Elephants Toothpaste [Recipe, Demonstration, and Explosion]

Do science experiments excites you? If yes, then you are welcome to the explosive world of Elephants Toothpaste. 

Elephants Toothpaste isn’t actually a toothpaste for the giant but a mere chemical reaction. This experiment creates a fountain of foam, a jumbo one. Interesting right? So are you in for a roller coaster treat?

Join us in this article, and we will explore the recipe, demonstration, and explosion of Elephants Toothpaste. The article will cover this classic demonstration explaining the principles of chemical reactions and catalysis. Elephant reaction is quite popular in schools and entry-level science labs since it is explosive yet safe to perform.

Performing the Elephant Toothpaste chemical reaction is one great way to learn about catalysts and understand how they work. Whether you are a student, parent, or science teacher, you will love doing the Elephant Toothpaste experiment. 

So, ready for this cool and exciting activity? Follow along with our step-by-step guide and make sure you perform the experiment safely. 

Elephant Toothpaste- Introduction

Elephant Toothpaste is a very popular science experiment that creates a large volume of a foamy substance. The experiment demonstrates the principles of chemical reactions and catalysts involving the decomposition of Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) with either Yeast or Potassium Iodide (KI).

As you combine the mixture, Potassium Iodide (KI) behaves as a catalyst and speeds up the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide. It then rapidly produces oxygen gas and water, causing an expansion leading to an impressive huge foam formation. 

The Elephant Toothpaste reaction is also known as the ‘Marshmallow experiment’ (though it isn’t the Stanford marshmallow experiment, nor are they related). However, it is important to note that Elephant Toothpaste is highly exothermic and highly explosive. The reaction can produce heat and reach several feet resembling an elephant’s trunk. It is definitely an exciting activity to indulge in.

Elephant Toothpaste- Recipe 

Here’s the recipe for making Elephant Toothpaste at home:

Things you will need:

  • 1/2 cup 20-volume Hydrogen Peroxide (6%). If you conduct the reaction using 3% Hydrogen Peroxide, the reaction will be slightly smaller. 
  • 1 tablespoon dry yeast (15ml)
  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • Dish soap
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Small plastic container (16 ounces (473 ml)) or soda bottle
  • A Small Cup
  • Funnel
  • Safety goggles and gloves
  • Adult help/ supervision for kids

PLEASE NOTE: Perform the Elephant Toothpaste experiment on a washable surface since the chemical reaction will ooze out, covering the large ground.

7 step Demonstration for Elephant Toothpaste chemical reaction:

  1. As you begin, firstly, wear gloves and safety goggles. Remember that unreacted Hydrogen Peroxide can irritate skin and eyes; thus, be cautious while you experiment with the same.
  2. Pour 3/4 cup (180 ml) of hydrogen peroxide liquid into the small plastic container/ soda bottle using the funnel. 
  3. Next, if desired, add a few drops of food coloring and follow by adding a squirt of dish soap into the container. Swish the container lightly to give Hydrogen Peroxide and dish soap a slight mix.
  4. Now take a small cup and mix 1 tablespoon of dry Yeast and 3 tablespoons of warm water into it. Give it a good 10 to 12 minutes before the Yeast activates (you will be able to notice bubbles). If you have access to Potassium Iodide (KI), you can use it in place of Yeast. Use no more than 10 ml of Potassium Iodide (KI).
  5. And from here, the real adventure and fun begin.
  6. Once you are ready to experience the adventure, place the container (with Hydrogen Peroxide and dish soap) over a table, floor, or any flat surface. Make the surface washable, or you are ready to destroy it.
  7. Now by being a little extra careful, pour the activated yeast liquid into the Hydrogen Peroxide container and watch the giant foam explosion begins. 

