Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Science Experiment – Shiny Pennies

This was a quick and fun experiment, with speedy results… which is what you want with a 3 year old boy whose name begins with M.  Although I’ve seen this experiment around, I actually decided to do it after seeing it in Play and Find Out About Science, by Janice VanCleave.

We found a handful of old, darkened pennies:blog pictures 030 (Eek!  Don’t look at my stained bowls throughout this post, please!)

M mixed 1/4 tsp of salt into 1/2 cup of white vinegar:blog pictures 058

Then we placed the dirtiest of the dirty pennies in the solution.  M spilled vinegar in the process and by the time I had it cleaned up and was ready to snap a photo of the bowl, they looked like this:blog pictures 031 It was about 2 minutes and they were already getting super-shiny!  We did this part over and over with all our pennies, and talked about how copper is a metal and oxidizes when it’s out in the air.  So now my 3 year old is walking around saying “oxidized”. :)  He has future nerd written all over him. 

Later we found a shiny paperclip and more dirty pennies.  We mixed up another salt and vinegar solution and placed the paperclip and pennies in it together:blog pictures 059 Then we waited.  A couple of hours later we checked and here’s what our silver paperclip looked like: blog pictures 067 The metal on the paperclip attracted the copper particles that the pennies shed in the vinegar. 

I’m not sure M took a whole lot of knowledge away from this experiment, but he really enjoyed it and had fun! 

For more fun science experiments, check out Ticia’s Science Sunday post here!

Have a beautiful day! :)


  1. Yea! You can shine pennies with lemon juice too!

  2. I think we left the salt out when we did this - because our results weren't nearly as good as yours. I love the addition of the paper clip, taking the experiment to the next level!

  3. There's another way to do that, but I'm totally forgetting it, I think ketchup?
    If the bowls were glass, I'd say put dishwasher detergent in and really hot water but I don't know if it works for plastic (it works great on tea stains in coffee cups).
    I've never seen the paper clip part of this one, I always think it's so cool.

  4. Yes, this is a lot of fun! We did the same experiment a while ago, only we also tried to clean pennies with clean water and with soapy water and predict what will clean best. Anna was so excited, but I don't think that she remembers this experiment now even though it was only about 2 months ago. You are brave letting M handle vinegar. I was instructing Anna that only adults can handle this "special water".

  5. Looks like fun. I love the 3 year old saying "oxidized"!

  6. Fun! I may try this with the kids. We have lots of old, dirty pennies in our coin jars that could use a little bath. I love the addition of the paperclip. I didn't realize it would do that.


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