DNA Extraction: Look at your genes!

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Extract your DNA from your very own cells! First, learners swish salt water in their mouth to collect cheek cells and spit the water into a glass. Then, learners add liquid dishwashing detergent solution to the glass to break down the walls of the cell, and finally add rubbing alcohol to combine with the DNA so they can see it. The activity is on page 2 of the PDF. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on Archive.org.]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per student)

  • Liquid dishwashing detergent (transparent) – 1 teaspoon
  • Salt - 1/4 teaspoon
  • Water – 1/2 cup
  • Rubbing alcohol (refrigerated) – 1 teaspoon
  • 2 glasses, labeled "A" and "B"


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Technology
      • Medical Technology
  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
      • Cell Structure and Function
    • Heredity and Genetics
      • DNA Structure and Function
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry

Informal Categories

  • Science Festivals Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, ESI-0206403