Why is Water Called a Universal Solvent

Water has long been regarded as the elixir of life and an essential component of our well-being. But how often do we question the history of the beloved molecule and what is so captivating about it? What has earned this molecule the nickname of ‘universal solvent’? This article delves into the fascinating world of water and the characteristics that have bestowed it with this title.
why is water called a universal solvent

1. What Makes Water so Unique?

Water is inarguably the most important liquid on the planet – without it, life on Earth wouldn’t be able to exist. It has many unique characteristics that differentiate it from all other liquids, hence make it such a special resource.

Physical Properties:

  • Water’s atomic structure gives it a unique density that allows it to exist as a liquid at temperatures that are livable on Earth.
  • Water’s high boiling and freezing points are unique – almost all other liquids will freeze at lower temperatures or will boil at lower temperatures.
  • It has the highest specific heat capacity of all molecules, meaning it can absorb or lose heat without changing its temperature.


Water is the most versatile liquid. It can dissolve a wide variety of substances – more than any other liquid – which is why it is used to help transport nutrients for various organisms.


Water is an example of an autonomous, self-regulating compound due to its chemical makeup. Its ability to outlast changes in temperature and pressure helps maintain its liquid state long enough for life to thrive.

2. The Science Behind Water’s Special Properties

Water is a force of nature that appears in nature in many forms, from glaciers to a glass of tap water. Its abundance and complexity make it a mystery to many, with a remarkable list of special properties that distinguish it from other liquids. Here’s a closer look at why water is so special and what science tells us about its special properties.

Low freezing temperature – Water’s low freezing temperature is a critical factor for life on land. Animals and plants can store energy without having it freeze and allow for water transportation from one area to another. This flexibility also means that water can absorb and store energy, such as solar energy for photosynthesis.

High boiling point – Water’s high boiling point requires lots of energy to heat it to temperatures where it begins to evaporate, making it one of the few substances that can absorb this much energy without crumbling apart. This allows water to very effectively absorb and release heat, regulating temperatures and wound-healing rates.

Surface tension – Water’s unique surface tension creates an optically flat surface, allowing it to carry heavy objects such as boats and shallowly swim in the depths of the ocean. Surface tension also allows water to easily seep and soak into porous materials such as soil, providing a vessel for fertilizers and soil moisture.

  • Low vapor pressure – Water has less vapor pressure than almost any other substance, making it ideal for evaporation. This allows it to cool things like sweat and plants through evaporation and provide atmospheric moisture.
  • High specific heat capacity – Water’s high specific heat capacity means it requires significantly more energy to increase its temperature than that of other liquids. Thus, it can act as a buffer between hot and cold temperatures and keep a constant temperature in its environment.
  • High solubility – Water is incredibly soluble, capable of dissolving any number of different particles and compounds, making it the essential ingredient for life.

Through its many special properties, water is able to behave in unique and unexpected ways. Science continues to discover and explain the power and mystery of water’s special properties and uncover new ones each day.

3. Water: A Solvent to Beat All Others

Water holds many advantages as a solvent that makes it invaluable in everything from industrial processes to everyday activities.

Solubility is perhaps its most notable advantage. This universal solvent can dissolve more compounds than any other liquid, making it essential in a wide range of applications. Water can dissolve both polar and non-polar molecules, and unlike many other substances, it remains stable in contact with other chemicals.

  • Polish and cleanse dirt, particles, and residue.
  • It is the key ingredient in many firefighting, cleaning, and sanitizing solutions.
  • Provide benefits to everything from fertilizers to medicinal ointments.

The low toxicity of water also gives it an advantage over more noxious solvents. We can use it in a myriad of ways without worry about harming anything, including ourselves. In addition, its universal availability makes it the ideal base for many products. We all need water to live, so it’s always around, making it a valuable and plentiful resource.

4. Unmasking the Power of Water’s Intermolecular Forces

The power of water’s intermolecular forces is a fascinating topic, and an important one for any aspiring chemist or biologist. Our knowledge of these dynamic forces provides insight into some of the most important factors controlling how living organisms interact with their environment.

Hydrogen Bonding: One of water’s defining characteristics is the ability of its molecules to form strong hydrogen bonds with one other, producing a non-covalent intermolecular bond that is both quite powerful and highly flexible. This provides tremendous stability, allowing for a variety of interactions with other molecules, such as the ability to dissolve some of the most common substances.

Van der Waals Forces: Beyond hydrogen bonding, water relies on the much weaker van Der Waals forces to form additional intermolecular interactions. Taken together, these two forces allow water to form a notably diverse range of interactions with other molecules in its environment.

