The secret of an ordinary match

Are matches magnetic?

Safe­ty pre­cau­tions

Ob­serve safe­ty rules when work­ing with fire.


  • neodymi­um mag­net;
  • match­es.

Step-by-step in­struc­tions

Use a neodymi­um mag­net and use it to test whether some match­es are mag­net­ic. First, check a whole, un­burnt match – it shouldn’t re­spond. You will, how­ev­er, find that burnt match­es are mag­ne­tized. Di­vide the burnt match into two parts and note that only the match head re­acts to the mag­net. The un­burnt match head may also be mag­ne­tized.

Process de­scrip­tion

Match­es con­sist of a wood­en stick and a head. A match head usu­al­ly con­tains:

  • sub­stances that pro­duce oxy­gen when heat­ed such as potas­si­um chlo­ride KClO₃ and potas­si­um dichro­mate(VI) K₂Cr₂O₇.
  • sub­stances that ig­nite eas­i­ly in the pres­ence of oxy­gen, nor­mal­ly sul­fur and glue of nat­u­ral ori­gin.
  • sub­stances that con­trol ig­ni­tion tem­per­a­ture and col­or like iron(III) ox­ide, ground glass, zinc ox­ide, py­ro­lusite MnO₂.

Iron(III) ox­ide and py­ro­lusite MnO₂ have weak mag­net­ic prop­er­ties. An un­burnt match head is there­fore weak­ly mag­ne­tized. As the match burns, the iron(III) ox­ide in­ter­acts with the oth­er com­po­nents and turns into iron(II) ox­ide, which pos­sess­es stronger mag­net­ic prop­er­ties. The burnt match­es are thus at­tract­ed to the mag­net.*

*The pres­ence and com­po­si­tion of this sub­stance de­pends on the man­u­fac­tur­er