Clean Mud is a great way to introduce your children to chemistry in a safe (and clean!) manner. This activity is great for chasing away boredom and if you happen to have a child with sensory issues (I do!) and anxiety about germs (yup, that too!) this is a gentle activity to expose them to a new tactile experience.
Click on pictures to see a larger version
1 bar of Ivory soap (it MUST be Ivory brand bar soap)
2 cups warm water
1 roll toilet paper (the cheaper the better)
A large bucket or dish pan
Old towels for easy clean up
1. Have your children unroll half of a roll of toilet paper and tear it into small pieces. We learned from experience that you want to tear each square into at least 4 pieces. Place the pieces in the bucket/dishpan.
2. Cut the bar of Ivory soap into 6 or 8 smaller pieces, place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for about 90 seconds. Make sure your kids are watching this step, it’s the coolest! If there are still some chunks in the soap (see my picture) just pop it back in the microwave for 20 seconds at a time until there are no chunks. Allow the soap to cool completely before moving to the next step.
3. Crumble the cooled soap into smaller pieces and add to the toilet paper.
4. Pour half of the warm water over the toilet paper and soap. Get your hands in there and mix it up. If the mixture is too watery add some more toilet paper, if it’s too dry add some more water. You want it to get to a consistency where it’s easy to mold.
5. When it’s time to clean up dump the bucket into the trash and use water to clean up. I highly suggest doing this outside in an area that is within reach of your garden hose.
How this works:
The process of making Ivory soap includes whipping it, something that isn’t done with most soaps. As a result there is a lot of air trapped in the soap, which means there is water trapped in the soap. Microwaves heat things by making the water molecules excited, causing them to get warm and rub up against each other, which leads to them expanding.
For more information (and a much better explanation of how the soap thing works) check out this great experiment at Steve Spangler Science
When you add the other items to the soap you are making a polymer, which is just a fancy word for a bunch of atoms and molecules put together. For an in-depth lesson in polymers check out this kid friendly link to The Kids Macrogallery