The "Acid Test" for carbonate Minerals and Carbonate Rocks

Article by: Hobart M. King, PhD, RPG

Hydrochloric acid on limestone: This video demonstrates what happens once one autumn of dilute (10%) hydrochloric mountain is put on a piece of limestone. Protective glasses and also gloves room recommended once doing the acid test.

You are watching: Does quartz react to hydrochloric acid

What is the acid Test?

To many geologists, the ax "acid test" way placing a fall of dilute (5% to 10%) hydrochloric acid on a absent or mineral and watching for bubbles of carbon dioxide gas to be released. The balloon signal the existence of carbonate minerals such as calcite, dolomite, or one of the minerals noted in Table 1.

The bubbling release of carbon dioxide gas deserve to be so weak the you require a hand lens come observe solitary bubbles slowly growing in the autumn of hydrochloric mountain - or so vigorous that a speed of effervescence is produced. These variations in effervescence vigor are a result of the kind of lead carbonate minerals present, the lot of lead carbonate present, the fragment size the the carbonate, and also the temperature of the acid.

Hydrochloric acid on limestone: This video demonstrates what happens when one fall of dilute (10%) hydrochloric mountain is put on a piece of limestone. Protective glasses and gloves are recommended once doing the acid test.


Magnesite: The mineral magnesite, which has a chemical composition that MgCO3, will effervesce weakly with heat hydrochloric acid and an extremely weakly v cold acid. Specimen is about 6.4 centimeter across.

What causes the Fizz?

Carbonate minerals are unstable in call with hydrochloric acid. Once acid begins to effervesce (fizz) on a specimen, a reaction comparable to the one shown below is acquisition place.


On the left side of this reaction, the mineral calcite (CaCO3) is in call with hydrochloric acid (HCl). These reaction to kind carbon dioxide gas (CO2), water (H2O), liquified calcium (Ca++), and also dissolved chlorine (Cl--). The carbon dioxide bubbles that you watch are proof that the reaction is acquisition place. When that occurs, calcite or one more carbonate mineral is present.

Many other carbonate mineral react v hydrochloric acid. Every of this minerals is composed of one or more metal ions combined with a lead carbonate ion (CO3--). The chemistry of this reactions is comparable to the calcite reaction above. The mineral reacts through hydrochloric acid to develop carbon dioxide gas, water, a dissolved metal ion, and dissolved chlorine. The reactions because that magnesite (MgCO3) and also siderite (FeCO3) are displayed below.



Calcite: This transparent specimen that calcite mirrors cleavage that is characteristic of the mineral. Calcite, v a composition of CaCO3, will certainly react strongly v either cold or warmth hydrochloric acid. Specimen measures around 10 centimeter across.

Acid reaction of lead carbonate Minerals
MineralChemical CompositionCold acid ReactionWarm mountain Reaction
MagnesiteMgCO3very weakweak
SideriteFeCO3very weakweak
Table 1: A list of commonly and occasionally encountered carbonate minerals v their chemistry formula and also reactions to cold and warm hydrochloric acid. Check results have the right to vary due to the fact that of weathering, ahead testing, contamination, and specimen purity.


The Vigor of lead carbonate Reactions

Careful monitoring is important because some carbonate minerals react vigorously and also others proper react through cold acid.

The lead carbonate mineral the is most typically encountered by geologists is calcite (CaCO3). Calcite is a "ubiquitous" mineral. Ubiquitous method "found everywhere." Calcite occurs in igneous, metamorphic, and also sedimentary rocks and also is the most frequently encountered lead carbonate mineral. If you place one fall of cold hydrochloric acid on calcite, the whole drop that acid will certainly erupt through bubbles and also a vigorous fizz will certainly last because that a few seconds.

Dolomite CaMg(CO3)2 is one more commonly encountered lead carbonate mineral. If you location one drop of cold hydrochloric acid on a piece of dolomite, the reaction is weak or not observed. Instead of see an obvious fizz, girlfriend will check out a fall of acid on the surface of the mineral that can have a couple of bubbles the carbon dioxide gas slowly growing on the dolomite surface.

However, if heat acid is put on dolomite, an noticeable fizz will occur. This occurs because the acid and rock react much more vigorously at higher temperatures.

If you place a autumn of hydrochloric mountain on powdered dolomite, a visible reaction will certainly occur. This is since the surface ar area has been increased, making much more dolomite accessible to the acid. (You can easily make dolomite flour by scratching a specimen of dolomite throughout a streak plate. Then test the powder by placing a autumn of hydrochloric acid on the powder. Another easy way to develop a little amount that mineral flour is to scrape the specimen with a nail.)

Different carbonate minerals have different responses to hydrochloric acid. A list of common and occasionally encountered carbonate minerals is offered in Table 1 through their chemical composition and their family member reaction v cold and warm hydrochloric acid.

When a mineral has a weak an answer to acid, you should be observant and also patient to check out it. For example, magnesite has actually a an extremely weakreaction v cold HCl. If you powder a small amount the magnesite on a streak plate and also place a autumn of mountain on it, you can not view any action for number of seconds. Then, as tiny bubbles start to form on particles of magnesite, the fall of acid will show up to grow larger in size. That occurs together carbon dioxide is liberated native the mineral and also displaces the water. Observing the formation of bubbles through a hand lens have the right to be helpful.


Dolostone: Dolostone is a sedimentary absent composed mainly of the mineral dolomite, which has actually a chemistry composition the CaMg(CO3)2. Dolomite will effervesce weakly with cold hydrochloric acid, creating a few bubbles. The reaction is more noticeable once the acid is warm and/or the rock is powdered. The specimen in the picture is around 10 cm across.

The acid Test on Rocks


Some rocks contain carbonate minerals, and also the acid test can be used to assist identify them. Limestone is composed almost entirely the calcite and also will produce a vigorous fizz v a autumn of hydrochloric acid. Dolostone is a rock composed of practically entirely that dolomite. It will create a very weak fizz once a fall of cold hydrochloric mountain is placed upon it, a much more obvious fizz when powdered dolostone is tested, and also a stronger fizz when hot hydrochloric acid is used.

Limestone and dolostone have the right to be a little an ext complex. Lock are sometimes composed that a mixture that calcite and also dolomite and have acid reactions that space deceptive. A dolostone deserve to contain sufficient calcite come fool you into calling that a limestone. For these rocks the mountain test can not be enough for a i was sure identification - yet at least you will recognize that the rock has a significant carbonate mineral content.

Marble is a limestone or a dolostone that has actually been metamorphosed. It will have an mountain reaction that is similar to the limestone or dolostone indigenous which it to be formed.


Other Applications the the "Acid Test": Geologists have the right to use dilute hydrochloric acid to assist identify the cementing certified dealer of sandstones. They place a autumn of dilute HCl on the sandstone and also closely observe. If calcite is the cementing agent, one effervescence will certainly occur and some that the sand grains could be liberated. A hand lens or little microscope is offered to make the observations. The photo over is a enhanced view that a piece of Oriskany Sandstone, an Ordovician-age absent unit indigenous the Appalachian container that serves as a natural gas reservoir and a organic gas storage unit. Oriskany sandstone is often cemented through calcite.


Always remember that "calcite is ubiquitous." (Ubiquitous way that it is found almost everywhere.)

Many rocks contain small amounts that calcite or various other carbonate minerals. All of these can produce a fizz also though the carbonate is only a minor component of a rock"s composition. This rocks can contain little veins or crystals of lead carbonate minerals that develop a fizz in call with acid. This veins and also crystals can be for this reason tiny the they space not clearly shows to the unaided eye. This tiny amount of carbonate can fizz the first time a autumn of acid is applied but it is in depleted and also not fizz if mountain is applied a 2nd time come the same place on the rock.

Some sedimentary rocks room bound along with calcite or dolomite cement. Sandstone, siltstone, and conglomerate sometimes have actually calcite cement that will develop a vigorous fizz v cold hydrochloric acid. Part conglomerates and also breccias save clasts of lead carbonate rocks or minerals the react through acid.

