Elephant toothpaste has been an experiment I have wanted to try for ages. However, I thought getting my hands on the chemicals would be tricky and that maybe it would be too dangerous to do with the kids. Turns out I was very wrong. Getting hold of hydrogen peroxide is very simple. And sure, there are risks, but as long as you take the proper safety precautions, you will be fine.
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To make elephant toothpaste you will need:
- Food colouring
- Washing up liquid
- ½ cup of 9% hydrogen peroxide*
- 1 tbsp. yeast
- ½ cup of very warm water
- Plastic bottle
- Washing up gloves
- Safety goggles (if you have them)
*You can get this from a local chemist. I was offered 3% or 9%. You can get stronger amounts (which produce a bigger reaction), but if you want your kids to be involved then I recommend the 3% or 9%. Take a look at Steve Spangler’s reaction when using 30% hydrogen peroxide.
Hydrogen peroxide can burn if it comes into contact with skin, so wearing gloves is a must.
If you have safety goggles, wear them! You certainly don’t want this getting in your eyes.
Cover any surfaces that you are using. We put down our plastic art cloth.
Do not touch the elephant toothpaste with your bare hands. IT IS HOT! I got it all over my gloved hand, and could feel the heat through it.
Place everything on a tray.
Mix together your 1 tbsp. of yeast with ½ cup of very warm water.
Put the funnel in your bottle then add the food colouring, a couple of squirts of washing up liquid, and ½ cup of hydrogen peroxide. Swirl it together to mix the food colouring int. Make sure that you are holding the bottle while these ingredients are being put it; you don’t want it to tip over.
Finally add the yeast to the solution, and watch as it produces a thick foamy substance, that looks like toothpaste.
The Science Behind It
Yeast contains and enzyme called Catalase, when added to the hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) it breaks it down into water (H2O) and oxygen (O2). The escaping oxygen gets trapped by the soap to create the foam.
The heat produced is because this is an exothermic reaction.
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