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Does water conduct electricity?

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Q. My teacher was teaching the class that water does NOT conduct electricity because it has a balanced charge. I thought differently, I'm pretty sure water conducts electricity, but what if it has a pH level of exactly 7? its completely balanced. would it still conduct?

I'm in 9th grade.

Joseph Cdeleted
student - Temecula, California


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A. Hi, Joseph. Even at a pH of exactly 7.0, salty water conducts electricity quite well. I'm not sure if your teacher is misunderstanding something or you are misunderstanding him/her, of course.

Purified water, with no contaminants at all in it, does not conduct electricity to an appreciable degree because water does not ionize into H+ and OH- to a sufficient degree to transport charges well.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


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A. Hi Joseph,

Tell your teacher to take a bath and drop in a hooked-up hair dryer or something electrical. But never, ever try this yourself.

If he doesn't come to school in future it's because he has 'passed on' due to the electrical shock

OF COURSE water is a conductor. Maybe not too good if the pH is a pure 7 but enough to hurt you .... and is your water a pure pH 7 ... I doubt it, don't you?

freeman newton portrait Freeman Newton
- White Rock, British Columbia, Canada

freeman newton died


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Teaching school age people that water doesn't conduct electricity is probably not the smartest example she could have used. It is true that perfect H2O will not conduct electricity. But it is also true that water that pure is tough to produce, and doesn't stay that pure for long. The conductivity test is a measure of how well the water conducts electricity, and is a good way of measuring the level of contaminants in water.

For a longer life assume all guns are loaded and all water conducts electricity unless you personally confirm different.

Jeff Watson
- Pearland, Texas


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Folks, I don't know if you caught the episode of Myth Busters where they threw radios and hair dryers and electric heaters into bathtubs to confirm or myth-bust whether these things will really kill you or not. The electric heater released so much energy that it turned the dummy to charcoal and exploded the bathtub into a hundred pieces! It was hilarious :-)

(It would be tragic if it was a person; but when it's a dummy, it's ROTFL funny).

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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Well I don't know much but I'm in year 10 over in England and I have been taught this stuff from a early age and she is wrong that sounds so good a teacher is wrong lol

Aimee Sdeleted
- Bath, UK

Electricity and Electronics








Pop Bottle Science


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The answer is very simple: Pure water (H2O, no contaminants or dissolved ions) is never conductive.

However, since the water from the faucet, bath, kitchen sink, etc., is not pure . . . Yes, it will conduct.

The reason is that impurities and dissolved minerals which are harmless (some are even necessary!) to your body, are dissolved in non-laboratory quality water. These impurities allow charge to flow.

As for the question of pH: if the pH is not 7.0, there is something there that is acidic or basic, and therefore there is a contaminant. However, some substances do not change the pH because they do not liberate or 'steal' protons (H+ ions), for example, NaCl, table salt. The ions, Na+ and Cl-, will conduct in solution, though. It is the presence of charged particles, NOT the presence of acid or base, that determines conductivity!

Take it from a Chem Major!

J McCool, 3rd Year Honours Chemistry, UWO
- London, Ontario, Canada
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Everyone I am in grade 10 and we did an experiment last week using pure water to conduct electricity, it is perfectly true that pure water does not conduct electricity but tap water does because it still has some salt in it and salt is dissolved in water it allows electrons to move more freely. Your teacher is not wrong, a lot of people out there think of water as a good conductor of electricity but pure water does not I have seen with my own eyes.

Arjun Wdeleted
Student - Toronto, Ontario, Canada


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i would like to clarify one thing here .......the level of pH only determines the relative availability of H3O+ and OH- ions in water (which one is greater).....so even if the pH is exactly 7 that does not mean that the water will not conduct....the "reason" for the poor conducting nature of water is due to the weak ionizing capability of water

hope this clarifies stuff

anurag peter
- cochin, india


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Hi, I am a high school student who is doing research on whether water DOES INDEED conduct electricity. The answer is NO. now yes if you DO drop a hair dryer or electrical device in to a bathtub with you, you will get a shock. BUT it is not because of the water. It is the MINERALS in the water that conduct the electric shock. Try to conduct an electric charge in a tub (or cup) of distilled water (pure H2O). you won't (or shouldn't) feel a thing! If you DO feel a shock the water you got was not 100% distilled.

any questions just ask a SCIENCE teacher
Karl M.

