Information about Rusty nail experiment with Fizzics Education | Kids Science Experiments

Rusty nail experiment

Rusty nail experiment

Follow FizzicsEd 150 Science Experiments:

You Will Need:

6 Test tubes or plastic cups

6 Steel nails (avoid galvanised ones)



Lemon juice


Cooking oil.

Optional: Salt water, detergent.

Adult supervision

Rusty nail experiment - materials needed
1 Rusty nail experiment - Nails in 6 different treatments

Set up the 6 test tubes or cups as shown in the picture above. This experiment is very much about variable testing!

2 Rusty nail experiment - different screws & nail to test

Take a photo and write down your observations of each nail at the start of the experiment. This is also a good time to enter this into your own classroom blog!

Optional: Weigh each nail with an accurate scale at the start and the end of the experiment.

Optional: Try different nails in the same liquid… do they rust differently?

3 Rusty nail experiment - making observations

Over the coming days take recording of each nail’s condition.

– Which nail showed rust first?
– If you were able to weigh each nail at the end of the experiment, was there any difference between the nails? Why?

4 Rusty nail experiment - nail in vinegar on day 1

This setup is just one way of running this classic rust experiment. You could also try the follwing experiment conditions too:

– nail completely submerged in water vs. half submerged.
– nail completely submerged in water with a layer of oil over the top of it.
– nail in salt water vs. nail in pure salt


5 Rust formed on the nail in vinegar

You could also try normal steel nails vs. steel wool to investigate the effect of surface area on rusting rates as well.

Why Does This Happen?

Rusting is oxidation of metal, whereby the oxygen in the environment combines with the metal to forming a new compound call a metal oxide. In the case of iron rusting, the new compound is called iron oxide… also known as rust!

This science experiment is all about controlling variables to explore which material will rust an iron nail first. Try boiling the water… does this make the nail rust faster, slower or is there no impact on the rusting time?

Learn more!


2 thoughts on “Rusty nail experiment

    1. Hi Kolwawole!
      Thanks for your question. The time to rust for the nail is highly dependent on the liquid the nail is immersed in. In water, you tend to see the beginnings of rust within a couple of days or so whereas other liquids take longer. Try the experiment out and let us know your results!

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