Look-alike Liquids

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Learners add drops of four liquids (water, alcohol, salt water, and detergent solution) to different surfaces and observe the liquids' behavior. Learners will see that liquids have characteristic properties which can be used for identification. In the related activity, " Developing Tests to Distinguish Between Similar-Looking Liquids" (see related resources), learners identify an unknown based on these properties. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on Archive.org. Activity write-up only, images are unavailable.]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Tap water
  • Isopropyl rubbing alcohol (70%)
  • Detergent
  • Salt
  • 4 Small cups
  • 4 Droppers
  • Plastic bag
  • Brown paper towel
  • Pencil
  • Student Activity Sheet


  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Solutions
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Kessler, James H. ; Galvan, Patricia M.


  • All rights reserved, American Chemical Society, 2007