Karl Mdeleted
High school student - Springfield, Ohio


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KARL.EVEN THOUGH PURE WATER IS NOT A CONDUCTOR OF ELECTRICITY. PLEASE REMEMBER WHEN YOU PUT YOUR HAND IN THE PURE H2O IT IS NO LONGER PURE BECAUSE OF THE CHEMICALS COMING OFF AND OUT OF YOUR BODY. THEREFORE WHEN YOU ARE IN WATER THE WATER IS ALWAYS CONDUCTIVE. AND YOU WILL ALWAYS GET A SHOCK.

DAVID KEY
- YORKTOWN, New York


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Q. Hi I am trying to figure out how to run electricity through water. Please if you know how please post I need it please.

I am working on a science fair project for 8th grade and it is almost finished this is what I need it for.

Jason Kdeleted
student - Buckhead, Georgia

Kids Guide to Research




Earth Science for Every Kid


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A. Adding table salt to water will make it a lot more conductive, Jason. Dangerously conductive, so I hope you're using a small low voltage battery.

But it's still water and the conductivity will not even remotely approach the conductivity of metals like copper.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 10, 2008

I wasn't totally sure about the conductivity of pure water because I was looking at it from the perspective of the fact that it's a covalent molecule and so it should not be a conductor. but then I too was confused by the whole electrocution thing. then I remembered...hey!...skin is salty! You could choose the purest of pure water for your bath, but the second YOU get in, you're in a pool of ionic salt water. so, I wouldn't really follow that suggestion of throwing a hair dryer into some distilled water and then using your hand to see if it conducts electricity! If it's just your fingertip maybe you wouldn't feel all that much but you won't catch me testing it out. use a voltmeter instead. getting electrocuted is not fun!

L. Fader
- New York, New York

VOM Multimeter


September 21, 2008

The kid's teacher is actually correct. Water itself doesn't conduct electricity, it's the minerals in it that conduct the electricity, not the water.

Tyler Head
- Utica, New York


October 23, 2008

All of you experts are missing the point.
Water alone does not conduct electricity. What is water made of? Hydrogen and oxygen. The key factor is metal. You put metal into the equation--you change everything.

That's why you have a different scenario when the blow dryer gets put into the bathtub. Check it out you young people....

Pretty simple eh? I am from Canada!

Margaret Maier
- Windsor, Ontario, Canada


October 30, 2008

Folks, I also have seen water not conduct. I saw it in various trade shows a number of years ago when I saw TV's running inside a vat of water. Amazing! I was wondering about it back then and found out that in fact H2O in not conductive. So for all you non believers, believe it.

Carl Revine
- St Pete, Florida


November 24, 2008

ok...so DOES water conduct electricity? I am doing a project and I need a real answer! thank you!

Sally Mdeleted
- Yorktown, Virginia


November 24, 2008

Hi, Sally. I don't think your teacher is looking for a yes or no answer to a question that doesn't have one. I think your teacher wants you to think about it.

This page already has the "real" answer and explains it well: If water is ultra pure the conductivity is very very very very low, but not zero. Depending on how salty the water is (and even tap water, rain water, and bottled water are slightly salty), the conductivity can be much higher. But even if it is very very salty, the conductivity is not close to the conductivity of metal.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 12, 2009

This question is quite simple actually, normal water of pH 7 does conduct electricity but PURE water does not conduct. Trust me I am a chemist

Muhammed Alah
- Afghanistan


January 13, 2009

My science teacher gave me this project to do and it's about what type of water conducts electricity. well, I have heard may things and some people say yes and some say no....I am very confused. it is due soon so I need a very simple and accurate answer. Thank you!

I am in 8th grade

Aly Hdeleted
- Yorktown, Virginia


January , 2009

Hi, Aly. My science teacher asked whether 50 miles per hour is fast or not. One member of our project team, a jet pilot, says 50 mph is slow as could be; the other member, a crossing guard, says it is terribly fast. I am very confused. It is due soon so I need a very simple and accurate answer. Is 50 mph fast or not? Can you help me out?  :-)

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 5, 2009

I am in year 10, in my science class we are doing an investigation on whether water conducts electricity. I realise that de-ionised water (pure) does not conduct, but when NaCl (salt) is added, it does. But what I don't understand is, if H20 and NaCl are both neutral atoms, how can they have a charge and transport electrons?

