Reactions of metals with oxygen

When metals react with oxygen, metal oxides are formed. The speed of the reaction depends on the reactivity of the metal.

Watch this video for a practical demonstration of reacting metals with oyxgen.

Reacting metals with oxygen

This is the general word equation for the reaction:

metal + oxygen → metal oxide

For example, the reaction of zinc and oxygen can be written as:

Word equation

zinc + oxygen → zinc oxide

Chemical equation

2 Zn(s) + O2(g) → 2 ZnO(s)


The reactions of metals with water, acid and oxygen depend on their position in the reactivity series. This can be summed up in the diagram below.

From very reactive to very unreactive, the metals run as follows: potassium, sodium, lithium, calcium, magnesium, aluminium, zinc, iron, tin, lead, copper, mercury, silver and gold. Potassium, sodium, lithium and calcium will react with water, acids and oxygen. Magnesium, aluminium, zinc, iron, tin and lead will not react with water, but will react with acids and with oxygen. Copper, mercury and silver will not react with water or acids, but will react with oxygen. Gold will not react with water, acids or oxygen.