Ivory Soap Microwave Experiment

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Ivory Soap Microwave Experiment:  “Wow” kids and grown-ups alike with a quick and easy science experiment that you can do at home.

We do the expanding Ivory Soap experiment a couple of times a year here in my daycare, and it never fails to impress and excite us.  It’s one of our favourite quick and easy science experiments, but the process and the results are nothing short of awesome!  This is an experiment that never gets old, no matter how many times we do it.

Today, I’m going to show you how you can do the Ivory experiment at your house or in your classroom, and at the end of the post, I’ll suggest a few ways to use your soapy results.

You’ll need 3 things to conduct the Ivory Soap Microwave Experiment:

Bar of Ivory Soap ready for the microwave

  • bar of ivory soap (do not try this with any other brand of soap)
  • microwaveable dinner plate
  • microwave 

Getting started:

Before you begin, you can take a few minutes to let the children examine the soap.  Use descriptive words as you take turns holding it, feeling it and smelling it.  If you have an extra bar of Ivory, you could drop the spare bar into a bowl of water to see how it floats.  I just wouldn’t wet the bar that you’re putting in the microwave.  I’m not sure how that would affect the experiment.

Conducting your Ivory Soap Experiment:

  1. Place your Ivory on a microwaveable plate
  2. Put your soap in the microwave
  3. Run microwave on high for 1-2 minutes.  Today I set my microwave for 1:20.  You can’t really over-cook it, but it will reach a point where it stops expanding.

You’ll want to pull up a chair or stool for your child to stand on so they can watch what happens to the soap in the microwave.  This part of the process is fascinating!

Ivory Soap expanding in microwave

The soap will start to rapidly expand at about the 15 second mark.  To see it rolling, writhing and expanding as if it were alive is really exciting!

When your microwave stops, remove the soap and examine it.

kids examining expanded ivory soap

Doesn’t your kitchen smell amazing?  Don’t worry, that smell should leave your microwave quickly, and it will not affect the flavour of any cooking you do.

microwaved Ivory Soap

Caution!  The plate and soap will be quite hot for a minute or so after being removed from the microwave.  They cool down quickly but give the soap a few minutes before letting your children handle it.

Examining your fluffy Ivory soap cloud:

Once your soap has cooled, it’s time to have some fun!  Let your children investigate how the soap has changed.

crumbling microwaved ivory soap with our hands

Today, I placed ours in a large baking dish and the girls chopped it all up with pate knives.  They also rubbed it between their hands to crush and crumble it.  This is such an amazing sensory experience.  The soap is so smooth and silky.  It feels lovely, and it smells incredible!

chopping up ivory soap out of the microwave

What can you do with the results of your Ivory Soap experiment?

We usually do this experiment when it’s time to make a new batch of our Homemade Laundry Detergent.  Grab the recipe for my detergent, and your children can help you turn your soap powder into laundry soap.

Our favourite way to use our crumbled soap though, is to use it for sensory play!  We grab a roll of toilet paper and some water and the hooligans whip up a batch of ghost mud or fairy mud.  It’s a mouldable dough that smells wonderful and keeps them entertained for hours.

Today however, we used our soap powder for an entirely new activity, so stay tuned!  I’ll be writing about it soon!

Ivory Soap Experiment

Head over to Steve Spangler Science to find out the science behind the Ivory Soap Microwave Experiment!


Looking for more easy, inexpensive experiments to do with your kids?  Try our:

Giant Homemade Bubbles

2-Ingredient Cloud Dough

2-Ingredient Ghost Mud

3-Ingredients Puffy Paint

5-Ingredient Homemade Watercolours

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Yours in play, Jackie from Happy Hooligans
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29 comments to Ivory Soap Microwave Experiment

  • jennifer Dyer

    I absolutely love your web page! I’m always reposting! Keep up the great posts and pictures! I’m a mother of an 8 yr old son who has a form of autism, and I cannot say enough wonderful things about this group!!! But a huge thank you!

