Picture of How To Copper Plate a Nail

This is a simple experiment you can easily replicate at home using things you may find around the house. It's something people of all skill levels can do and can be a fun little experiment to do with the kids.

For more projects visit our blog.
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Materials Needed

Picture of Materials Needed
List of materials:
  • Oxidised Copper -  copper coins or copper fittings, should be dull indicating it's oxidised
  • Weak Acid Solution - white vinegar or lemon juice is best to see results
  • Salt
  • A Glass container - best for seeing the results
  • Wire wool or other abrasive cleaner.
  • An iron nail - not galvanised - as used in my 'How To Make An Electromagnet' video see that here.

Step 2: Add Copper To Solution

Picture of Add Copper To Solution
Pour your weak acid solution (lemon juice or white vinegar) into your glass container and add a small amount of salt. Now add your oxidised copper to the solution. Remember to use dull copper, as this is an indication that it's oxidised. The more oxidised copper you add the more chance you have of better results. Leave the solution to stand for at least 10 minutes.

Step 3: Copper Plating Iron

Picture of Copper Plating Iron
While you wait it's a good idea to use your time to clean your iron nail. Clean off the top layer using your wire wool. This will reveal the shiny surface and remove any impurities. Remember to give it a quick wipe when you've finished cleaning to remove any residual dirt. Once ten minutes has passed add a drop or two of fresh acid solution (vinegar or lemon juice which ever your using). Now add the iron nail and leave it at least half an hour or longer. I find swilling the solution around helps speed up the process.

Cool! Thanks for sharing that! I often wonder why people choose lemon rather than lime, which is both more acidic and more..."active" or...I don't know how to say...more "varied" or, perhaps, more "drivable" or say..."tunably" reactive? I don't know the word I want. Anyway, I'm wondering why did you choose lemon? If you don't mind me asking... Lime is slightly more acidic but like grapefruit, it's also a whole other animal with what is still some pretty mysterious-seeming "intentions". Nobody ever thinks about the lime and I'm just wondering why that is. Is it merely because people assume it's like a lemon and then dismiss it because it's activities are not the same as a lemon? I've only just begun experimenting with lime juice, but the only "technical" information available seems to be in the field of bartending where it is so obviously NOT a lemon, in its activities with, effects on or reactions TO other cocktail ingredients. And now I'm just rambling...sorry...

jmanukonga1 month ago
Love the puns ?

Its awesome maaaaan........

Mizmickey1 year ago
I like the little cartoon things
Go Repairs (author)  Mizmickey1 year ago
Thanks. :)
I have a lot of Ferric acid with copper in it i suppose from etching circuit boards. Would this work with that and a battery?
Go Repairs (author)  oliverkellow1 year ago
I'm not trained in chemistry, so I couldn't answer off of the top of my head. But a little search on the internet produced articles saying that dropping iron into the solution copper coated it and re-energised the ferric acid. Also there was mention of using electrolysis, with an iron cathode and a carbon anode. If your unsure how to set-up a home electrolysis kit check out my 'Home Electrolysis Kit' video on my Youtube channel. Just do an internet search into it before you try.
rimar20001 year ago
Very interesting, you don't use electricity.
Go Repairs (author)  rimar20001 year ago
Using a power source would yield better results. But this is the simple way and I feel it's easy to replicate whatever skill level you are.

Thanks for leaving a comment.