Capillary Action Color Explosions!

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Whether it is New Years, July 4th, or just a really big party, there’s no better way to celebrate big than with some colorful explosions (or fireworks)! When I was a young child, we lived in a small town, and one of my many uncles owned a bit of land outside of the town’s city limits. Every big holiday that involved fireworks, our whole family met up at his house. While the kids stayed close to his house playing with sparklers, the men all walked out a distance from the house and set off fireworks.

While most cities don’t allow fireworks within city limits, there’s nothing that says you can’t enjoy the same excitement of colorful explosions, even within the walls of your home! Remembering some other fun science experiments my boys and I had done using water science, I came up with a quick science experiment for us to do for our own colorful explosions using capillary action and water!

Use capillary action to create beautiful fireworks at home! Using common supplies at home, watch a colors explode using water!

Colorful Explosions using Capillary Action

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But first, what is capillary action? Capillary Action is the movement of water through a medium because water molecules like to stick to other water molecules, and stick to other substances. For our experiment, we will use these two features of water to create a colorful explosion!


1 coffee filter
Washable markers
1 pipette

Making Colorful Explosions

STEP 1: Flatten the coffee filter. I flattened our coffee filter by laying it flat under a pile of books over night.

STEP 2: Place the coffee filter on a washable surface. I placed ours on a place mat I could wipe clean.

STEP 3: Draw dots of different colors all over the coffee filter.

STEP 4: Fill a small cup with water, then use the pipette to drop one drop of water on each dot drawn in step 3.

STEP 5: Watch as the colors explode!

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The Science Behind our Explosions

Much like a previous experiment when we made an American Flag, this experiment shows capillary action in action! The water travels through the coffee filter for two reasons. First, all paper is made of a sugar molecule call cellulose. Water is highly attracted to cellulose and wants to bond (or stick) to it. Second, the cellulose fibers in a coffee filter are made with spaces between them. Since water likes to stick together, the water fills these spaces as it follows the water attracted to the cellulose. Since the markers we used were washable, then the marker’s colors are soluble in water. When something is water soluble, so the color is a part of the water, and travels with the water. In this case, the colors travel through the coffee filter to create a beautiful design!

More experiments using water!

Fun Water Experiment to Cool off in the Heat!
Make a Rainbow using one of the Properties of Water
Make an American Flag Using Water Science Experiments
Sprinkler Engineering Design Process for kids
Appearing Snowflake: A Winter Activity for Kids
Making the Layers of the Ocean-A Density Activity