See exploding bursts of color in the amazing classic science experiment magic milk! We’ll show you some two ways to do the experiment and an extension idea for the project as well.
When you add a little bit of dish soap to milk and food coloring, the colors swirl around to form what I would deem very artistic and abstract paintings! For the science behind it scroll to the end of this post.
How to do the Magic Milk Experiment
Magic Milk Materials
- Almond Milk or Cow’s Milk
- Dish soap
- Cotton Balls
- Food coloring
- Shallow plate or wide bowls
Magic Milk Instructions: Method #1
- Fill a plate or bowl with milk.
- Drop in at least 2 drops of each of four colors of food coloring. The more variety of colors the cooler the painting.
- Generously dip the end of a q-tip in dish soap.
- Now dip the q-tip into the milk next to a drop of color.
- The first thing that will happen is the color will burst as soon as the dish soap hits it. It’s a great effect but very short lived. Once there is a little dishsoap in the milk it no longer “bursts”.
- Gently swirl the q-tip through the different colors and you’ll see little rivers of color start to form.
- Continue until the colors begin to mix and become brown. Empty your plate/bowl and repeat.
Magic Milk Instructions: Method #2
Time needed: 5 minutes.
- Add milk to plate
Pour a thin layer of milk in a plate or bowl.
- Add food coloring
Add a few drops each of food coloring on the center of the plate.
- Soak cotton ball
Soak a cotton ball in dish soap.
- Place cotton ball in milk
Carefully place the cotton ball in the center. The colors will explode out of the center!
- Let the reaction continue
Let the reaction continue until the colors begin to mix and become brown.
Tips & More
- You don’t need that much milk! I vastly overestimated how much we would need. A gallon should go a long way.
- Too much swishing and swirling and you’ll end up with brown muck fast. Of course kids don’t seem to care!
Magic Milk Variations
- Try Different Milk Types We have used almond and cow’s milk for this experiment and both worked well. The higher the fat content of the milk the more pronounced the “explosions” should be. A fun experiment would be to compare the results with different types of milk: almond, cow, rice, coconut. You can also experiment with cream, whole milk, and skim milk to see if there is a difference.
- Premix the soap and milk For a variation we premixed the milk and dish soap. You won’t have the color burst effect but it does seem to keep the colors separate a little longer.
The Science Behind the Magic Milk Experiment:
The molecules in the dish soap are attracted to the fat molecules in the milk. As soon as you introduce the soap to the milk/coloring mixture the molecules race around trying to bond. The food coloring gets pushed around in the process and appears to burst. Eventually the molecules all bond and the reaction stops.
This is a good example of how detergents work, their molecules have two ends: one end is attracted to oils and the other to water. One end of detergent molecules attracts oils and dirt from clothes, dishes etc., and as they stick together they break the oil and dirt down into smaller, easy to remove pieces.
Turn the magic milk experiment into colorful paper!
Did you know you can expand on this experiment by making Marbled Milk Paper?
Go HERE for instructions: