Rust Formation Experiment

What do you know about rust? We’ve come up with a rust formation experiment for children to understand and see how rust forms, with just a few things you can find in your home!

You will need: Rust formation equipment

  • Two clear cups
  • Steel wool, we used this one but you can purchase steel wool pads in most supermarkets.
  • White vinegar
  • A timer

Method:

  • Place the steel wool in one of the cups and fill it up with the vinegar.
  • Wait for one minute.
  • Remove the steel wool and put it into the other cup, placing it upside-down on the table.
  • Wait for a few minutes.
  • The steel wool is changing colour because of rust formation, and there is condensation in the cup. Touch the cup, it’s slightly warm! Bonus: if you turn the cup the right way up again, you’ll get a strong smell of metal.

The science bit: Rust formation

  • Steel is a combination of iron and carbon. Rusting happens when iron mixes with oxygen, creating an orangy colour on the surface.
  • When the steel wool mixes with vinegar, its protective coating is removed, which allows the iron to mix with oxygen from the air and to start rusting.
  • The rusting reaction also releases heat, that’s why there’s condensation in the cup and that also explains why it is warm to the touch! Now you know everything about rust formation!