Mystery Powders

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Learners are given mysterious white powders and have to determine their identity with chemical tests. This resource includes background information about how to identify detergent, citric acid, baking powder, baking soda, and starch as well as how this activity relates to forensic science.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • cream of tartar
  • citric acid
  • corn starch
  • detergent
  • water
  • vinegar (household)
  • universal indicator
  • iodine solution
  • 125 mL flask
  • 25mL graduated cylinder
  • 1 large squeeze bottle
  • 2 small squeeze bottles
  • 6 containers with screw-top lids
  • 6 microspatulas
  • two 200mL beakers
  • spot plate
  • toothpicks
  • small plastic beaker for used toothpicks
  • small bottle with nozzle to dispense toothpicks


  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions

Informal Categories

  • Crime Science


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation