Explosions, color-changing elements, invisible ink - we sure do miss all the fun chemistry experiments we used to do at school. Too bad we can’t do any of them without an actual school lab and safety goggles, or can you?
Combine entertainment with education by conducting a fun science experiment yourself. Best of all, this fun activity is absolutely safe to do at home with kids. It’s called “elephant toothpaste,” and you don’t need any special equipment or supplies to conduct it.
Elephant toothpaste is neither toothpaste nor does it have anything to do with elephants. This science experiment produces a dense colorful foam that fizzes out of a bottle and kind of looks like a big fountain of toothpaste coming out of a tube.
This active chemical reaction occurs when hydrogen peroxide (H₂O₂) is rapidly broken down into oxygen and water. To make it work, you need something to speed up the reaction - a so-called catalyst. For this experiment, we can use regular dry yeast as a catalyst, as it contains something called catalase that will speed up the reaction considerably. For extra sturdy foam, you’ll also need to add a few drops of dish soap, as well as some food coloring to make everything look prettier and more toothpaste-like.
One important thing to note here - the more concentrated the hydrogen peroxide, the fizzier the reaction. Hence, many online recipes recommend using a 6% hydrogen peroxide instead of the 3% kind.
The ingredients and equipment you’ll need to make elephant toothpaste are:
1. Pour the hydrogen peroxide into the plastic bottle. We suggest doing this on a tray, or a nylon tablecloth.
2. Drop food coloring onto the sides of the bottle to create toothpaste-like streaks as the foam starts fizzing.
3. Add the dish soap to the bottle and swirl the bottle gently to mix in the dish soap.
4. In the small bowl, combine the yeast with the warm water.
5. Quickly pour the yeast mixture into the plastic bottle, too. Then step back and watch foam go.
NOTE: Elephant toothpaste generates some heat - it’s an exothermic reaction. Therefore, avoid touching the bottle and the foam.
Clean up the foam while wearing rubber gloves, as any leftover hydrogen peroxide may cause skin irritation.
H/T: Mental Floss