Rusty Nail Experiment


This experiment lets you compare the impact of different liquids on the rate of rust in nails. Which liquid is best at preventing rust?  Which is the worst?



Affiliate links to chemicals.

*Note: These chemicals can be purchased locally at stores such as Walmart/Target.

  • 4 Test tubes in stand

  • Small beaker

  • 4 non-galvanized nails



1. Put one nail in each of the four test tubes. Take a picture or draw a picture to compare to at later stages.

2. In small beaker, mix water and salt. Pour into test tube.

3. Pour water, hydrogen peroxide and vegetable oil in separate tubes until nail is covered.

4. Wait 48 hours, remove nails and examine differences in rust levels.

The Science Behind the Reaction

Rust can only form in the presence of water and oxygen. Looking at the varying liquids used to produce rust, some have almost no water/oxygen (vegetable oil) or a ton of it (water/salt).  Rust erodes the strength of a nail, making it less effective.

Keep Experimenting!

Heat one of the nails and note that the nail rusts much quicker; heat speeds up the reaction between the water and metal to more quickly form rust.