Klutz-Proof Density Column

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Making liquids of different densities to perfectly lay on top of each other can be a frustrating exercise. The Exploratorium created this activity as a fool proof way of making a density column.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 18

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • Water
  • Vegetable oil
  • Isopropyl alcohol (70% or 91%)
  • Non-iodized or kosher salt
  • Empty, clear bottle with cap or lid—smooth-walled bottles work best
  • Food coloring


  • Physical Sciences
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Volume and Density


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Access Rights:

  • Free access