Milk Magic

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In this activity, learners experiment with how dish soap and fat interact by making a colorful swirl. The soap disrupts the surface tension of milk, producing the swirling colorful patterns of the dissolved food coloring. Activity includes step-by-step instructions with photos, a section that explains the science behind the activity, and suggested discussion and extension questions. A helpful how-to video is also provided.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • Whole milk or 2% milk- the higher the fat content the better.
  • Plastic tray - or any surface to put a thin layer of milk on
  • Food coloring (preferably in dropper bottles)
  • Cotton swabs /cotton buds
  • Dish soap /washing-up liquid


  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking


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This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, Science Museum Group, 2021

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