Magnesium reacts with steam

Magnesium reacts with steam

ZIMSEC O Level Combined Science Notes: Experiment: The reaction of metals and water

Aim: To investigate and observe the reaction of magnesium and water

Materials:  magnesium ribbon, hard glass test tube, water, sand, 2 burners, short glass tube, splint, clamp stand


  1. Set up the apparatus as shown above
  2. Heat the damp sand and magnesium ribbon so that steam is passed over the heated metal
  3. As soon as the magnesium starts to glow, place a lighted splint near the open end of the short glass tube
  4. Continue heating until the reaction is complete
  5. Disconnect the cork and glass tube from the test tube before the heating is stopped
  6. Repeat the experiment using zinc powder and copper

Results and Observations

Glowing magnesium. Image credit

Glowing magnesium. Image credit

  • The gas at the end of the short glass tube burnt with a popping sound
  • The magnesium glows as it reacts with the steam
  • A white powdery substance remains in the heated tube where the magnesium was
  • When the experiment is repeated using zinc it is less vigorous but hydrogen is also given out


  • Some metals such as zinc and magnesium react with steam to form an oxide
  • Hydrogen is a by product of these reactions

To access more topics go to the Combined Science Notes page.