MAKE YOUR OWN SOAP CLOUDS WITH A MICROWAVE

Chemistry is amazing. Bubbles, explosions, reactions… You can fashion your own rocket or smoke bomb, create a crystal, make ice-cream with liquid nitrogen, corrode things. Or try this one: Put a white bar of soap in a microwave and turn it into a cloud. Say what?! Yes, a beautiful, snowy cloud. And when you have a few, you can then turn the clouds into colourful, glittery soaps in any shape you want.

It’s a great and super safe chemistry experiment you can do in your own kitchen – and if you have recalcitrant children who never want to get washed, this might well be a (temporary) solution to your struggle.

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  • a bar of Ivory soap (DON’T use any other brand!)
  • some baking paper and cling film
  • a pair of scissors
  • a large bowl and spoon
  • some cookie cutters
  • glitter and/or food colouring
  • a microwave

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Cut a piece of baking paper the size of your microwave plate, cover it and place a bar of Ivory soap on top. Set the microwave at maximum power for two minutes, press play and enjoy the magic!

Then put some cling film on your table and get your kids to destroy the cloud into a million shards over the cling film (the clouds fall apart very easily). Gather the bits into a bowl, add some lukewarm water and mix it up as if it was cookie dough. The mix should be smooth but quite firm, so don’t add too much water or it’ll foam out of control – here you can add a few drops of food colouring into the mix as well if you wish. Press the mix into the cookie cutters, smooth down on both sides, decorate with glitter and let the soaps dry overnight. In the morning, very gently take the soaps out of their new shapes. They’re now ready to use!

And if you don’t have time to make little soaps after you’ve made your soap cloud, you can always sprinkle small pieces over your child’s head at bath time and pretend it’s snow flakes! Bath time will be transformed…

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My step brother is a chemist, so I borrowed his brain to find out how it all works.

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A few tips:

– Please believe me when I say you need to buy the right soap. Initially I thought any bar of white soap would do, but I tried at my expense and Ivory is the only one that works. On my first attempt I used Dove, which heated up and foamed a bit, but nothing grew and the result definitely didn’t look like a cloud – more like a cheesy melt with a Dove bump in fact. Then I tried Nivea, Simple, Palmolive, Imperial Leather, Pears, and Lux (one of them had to work!). But most of them liquefied and bubbled up at the edge producing a chemical smell so acute and disgusting my cat run away and hid for a day.

– If you don’t live in the US, you can buy Ivory soap in the UK from the USA Food Store. According to my step brother, the reason why we can’t find this soap in Europe is that its structure is a bit harsh and not allowed for skin care here. It is completely safe though, as thousands of American use it daily.

– The clouds are different every time, but the fresher the soap, the better and bigger the cloud.

– To clean up, make sure you scrape and then swipe or hoover the soap remains first. Using a wet sponge directly on it turns it into a mass of bubbles. You’ve been warned.

Soap in Microwave - Piero

Photography: Dee Ramadan
Styling: Margherita Poggiali
Thanks to Piero, Barbara and Guido.

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