KSAT Kids Home Science: The Tie-Dye Milk Experiment

Watch science magic happen when you combine dish soap with milk and food coloring

SAN ANTONIOEditor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between the STEMToyExpert.com and KSAT.

Hello parents, teachers and students!

Are you looking for something fun to do at home that has a little bit of science behind it?

Well check out this awesome at-home experiment that uses only tie-dye and milk. Science enthusiasts and educators at the STEMToyExpert.com put this together.

Tie-Dye milk experiment image.
Tie-Dye milk experiment image. (KSAT)

The Tie-Dye Experiment

Sounds delicious, right? You’re not actually drinking it, but instead watching science magic happen when you combine dish soap with milk and food coloring. This is a very pretty experiment that draws the focus and mind into what’s happening on the plate, and all because of a little chemistry with everyday items. Well, food dye may not be an everyday item, but it might be after your kids get a hold of this!


So, what’s going on here, scientifically-speaking? Milk is made up of two major ingredients: water and fat. When you add a little dish soap, it bonds with the fat in the milk so strongly that it literally pushes the food coloring and water away from the cotton ball. On a microscopic level, the dish soap is wandering around the milk, which causes the colors to swirl and swirl.

Questions to ask beforehand:

  • Before knowing what will happen to the food coloring, ask the kids what they think will happen when dish soap mixes with milk.
  • Since the major catalyst is fat in the milk, what would happen if you used other types of milk: Skim milk, soy milk, coconut milk?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Round cake pan or plate with high edges
  • Cotton ball (some tutorials show cotton swabs)
  • Dish detergent
  • Different colors of food dye (three or four should do)
  • Milk


  • Fill the pan halfway with milk.
  • Drip one color of food dye in one section of the plate away from the center. Four to five drops works and later you can play around with more or less. Do the same for the rest of the colors around the plate.
  • Soak the cotton ball in dish detergent, and when you’re ready for action, place the cotton ball into the center of the pan.
  • Watch the colors race around, creating a psychedelic tie-dye effect!
  • You can add more cotton balls throughout the dish to see more action.
  • If some food coloring hugs the wall of the plate, take a cotton swab dipped in dish detergent and place it into the food coloring. It will move away!

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