Lauren Hdeleted
Student - Albany, Western Australia, Australia


March 9, 2009

Hi, Lauren. H2O only ionizes very very very little into H+ and OH-, which is why it does not conduct electricity (except very very very little). But NaCl very readily ionizes into Na+ and Cl-.

The Na+ and Cl- ions don't exactly transport electrons so much as migrate through the solution, toward the oppositely charged electrode, transporting their own deficit of electrons (Na+) or excess of electrons ( Cl-)

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 27, 2009

hi guys
I've been doing some chemistry revision for the summer exams for school and I came to simple covalent molecules. It stated that water was a covalent molecule.
So then I got confused and came downstairs and said: does water conduct electricity?
My little sister shouted YES! -- but then I wasn't sure and came on google, found this website and it's been a great help to read it all!
So I now know that pure H20 DOES NOT conduct but that almost all water has at least some minerals or salts in it, which makes it conduct!
Thanks everyone!

Kelly Jdeleted
- Chester, England


September 16, 2009

To all the young people out there, if you want to understand why salty water conducts electricity you should look up "Electrolysis". If you haven't been taught this then you can impress your teacher with it.

Electrolysis example:
Imagine you put 2 wires into some salty water, connected to a battery. Basically the NaCl salt splits into Na+ & Cl- ions in the presence of an electric field in the water. Due to their charge they start moving towards the electrical sources(wires) in the water, the Na+ absorbing electrons on the negative side, and the Cl- releasing electrons on the positive side.
This doesn't make a 'proper' electrical circuit as the electrons aren't actually traveling from one side of the water to the other, instead the Na+ ions are absorbing the electrons from the battery and Cl- ions are releasing electrons back.
You would start to see a build-up of calcium around the negative wire, and the positive wire would start releasing chlorine gas(A big problem if your submarine leaks sea water onto the engine's batteries, as chlorine is poisonous).
If you were to connect a bulb or LED on the circuit you should see it light up while the salt is being electrolysed and once all the salt is used up it should go out, and your water would be purer.
Then if you add more salt...

Edward Griffiths
- Southampton, Hampshire, UK


October 11, 2009

Step One: Buy a TDS meter.

Step Two: Start experimenting with measuring total dissolved solids in water and begin to learn the principle that the more "pure" the water, the less the meter will register.

Step Three: Tell your teacher he was correct. Tell him you learned that TDS meters work BECAUSE pure water does NOT (for this purpose) conduct electricity.

Step Four: Study, study, study...

Disclaimer: I came across this page while tutoring my friend's 12 year old daughter. I'm out of school a long time and really have to thank the 80's Yonkers Public School System. LOL...

Harry Otto
- Bronxville, New York


October 28, 2009

Pure water does not conduct electricity, but once you put it in a bathtub, or once you get in it.. it stops being pure due to the metal in the tub or the chemicals in our skins (as simple as sweat!).. So don't try this at home or you'll fry! :)

Susydeleted
- miami Florida


November 17, 2009

So, the minerals in the water conduct electricity

bryson bdeleted
- Honolulu, Hawaii


July 15, 2010

It scares me how little teachers know! First of all, the original question is very generalized and very vague! Does PURE H2O conduct electricity? No it does not. What are the chances that you will ever encounter PURE H2O, and keep it in a PURE state long enough to be non-conductive? Slim to none! I was a Lineman for 30 years, and I've seen electricity do some crazy things. The myth is- electricity takes the easiest/shortest path to ground. FALSE! It takes ANY path it can find! True- water, in any state, is a poor conductor of electricity. So is the human body. But if water (or your body) is presented as a possible conductor, electricity will certainly attempt to take it! And when electricity attempts to use a poor conductor, that's when ARCS occur- and that's when people REALLY get hurt!

Dave Martin
- Dallas, Texas, USA


August 20, 2010

Ok so I watched my instructor put a cut extension cord in a container filled with water. The other end was plugged into the wall, he then stuck his hand in the water. Nothing happened and it was tap water. And this is an automotive school so a voltmeter was used and yes the cord was hot. He did this to teach us that water in not a conductor of electricity. It still blows me away because it goes against everything I've ever known about water and electricity

Shawn Kucharski
- Murfreesboro, Tennessee


November 1, 2010

Wow, I was reading this through and realised that some adults really are very dense!
Someone should probably go and check that Shawn from Tennessee is still alive, especially if his teacher is teaching him to put his hands in water that contains live high voltage equipment.
Whilst it is true that pure water will not conduct electricity, the chances of coming across or creating pure water that doesn't conduct electricity is slim to none. Electricity relies upon aqueous ions in solution (not just na+, Cl- but also Ca-, F-, and any other charged ion). These ions can also be H+ ions and OH- ions. To create these in solution you need energy. Ionising energy. Source of these are: UV light (available in plentiful supply in sunlight), X-rays (likewise found in solar rays), gamma rays (found from the many natural sources of radiation in the earth), and these are just a few. To sustain a pure container of pure water I propose that you would need:

A sterile container the inside of which is made from a flawless non-metal (maybe carbon? open to suggestions here) surrounded by lead of thickness at least 10cm. Experiment to be conducted deep underground in a sealed room with an atmosphere of argon.

Whilst the conductivity of "pure" water is low, I'm not about to go testing it out by sticking my fingers into baths with microwaves, heaters and toasters submerged, just because I'm not silly and I wish to live long enough to see the olympics arrive in London. Hooray!

Lewis Stammers
- Hampshire, England

September 10, 2010

Do some reading on "Covalent Molecular Lattices" to understand why.

Joe Mamma
- Jindabyne, NSW, Australia

November 12, 2010

Imagine if water was as good a conductor of electricity as a good metal... say copper. Lightning would cease being amazing and start being truly terrifying.

Scott Reeder
- Boonton, New Jersey USA

March 21, 2011

Your teacher is totally right. Pure water does not conduct electricity because there are no spare electrons to give it a positive or negative charge.

Joshua Rayner
- United Kingdom

June 22, 2011

Pure water can be made to conduct electricity, as can any substance. It is just a question of how 'much' electricity it takes. To quote wikipedia: "Pure water has an electrical conductivity about one millionth that of seawater".

In other words, while it is true that 1 hair dyer would not be enough electricity, throw a million hair dyers in a tub of Pure water and watch what happens.

Here is the wiki article:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrolysis_of_water

James Ryan
- Massachusetts, USA

July 10, 2011

Being a practicing electrician, I like James Ryan's answer here. It my understanding that ALL things can conduct electricity(in the right circumstances, particularly a strong enough charge). Some better than others. Pure water, wood, rubber, etc.. are all poor conductors- Positive and negative charges will seek each other out, and take its easiest path (least resistance) to do it. I also like Jeff Watson's advice - assume all guns are loaded, and all water conductive.

Lyndal Beasley
- Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

December 22, 2011

Hi Joseph,

Your teacher was absolutely correct, the pure water of pH value of 7 will not conduct electricity. If you need to conduct electricity you need free electrons to conduct the current. But, pure water is balanced so it does not have free electrons.

But, in nature it is hard to be keep the water at pure level. It is immediately ready to change with it's environment. So, the unbalanced water have free electron because of the impurity it does conduct the current well.

Manikanda Iyyapan
- Channi, India


February 29, 2012

Distilled water is pure water which will not conduct. Salt water could conduct since salt is an ion. I'm in 7GG!

Jonas A.deleted
- Manhattan, New York, USA


October 1, 2012

Q. Why does electricity stay in water? Because people tell you not to touch water if it has been exposed to electricity and if you touch it you get electrocuted. But why doesn't the water lose the energy?

I'm in 5th grade.

Mary M.deleted
- Cumming Georgia USA


October 2, 2012

A. Hi Mary.

Your intuition is right. Electricity can flow from the water only while it is flowing to the water -- the water doesn't "store" electricity. I think people are just urging you to be very careful if there was a chance of a problem because the water might be electrified even if you might think it isn't. For example, an appliance falling into a sink or bathtub can electrocute you if it is plugged in, even if it is turned off.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 24, 2013

Q. Is water a naturally occurring electricity?

Loren [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada


January 24, 2013

A. Hi Loren.

It's okay to ask a question which you don't know the answer to; people may be able to answer it for you. But it's not okay to ask for the answer to a question that you don't understand :-)

If we answer "Yes!", how will that help you? If we answer "No!", how will that help you? You must tell your teacher that you don't understand the question. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
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