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.
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.
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.
Then we went Mythbusters, adding way more of the ingredients (in proportion) for a bigger reaction.
Elephants don’t brush their teeth anyway.
Anyone else try this and succeed?
6 thoughts on “Elephant Toothpaste Fail”
I did a version of this for my daughter’s fifth birthday. It wasn’t over-impressive, but I stepped up to the 30% peroxide and it worked better as I increased the percentage.
We did this at my son’s birthday party using the formula with peroxide, dish soap, and yeast dissolved in water. It wasn’t quite as reactive as the screenshot photo, but it did react way more than the video you posted. Kids loved it so much I had to whip up a second batch!
I’ve made the home version before in a water bottle, and it worked very well. Lots of foam, we could feel the heat, and the kids wanted to do it over and over again.
This worked for us as well using peroxide and yeast. Try it again!
The KI solution won’t work if it’s not concentrated enough. The iodide ion acts as a catalyst, which is what makes the big foam explosion. I do this for my chemistry classes at Halloween and it should work well – that picture is fairly easily produced.
I was practicing for a presentation to the Cubs tonight and had the same problem. I had bought powdered yeast from the Bulk Barn used for brewing beer. No reaction whatsoever. I thought it was the peroxide and had no real way to test it. Ended up getting Fleishmann’s yeast packs at WalMart ($1.77) Mixed with warm water and tried again, big difference. Lots of thick shaving cream lather.
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