How to Use Iron Filings to See Magnetic Field

Do you know that a magnetic field can be easily seen using iron filings? This article talks about the science behind the phenomenon and how it works.

Today we are going to explore magnetic fields using iron fillings! At the end of this great demonstration of magnetic fields, students or children can recognize magnetic materials around them. And also able to relate different varieties of magnets. Here we go!

Magnetic Field Visual Exploration

Magnetic Field Iron Filings Experiment

As I already mentioned, we cannot see the magnetic field but can observe its impact and effects on other ferromagnetic substances. To perform the magnetic field iron fillings experiment, here is the list of items you need to collect!

Things We Need Magnetic Spectrum

1) A large piece of paper

2) A bar magnet

3) U-shaped Magnet

4) A cup of Iron Fillings

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Directions to see the effects of Magnetic Field

Step-1: In the first step, arrange a piece of paper on a flat surface and place a bar magnet over it.

Step-2: Gently, sprinkle the iron filings around the bar magnet and make sure they spread all over the paper as a second step.

Step-3: The third step is to observe the effects of the magnetic field and note down the observation data.

Step-4: Now replace the bar magnet with U-shaped ones and again observe the effects magnetic field.

Effects of Magnetic Field

Ask your children or students to draw the directional lines of the magnetic field on the paper from the observations of the experiment.

Magnetic Field Iron Filing Experiment

Points to Remember and Observe

1) The magnetic force comes out of the North Pole and travel towards the South Pole.

2) Since there is more concentration at the poles, we see more iron filings sticking to the magnet at the poles.

3) Every field line is visible and appears in the form of rings around the magnets.  

4) You can also observe poles repulsion and opposite poles attraction effects when two magnets come in closer contact.

Magnetic Spectrum Iron Filing Experiment

Where to buy Iron Filings?

Iron filings are easy to find in the stores like Wall Mart and even stationery shops sell them in packets. Or else, the sand on the Earth also consists of iron fillings but in very few amounts. It takes a lot of time to extract iron fillings from the Earth’s soil using magnets.

How do iron filings demonstrate a magnetic field?

Demonstrating magnetic fields using iron fillings is a simple and classic method to learn about magnets.

Iron filings are nothing but ferromagnetic substances which encompass the magnetic field by themselves. They do consist of the north and south poles. As soon as these iron fillings meet the magnet, the like poles of magnet and iron fillings repel each other. And the iron fillings scatter around the magnet but remain within the magnetic field. While the opposite poles attract each other, which is witnessed by the attachment of iron filings to the magnet.

To put it simpler, North Pole attracts the South Pole whereas the North Pole repels the North Pole as soon as the two magnetic materials come in contact.

In this way, Iron fillings demonstrate a great experiment of revealing and explaining magnetic fields easily and more simply.

Why do iron filings show magnetic fields?

Iron fillings, very small particles of iron exhibits magnetic properties in every iron particle because of their ferromagnetic property. Therefore, it is easy for them to represent the magnetic field in the form of detailed field lines. Since the like poles repel and opposite poles attract.

Where is the magnetic field the strongest?

Any magnet exhibits the strongest magnetic field at either of the poles and the weakest at the middle of the magnet. Both the poles possess the strongest magnetic field in equal amounts.

What are the invisible lines revealed by iron filings?

The invisible lines revealed by the iron fillings are nothing but the complete map of the magnetic field lines of a magnet.

Bar Magnet with Iron Filings – Analysis of Results

Bar magnet, a strong magnetic material possessing the strongest magnetic field around it. In this experiment, as soon as the iron fillings dropped around the bar magnet: some go away from the magnet while some stay intact to the magnet at the poles. This demonstrates that the like poles of magnet and iron fillings repel and scatter themselves away from each other. Whereas the opposite poles of magnet and iron fillings attract and remain intact to each other.

But we can see higher amounts of iron filings at either of the poles of the bar magnet. Because there is more concentration of magnetic field at the poles. While at the middle part of the magnet, we still see some iron fillings attached but in very lesser amounts.

U Magnet with Iron Filings – Analysis of Results

U magnet consists of the North Pole and the South Pole at its endpoints. And while contacting the iron fillings, like poles repel and opposite poles attract each other. Either of the poles exhibits higher amounts of iron fillings because of the opposite poles’ attraction. On the other hand, the surrounding region consists of scattered iron fillings because of like poles repulsion.

Other Magnetism STEM Activities for kids:

Magnet Maze Game Designing Activity: The Fun Way to Learn Magnetism

Building a Marble Run Using Magnets for Your Fridge

Magnetic Field Iron Filings Experiment—Conclusion

From the experiment results, we can conclude that the North Pole of one magnet repels the North Pole of the other. In the same way, the South Pole of one magnet repels the South Pole of another magnet. But the North Pole of one magnet attracts the South Pole of another magnet and vice versa.

Magnetic Field Detection using iron filings

What are Iron Fillings and Magnetic Fields?

Before we jump into the demonstration of magnetic fields, let us learn what iron filings, magnets, and magnetic fields are for your better understanding.


Any material that consists of its own and invisible magnetic field that is capable of interacting with other magnetic fields refer to as a magnet. By nature, the objects which exhibit magnetic properties consist of the north and south poles. And like poles repel each other while opposite poles attract each other.

Magnetic Field

Magnetic fields are the results of force created around the nucleus of the magnetic material and in the direction of the field lines. Generally, the area around the magnetic material or the region that influences the electric charges in motion represents the magnetic field of that material. By the way, the most powerful magnetic field is invisible to naked eyes.

Iron filings

Iron filings are nothing but a powder-like substance that consists of very tiny particles of ferromagnetic substance i.e. iron. These small pieces of iron are mainly useful for demonstrating magnetic fields to children.


Check out : A DIY Magnetic Compass for Kids

Compasses are navigational devices that represent the directions useful for the orientation of Earth’s geography. In detail, compasses are nothing but magnets, consisting of both north and south poles and with an obvious magnetic field.   

Well, do you think our Earth consists of a magnetic field? Yes, it has a magnetic field because of the electric flow in its core layers but it is very weak. The magnetic field possessed by Earth is a geomagnetic field.

Explore Magnetic Field using iron filings

The magnetic field around the magnetic material reveals the magnetic lines in the arrow and ring patterns. And these patterns start at the north poles and end at the south poles. Therefore, the magnetic field lines that face each other represent attractive forces. And the ones facing away from each other represent repulsive forces.

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