How Does Water Conduct Electricity?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Apr 6, 2020 2:57:11 AM ET

Water conducts electricity because it contains dissolved matter, such as minerals and chemicals, with charged ions. Electricity seeks out oppositely charged particles to travel through.


Completely pure water is actually an insulator and cannot conduct electricity. This is because truly pure water does not contain any other substances and does not have any charged particles. Electricity needs ions of an opposite charge in order for its current to continue to travel. Distilled water, which is water condensed from steam, and deionized water, which is a water used in laboratories, are two forms of pure water. However, because water is such an excellent solvent, it almost always contains other dissolved substances with charged particles that are conducive to electricity.

Salt is one of the best-known solvents in water that allows it to conduct electricity. Salt is a compound made up of positively charged ions, called cations, and negatively charged ions, called anions, that attract the opposite charges of electricity and conduct it through the water. When dissolved, the salt, also known as sodium chloride, is separated into sodium (Na) ions and chloride (Cl) ions. As soon as water has dissolved substances from its surroundings, it allows electrical currents to flow through.