Elephant toothpaste is the foamy substance formed by rapid decomposition of hydrogen peroxide in the presence of household dish soap. This experiment is also known as the “marshmallow experiment” due to the fluffy foam it produces! Since it’s a simple experiment with easily obtainable ingredients, it’s a very popular class demonstration/party trick for kids.
Elephant Toothpaste Ingredients
3% hydrogen peroxide
Dish washing soap
Catalyst- can be yeast solution (dry yeast in warm water), potassium permanganate (dissolved in a small amount of water), manganese dioxide, or potassium iodide
Container – could be a beaker, plastic bottle, graduated cylinder- whatever chemistry lab glassware you’d like to use!
Food colouring (optional)
A nice, easy-to-clean space
Elephant Toothpaste Recipe
Pour ½ cup of peroxide into your ‘toothpaste’ container.
Add a generous amount of dish soap.
If you want to add color, now is the time. Add it directly to the peroxide for a solid color, or let it gently drip down the sides of the container to create stripes!
Add your catalyst.
Enjoy the bubbles!
What if I want a bigger foam-splosion?
You can achieve a more dramatic reaction in one of two ways. One- use more of your catalyst. This will speed up the reaction and cause oxygen to be released faster. Two- use a more concentrated peroxide. While 3% is the most readily commercially available peroxide, it is possible to get concentrations of up to 50%. When you use more concentrated peroxide, more oxygen will be released in the reaction. As a result, you’ll end up with a much more dynamic reaction!
However, exercise extreme caution if you choose to use highly concentrated peroxides!
Hydrogen peroxide is extremely corrosive, and could cause serious burns if mishandled. If you’re conducting this experiment with a younger audience (or volunteer!) it might be better to stick with a safe 3%.
If you do choose to use a more concentrated peroxide, it might be better to start with a smaller volume at first, and use less catalyst so the reaction proceeds at a controlled rate.
People who want a more dramatic reaction generally use 30% hydrogen peroxide. We don’t recommend using a higher percentage than that, and be sure to wear gloves.