Household Fenton's Reagent


Fenton's reagent is used to oxidize potassium hydrogen tartrate, producing carbon dioxide in an exothermic reaction. All of the reagents used in this demo are household ingredients.

Curriculum Notes

This demonstration could be used to illustrate a redox reaction, catalysis, or an exothermic reaction. This demo would also be relevant in a green chemistry unit when bioremediation is being discussed. One day of lead time is required for this project.


Fenton's reagent is composed of iron ions and hydrogen peroxide. Iron ions act as a catalyst. As hydrogen peroxide oxidizes potassium hydrogen tartrate (cream of tartar), CO2 is produced in an easily observable exothermic reaction. All of the reagents for this demonstration are obtained from household products. The iron ions are produced by boiling steel wool in vinegar to create a mixture of ferrous acetate and ferric acetate. The acetic acid also makes the solution more acidic, which is required for the optimal performance of Fenton's reagent. The steel wool is first cleaned with nail polish remover containing ethyl acetate to remove grease. The potassium hydrogen tartrate is simply household cream of tartar used in baking, and the hydrogen peroxide is the 3% solution commonly sold in drug stores and grocery stores. Fenton's reagents are frequently used to oxidize contaminants in groundwater.

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Christine Gramer
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University of Oregon
David (Randy) Sullivan
Tyler Huycke