How to measure mg on a gram scale

A milligram is significantly smaller than a gram. How can you use a gram scale to determine the number of milligrams that something weighs?

The gram and the milligram are parts of the metric system which is widely used in European countries and many other countries. In the United States grams and milligrams are not used, instead ounces, pounds, inches and miles are used. The United States measurements do not convert equally with the metric measurements and this can cause some comfusion.

Before you can start to do the calculations needed to measure a milligram using a scale designed to do reading as grams you have to understand a little bit about the metric system,

Metric System Measurements

The metric system is based on the number ten and multiples of the number ten. That means that each unit in the metric system is ten times bigger than the unit that came before it.

The metric system uses certain prefixes to describe the amount of a unit. Remember that ten is the base number or starting point of the metric system.

The metric system prefixes and what they mean

Some of the prefixes used in the metric system will describe how much larger an item is than the base unit of ten. For instsance:

  • “Kilo” means that the item is 1000 times larger than the base unit of ten.
  • “Hecto” means that the item is 100 times larger than the base unit of ten
  • “Deca” means the item is 10 times larger than the base unit of ten.

Some prefixes on the metric system are used to tell you how much smaller an item is compared to the base unit of ten.

  • “Deci” means the item is 10 times smaller than the base unit
  • “Centi” means the item is 100 times smaller than the base unit
  • “Milli” means the item is 1000 times smaller than the base unit

This chart allows you to formulate equations and calculations. If a kilo is 1000 times larger than the base unit then a kilogram is equal to 1000 grams.

If a centi is one hundred times smaller than the base unit then a meter is equal to 100 centimeters.

And if a milli is 1000 times smaller than the base unit then a gram is equal to 1000 milligrams.

The following common abbreviations are used in the metric system.

  • Kg means kilogram which is the same as 1000 grams
  • Hg means hectogram which is the same as 100 grams
  • Dag means decagram which is the same as 10 grams
  • G means gram and is the base unit of gram measurements
  • Dg means decigram which is the same as 0.1 gram
  • Cg means centigram which is the same as 0.01 gram
  • Mg is milligram which is the same as 0.001 gram

In order to determine the mg of an object using a set of scales that displays weights in grams you will take the number of grams that the scale shows you and divide it by 0.001. So if an object weighs 2 grams then it will weigh 2000 milligrams. This is true because a milligram is one; one thousandth of a gram.

Decimal Chart

Because the metric system uses ten as the base or starting number it is very easy to discern how many of one metric measurement is in another metric measurement by simply moving the decimal point in the number.

For instance:

If you want to know how many milligrams are in a centigram you would divide the centigrams by 10, or simply move the decimal point in the number to the left by one position.

If you want to know how many centigrams are in milligrams you would multiply the number of milligrams by ten or move the decimal point to the right by one position.

Making the Measurement

You must first clear the scale of any debris or dust that might be on the weighing platform.

Next you will turn the scale on and wait until the digital display reads 0.00. This shows that the scale is reading at absolute zero.

Next you will place the item to be weighed on top of the weighing platform. (The scale should be on a level surface and there should not be an air conditioning vent or a fan blowing directly on the scale because air movement can alter the weight measurement the scale makes.)

If the item is so small that the reading will not display on the scale you will need to place a container that weighs enough to make the scale read, and then place the item to be weighed inside that container. If the scale has a Tare function it will weigh the container, then weigh the container plus the item and will give you the weight measurement minus the weight of the container. If the scale does not have a tare function you will need to weigh the container, then weight the container with the item in it and subtract the weight of the container from the second weighing.

Make the necessary calculations to determine how many milligrams the item you are weighing contains.

Use a gram scale that measures in small increments

You can purchase gram scales that are digital and make their weight calculations in very small increments. You will easily be able to decipher how many milligrams is in something if the scales read in 0.001 increments.

Ounces to Grams

Some scales will read in both grams and pounds, but if your scale is displaying the reading in ounces how are you supposed to determine how many grams you are talking about?

This conversion is a little harder to make and may require you to use a calculator.

  • One ounce is the equivalent of 28.3495 grams.
  • One ounce is the equivalent of 0.0283495 kilograms

Precise calculations are needed for many recipes and the measurements of medications. Using a scale that reads in milligrams will give you more precise measurements than calculating them yourself will.

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