Elephant toothpaste is such a fun and easy science experiment for kids! Explore this chemical reaction that has an exciting, foaming result — which shoots right out of the bottle!
You can set up this STEM activity for yourself in just a few minutes – you only need a few simple ingredients! It’s quick and easy, and the wow factor will make you want to try the experiment over and over again. The bubbles and foam are SO COOL!
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How to Make Elephant Toothpaste
Check Out The Video Tutorial:
Step 1: Find what you need
- Gather your supplies and materials.
Step 2: Mix hydrogen peroxide and dish soap
- Make sure that you protect yourself and your working surface during this experiment.High volume hydrogen peroxide can irritate skin and eyes, so we recommend wearing nitrile gloves and safety googles.
- Find a clear 1 liter plastic water or soda bottle from your recycling bin and wash it out well.You'll also need a high rimmed baking tray or glass baking dish to contain the foam in this experiment. We recommend using a plastic tablecloth to protect your table as well.
- To begin, pour the 12% hydrogen peroxide into the bottle. (You can use a funnel to make this easier.)
- Add the liquid dish soap into the bottle as well.
- Swirl the bottle gently to combine the two. (You can also stir with a wooden skewer.)
Step 3: Add food colouring to the bottle sides (OPTIONAL)
- To create the toothpaste look, hold the bottle at a slight angle and add 3 drops of food colouring to the inside of the bottle opening. Then let the food colouring drip down the inside of the bottle in a straight line.
- Once the food colouring has run all the way down the inside of the bottle, turn it around and add 3 drops of food colouring on the opposite side.
- Repeat on the other two sides as well, adding lines of a different colour. We added drops of minty green and red food colouring to this bottle.
Step 4: Mix together the yeast and warm water
- Add yeast and warm water to a measuring cup.
- Stir with a fork to combine, or use a whisk.The yeast will clump up, so either keep stirring until it dissolves more into the water, or let it sit for a couple of minutes before stirring again.
Step 5: Combine the ingredients and watch the reaction!
- Pour the liquid yeast mixture into the bottle as quickly as you can.Move your hand out of the way when you see the reaction reaching the top of the bottle.
- Watch as the "toothpaste" shoots right out of the bottle opening! Note: You won't get the same height if you use 3% or 6% hydrogen peroxide. More on that below.
- Continue observing the reaction until the foaming slows down.Your elephant toothpaste experiment is complete!
- Make sure you wear PPE (personal protective equipment) while performing this experiment! We recommend wearing protective gloves, safety glasses, and a painting smock or apron. You’ll also want to protect your working surface with a table cloth if you’re worried about spills. Hydrogen peroxide can cause discoloration of surfaces.
- Place your hand close to the bottle after the reaction has slowed down. You should be able to feel the heat energy created. This is called an exothermic reaction.
What is elephant toothpaste?
Elephant toothpaste is an easy science experiment for kids of all ages. The foaming chemical reaction looks just like toothpaste being squeezed out of a big tube!
As the foam rises out of the plastic bottle, the stream of “toothpaste” is so big that it looks like it could be used by an elephant — hence the name!
How does elephant toothpaste work?
Elephant toothpaste is a chemical reaction that illustrates what happens when a catalyst causes the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide.
Hydrogen peroxide is made up of both hydrogen and oxygen atoms, and with time it eventually breaks down into oxygen and water. Hydrogen peroxide is often found in dark brown bottles, which helps to slow down this process.
When a catalyst is added, this usually slow reaction happens very quickly. Yeast contains an enzyme called “catalase”, which, when added to the hydrogen peroxide, rapidly releases the oxygen molecules.
The dish soap helps increase the surface tension and causes the oxygen gas bubbles to get trapped and last longer — causing the foam reaction.
This science experiment is a demonstration of rapid decomposition, and it also creates an exothermic reaction – or heat. If you put your hand close to the bottle you can feel the warmth created by the energy, and you might even see steam!
Can I use 3% hydrogen peroxide to make elephant toothpaste?
We definitely recommend using 12% hydrogen peroxide, or at the very least 6%, to get a good reaction between the ingredients.
If you can only find 3% peroxide (the regular kind you can find in stores, for disinfecting cuts), your experiment will still work, it just won’t be as impressive. We tried it and it does create foam that comes out of the bottle, but the foam isn’t as thick and it moves slower – so it doesn’t shoot out from the bottle. Overall, it just doesn’t look as good.
For the best (and coolest!) results you’ll want to use 12% hydrogen peroxide.
Where can I buy 12% hydrogen peroxide?
You can find higher percentages of hydrogen peroxide at beauty supply stores (where hairdressers buy their products). Or you might be able to find it online — we bought ours on Amazon.
Look for 6% (also called 20 volume) liquid hydrogen peroxide, or 12% (40 volume). The higher the volume, the bigger and better the reaction will be.
Is it safe to touch elephant toothpaste?
Once the chemical reaction has occurred, it should be safe to touch the elephant toothpaste foam. When the hydrogen peroxide breaks down, all that remains is oxygen, water, and soap bubbles.
However, any remaining hydrogen peroxide has hasn’t broken down may irritate your skin, so we still recommend only touching the foam with your gloves on.
Do I have to use food colouring in the elephant toothpaste recipe?
No, the food colouring along the sides of the bottle gives the experiment a fun toothpaste look, but you don’t have to add food colouring if you don’t want to!
If you don’t like the look of the stripes, you could fully mix the food coloring into the peroxide and soap mixture. Instead of stripes in the foam, it will give you coloured foam.
Watch our video tutorial or follow our step by step written instructions to make this simple (and very cool!) experiment.
Elephant toothpaste is such a fun experiment with a big foaming reaction! It’s great for school science lessons, at home, or even at STEM themed birthday parties.
Here’s even more science experiment ideas:
Our book Low-Mess Crafts for Kids is loaded with 72 fun and simple craft ideas for kids! The projects are fun, easy and most importantly low-mess, so the clean up is simple!