Many shales to be deposited in maritime environments and also contain sufficient calcium carbonate to create a vigorous mountain fizz. These shales were created when mud was deposit in an environment comparable to or nearby to wherein limestone to be formed. They space composed of sedimentary clay mineral intermixed v a small amount the calcite. Castle are recognized as "calcareous shales."

Don"t allow an acid fizz to overview the identification process. In many cases it will certainly instead include detail come your observation such as: "calcareous shale" or "sandstone with lead carbonate cement." This is beneficial information.


Vinegar can be offered for the mountain test: Vinegar have the right to be a safe, economical and easy-to-obtain "acid" for identifying calcite and also dolomite. Vinegar is dilute acetic acid that produces a very weak reaction v calcite and dolomite - finest observed v a hand lens.

The "Vinegar Test"

Vinegar is a dilute acetic acid solution (about 5% to 10%) that produces a weak effervescent reaction through calcite and also dolomite. It deserve to be used rather of hydrochloric acid for presenting students to the acid test. Vinegar is easy to obtain, inexpensive, and also safer to use than hydrochloric acid.The effervescence making use of vinegar usually requires a hand lens for clear observation and also is just observable with carbonate mineralsthat have actually a solid reaction v hydrochloric acid. Vinegar is frequently used as soon as the mountain test is component of a precollege course. Safety gloves, glasses, file towels, and immediate accessibility to an eyewash station room recommended.


A couple of rocks have the right to produce an extreme reaction with hydrochloric acid. These room usually rocks composed of calcite or aragonite withabundant pore room or incredibly high surface ar areas. Part specimens that chalk, coquina, oolite, and tufa space examples. Once a autumn of dilute hydrochloric mountain is placed on these specimens, one eruption of acid foam can rise up off of the rock and also spread to an unexpected diameter. The reaction is really brief (and may not it is in repeatable), but it is therefore sudden and also vigorous that it have the right to surprise one inexperienced person. This description is because that one autumn of acid. If much more is provided an even an ext vigorous reaction will occur. (These extreme reactions will certainly not take place with every specimen of this rocks. Be aware when trial and error them or presenting them come students because that testing.)

The incredibly vigorous reaction that cold hydrochloric acid through these specimens occurs because the rocks room so porous or because they have a really high surface ar area under a single drop of acid.


Calcite and other lead carbonate minerals have a low resistance to weathering and can be assaulted by mountain in herbal waters and also soils. When trial and error material that has actually been exposed in ~ Earth"s surface, the is really important to check unweathered material. A fresh surface deserve to usually be acquired by breaking the rock.


Some rocks room porous and contain a reservoir that air. Little amounts of air escaping into a autumn of mountain from listed below can give the figure of a gentle mountain reaction. Don"t be fooled. If you ar a autumn of acid on some sandstones, a couple of bubbles will emerge out of sharp spaces. It"s not a carbonate cement. To protect against this problem scratch the rock across a streak plate and test the powder or the seed that are produced.


The best means to learn around minerals is to research with a repertoire of small specimens that you deserve to handle, examine, and also observe your properties. Cheap mineral collections are obtainable in the Store.

Contamination in Mineral to know Labs

When students are provided minerals to identify, two instances can cause problems with their work.

1) In mineral identification labs, part students are prepared to call any kind of mineral the produces an acid reaction "calcite" or one more carbonate. However, calcite is a ubiquitous mineral and also it is often present as one intimate part of other mineral specimens and rocks. This can create a false mountain reaction. To stop being misled, students should always be cautioned to check a specimen"s identification with multiple properties. If a specimen fizzes through acid yet has a Mohs hardness of seven and also breaks v a conchoidal fracture, then it certainly isn"t calcite!

Depending top top the endure of the students, specimens the are very true to your properties deserve to be gift to the class, or specimens through some difficulties can be used. Several minerals uncovered in the field will not be absolutely true to properties. It"s better to discover that class in the lab and also go into the ar with wisdom.

