Building a Better Baking Soda and Vinegar Bomb
It might not be gunpowder. It may not even match dry ice. But in the world of backyard explosives, baking soda and vinegar is still one of the best (and most fun) ways to create an ear-pounding boom.
There’s no end to the ways by which one can make use of these two substances. Sodium bicarbonate and acetic acid combine to make fizzy volcanoes in first grade, cork guns in seventh grade and a cleaning substance in middle age. This article won’t touch on those, but it will provide a quick, simple and satisfying means for making a small-scale explosive.
First, you’ll need an empty 500 ml (16.9 oz) plastic bottle. Those of you in America know this size as the bottle Diet Coke 6-packs usually come in. It should have a flexible plastic body and a hard plastic cap, usually as tall as it is wide. (If the cap is flimsy or see-through, you probably don’t want to use it.)
Got it? Excellent. It’s now time for a quick trip to the grocery store. On your shopping list are two items: baking soda, preferably in a large box, and a jug of vinegar. In the latter’s case, you’ll want to get the highest concentration possible. 5% vinegar is fine, but see if you can’t find something higher, like 10%.
This is where the instructions begin to diverge from your expectations. Chances are, you figured that I would ask you to pour in the vinegar, pour in the baking soda and watch it all fizz out the top. Not quite. You’ll want to pay close attention from here on out.
Having uncapped the bottle, pour in vinegar until it’s about a quarter full. (This isn’t an exact science, and I welcome you to experiment with different amounts.) Next, take the open bottle and stick it in your freezer. Wait until that vinegar is completely frozen before taking it back out.
Once your acetic acid has turned to ice, pull the bottle out and grab your baking soda. Take out a wide-mouthed funnel (or your hand) and stick it through the bottle’s top. If you’re sure that the vinegar is frozen, start pouring baking soda through the funnel/hand until the bottle is about ½ to 2/3 full. (Again: experiment with your measures.) Now screw the cap on, and tight!
It should now become clear why I asked you to freeze the vinegar. Had you poured the baking soda into liquid vinegar, the whole concoction would have begun to fizz before you screwed on the cap, wasting precious carbon dioxide. (That’s right, environmentalists! In this situation, CO2 is a good thing.) By freezing the acetic acid, you delayed the chemical reaction long enough to get the baking soda in on time.
With your cap screwed on, take the bottle outside and wait for it to melt. Do not point the cap or the back of the bottle at you; carry this thing as you would a loaded gun. Once the vinegar his begun to liquefy, shake the bottle so that you mix the two substances together. Shake the bottle left and right, not up or down or towards you and away from you.
If you’ve followed all these instructions well, the plastic should begin to harden—as if something’s pushing at it from the inside. (That would be the CO2 gas, a byproduct of the acetic acid/sodium bicarbonate reaction.) Keep on shaking or rolling it until the contents seem evenly mixed.
You are now ready to reap the fruits of your labors. Find a hard surface outdoors that’s at least 20 yards away from any people, cars or other valuable items. Hold the bottle at the neck and chuck it—with as high a trajectory as possible—towards the isolated surface.
I won’t spoil the ending. 🙂