Alka Seltzer: Colds, Cleaning, Rockets and More!

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What are the ingredients of Alka Seltzer and how does it work? Want to know how a simple Alka Seltzer tablet can be used cheaply and effectively for a variety of household and outdoor uses?

Say the words ‘Alka Seltzer’ and most people will grimace and think either ‘cold’ or ‘hangover,’ but surprisingly, the little tablets are more versatile than most people would think. They have numerous cleaning applications around the house, can be used to soothe insect bites and even entertain the children. Building an Alka Seltzer rocket will have little minds and big minds alike smiling with child-like glee.

What is Alka Seltzer?

Alka Seltzer is an effervescent (fizzy) antacid. Maurice Treneer of Indiana was the company chemist who was responsible for its discovery. There are numerous aches and pains for which Alka Seltzer is recommended and these are listed below:

• Inflammation

• Pain

• Headache

• Heartburn

• Fever

• Indigestion

• Hangover

• Colds and Flu

What are the ingredients of Alka Seltzer and how does it work?

The active ingredients in Alka Seltzer are sodium hydrogen carbonate, aspirin and citric acid. When sodium hydrogen carbonate and citric acid mix with water, they form antacids, which work to stabilise the body’s pH. This is why Alka Seltzer is a good choice for indigestion. If you mix acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) and sodium hydrogen carbonate, they make aspirin more soluble in drinking water and more readily absorbed by the body.

Aspirin belongs to a group of medicines called NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and these medicines work by preventing the release of a substance called ‘cyclo oxygenase’ in the body. Cyclo oxygenase is known to help produce prostaglandins, which is what the body releases in response to pain or injury. By blocking the release of prostaglandins, aspirin can help to manage and lessen the amount of pain felt by the body.

Other uses for Alka Seltzer:

Coffee Machines

Alka Seltzer makes a wonderful cleaner due to its effervescent properties. If you want a cheap and easy cleaner for you coffee machine, trying filling its water chamber with water and five Alka Seltzer tablets (use more or less depending on the size of the machine). When the tablets have dissolved run the coffee maker through a normal brew cycle. Repeat if desired and then run several cycles of ordinary clean water through your machine to clear the chamber before using it to make coffee once more.


Clean your toilet by dropping two Alka Seltzer tablets in the bowl and leave for 30 minutes. The fizzing action and citric acid will help loosen built up dirt and grime. All you have to do is wait the required time and finish with a quick scrub of the toilet brush. The porcelain will once again be sparkling!

Flasks and Flower Vases

These can be difficult to clean at the best of times, but by using two Alka Seltzer tablets and some warm water, you’ll save yourself hours of awkward scrubbing.

Polish Jewellery

For an inexpensive jewellery cleaner simply dissolve two tablets in a glass of water. Drop your dirty jewellery in the glass and when you pull it out 10 minutes later, the fizz will have done the biz.

Attract Fish

Fish love bubbles. Fill a hollow plastic tube jig with an Alka Seltzer tablet and brace yourself for a bite.

Soothe Insect Bites

Two Alka Seltzer tablets in half a glass of water will provide soothing relief from itching bites. Simply apply the cool mixture by using cotton wool direct to the area of the bite.

Brighten and Whiten Laundry

With a gallon of water and three Alka Seltzer tablets you can make your very own laundry whitener. Simply soak in the solution until the desired result is acquired, rinse and dry.

The Alka Seltzer Rocket

Last but not least, is a way to entertain the children by getting young minds interested in science. Here are some instructions to make your very own ‘Alka Seltzer Rocket.’

You will need:

• A film canister or any other plastic canister with a tightly fitting lid

• 1 - 2 Alka Seltzer tablets

• Cold water

The simplest way to perform this experiment is to fill the film canister with 1cm of cold water, pop in an Alka Seltzer tablet, make sure the lid is tightly fitted and tip it upside down on a flat surface. Prepare for lift off, as your rocket will launch several feet in the air!

Note: This is a messy experiment and shouldn’t be attempted anywhere that falling film canisters and fizzy Alka Seltzer water would not be appreciated, Grandma’s for instance.

How does it work?

When the Alka Seltzer tablet is added to water, bubbles of carbon dioxide are released. When this happens within an enclosed space, pressure will build up. As more gas is released the pressure inside the canister will finally become so strong it will force the lid off. If you want to make your rocket a bit more spectacular, use a larger container and more Alka Seltzer tablets. Feel free to decorate your rocket with coloured paper, glitter, stickers and anything else that comes to mind!


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