Surface Tension: These intermolecular forces also have an effect on surface tension, which is the ability of a liquid’s surface to resist deformations. This property is the primary reason why water forms droplets, due to the relatively strong intermolecular forces between molecules near the surface.

Implications: Taken together, all of these forces result in the highly effective and remarkable properties of water. Understanding these forces not only enhances our knowledge of this elemental substance, but also provides insight into its effect on larger systems, and its role in our everyday lives.

5. Understanding the Chemistry of Water’s Universal Solvent Status

Water is unique among molecules in its ability to act as a universal solvent. This life-giving substance can dissolve nearly anything, playing an essential role in many processes that occur in nature. But how does water gain its solvent status? Read on to understand the chemistry of water that allows it to dissolve almost anything we put it in contact with.

1.Two Hydrogen Atoms, One Oxygen Atom Water molecules are composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, forming a cubic shape and connecting via covalent bonds. This gives the water molecule some polarity – the oxygen atoms carries a slight negative charge while the hydrogens carry a slight positive charge. The attraction between the two poles gives water some interesting properties, allowing the molecules to adhere to other polar compounds or molecules.

2. Hydrogen Bonding Most notable among those properties are hydrogen bonds, which form between the slightly negative oxygen atoms of one water molecule and the slightly positive hydrogen atoms of other water molecules. This electrostatic attraction is much weaker than a covalent bond, such as the one holding the atoms of form a water molecule together. But the hydrogen bond can form quickly and dissolves just as quickly, allowing the water molecules to easily separate from whatever substances they dissolve.

3. Solvent PropertiesThis combination of polarity and hydrogen bonding makes water the perfect solvent, allowing it to dissolve salts, sugars, proteins, organic compounds and more. This is imperative for us and all living organisms-nutrients, salts, and materials necessary for our cells are dissolved in water, facilitating their absorption in the body. This two-way process has allowed us to transport materials and nutrients in and out of our cells.

4. Organisms and Environments This process also allows organisms to survive in varying habitats or environments. By making materials more accessible, water assists organisms to break down and use available materials. It ensures that substances can be transferred from a gaseous to a liquid state, enabling them to move from place to place. This is especially evident in the way water carries vital nutrients into and out of plants and animals, allowing them to move freely within their environment.

6. Surprising Uses of Water’s Solvency

Toothpaste: When it comes to the cleaning power of water, you may not have known that it can be a great substitute for toothpaste. Just make sure you use warm water, as it will help dissolve the bacteria from our mouths. With a bit of elbow grease, you can brush your teeth and get great results.

Laundry: One of the best things about solvency is that it is great for cleaning our clothes and linens. Water can be used to soak cloths to remove stains, and if you are cleaning delicate fabrics, you can add some baking soda to the water in order to not damage the material. Water can also be used for laundry, as the heat and pressure from a washing machine helps to lift dirt and oil away.

Skin Care: Water is also used for skin care. For example, adding some warm water and mild soap can help clean away dirt, grime, and makeup. Adding a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to the water can help kill bacteria and override any nasty odors. Lastly, a warm water and salt facial scrub can open up your pores and help reduce facial acne.

Play Dough: Did you know you can make play dough from just water and flour? Mixing together equal amounts of each ingredient can result in a soft dough that not only acts as a great plaything, but moldable clay. If desired, food colorings, glitter, and fragrances can be added for fun and creative projects.

7. Crafting Solutions with Water’s Universality

Water, the essential element of life, is the most widely used resource on Earth. Its ability to fulfill so many necessities is significant, and its universality can provide innovative solutions to many challenges. Here are a few ideas for crafting solutions with its generous reach.

  • Harnessing Hydropower: Hydropower is a sustainable source of energy which utilizes water to generate electricity. Turbines, placed in bodies of water, convert the force of water flowing downstream into useable energy.
  • Aquaponics: Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (soil-less plant cultivation) to form a symbiotic system of producing food. This method utilizes a water-based ecosystem to grow and sustain both fish and vegetables.
  • Water Purification: Various technology can be employed to filter contaminants of water, and purify it for drinking and other utilities. Reverse osmosis, sand filters, distillation, ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and water ionizers are just some of the methods that are employed.
  • Irrigation: Irrigation is used to provide water and nutrients to plants and fields, and is essential for farming. It is a vital means of protecting crops during prolonged periods of dry weather.

These are just a few solutions enabled the universality of water, but that’s not all. The possibilities are practically endless. We are only limited by our own imaginations and ambitions. With water’s fantastic reach, the potential is greater than ever before.

proves how invaluable such a precious resource truly is.

As we’ve seen, water’s ability to dissolve almost any material makes it essential to sustaining life. Truly, it should be held in the highest regards as the “universal solvent”. Until our next classroom session – happy dissolving!

Leave a Comment