Follow these safety measures while you are performing Elephants Toothpaste reaction:

  • Never use more than 20-volume hydrogen peroxide (6%) for the Elephant Toothpaste reaction. The higher volume of Hydrogen Peroxide can cause chemical burns and may prove very dangerous. 
  • Always wear safety goggles and gloves for protection against spills and splashes, no matter how many times you have performed the experiment. 
  • Every time you perform the Elephant Toothpaste reaction, make sure you are in a well-ventilated area. As you mix different chemicals and compounds together, it creates fumes that aren’t meant for inhalation. When experiments like these are performed inside a closed room, the chances of inhaling those fumes get higher. 
  • Never touch or ingest the foam. Make sure you dispose-off all the foam safely once the experiment is done. Also, make sure that until the foam is completely settled, you should in no way touch or interrupt it since a chemical reaction may still occur.
  • Do not dispose of the foam in the drain, or it will clog the pipes. Instead, wrap it in a plastic bag and dispose-off separately. 
  • Keep the experiment away from young kids and pets, and make sure they do not even accidentally come in contact with the foam.
  • In case any liquid comes in contact with your skin or eyes, splash it immediately with cold water for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Further, without wasting much time, reach for medical help.

Variations of the Elephant Toothpaste Demonstration

Why is Elephant Toothpaste fun and adventurous? Well, because its demonstration is possible in a lot of variations. Here are some of the creatively interesting variations of the Elephant Toothpaste Demonstration:

  • Adding glitter or confetti to the Hydrogen Peroxide and Soap solution will create a sparkling effect in the foam.
  • Adding some glow-in-the-dark paint or powder to the Hydrogen Peroxide and Soap solution will create a glowing foam reaction. 
  • Add one of the different food colors to the Hydrogen Peroxide and Soap solution, and it will have a rainbowed foam reaction.
  • Use a different-sized container to produce different sizes of foam eruption. Depending upon the shape and size of the container, the reaction will appear interesting, fun, and unique. 
  • You can use vinegar or citric acid instead of Hydrogen Peroxide for a slightly different reaction.
  • Or, instead of using Yeast or Potassium Iodide (KI), go with catalysts like potassium permanganate or manganese dioxide powder. Both of these ingredients (As standalone) may perform a similar but different foam reaction. 

The Science (Chemistry) behind the Elephants Toothpaste Experiment| All about the Explosion

The Overall science equation behind the Elephant Toothpaste reactions is:

2 H2O2(aq) → 2 H2O(l) + O2(g)

The above chemical equation demonstrates that hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) breaks down into water (H2O) and oxygen gas (O2). However, the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) here is catalyzed by the iodide ion. 

H2O2(aq) + I-(aq) → OI-(aq) + H2O(l)

H2O2(aq) + OI-(aq) → I-(aq) + H2O(l) + O2(g)

The above chemical reaction is an example of an exothermic reaction. This, in simpler words, means that the reaction releases energy in the form of heat. As the reaction is performed, it produces oxygen gas which is trapped inside the soap bubbles. This further, as a result, creates foam eruption. 

Overall, the Elephants Toothpaste science experiment demonstrates the principles of catalysis, decomposition, and exothermic reactions. 

Elephant Toothpaste Hidden Facts

Here are a few hidden but interesting facts about the Elephant Toothpaste experiment:

  • The first time ever when the Elephant Toothpaste experiment was demonstrated on television was in 1996. It by performed by Steve Spangler, a science educator who also gave this fun experiment its very exciting name. 
  • The Hydrogen Peroxide we find in drugstores is around 3%. However, the Hydrogen Peroxide used in Elephants Toothpaste experience is around a 30% concentrated solution which is way too higher. However, a higher concentration is important for a heavy foam eruption. However, using over 20-volume Hydrogen Peroxide (6%) isn’t recommended as safe. 
  • The idea behind using a small container is crucial since Hydrogen Peroxide and Yeast together produce a lot of heat. And if the container is huge, the heat produced in large quantities can prove dangerous. This is also the reason why the experiment should be performed in a well-ventilated area only. 
  • The foam produced after mixing Hydrogen Peroxide and Yeast is a type of Colloid. 
Credits Youtube

Wrapping up…

That was all for the Elephant Toothpaste experiment. Hopefully, the explanation above will help you perform the experiment with fun and ease while making the entire procedure adventurous. 

However, make sure you follow safety precautions while keeping the fun quotient alive. Also, make sure to keep the kids and pets away from the experiment place. Lastly, make sure to go through the hidden facts and variations to make the most out of the experiment. 

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