Steel wool fire

Normal iron could burn if it has form of thin wool

Scientific name: Burning of thin iron wires in normal air


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Temperatures of steel wool and fire in this experiment could exceed 1,000°C (1800°F). Wear eye protection.

Always follow general safety recommendations. Please note that conducting chemistry experiments you must comply with the relevant legal procedures in your country.

Reaction formula

4Fe + 3O2 → 2Fe2O3


  1. Steel wool

Step-by-step instruction

  1. Make sure that you have fine steel wool, thick steel wool does not burn well
  2. Start fire using a 9V battery, just touch the positive and negative terminals of a 9V battery against the steel wool

Scientific background

In normal conditions iron is not flammable. Thus you cannot ignite a nail. It is because a normal piece of iron has very small surface which is not enough to self-sustain its burning. But steel wool consists of very thin threads which have enough surface area that heat produced is self-sustaining.


Published on 21 August 2014

  • Fire
  • Heating with fire
  • Explosion
  • Poisoned gas
  • Organic
  • Electricity
  • Solution
  • Oxidation reduction
  • Color change
  • Precipitate
  • Gassing
  • Catalyst