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Ideas for Chemistry Projects: Silly Putty

written by: kellylynnmarie • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 8/15/2012

Silly putty is a fun toy that everyone has at least one memory of from his or her childhood. Making silly putty on your own is simple and tons of fun. It's a great chemistry project that doesn't require hard-to-get materials or harsh chemicals but instead can be made from store-bought items.

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    Preparing for Silly Putty

    Silly putty is something that everyone has played with at some point in their childhood. Remember the squishy, squeaky way it felt on your hands and how you could press it on newspaper and see the ink of the text or picture printed on the putty? Silly putty is a fun chemistry project that is perfect for all ages, especially students in high school.

    Silly putty is a type of polymer created by mixing two liquids together. By mixing two liquids together you create a chemical reaction binding the two into one form, which turns from liquid into a loose solid, and if you let it dry out it becomes a solid.

    To ensure that you are prepared to begin making your silly putty, you will need to assemble the ingredients: borax solution, water and Elmer's glue.

    • Borax solution can be found in the laundry detergent section of any department store.
    • Any type of water can be used to mix in with the borax solution.
    • Regular Elmer's Glue works better than any other type of glue including Elmer's School Glue.
    • Food coloring can also be used if you want your silly putty to be another color besides standard white.
    • And last, you will need something to stir the mixture together. Popsicle sticks or wooden depressors work best to stir as they are disposable. A small paper cup is best for mixing the concoction again because it is disposable which makes for easy clean-up.
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    Making Silly Putty

    First, pour in about 1/2 inch of Elmer's Glue into a 5 ounce paper cup. In a separate cup, add 1/4 ounce of 20 mule team borax solution to 100 mL of water and mix together well. Then, combine the solution by pouring it into the cup of glue. Add in 2-3 drops of food coloring in whatever color you choose. For fun, try adding a drop of two or three different colors and see what color it turns into.

    Using a popsicle stick or wooden depressor, start to stir together all of your ingredients. The mixture should thicken the more you stir. Be sure to evenly cover all of the solution with the food coloring. If after two minutes or so the mixture seems a little watery, add a little bit more of the straight borax solution (not mixed with water) and stir well with the stick. After stirring for a few minutes, remove the glob of putty from the cup and work it thoroughly in the palms of your hands. This ensures the mixture is complete. Once the moisture is absorbed and you feel the squishy, squeaky putty in your hand, your silly putty is complete.

    For grading purposes, it is best to grade silly putty based on creativity of color but also on accuracy of mixture. If no adjustments need to be made after the first mix, bonus points may be awarded.

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