    • happyhooligans

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying my posts, Jennifer. I love that the things that I do in my small home-daycare are inspiring moms like you to get creative with your own hooligans! x

  • taylor

    Could you put food color in it

  • xubie

    I have found with kids, food coloring is dangerous! As it stains everything and anything. I stay clear of it since I made snake bubbles outside last summer with the kids wearing garbage bags over their clothes. Little did I realize it would take a couple of weeks to get the food coloring off their feet and the bubbles that blew onto the patio stained that too. No more food coloring for this grammie! (esp since the patio was not mine but their dad and moms! Yikes!)

    • happyhooligans

      A couple of weeks? That’s some strong food colouring, Xubie. We use food colouring at least once a week here, both liquid and gels, and we’ve never had staining like that. My hands usually get the worst of it because I do most of the hard-core mixing, and they’re always clean by the end of the day. A few hand washes, and it’s gone.

  • Lizzy

    Is there something special about Ivory soap? I’m in Australia and I have never seen it but would love to try this with my grand kids :)

    • happyhooligans

      Yes, there’s a link near the bottom of the post that takes you to Steve Spangler Science’s website, where the scientific part is explained, Lizzy. It all centres around the Ivory soap, and why it’s different than other brands.

  • Faith

    Be careful doing the ivory soap in the microwave. We had this done at an in-service training and the fumes coming from the microwave bothered those of us with asthma problems.

    • happyhooligans

      Thanks for mentioning that, Faith. No one here has any respiratory problems, so I hadn’t thought to mention that it might be a problem for those who do.

  • Julie samples

    I love love love your posts!

  • Terrie

    is there a reason you can’t use any other type of soap, I wanted to know if I could try it with dove ?

    • happyhooligans

      It’s the high air content that makes this work, Terrie. I can’t say if it will work with other brands. It could just burn. I really don’t know first-hand.

  • Jes

    I want to go home and do this experiment right now… my little one is only 9 months old, but I’m putting together an activity book with all of the experiments / activities I want to try in the future. This will be a favorite, I am sure.

  • Sounds fun. My daughter will love this since she loves to be in the kitchen with me. I shared this to my page because pretty much all of the women in my family are into kids activities. Thanks and keep them coming!

  • Michelle

    We did this experiment and loved it!!!! However it did bake my microwave stinky…would there be any advice on how to get the smell out? Did I over microwave the soap??? Yikes! !

    • happyhooligans

      You might’ve, Michelle. My microwave has never smelled for more than a few minutes after doing it. How about microwaving a coffee cup filled with water and vinegar for a minute or so after Leave it to sit in there for a half an hour. Vinegar is good for absorbing odours. Then give the microwave a wipe, and maybe the scent will be gone.

  • Michelle

    Thanks for the advice!!!

  • AMY G


    • happyhooligans

      It will stay that way until you crumble it up, Amy. Although it looks fluffy, it’s actually hard and solid, but can be crushed to a powder easily just by squeezing it.

  • I microwaved just a few small pieces at the and of the soap’s life. It made a nice small cloud that was perfect to toss in the kids’ bath!

  • Jenn

    my soap didn’t expand that much so wonder if it made a difference if you let the bar sit out to harden or if maybe the soap was too old? I did use ivory soap.

    • happyhooligans

      I would give it a try with a newer bar of soap, Jenn. I wouldn’t let it sit out to harden or dry out. I’m thinking the moisture in there would be a good thing.

  • wanda

    hola!!!! alguien sabe si para si funciona el experimento con el jabón blanco común para ropa? no conozco otro parecido en Argentina. Gracias.

  • Julie

    Ivory soap suds was what my mom used to decorate the Christmas tree when I was little. It created a wonderful snow effect. It is a treasured memory now that brings a smile each time I think of it!

  • Becca

    I am doing a science experiment in my college physical science class for elementary teachers and I cam across this and I thought it would be a good thing to use for measuring also! You could measure how much foam it makes and I am also doing the experiment with Dial soap so I will let you know if other soaps do this also! Thank you so much for this it gave me wonderful ideas and all the links to other things you did I absolutely love those I so love being creative and doing crafty things and since I found your website and all your pages I will always just come here and find some fun things to do!!! Thank you so much again! :)

    • happyhooligans

      I’m so glad you’ve found us, Becca! I’m so glad you’re enjoying my site! Do be careful using Dial. In fact, I actually wouldn’t recommend trying it with any brand other than Ivory because the air content isn’t as high. I’ve heard other brands can smoke and burn and actually ruin a microwave.

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