On a day when the weather makes you stay inside, you can make big, fluffy clouds just like the ones you see outside. All you need is Ivory soap and a microwave!
Before you start, make sure you have permission to use the microwave for an experiment. It won’t hurt the microwave, but it will make the kitchen smell very clean.
Ivory soap (It must be a fresh, unused bar.)
1. Unwrap the bar of soap. With adult supervision, cut it into three or four pieces.
2. Put one piece of the soap on a plate.
3. Pop it in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Observe what happens.
You’ll see the soap start to foam up and look like it is growing into clouds! Why? Ivory soap is made a little differently than other soaps. You can see this if you put a regular bar of soap into a container of water. It will sink. Now, put Ivory soap into the water. It floats!
Legend has it that someone left the mixing machine going too long at the Ivory soap factory. Have you ever made frosting? If you mix it just a little, the frosting is very heavy. But if you keep mixing it, air gets added into the frosting, making it very light. The same is true for Ivory soap. By “overmixing” it, pockets of air are added into the soap.
You need a fresh bar of Ivory for the experiment so there is still moisture — water — in the soap. When the microwave heats up the water, steam is created in those air pockets. The steam starts to expand, forcing the entire soap to expand and look like a cloud.
Take it a step further . . .
Try changing parts of the experiment to see how it affects your results. Put an entire bar in the microwave. What happens? How about if you put the entire bar cut up into pieces in the microwave all at once? What happens if you change up the amount of time you microwave it?
Because it does look so much like clouds, spend some time learning about clouds. Which type of could does your experiment look like? Go outside and see what clouds are out on that day. Keep a journal and track the different cloud patterns for a week ... or even longer!
Ivory soap is a foam! A foam is just something made by trapping air or gas bubbles inside a solid or a liquid. Other great foams you can experiment with in the microwave are popcorn and marshmallows. Both popcorn seeds and marshmallows expand because the moisture inside is heated up and expanded – just like the Ivory soap.
Just have fun with your experiment. And don’t throw out your cloud soap – it is perfect for the bath!
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