Metals and Non-metals – Chemical Properties

Life would have been impossible without the presence of metals and non-metals. Non-metals like oxygen let us breathe, while different metals have a crucial role to play in our day-to-day lives.

In this article, let us discuss some of the chemical properties of non metals and metals.

Chemical Properties of Metals

Metals are electropositive elements, and they tend to donate their electrons and form a positive ion. It is only then that they become stable. Metals have several physical properties that distinguish them clearly, making it easy to identify them and then classify them.

Here are the chemical properties of metals listed below.

  • Metals usually have a high density. They are ductile and malleable. 
  • Metals react with other non-metals or metals to form an alloy.
  • Metals react with air, and they corrode like in the case of iron.
  • Metals usually are good heat and electricity conductors. Lead, however, is an exception.
  • Metals are usually found in the solid state when at room temperature. The only exception is Mercury, a metal found in the liquid state at room temperature.
  • Many metals burn in the oxygen from the air, and they form metal oxide. Some metals are highly reactive, and they react violently when they burn with oxygen.
  • Some metals like potassium and sodium are stored in oil. This is because they are highly reactive, and if they come in contact with air, they react within seconds.
  • Some metals are less reactive. These include silver, gold, and platinum, and these do not tarnish very fast. They also stay lustrous and shiny for long.
  • Metals form hydrogen gas and metal oxide when they react with water.
  • The metals oxides that are soluble dissolve in water form metal hydroxide.
  • All metals do not react with water. Some, like potassium and sodium, react violently with water and cause an exothermic reaction, which causes the hydrogen to catch fire immediately.
  • When a metal and an acid react, it forms hydrogen and salt.
  • Generally, a metal will displace a less reactive metal in a solution of metal and salt.

Metals reaction with oxygen

Metals will react with oxygen and form metal oxide. This is possible because metals donate their electrons to oxygen and thus form metal oxides. Metal oxides are usually basic, but these can also be amphoteric. 

The amphoteric oxides are those that are both acidic and basic. Sodium and potassium are highly reactive when they are exposed to air and catch fire. These are thus kept in kerosene.

Metals reaction with water

How a metal reacts with water will differ from one metal to another. Some metals react with water and form metal hydroxide, while other metals do not react with water. 

Potassium and sodium are highly reactive - these react with water and form alkalis like potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide.

Calcium also reacts with water and forms calcium hydroxide and hydrogen. Zinc and magnesium do not react with cold water. These form their metal oxides when they react with hot water. Iron is not as reactive as potassium. 

Sodium, zinc, calcium, and magnesium do not react with either hot or cold water. These, however, react with steam and form oxides.

Metal reaction with dilute acids

Some metals like potassium, sodium, calcium, and lithium react with dilute HCl vigorously and form their metal salt and hydrogen. Zinc, magnesium, tin, iron, and lead do not react very vigorously with acids. 

Those metals that are lower than hydrogen in the reactivity series do not react when they come in contact with dilute acids. These are not able to displace hydrogen and form a bond with a non-metal anion.

Metal reaction with other metal salts

More reactive metals will react with the less reactive metals. The more reactive metal will displace the less reactive metal and form its chlorides, oxides, or sulphates.

Chemical Properties of Non-metals

Non-metals are those elements that form negative ions, which they do by accepting or gaining electrons. These usually have four, five, six, or seven electrons present in their outer shell. 

  • Non- metals are not good conductors of electricity and heat. The exceptions are gas, carbon, and graphite.
  • Non -metals are neither ductile nor malleable.
  • Non-metals will react more with metals than they do with other non-metals. These usually react with other non-metals at high temperatures.
  • Non- metals usually do not react with air when at room temperature. The exception is white phosphorous that reacts with air and forms its oxide through the help of burring process.
  • Non-metals will not react with water except for chlorine that dissolves in water and forms its acidic solution.
  • Non-metals have a low density. These also do not form alloys.
  • Non-metals can be found in all states of matter when at room temperature.
  • Different non-metals have varied reactions.
  • In the entire halogen family, chlorine is the most reactive of metals. The reactivity order is Cl > Br > I. Thus chlorine will be able to displace Bromine and iodine from a solution of bromide and iodide.
  • When non-metals with high electronegativity react with alkali and alkaline metals, it forms ionic solids.

Reaction with water

Non-metals do not usually react with water, but they are highly reactive with air. This is why some are stored in water. Phosphorus is a highly reactive non-metal, and it catches fire when it is exposed to air.

Reaction with acids

There are no known non-metals that react with acids.

Reaction with base

The reaction between the non-metal and the base is complex. When chlorine reacts with bases like sodium hydroxide, it makes products like sodium chloride and sodium hypochlorite.

Reaction with oxygen

The non-metal oxides are formed with they react with oxygen. The non-metal oxides are neutral or acidic. Sulphur, when it reacts with oxygen, it forms sulphur oxide.


Metals and non-metals are different kinds of elements that are present on the earth’s surface. The maximum elements in the periodic tables are metals. Non-metals can be seen in the upper right-hand part of the periodic table. 

These have different physical and chemical properties that let one identify and categorize the metals and non-metals separately.

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