2) since calcite is just one of the table of contents minerals the the Mohs Hardness Scale, that is frequently used to check the hardness of mineral specimens. This can place little amounts the calcite perhaps on every unknown specimen in the lab! Don"t assume that a solitary acid reaction is correct. Test the specimen in a second location if you suspect that contamination has actually occurred.

In a mineral identification lab, barite is typically confused with calcite since of contamination. The barite might naturally contain little amounts that calcite, or the hardness experimentation of a previous student can have left small amounts of calcite top top a barite specimen.Students space often drawn to an identification together "calcite" simply due to the fact that of the acid test. If the mineral exhibits a little bit ofcleavage and is not very hard, then countless students will certainly arrive in ~ an untrue identification.

Acid test Safety

Hydrochloric acid, appropriately diluted to a 10% concentration, can reason irritation if it contacts the skin or eyes. It can also fade clothing. Hydrochloric acid should kept in clearly-labeled dispensing bottles and used v quick and easy access to paper towels, water, and an eyewash station. Security glasses and protective gloves room recommended. If skin contact occurs, the area need to be flushed with lot of of water. If eye contact occurs, the eye must be purged for 15 minutes with plenty the water. If a call lens is worn, the eye should be flushed, contact lens removed, and flushing continued. Seek prompt clinical attention because that eye contact.Specimens that room tested with acid have to be rinsed after testing to eliminate or dilute unreacted acid.

Limiting Frivolous Acid use in Labs

Most students room intrigued with the mountain test and want to shot it. To limit frivolous acid use, students should be instructed to usage a solitary drop of mountain for the test and also to just test specimens when carbonate minerals space suspected. If that is not done, part students will use the mountain frivolously. This habits is motivated if the classroom is equipped with big acid party that are filled come the top. However, if the mountain bottles are tiny and virtually empty at the start of class, students normally ration their usage of the mountain to proper amounts. Small, virtually empty party makes much less acid easily accessible to spill.


Acid dispensing bottles: small acid dispensing bottles work-related well for the acid test. Lock dispense the acid one-drop-at-a-time and will not spill if they are knocked over. If you space a teacher supervising the acid test in a classroom, give students little bottles that are almost empty. That will minimize the amount of frivolous acid usage that could otherwise occur. Brand the bottles plainly and instruct college student in mountain use before making them available.

Acid party Selection

The form of bottle selected because that dispensing the mountain is important. Laboratory supply stores sell bottles that are designed for dispensing acidone-drop-at-a-time. The lid is always on these bottles (except once they are being cleaned or refilled), and also they carry out not develop a spill whenthey space knocked over. Bottles v a removable lid that has actually a squeeze bulb dispenser will certainly be sometimes knocked over when the lid is offif they are being provided by regular humans.

Acid dispensing bottles must be do of rigid plastic with a little opening which enables acid to be quickly dispensed one-drop-at-a-time. Soft dispensing party or bottles with a larger opening deserve to dispense a big amount that acid v an inadvertently squeeze.

Sources the Hydrochloric Acid

Hydrochloric acid diluted to a 10% equipment cannot it is in purchased in many communities. The ideal place to purchase commercially ready solutions is indigenous a activities supply company. Purchasing it ready-for-use is the recommended means to attain it. Don"t shot to prepare your own solution if you don"t know exactly what you are doing and have an equipped laboratory. Your chemistry department might be able to assist you v ordering acid. Some generous chemists will certainly prepare a 10% equipment for you.

Mineral Specimens together "Consumables"

Mineral specimens that are supplied properly in the science classroom or laboratory will have to be changed frequently.Students will be investigate them with hardness tests, streak tests, acid tests and other experiments. Every one of thesetests damage the specimen and make it much less fit because that the next group of students. To store the acid test from fouling your entire collection, questioning students to rinse specimens after experimentation with acid and also limit testing to only when it is needed.

More Minerals
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Rock and Mineral Kits
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