Elephant toothpaste is an easy and fun science experiment you can do with your kids at home or with students in the lab. It is the result of a chemical reaction that creates a large amount of foam, the movement of which resembles that of toothpaste coming out of a tube, while the amount of foam is usually enough for an elephant to brush its teeth.
Concentrated hydrogen peroxide (more than 10 volumes) is a strong oxidizer that can stain the skin and cause burns. Do not do this experiment without taking proper safety precautions and without an adult present. Have fun, but be careful!
- 1/2 cup liquid hydrogen peroxide (hydrogen peroxide) at 20 volumes (6% solution, which can be found at a beauty supply store or salon);
- 1 tablespoon of dry yeast;
- 3 tablespoons of warm water;
- Liquid detergent;
- food coloring;
- Bottles of all shapes.
- Food coloring (optional);
- Liquid detergent;
- Hydrogen peroxide (hydrogen peroxide - H2O2) at 10 volumes;
- Saturated potassium iodide (KI) solution.
- 1 l beaker.
Part 1 of 3: Preparing for the experiment
Step 1. Gather the resources
You don't need to buy official lab equipment to make this fun experiment, as most of the material can be found at home. Make a list of what you already have and see what you can improvise if something is missing. For example, if you don't have 20 volumes of hydrogen peroxide, you can use 10 volumes.
Step 2. Allow sufficient time for preparation, experimentation and cleaning
Keep in mind that this experiment can be messy, so tell everyone involved that they will need to contribute to cleaning up later. Allow enough time for everyone to participate and enjoy the experiment.
Step 3. Isolate the splash zone
Foam experiments can be fun for people of all ages, but kids get carried away easily. Minimize the need for cleaning by preparing an enclosed space, such as a bathtub, the backyard, a baking sheet, or a large plastic bowl.
Step 4. Find the right amount of hydrogen peroxide
This amount will determine how much foam will be generated. While you can have some 10-volume hydrogen peroxide in the cupboard, you can also go to a drugstore or cosmetics store to find the 20-pack.
Part 2 of 3: Conducting the Experiment
Step 1. Mix 3 tablespoons of water with the yeast and let it rest
You can let the children do this step, allowing them to measure out the yeast and mix in the correct amount of warm water. Allow the child to stir to dissolve the lumps.
Depending on the child's age, you can give him a spoon or a fun tool to stir. You can also dress her up with safety glasses and a lab coat. Child safety glasses can be found at your local hardware store
Step 2. Add detergent, dye and half a cup of hydrogen peroxide in a bottle
Before handling hydrogen peroxide, make sure everyone is wearing safety glasses and gloves. Do not let children handle hydrogen peroxide unless you believe they are old enough to do so.
- If your child is very young, ask him to put the detergent and dye in the bottle. You can also add glitter to make the experiment more fun. Use a plastic glitter, not metal, as hydrogen peroxide should not be used with metal.
- Stir the mixture yourself or the child, if the child is old enough. Do not spill hydrogen peroxide.
Step 3. Pour the yeast mixture into the bottle using a funnel
Go back and remove the funnel. You can let the child put in the yeast, but if the child is too small, stay around to make sure the bottle doesn't spill anything on it. For stability, use a short bottle with a wide base. The neck must be narrow to increase the effect.
- Yeast fungi will cause the hydrogen peroxide to decompose immediately and release an extra molecule of oxygen. Yeast acts as a catalyst as it causes the hydrogen peroxide molecule to release an oxygen molecule. This takes the form of a gas and, when it hits the soap, it creates foam bubbles, while the rest is like water. The gas looks for an escape route, and the foam "toothpaste" spurts out of the bottle.
- Mix the yeast and hydrogen peroxide well to improve the effect.
Step 4. Change the size and shape of the bottle
If you choose smaller bottles with narrower necks, you will have stronger foam coming out. Play around with the size and shape of the container to change the effect.
With a 10-volume bottle of soda and hydrogen peroxide, you're likely to have a ripple effect, like a chocolate fountain
Step 5. Feel the heat
Notice how the foam releases heat. The chemical reaction is known as an exothermic, so heat is emitted. It's not enough to do damage, so you can feel the foam and play with it. It is made only of soap, water and oxygen, so it is non-toxic.
Step 6. Clean everything up
You can use a sponge to clean the area and flush any remaining liquid down the drain. If you used glitter, strain and discard before pouring the liquid down the drain.
Part 3 of 3: Setting up the experiment for a laboratory
Step 1. Put on gloves and goggles
The concentrated hydrogen peroxide used in this experiment will burn the skin and eyes and can also stain fabric, so choose your clothing accordingly.
Step 2. Pour 50 ml of 20 volumes of hydrogen peroxide into a 1 l beaker
This hydrogen peroxide is stronger than those used at home. Take care when handling it and place the beaker in a stable place.
Step 3. Add 3 drops of food coloring
Play with the dye to achieve fun effects, making patterns and color variations. To make the final product streaked, tilt the beaker and drip the colorant onto the sides.
Step 4. Add approximately 40ml of detergent and stir to mix
Add a small layer of liquid detergent by pouring it down the side of the beaker. You can also use powdered dishwasher, but mix the solution well.
Step 5. Add potassium iodide to the solution and walk away quickly
Using a spatula, add potassium iodide to create the chemical reaction. You can also dissolve the product in a bottle of water before adding it to the solution. A large colored foam will come out of the beaker.
Step 6. Test for the presence of oxygen
Place a gleaming wooden toothpick near the foam and watch it catch fire again as oxygen is released.
Step 7. Clean everything up
Pour the remaining solution down the drain using plenty of water. Extinguish all wooden sticks and make sure there are no open flames. Close and store hydrogen peroxide and potassium iodide.
- You may notice that the reaction produces heat. This is because the chemical process is exothermic, that is, it releases energy.
- Keep your gloves on when you throw away elephant toothpaste. You can pour either foam or liquid down the drain.
- Hydrogen peroxide (hydrogen peroxide - H2O2) naturally breaks down to water (H2O) and oxygen over time, but you can speed up the process by adding a catalyst. And because hydrogen peroxide releases a lot of oxygen in the presence of detergent, millions of tiny bubbles quickly form.
- The foam will overflow suddenly and quickly, especially in the chemistry lab. Conduct this experiment on a washable, smudge-resistant surface, and do not stand near the bottle or beaker when it froths.
- The resulting substance is called elephant toothpaste just because of its appearance. Do not put it in your mouth or swallow it.
- Elephant toothpaste can cause stains!
- This experiment cannot be done safely without glasses and gloves.