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How to Electroplate With Vinegar & Salt

Heidi A. Reeves

If you're looking for a fun science project you can do at home, try electroplating pennies in a vinegar and salt solution. Electroplating deposits a metallic coating of positively charged metal ions onto metal objects that have a negative charge.

This easy experiment is a great way to demonstrate how positive and negative charges are attracted to one another.

  1. Fill a large Pyrex dish with 1/2 l of distilled white vinegar.

  2. Place a zinc anode into the vinegar and allow it to sit for a few hours. This will give the zinc a chance to dissolve.

  3. Measure 50 g of epsom salt on a kitchen scale and add to the vinegar and zinc solution. The salt will help the liquid better conduct electricity.

  4. Add 60 g of sugar to the mixture.

  5. Clean a penny with a toothbrush and toothpaste and rinse well. Wear gloves when handling the clean penny to avoid soiling the penny with oils from your skin.

  6. Tape one end of a length of copper wire to the positive side of a flashlight battery and tape the other end to the zinc anode. Use electrical tape to secure the wire to the battery and anode.

  7. Attach another length of copper wire to the battery. Secure the other end of the wire to a shiny penny.

  8. Submerge the zinc anode and the penny in the vinegar and salt solution; don't allow them to touch one another.

  9. Soak the penny until it begins to form a silvery coating. At this point, you've successfully electroplated your penny.

  10. Tip

    Look for zinc anodes at boating supply stores.