Elephant Toothpaste Fail

In my family we get science on everything. Most of the time that means we dive deep into what interests us, no matter how strange. My daughter recently transported an entire deer skeleton out of our woods, cleaned the bones, and reassembled it in the yard. This week one of my sons rebuilt a radio so old that it’s powered by vacuum tubes. Few of our science-y pursuits have to do with beakers and chemicals, but when one of my kids discovered a reaction called Elephant Toothpaste we had to try it.

 

elephant toothpaste, elephant toothpaste fail,
What’s supposed to happen! Screenshot: youtube.com

There are two ways to create this reaction. A home version can be done with low power ingredients. Naturally we went right for the lab version requiring 30 percent hydrogen peroxide (found at beauty supply stores) and potassium iodide (Kl) . The supplies aren’t easy to obtain and we ended up buying a liquid form of of Kl, which may have been our downfall.

We assembled our set-up in the front yard. A two liter soda bottle inside a tin container, safety precautions, and a lot of anticipation. One kid taped the soon-to-be spectacular event, another kid was ready with a large syringe of hydrogen peroxide, and a parent was cued to dump in the Kl.

Ready! Set!

Fail.

The resulting froth was less than you’d get from pouring a glass of root beer. We did note some warmth felt through the plastic bottle, a minor exothermic reaction. A more significant reaction? Sarcastic comments.

Undaunted we speculated that there was too much soap, so we rinsed and tried again.

Nothing.

Then we went Mythbusters, adding way more of the ingredients (in proportion) for a bigger reaction.

Still nothing.

Elephants don’t brush their teeth anyway.

Anyone else try this and succeed?

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Laura is the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and Free Range Learning, a handbook of natural learning. She lives on a small farm notable only for its lovestruck goose.