You are on page 1of 2

Spectacular decomposition of hydrogen peroxide, to produce

a foam, catalysed by potassium iodide (elephants toothpaste)


Supplementary Risk Assessment (to meet the COSHH and/or Management Regulations)

Details of operation:
Two versions of this reaction are described:

A small reaction for a laboratory, which uses around 2 g of potassium iodide crystals, and a mix of
30 ml of 100 vol hydrogen peroxide and 2 ml of washing-up liquid in a narrow-neck conical flask.

A larger version for a large indoor space or outside. This uses about 100 ml of 100 vol hydrogen
peroxide in a 2 litre carbonated drinks bottle or 500 ml measuring cylinder, and 10 ml of washing up
liquid The catalyst is 10 ml of saturated potassium iodide solution.

Schools are advised NOT to deviate from the details described in this risk assessment. If any variation
is required, members should contact CLEAPSS for a Special Risk Assessment. Note that a common
variation omits the washing-up liquid and uses manganese dioxide as an alternative catalyst. This is
NOT covered by this risk assessment.
Substance(s) possibly
hazardous to health:

(a) Hydrogen peroxide


(b) Potassium iodide
(c) Washing-up liquid
(d) Iodine formed by the oxidation of potassium iodide

Classification under

(a) HARMFUL: (R22 Harmful if swallowed, R41 Risk of serious damage to eyes)

CHIP Regulations:

(b) Low hazard


(c) Low hazard
(d) HARMFUL: (R20/21 Harmful by inhalation and in contact with skin)

Workplace Exposure
-3

Limits (mg m ):

(a) 1.4 (LTEL), 2.8 (STEL)


(b) (c) (d) 1.1 (STEL)

Particular risks:

SRA11 06/10
Page 1 of 2

There is occasionally a small delay during the initiation process. The reaction is
then vigorous. The pressure of oxygen gas in the vessel increases rapidly as it
tries to escape through the opening. In a similar reaction without the washing-up
liquid, known as the genie, a teacher returned to the container during this initial
delay, believing the reaction was not going to work. The teacher added more
100 vol hydrogen peroxide, whereupon the glass conical flask exploded.

CLEAPSS, The Gardiner Building, Brunel Science Park, Uxbridge UB8 3PQ
Tel: 01895 251496; Fax: 01895 814372; E-mail: science@cleapss.org.uk; Web site: www.cleapss.org.uk

Procedure for the small version

Wear goggles. Ensure the spectators are wearing eye protection.

Use a 250 ml, borosilicate, conical flask with a narrow neck, eg, 30 - 40 mm.

Place the flask on a tray to contain the foam.

Using a filter funnel pour in 30 cm3 of 100 vol hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide should
not touch the neck of the conical flask.

Add 2 cm3 washing-up liquid.

Add about 2 g potassium iodide crystals.

The demonstrator should step back to avoid exposure to iodine vapour.

After a short induction period, foam pours out of the top of the flask. It coils around the flask forming
a large pile.

Procedure for the larger version

Wear goggles. Ensure the spectators are wearing eye protection.

Use a 500 ml measuring cylinder or 2 litre carbonated drinks bottle.

Place the container on a tray on the floor on a plastic sheet or surrounded by bin bags.

Use a filter funnel to pour in 100 ml of 100 vol hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide should
not touch the neck of the conical flask.

Add 10 ml of washing-up liquid.

Add about 10 ml of saturated potassium iodide solution (about 14 g in 10 ml of water).

The demonstrator should step back to avoid being splashed and exposure to iodine vapour.

After a short induction period, foam pours out of the top of the flask coiling around the flask and
forming a large pile.

Control measures

The procedure should be carried out by teachers or technicians who have practised it.

The demonstrator should wear goggles and a laboratory coat and the pupils should wear eye
protection.

A small amount of iodine is vaporised but, if the demonstrator is at a distance of at least 1.5 m,
there should be no problem.

Pupils should be at least 3 m away for the small version and 5 m away for the larger version.

After the demonstration, Pupils must not touch the foam which will be contaminated with a small
amount of hydrogen peroxide and iodine.

After the demonstration


For the small version, wearing gloves and goggles, take the flask and tray to a large sink and wash the
foam down the sink.
For the larger version, take the plastic sheeting to a hosing area and hose the area but make sure the
remains go down a foul water drain and not a run-off drain.
This risk assessment was produced on 16th June 2010. You are advised to check for any update on the
CLEAPSS web site.

SRA11 06/10
Page 2 of 2

CLEAPSS, The Gardiner Building, Brunel Science Park, Uxbridge UB8 3PQ
Tel: 01895 251496; Fax: 01895 814372; E-mail: science@cleapss.org.uk; Web site: www.cleapss.org.uk