Cleaning Pennies: An Experiment for Kids

Cleaning pennies. A before and after picture.

If you are in Canada you may be crying gently into your cookies and milk over the END of the penny.

That’s right, the last minted Canadian penny rolled off the thingamagig months ago. How old do you feel now, right? You are a generation that USED pennies. Dear Lord.

Anyway, if your kids are anything like me and my kids, they’re going to enjoy cleaning change. I don’t know what it is, but cleaning pennies and making them sparkle is fun! Especially if you get all scientific–then you feel grown up, smart, and cool as well!

Here’s what you need to know about cleaning pennies

First, copper reacts to oxygen forming copper oxide. That’s the stuff that makes pennies less bright and shiny.

Until 1997, the Canadian penny was almost entirely copper! That means lots of copper oxide. But–more recent pennies still have a copper plating so you still get copper oxide forming on them. Whew. (More on that in the post that will magically appear here in a few days.)

And, um. Yeah. I guess that’s about it unless we are going to go all super technical sciencey. And I don’t usually do that. On to the next step.

Cleaning Pennies: The How-To

  1. Grab some pennies from Grandpa’s coin jar.
  2. Grab 1/4 cup of vinegar and toss it in… well, just leave it in the measuring cup.
  3. Sprinkle 1 tsp salt into the vinegar.
  4. Stir.
  5. Drop a pile of pennies in the solution.
  6. Swish.
  7. Wait a minute or however long your kids’ attention spans are.
  8. Rinse and dry the pennies.
  9. Compare them to some dirty pennies. Can you see the difference? Cool, eh?


So that’s an easy way of cleaning pennies. There are other methods as well. Have you tried them? What do you think? A penny for your thoughts in the comment section. (Yes, I just dated myself with that expression. <sob!>)

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