In this experiment, tap water and seawater is evaporated to reveal solid residues. They are also boiled to release their dissolved gases.

Class practical and demonstration

Tap water and seawater is evaporated to reveal solid residues. They are also boiled to release their dissolved gases.

Lesson organisation

This is a class practical and teacher demonstration. If there is sufficient apparatus, students could do the three evaporations in parallel. Alternatively, the three types of water could be distributed round the class and the results compared at the end. It takes quite a long time for the water in a beaker to boil, so this should be built into the planning.

The teacher demonstration could be set up while the students are waiting for their water to evaporate.

If several of the shortcuts suggested above are used, these experiments could be done in 45 minutes.

Apparatus Chemicals

Eye protection

The teacher will need:

Round-bottomed flask (250 cm3), 2

Bung and delivery tube, to fit flask (see diagram) 2

Tripod and gauze, 2

Bunsen burner

Heat resistant mat, 2

Stand and clamp, 2

Beaker (250 cm3), or small trough, 2

Test-tube, 2

Each group of students will need:

Hard glass watch-glasses, approximately
 7.5 cm diameter, 3

Beaker, 100 cm3

Bunsen burner



Heat resistant mat


The teacher will need:

Seawater, 400 cm3(Note 1)

Each group of students will need:

Seawater, 5 cm3(Note 1)

Distilled (or deionised) water, 5 cm3

Refer to Health & Safety and Technical notes section below for additional information.

Health & Safety and Technical notes

Read our standard health & safety guidance

Wear eye protection throughout.

1 If the real thing is not available, ‘seawater’ can be made up by dissolving about 35 g of sodium chloride in 1000 cm3 of tap water. This will provide enough for both parts of the experiment. (Note: seawater contains a complex mixture of salts, but this gives a suitable solution for this experiment, resembling seawater in having 3.5% salinity).


Students’ experiment

a Set up a Bunsen burner on a heat resistant mat. Over it, place a tripod and gauze.

b Half fill a beaker with water and place it on the gauze.

c Take a watch-glass and place enough tap water on it to cover half its area. Place the watch-glass on the beaker.

d Heat the water in the beaker until it boils, and then let it boil briskly.

e When all the water on the watch-glass has evaporated, turn off the Bunsen and remove the watch-glass with tongs, as it will be hot. It can safely be placed on the bench, though.

f Examine the watch-glass for traces of solid residue.

g Repeat the steps c to f with

  • distilled water
  • seawater


a Fill a round-bottomed flask right up to the top with tap water, and insert a bung carrying a delivery tube (see diagram) so that the tube itself becomes completely filled with water. If this cannot easily be done, place the bung in the flask having the whole apparatus immersed in a sink of water. Repeat with a flask full of seawater.

b Set up each flask as shown in the diagram. Ensure that the collection test tube is full of water in each case.

c Heat each flask by means of a Bunsen burner. Bubbles of gas will be released from the water and travel into the test-tube. Continue until the contents of the flask are boiling. About half a test-tube full of gas will be collected in each case, all of which has been displaced from solution by heating.

Teaching notes

Distilled water should contain no dissolved solids, tap water some dissolved solids (those causing ‘hardness’ for example) and seawater more dissolved solids (sodium chloride and other salts). The experiment What are the dissolved solids in seawater?   describes an analysis of the salts obtained from seawater.

The gas that comes out of both seawater and tap water is air (with a higher percentage of oxygen than normal air, as oxygen is more soluble than nitrogen). The best test available would be to show that a glowing splint continues to glow and does not immediately go out when placed in the gas.

The presence of dissolved oxygen in water is, of course, vital for fish to survive.

Health & Safety checked, August 2016


This Practical Chemistry resource was developed by the Nuffield Foundation and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

© Nuffield Foundation and the Royal Society of Chemistry