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Name: Janet L.
Status: other
Age: 40s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2/24/2004


Question:
Can you tell me why a piece of aluminum foil submerged in household bleach, covered tightly with plastic wrap and left for six days would turn dull grayish and crumble? My sixth grade daughter is doing a science project on the effects of bleach, nail polish remover (with acetone), Windex with ammonia, Coke and mouthwash have on aluminum foil, penny patinas, rusted iron bar stock, and saltine crackers. The most notable reactions were with the bleach and ammonia. And she is trying to find out what is causing the reactions.


Replies:
Aluminum will dissolve in both acids and bases. In the case of ammonia and bleach (do not mix them together, that reaction product is toxic) the product is going to be a complex aluminum oxide/hydroxide/chloride depending upon the reaction conditions. This disrupts the integrity of the foil causing it to fall apart. The gray color is most likely due to the particle size of the products. If you place aluminum foil in contact with tomato sauce and heat it the aluminum will also dissolve. It is for this reason that cooking tomato-containing recipes in aluminum cook ware is not advised.

Vince Calder



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