Oxidizing Steel Wool

About a month ago, I gave the students in my science class the assignment to pick an experiment and facilitate it in our classroom.  This is the experiment my son picked out.  For safety reasons, we went outside to do this one.  LOL

Oxidizing Steel Wool

Source:  Popular Science magazine


  • Three grades of steel wool, he used light, medium, and heavy
  • Matches
  • water for safety reasons



  1. Unroll the heaviest grade of steel wool.
  2. Light a match and set the steel on fire.


  1. Repeat steps 1 & 2 with the medium and light wool.
  2. Note what happens to each grade of wool.


  • The heavy wool burned where the match was and did not spread very far.  (The second picture above is the heavy wool).
  • The fire on medium steel wool spread quickly and burned for a while.
  • The fire on the light steel wool  burned rapidly and went out just as quick.

The fire did not spread in the heavy grade because of the thickness of the steel.  The lighter the grade of steel the quicker the fire burned because of the less amount of steel. 

The steel wool turns blue color because it is being converted to iron oxide.  This happens because the fire burns away the steel which leaves the iron oxide.


Can you see the “blue” of the burned part?  If you do this experiment, have everyone involved touch the steel wool before burning.  After burning and once it is COMPLETELY COOLED, touch the wool again.  It is very soft.

4 responses to “Oxidizing Steel Wool

  1. Very interesting.
    I’ll add that to the list of experiments to do next year – hubby will be around for this one. 😆 He like doing stuff that involves fire.

  2. boys+fire=naturally potentially dangerous. bet he loved this one!

  3. tessofthebellgrades

    I just love your science posts, I think my boys would really like this experiment. Thanks for sharing.

  4. That’s neat! =) The photos are great, I really like that labeled one.

    I used to subscribe to that magazine.

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