Have you ever tried to inflate a balloon using magic (and chemistry)? This experiment uses the reaction between an acid (vinegar) and an carbonate (baking soda) to produce lots of fizzy carbon dioxide gas.

What you need:

An empty plastic bottle, 500ml or smaller.

Vinegar (any type)

Baking soda

A balloon


Funnel (or roll a piece of paper into a cone)

Safety goggles

What to do:

  1.  Put your goggles on. This activity is safe but vinegar can squirt out if there’s a small hole in the balloon!
  2.  Carefully pour about 100 ml of vinegar into the bottle.
  3.  Use the funnel (or rolled up paper cone) to put a couple of teaspoons of baking soda into the balloon.
  4.  Stretch the balloon over the top of the bottle without letting the powder drop in.
  5.  When you’re ready, tip the balloon so that the powder falls into the bottle…it should inflate by itself!

If you want to impress your friends or family, you could say a ‘magic’ spell when you tip it and prove that you should be off to Hogwarts!

So what’s going on?

The vinegar is an acid and the baking soda is an alkali, these are opposite types of chemical and they will react together. Because the baking soda is a special kind of alkali called a carbonate, the reaction makes lots of carbon dioxide gas. This is the same gas that we make in our bodies when we release energy from our food (and then we breathe it out).

Think like a scientist:

This activity is a demonstration. To make it into an experiment, you could try changing the type of acid…you could use lemon juice, orange juice or a different type of vinegar. Or you could try adding a different amount of baking soda, use different shapes of balloons or different sized bottles. Remember, science is all about asking questions and working out a way to find out the answer!

You can find out more about acids and alkalis with our Colour changing cabbage experiment and if you like reactions with vinegar and baking soda, check out volcanoes.

If you would like to try out lots more experiments with your very own Fab Scientist, we can bring the Fab Science lab to your birthday party, school or event. Get in touch to find out more.