Science project

Cleaning With Lemon Experiment


Lemon juice is acidic. This is why you put so much sugar into the mix when you make lemonade! Since lemon juice is high in citric acid, it also makes a good natural cleaner.

Different materials get dirty in different ways. Your sink and bathtub gets covered in soap and toothpaste scum. Your pans get deposits of fatty grease. As metals react with the air, they form dull-looking oxides. Different cleaners work for these different types of "dirt." When you’re choosing a cleaner, it’s good to know whether the substance you’re trying to remove is acidic or alkaline. Choose a cleaner that’s the opposite, and it will react with the “dirt” on your object and will remove it most effectively.

Acids like lemon juice work best on alkaline types of stains. Since soap is alkaline, lemon juice and vinegar are both great at removing soap scum. They are less effective at removing grease. Alkaline cleaners like soap are better at removing grease by emulsifying it, or spreading it out into the dishwater. Solvents actually dissolve the grease. By understanding the chemistry behind cleaning, you can choose the best cleaners for the job.

When lemon juice interacts with oxidized metal, it reacts with the dark oxides and the penny looks shiny and new again. This is especially noticeable with copper pennies. Since most pennies made after 1982 are made out of zinc with a thin copper coating, you used real copper pennies to get the true effect. If you’re cleaning metals like copper or brass with lemon juice over the long term, this can react with the metals and can cause corrosion, damaging the metal.

Do you think that the lemon juice would work in the same way if it were diluted with water? Try adding 1/8 of a cup of lemon juice to a cup and filling the cup to the halfway point with water, and do the experiments again. What changes? Add salt to your lemon juice mixture and try cleaning additional items. Does this work better, the same, or not as well as plain lemon juice? 

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