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What Will Make a Penny Rust?




Q. I want to find out what makes a penny rust?

We are using 5 new pennies and putting them into 5 different things. We have gasoline, soda (coke), glass clearer, fish tank with salt, ammonia [on eBay or Amazon affil links] with salt in it . My daughter wants to find out which will make a penny rust. She is only 11 years old.

Thanks so much!

Peggy L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- New York
2001


A. Hello Peggy.

Stop! 11-year-olds should not be using gasoline in such experiments! She could try 3-in-1 oil or sewing machine oil or motor oil as a petroleum-based entry in her tests.

And I'd also advise against mixing other ingredients into household cleaners; while I don't think that salt is dangerous to add to ammonia, in principal it's dangerous to add things to ammonia or bleach, or to household cleaners containing either.

She could try beer, rubbing alcohol, vinegar [in bulk on eBay or Amazon affil links], lemon juice, vegetable oil, antifreeze, or shampoo for additional ideas.

Actually, nothing will make a penny rust because rust is "iron oxide", so only things with iron in them can "rust", whereas a penny is made of copper plated onto a zinc core. But anything acidic or salty will cause the pennies to corrode! If you can bend, saw, or cut the pennies so the silvery colored zinc core is exposed, they'll corrode quicker. Good luck.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
2001




Q. I just want to know can orange juice, soda (cola), and water make a penny rust?!

I need this answer for my science fair project ASAP, and for my grandmother she wants to know and so do I.

This will mean a lot Thanks!

Kristien B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
kristy forever - cleveland, ohio, united states
April 19, 2012



April 19, 2012

A. Hi Kristien.

"... nothing will make a penny rust because rust is "iron oxide", so only things with iron in them can "rust", whereas a penny is made of copper plated onto a zinc core"  :-)

Remember rust is iron oxide, a reaction between iron and oxygen. If you don't have iron, you can't make rust. Pennies have no iron in them. They'll "corrode" or "tarnish" or "discolor" though. Good luck!

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


thumbs down sign Lighten up corrosion, rust, decolorization as if you didn't know what the kid meant? Oh I am sorry maybe you didn't?

Michael james Halasey
- Carson City, Nevada
May 28, 2020


thumbs up sign Hi Michael. If Kristy were inquiring about an art project, I'd agree with you that there's no call to be pedantic :-)

But she's planning a science fair project, building an exhibit and visuals to teach science to herself and other kids, and I don't think it serves her to be silent about what the words she's using generally mean in science.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
May 2020


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