Check out this simple elephant toothpaste experiment. The chemical reaction that children will observe is exciting to see.
I love simple science experiments, and making elephant toothpaste is one of my kids’ favorite science activities (and it’s a lot of fun for me, too!). Elephant toothpaste is an illustration of an exothermic reaction, meaning that the reaction creates heat. As you make this, you can feel the warmth of the reaction and see it producing a puff of smoke right as the mixtures combine.
However, it doesn’t get so hot that it is dangerous for kids to be around. Keep reading to learn how to do your own elephant toothpaste experiment.
Elephant toothpaste uses an intense version of hydrogen peroxide that is used to dye hair. It will dye fabrics and kids should not get it on their hands. This is a science experiment that a parent should do as a demonstration and children can observe the process.
Make sure that that your child wears gloves if they are going to touch the elephant toothpaste experiment and keep an eye on them to ensure that they don’t put it in their mouth. Parental supervision is needed for this experiment.
Elephant Toothpaste Video Tutorial:
Elephant Toothpaste Experiment Materials
- 40 volume hydrogen peroxide or hair developer
- Dry yeast
- Food coloring (optional)
- liquid dish soap
- Tall container (jar or bottle)
- Large tray or plate (to catch the overflow)
- Safety goggles
- a funnel is optional
I will show you how each of these items is used in the elephant toothpaste experiment steps.
The Science: Elephant Toothpaste Reaction
When hydrogen peroxide and yeast mix, the hydrogen peroxide breaks down into water and oxygen. Oxygen is a gas, so it forms gas bubbles that get trapped inside the soap. This makes the foamy texture of the mixture. After all of the hydrogen peroxide is converted into water and oxygen, the mixture stops bubbling over and you’re left with foam… Hence the toothpaste experiment.
This is an example of an exothermic reaction because the process of the chemicals reaction creates heat.
Normally this process is slower but the yeast acts as a catalyst to speed up the process. The yeast contains an enzyme called Catalase that breaks down hydrogen peroxide into oxygen gas and water.
The oxygen gas gets trapped by the soap and that’s when it starts to bubble.
Directions to make this Elephant Toothpaste Experiment
Add 1 cup of the developer to your bottle. Squeeze in a big squirt of dish soap and gently swirl to combine the two ingredients.
Add in a few drops of food coloring and stir.
Put on those safety glasses.
Mix 2 tablespoons of yeast from the packet and 6 tablespoons of warm water (but not hot). Stir for about 30 seconds. The mixture may be goopy, if it is, add a bit more water until you can pour it.
Pour the yeast mixture into the developer mixture.
The mixture will start to bubble and foam and overflow the jar. You will see lots of bubbles.
After a few minutes, the reaction will stop but a lot of foam will be left behind! At this point, if kids wear gloves, they can touch the foam, but an adult should check that the mixture has cooled before kids touch the foam. I’d err on the side of caution and not touch the foam. Do not allow kids to eat the foam.
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