Rust and H2O2
Name: Sam D.
Why does steel wool not rust when it is placed in
hydrogen peroxide? I tried with a 3% solution. It seems like it would
rust greatly because of the large amount of oxygen in Hydrogen Peroxide.
First, are you sure the steel wool is clean? Ordinarily it is covered with a
film of oil to prevent it from rusting. Wash a pad of the wool by soaking it
in a solution of a few drops of dish detergent in water, rinse it well, fluff
it up and ask mom if its OK to dry it under low heat in the oven (NOT the
microwave). Once washed, it should rust easily in ordinary air.
In order for iron to rust, electrons must be surrendered by the iron and
accepted by the oxygen. Hydrogen peroxide -- even though it is a rich source
of oxygen -- is a non-conductor that may interfere with the electron transfer.
Try this little experiment: Repeat what you did, only add a very tiny pinch of
salt to the peroxide solution, swirl it around it until the salt dissolves and
then put the steel wool into the solution. Chances are it will rust quickly.
CAUTION! When peroxide reacts it can sometimes foam up and spatter about. Be
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Update: June 2012