Psychedelic milk/food coloring trick

Here's a neat trick: drip food coloring into a pan of milk, then add some dish-soap to set off a psychedelic, animated chemical reaction that'll have 'em agog with delight! Link (via Neatorama)


  1. I’m not a scientist, but at a guess, I’d say the emulsifier in the detergent is reacting with the fat in the milk. Am I right or not?

  2. We did this in sixth grade, with no idea what the secret dropper stuff was (okay, the kids whose older siblings had been through already knew, but the rest of us stayed skeptical). We dropped the soap straight onto the drops, too. The teacher tried to use clear dish soap, but only Sunlight worked when he tried it. We spent a little while afterward figuring out how it worked.

  3. That isn’t a chemical reaction, but a physical one.

    The detergent destroys the surface tension in the middle of the liquid, which is what causes the outside of the milk to appear to “suck” the colouring to the outside of the dish.

    It also weakens the forces between molecules wherever it goes within the liquid, so that the liquid has uneven distributions of inter-molecular force, causing the swirls and eddies seen in the video.

    The viscosity and opacity of the milk contribute to slowing down the flow of liquid and making for a spectacular show. :)

  4. Cool. The same thing happens when I add a drop of vanilla extract to the bowl of egg yolks for making French Toast.

  5. Lambchop! This was on Lambchop when I was a kid. Between this trick and making my own bubbles, my parents had to hide the dish soap. They did appreciate that these were my favorite variety of “fireworks,” though.

  6. Very cool! Too bad you can’t drink it… psychedelic cereal breakfast would’ve been a *great* way to start the day…

  7. The truly fascinating part of this is how the second you start seeing trippy liquid motions you also get fantastic psychedelic rickateer (rick-a-teer-rick-a-teer)sounds that accompany them!

  8. There are similar examples of this to be found at your favourite watering hole. I was introduced to the “Volcano” by one a bartender I used to work with. IIRC, in a shot glass, pour in 3/4 of a shot of Baja Rosa (or Baileys), followed by 1/4 of a shot of Sambuca. Sit back and enjoy the action before tossing it back to enjoy the flavour.

  9. Back in the day when i used to toke at work, i once spilt about 200 liters ov milk in a supermarket coolroom floor. It formed a huge puddle, so i grabbed some food dyes & washing up liquid & spent the next 20 minutes mezmerised by the pretty swirling patterns.
    Then i had to mop it all up :(

  10. When i was kid, we had no TV and i used to play this game with food coloring in the toilet basin(with flushing being the climax of course)
    I did this a lot!! I mean for hours and hours until my legs went numb from kneeling!!

    I think i got the idea because i’d been allowed to see the Dark Crystal and had read that the way they made the sky effects was with an aquarium full of dye.

  11. This does not seem to work well with cold skim milk. Which stands to reason as there isn’t much fat to work with. I wonder if heavy cream would work well.

  12. I used to do this all the time back when I was a pre-school teacher. What other method can you think of for fully entertaining 8 4 year olds for up to an hour at a time? They loved this.

    Skim milk doesn’t work, I always used whole milk. I’m sure cream would work fine.

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