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How to Balance Chemical Equations

According to the rules of chemistry, matter must be conserved in chemical reactions. When you balance a chemical equation, you account for all of the matter in the reaction.


  • Step 1: Count the number of atoms of each type Determine how many atoms of each type are on each side of the equation.
  • TIP: List the numbers of each atom for the left side and for the right side.
  • Step 2: Find a starting element Find an element that is in only one compound on the left side and in only one on the right side of the equation.
  • TIP: Start with an atom other than oxygen or hydrogen. Oxygen and hydrogen atoms are usually in more than one compound on either side of an equation, so they are best left to last.
  • Step 3: Balance the equation for the first element Multiply the chemical compound on the side that has less atoms of that type by the number required to achieve the same value on the other side.
  • Step 4: Continue balancing Select another element or compound that is not balanced and balance it.
  • Step 5: Repeat as necessary Repeat this process until the equation is completely balanced.
  • Step 6: Clear any fractions Eliminate any fractions in the balanced equation by multiplying through by the denominator of the fraction.
  • FACT: Parisian scientist Jean Beguin wrote the first chemistry textbook in 1610.

You Will Need

  • An unbalanced chemical equation
  • Paper
  • A pencil

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