Let’s Use Science to Tie Dye with Easy pH Science Experiment

Today we are using science to Tie Dye which makes this acid base experiment for kids of all ages one of the most colorful and fun science projects around.

This science experiment uses common kitchen ingredients and kept the attention of kids from 3 year olds to 14 year olds! <–that is a really good kids science project!

Science pH tests - homemade tie dye shown in progress in a bowl that kids are making
Let’s make our own tie dye and explore acid & bases!

Tie Dye with acid base experiment

The basics of this acid base science project is that we are going to make our own pH test sheets out of paper towels and one ingredient…red cabbage. Once the pH test sheets are ready, we will be able to determine if liquids are acid or bases.

We call this a tie dye experiment because the pH testing sheets turn out so colorful and reminds us of our favorite tie dye patterns.

Supplies Needed to Make the Homemade pH Test Sheets

  • Red Cabbage (yes, it *has* to be red).
  • Viva (or any super tough) paper towels. Regular ones disintegrate.
  • Crockpot (preferred) or stove top pot
  • Strainer
  • Straws or pipettes
  • Small containers to hold solutions to test

How to Make the pH Test Sheets

Step 1

Chop the red cabbage and boil it.

We filled out crockpot, plugged it in outside – the smell is something else – filled it with water, and came back after a couple of hours.

Step 2

Strain the cabbage out.  You should have dark purple dye remaining.

Step 3

Soak the paper towels in the dye and then hang to dry. 

Hang them to dry in a place where they won’t be disturbed (and is generally chemical-free – i.e. not in the laundry room if you are like me and store cleaners in there).

When the towels dry you they should have a very faint, uniform purple color.

tie dye

How to Do the pH Test for Acid Base

Is it Acid, or is it Base? Let’s do an acid base experiment to find out…

Supplies to Test for pH

We collected a “buffet” of items from our kitchens to do the test.  

We had slices of grapefruit, potato water, pancake syrup, solutions of baking powder, baking soda, borax and laundry detergent. Then we had containers of vinegar, lime juice, apple juice, milk of magnesium, tummy antacid, vitamin C pills, two different brands of toothpaste, dish soap, windex and more.

Getting Items Ready for pH Test
  1. If the item to test is a liquid, then it is ready to test. If it is not, then add water to it until you create a liquid to test.
  2. We used small plastic cups for our testing solutions.
  3. We used straws cut in half as our pipettes (just have kids hold the open end of the straw closed with their finger to “pick up” the solution in the cup).
Make giant test "sheets" to test pH using cabbage, papertowels and a collection of acids/bases.

Using Homemade pH Sheets to Test for Acid Base

Step 1 – Drop liquid on test sheets

The kids took one drop from the various solutions and dripped them onto their paper towel “test sheet”.

Step 2 – check for color

The more acid that was in the solution, the brighter the red/pink. And if a solution was alkaline (or base) it would leave a blue green color.

Doesn’t it look cool??

step 3 – canceling the color

The kids had a lot of fun mixing the chemicals too – when they dropped an acid and a base in the same spot they would cancel each other out, leaving a yellow “hole”.

Our Experience with this Acid Base Science Experiment

This is a very stinky Science to Tie Dye experiment. Make sure that your testing area is well ventilated.

As you are dripping chemicals onto the sheet, make sure that your children are old enough to follow directions and not eat the test samples. We did this with preschoolers, and they did well, but they needed to be well supervised.

What I love most about this science experiment for kids is that it truly works for younger kids and older children as well. This would make an amazing acid base science fair project that would really stand out in a crowd.

More Science Experiments from kids activities blog

Chemistry and Art. This year I have been teaching a high school art elective, where we do chemistry experiments with an art twist.

Science is FUN!

Did your kids have fun with the science tie dye experiment? How did your pH sheets turn out? What was more popular, the acid or base results?

2 Comments

  1. Archana Suresh says:

    Hi Rachel, in a science camp I did for children last week, we did something similar but without the paper towels and the childen had so much fun seeing all the colours and then mixing them all up and seeing volcanoes and sundaes happening. This was a super fun activity and all the kids (9-11 yrs) had a gala time. I was pleasantly surprised to see this immediately after the science camp week 🙂

    Cheers, Archana

  2. This is a really neat idea! I love how a science experiment can produce something unique and awesome.

    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

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