Copper Cleanup

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In this hands-on experiment, kids use chemistry to explore whether acids or bases are better at restoring a penny’s shine. Kids follow the scientific process to test a common household cleaning products alongside ketchup, cola, and other kitchen staples, and may be surprised by the results! A downloadable data sheet is available on the Copper Cleanup activity resources page.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 11

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity

English, Spanish

Materials List (per student)

  • 7 dull pennies
  • 6 cups
  • a spoon
  • 3 spoonfuls of vinegar
  • 3 spoonfuls of cola
  • 3 spoonfuls of lemon juice
  • 2 spoonfuls of baking soda and some water
  • 3 spoonfuls of household cleaner with ammonia
  • 3 spoonfuls of ketchup
  • paper towels
  • bowl or cup of water for rinsing
  • 6 strips of pH paper
  • data sheet


  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
      • Acids and Bases
      • Solutions
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • WGBH

Source Collection

  • Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman


  • , Educational Foundation, 2010

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0840307
  • Public television viewers
  • Chuck E. Cheese's