UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
Home
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Webcasts
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
Why can you only use lemon juice on Copper to clean it?
Answer 1:

Your question is based on a wrong assumption: not only lemon juice can be used to clean copper. Any weak acid, e.g. vinegar or orange juice, would do the trick. The chemistry behind it is simple. An oxide layer forms on the surface of the copper item, such as a penny, when it gets in contact with air, especially moist air, for a long time. If you expose a metal oxide to an acid, such as the citric acid in lemon juice, the oxide layer dissolves. This reveals a shining copper layer that was hidden underneath.

Lemon juice and vinegar are excellent environmentally friendly cleaning reagents for all kinds of purposes. You can safely clean your whole kitchen using these ingredients.

Happy cleaning,

Answer 2:

You can use other liquids to clean copper, but the citric acid in the lemon juice works very well at cleaning metals. Many acids are good at cleaning, but since lemons aren't too dangerous (other than the stinging the acid can cause if it gets in your eye or a cut), it can be a good idea to use lemon juice to be safe and keep the environment clean.



Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2015 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use