Magnetizing magnesium

Make magnesium shavings magnetic!

30 minutes



  • Put on protective gloves and eyewear.
  • Conduct the experiment on the plastic tray.
General safety rules
  • Do not allow chemicals to come into contact with the eyes or mouth.
  • Keep young children, animals and those not wearing eye protection away from the experimental area.
  • Store this experimental set out of reach of children under 12 years of age.
  • Clean all equipment after use.
  • Make sure that all containers are fully closed and properly stored after use.
  • Ensure that all empty containers are disposed of properly.
  • Do not use any equipment which has not been supplied with the set or recommended in the instructions for use.
  • Do not replace foodstuffs in original container. Dispose of immediately.
General first aid information
  • In case of eye contact: Wash out eye with plenty of water, holding eye open if necessary. Seek immediate medical advice.
  • If swallowed: Wash out mouth with water, drink some fresh water. Do not induce vomiting. Seek immediate medical advice.
  • In case of inhalation: Remove person to fresh air.
  • In case of skin contact and burns: Wash affected area with plenty of water for at least 10 minutes.
  • In case of doubt, seek medical advice without delay. Take the chemical and its container with you.
  • In case of injury always seek medical advice.
Advice for supervising adults
  • The incorrect use of chemicals can cause injury and damage to health. Only carry out those experiments which are listed in the instructions.
  • This experimental set is for use only by children over 12 years.
  • Because children’s abilities vary so much, even within age groups, supervising adults should exercise discretion as to which experiments are suitable and safe for them. The instructions should enable supervisors to assess any experiment to establish its suitability for a particular child.
  • The supervising adult should discuss the warnings and safety information with the child or children before commencing the experiments. Particular attention should be paid to the safe handling of acids, alkalis and flammable liquids.
  • The area surrounding the experiment should be kept clear of any obstructions and away from the storage of food. It should be well lit and ventilated and close to a water supply. A solid table with a heat resistant top should be provided
  • Substances in non-reclosable packaging should be used up (completely) during the course of one experiment, i.e. after opening the package.

FAQ and troubleshooting

What kind of magnet can I use for this experiment?

You can use almost any magnet for this experiment! We recommend using a round magnet, as they’re often stronger than flat magnets.

I can't get the FeSO4 out of the bottle.

Use a wooden stick to loosen the substance in the bottle if necessary.

The final solution is cloudy and nothing is visible.

In this case, rinse the sediment again. Pour out the existing liquid. Rinse with 30 mL of water once more, then carefully pour the water out. Add 10 mL of water.

The precipitate isn’t reacting to the magnet.

Note that the particles’ reaction to the magnet may not be very dramatic. If you did everything right, look closely at the sediment. It might even simply be oriented towards the magnet. If the sediment still doesn't respond, then try to change the magnet.

If this doesn’t help, try repeating the experiment.

Step-by-step instructions

Let's see if magnesium metal Mg is attracted to a magnet.


Now treat Mg with a compound of iron—ferrous sulfate FeSO4.


The particles have become magnetic!



Dispose of solid waste along with household garbage. Pour solutions down the sink. Wash with an excess of water.

Scientific description

Magnets are known for their habit of attracting select metallic objects. Metals that are attracted to magnets include iron Fe, nickel Ni, and a few others, but magnesium Mg, despite its name, is not on the list. Even with iron Fe, it's not as simple as just being present in any form. Metallic iron Fe is attracted to magnets, but iron sulfate FeSO4, for example, is not.

And yet, from two non-magnetic substances, magnesium Mg and iron sulfate FeSO4, you can obtain a substance that is magnetic via a simple chemical reaction! The Fe2+ from the FeSO4 solution turns into metallic iron Fe on the surface of the magnesium particles, while Mg turns into Mg2+ and ventures out into the solution. Ultimately, you end up with magnesium shavings covered with a thin layer of iron—which readily stick to a magnet!