Iron in the Environment

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In this chemistry activity (on page 2 of the PDF), learners corrode a penny in a cup with vinegar, salt water, and a source of iron (nails, paper clips, or twist ties). The combination of salt and acid (vinegar) in the water helps cause the corrosion (oxidation) of iron. Iron combines with oxygen to form rust (iron oxide). If the iron is in contact with copper, the copper accelerates this reaction, and also corrodes. This is one of three activities in the Take Home guide for the Environmental Chemistry unit in OMSI's Chemistry Lab. The other two activities are Recycling Paper and Water Ways.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 7 days

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per student)

  • 1 cup of water
  • tablespoon measure
  • salt
  • vinegar
  • 3 paper towels
  • 2 copper pennies (or pieces of copper wire)
  • 2 iron nails (or paper-covered iron twist ties)
  • steel wool (or fine sandpaper)
  • 3 small plastic cups
  • plastic wrap
  • 3 rubber bands


  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
      • Oxidation-Reduction Reactions


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation