New Sense about Cents

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In this activity on page 6 of the PDF (Chemistry—It’s Elemental), learners explore some of the properties of copper using a few common household ingredients. Learners compare four liquids and their ability to clean copper pennies. Use this activity to introduce learners to acids and oxidation reactions.
Safety notes: Chemical protective goggles MUST be worn while doing this activity. Adult supervision is required. Follow Milli's safety tips on page 5.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity

English, Spanish

Materials List (per student)

  • masking tape
  • marking pen
  • 6 dull pennies
  • 4 small plastic cups (4 oz)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup ketchup (also known as catsup)
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt (NaCl)
  • 1 plastic spoon
  • water
  • measuring spoon
  • paper towels


  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Bonding
      • Chemical Reactions
      • Acids and Bases
      • Oxidation-Reduction Reactions
      • Solutions
    • States of Matter
      • Solids
      • Liquids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Elements and Periodic Table
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Office of Community Activities, American Chemical Society


  • All rights reserved, American Chemical Society, 2009