Sour candy's acidity in comparison to battery acid

The Minnesota Dental Association is worried about super-sour canday, because super-sour = super acidic. Here's a handy chart they've revealted that will tell you how close to battery acid your favorite treat is.

The Power of Sour on Your Teeth (TM) (PDF) (via Kottke)


  1. I used to suck on lemons when I was young.  I wonder if there’s a physiological basis for craving sour.

    1. Many naturally acidic foods are high in vitamins, particularly vitamin C. Rosehips, mayhaws are some good examples. Most people load up the mayhaws with sugar to make jelly, but I always ate a bellyfull straight off the tree.

      Folks who liked the novelty of extreme sourness may have made it through the hard times without getting scurvy.

  2. But sadly no data on Sour Patch Kids.  Every time my wife and I are at the movies and she mentions she wants to buy a bag, my mouth and throat seize up just at the thought of it.  

  3. Hmm. I’d really like to know where sour gummy vitamins fall, because that’s how I’ve been taking my vitamins for some time now.

    1. mmm…. pickled goods….
      i had pickled okra for the first time last month.  holy fsm it was good.

      but back to the post, isn’t enamel damage a function of  ph and *time*?  And shouldn’t there be at least a few sample fruits in this list, at least an orange?

      1. Pickled Okra sounds awesome. I used to work near this lebanese place that did the best falafel rolls with homous, tabouli and pickled turnip. I’m in the country now, and I can get a decent falafel mix and make great fresh falafel, there’s pretty good homous around (although nothing compares to the fresh stuff from people who know what they are doing) but pickled turnip might as well be 20km under the frozen seas of Europa. I’ve tried making it myself, with results varying from very good to slowly exploding.

        Mmmmmm. Pickles.

  4. two things:
      * first, thank you for alerting me to the fact that there are candies called ‘mango sours’. i love mango, i love sour, so it’s a perfect fit!
      * second, why yes I do keep a bag of citric acid in my kitchen.  that shit is delishus.  sour or teeth?  i’ll take sour.

    1. I came here to say this as well about Coca Cola. It’s extremely acidic, and worse for your teeth than drinking most forms of Vinegar. Additionally the phosphoric acid (a primary ingredient of Coca-Cola) leeches calcium salts out of your teeth, making them more brittle.

      I’ve since switched to tea and on occasion coffee, cut about 2000 calories a week out of my diet and on rare occasions, will drink less acidic soda. Not to mention that tea is about one-tenth the cost of soda!

  5. The above posters are right in noting that pH is a log scale. So it’s important to note that since battery acid has a pH of 1.0, that does not make it slightly more acidic than a Spree at 3.0, battery acid is in fact one hundred (100) times more acidic than Spree.

    1. It’s worse than that. Battery acid (normally I would define this as 35% sulfuric acid, by weight) doesn’t have a pH of 1, but rather a pH of around -0.5. So it’s really more like 3000 times more acidic, but even that is sort of an approximation, as you can’t predict the exact effects just by counting the hydrogen ions floating around.

  6. At first I was like,  “Holy shit people eat that..” But then I realized I used to put 9v batteries on my tongue for fun…

  7. Orange juice – 3.3
    Lemon juice – 2

    Yes it is a function of time, but sticky candy will stay with your teeth longer than fruit will. And don’t think you can just brush after eating candy – when the enamel is softened by acid, the brushing and toothpaste can damage the enamel themselves.

    1. honest question–what is the best thing to do?  baking soda rinse?  water?  just don’t eat anything delicious?  (okay, that last one was snarky :D)

      1. <ihonest question–what is the best thing to do?

        Finns seem to be partial to chewing xylitol gum. It’s soft, so it doesn’t damage the enamel itself the way brushing can. And the xylitol reduces the acid levels in your mouth.

  8. Was this measuring the local pH of a spot of candy that would be, say, stuck on your teeth? Otherwise, the pH will be greatly diluted by your saliva (since we can all agree that sour candy is mouth wateringly delicious). So, can we just brush directly after eating sour candy to circumvent enamel damage?

    1. Saliva is buffered – sour tastes go away if you leave them there (when you eat a Warhead, the sour sensation goes away in seconds). This means that the acid probably damages the teeth on contact, not over time, and brushing wouldn’t help this particular problem.

      As for sour food being “mouth watering”, it truly is! Sour flavors stimulate saliva production. This is easy (and delicious) to test.

  9. IIRC, a change of pH 0.3 represents either a halving or doubling. Malic acid is the dicarboxylic acid used in making extreme sourness candy. I could be wrong.

  10. The PDF creator is clearly misinformed.  A charged lead acid battery has ~4M sulfuric acid in it, which has a pH of about -1, not 1.  On a log scale, this error is huge.

    1. OK so to sum up:

      1. The chart is wildly inaccurate.
      2. In any case it’s net result has been to get a bunch of people salivating uncontrollably at the thought of the most acidic foods they can imagine.

      Probably best to pull this one, Minnesota Dental Association.

  11. If you’re that worried about it, just chase the candy with a shot of bleach or lye. Swish it around in your mouth first!

  12. Enamel be damned, I do love me some sour candy…

    I feel slightly self concious plunking down a bag of (yum) sour Skittles on the counter at my local store (yet somehow the tall Sapporo and nitrite-bomb jerkey feels properly adult)

    Many years ago I was about to embark on a exchange trip to Japan, and an older kid who had just returned from there gave me some candy; I think it was called Super-Sour?  A hard candy ball coated in death-dust: by far the most mouth puckering, taste bud destroying thing I had ever put in my mouth:  So fucking great.

    I came back, hooked my friends, found a store that sold them and we spent a season tricking other kids into trying them and laughing uproariously at their reactions…but sadly, not long after that; though one could still buy Super Sours: the formula had changed, drastically weakening the shocktacular sourocity.


  13. Numbers, numbers, numbers. For a stiff dose of qualitative, check out Jessica Yu’s 5-minute classic, “Sour Death Balls”:

  14. Some good comments up there on errors in the chart, but wanted to add that pH only makes sense in a solution.  You can’t really measure the pH of a hard or even soft candy with any real meaning.  

    What you’d want to do is measure the pH of your saliva “at rest” so to speak, then put in a Lemonhead let’s say, get that going, then measure the pH of your lemony saliva.  Now, if they did that — great.  But I really doubt it.  They probably crushed the stuff and put it in a quantity of water and measured the pH.
    But yes, prolonged exposure to acidic food will dissolve your teeth, and the more acidic the less exposure is required.  

    This is the problem when you use data to make a valid point.  People quibble over the validity of the data, and the point is lost.  Capping it off with a shocking “reference point” of battery acid just draws us nerds out of the woodwork.

  15. How are they even getting pHs so low on the candies? Sour candies typically use citric acid, sometimes malic acid, both of which have pkas of about 3.  A pH of less than 2.5 or so is chemically impossible for these acids. Either the measurements are off or the manufacturers are using strong acids like phosphoric that aren’t on the label.

  16. pH is much different than pKa, or the strength of acids. Just because it has a pH of 1.6 doesn’t mean it’ll burn your skin off, like sulfuric acid (in lead batteries).

    1. Huh? Granted pH doesn’t predict corrosivity, but that wasn’t my point at all. And, as mentioned earlier, sulfuric acid pH is lower than 1.

  17. I love this thread.  I clicked it, thinking “I bet a bunch of people debunk this chart in the comments.  I don’t know how, per se, but there’s no way this chart covers everything.”  You guys didn’t disappoint.  I’d treat you all to some Sour Patch Kids if I could.

  18. There is an implied question here that I am reluctant to fully articulate because I would not want to be responsible for some idiot following it through.

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