How to Use Vinegar & Salt to Make a Penny Disappear

Salt and vinegar can clean a penny, but also can dissolve it.
••• Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

Cleaning pennies with salt and vinegar is a classic elementary school science experiment. Using the same principles, and a little patience, it is possible to dissolve a penny completely. When cleaning a penny, the hydrochloric acid produced by the mixture of salt and vinegar dissolves a thin layer of copper on the penny. Repeatedly allowing copper oxide (the green stuff that looks like dirt on the penny) to form and "cleaning" it will slowly but surely reveal a quick-to-dissolve zinc core.

    Choose a penny dated after the year 1982. This is the year that the government began making pennies with a zinc center. Zinc is a more reactive metal than copper, and will produce faster results.

    A water glass is a good option, but make sure to wash it thoroughly before drinking from it!
    ••• Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

    Dissolve as much salt as possible in 8 oz. of white vinegar in a glass container. This produces hydrochloric acid. The more salt you can dissolve, the more acid you will produce, and the better your result.

    Drop the penny in the acid, handling it with a pair of tweezers. Allow the penny to react until it is clean, then use the tweezers to remove it from the acid and place it on a paper towel. Do not rinse the penny.

    Wait until the penny reacts with the air to form copper oxide (the green substance coating the penny). When the penny is coated, use the tweezers to place the penny back in the acid. Wait until the copper oxide fully dissolves, then remove the penny again to allow more copper oxide to form.

    Continue to submerge and remove the penny until the copper dissolves, revealing the zinc interior. Once the zinc is visible, leave the penny in the acid. The zinc will continue to react with the acid until the penny is dissolved.

    Things You'll Need

    • Penny dated after 1982
    • White vinegar
    • Salt
    • Glass bowl or container
    • Tweezers
    • Paper towel

    Tips

    • Be patient when dissolving the copper layer. This will take several dips in the acid.

    Warnings

    • Be very careful when working with hydrochloric acid. Never touch it with your hands as it can burn your skin.

Related Articles

Sciencing at Home: How to Turn Everyday Objects Into...
Why Does Citric Acid Clean Pennies?
How to Remove Bee Propolis Stains
What Causes Copper to Tarnish?
Why Does Soda Pop Clean Coins?
How to Dissolve EDTA in Water
The Effects of Acid on Different Kinds of Metal
How to Dissolve Steel
Experiments With Salt and Vinegar
How to Dissolve Silver
What Happens When You Put Gold in Muriatic Acid?
Which Liquids Will Tarnish a Penny Faster?
What Is Zinc Alloy?
Experiments on Cleaning Pennies
Hydrochloric Acid Safety Precautions
What Happens When You Clean Pennies With Lemon Juice?
How to Remove Acetone Residue
How to Extract Gold From Scrap
How to Make a Potato Lamp
How to Dissolve Silicate
How to Make an EDTA Solution