Cl completely ionizes, the concentration of the ammonium ion is 2.00M2.00M.


Again, an ICE table (below) is set up in order to solve for the concentration of the hydronium (or H+H+) ion produced.

Initial Change EquilibriumNH+42.00−x2.00−xH+0+xxNH30+xxNH4+H+NH3Initial2.0000Change−x+x+xEquilibrium2.00−xxx

Now substituting into the KaKa expression gives:


A salt produced from a strong acid and a weak base yields a solution that is acidic.

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