Dissolving Ink Experiment

Get two clear jars or cups and fill one with water and the other with rubbing alcohol.  Using a waterproof (permanent) marker, write 2 of the same message – each on a sheet of tough paper (we used index cards).  Gently fold or roll up the messages and soak them – one in each jar of solution.  Now watch and see what happens over time.

A dissolving ink experiment.


What happens after 10 minutes?  An hour?  A day? (Different inks react differently, but most will gradually disappear over time in the alcohol, but stay legible in the water.)

Different liquids dissolve different substances.  Alcohol can dissolve many inks while water cannot.  You can watch other things dissolve differently between water and alcohol too.

Now Try This Dissolving Salt Experiment

Put some water in a mason jar and add salt to it.  Stir it until the salt dissolves.  Now put some rubbing alcohol into a second jar and add salt to it.  Stir it and stir it, but it won’t dissolve.  Alcohol can dissolve inks, but it can’t dissolve salt!

Alcohol is made up of different molecules than water.  Salt dissolves in water and makes a solution.  Molecules in the water invade the salt and pull it apart, making it seem to disappear (it hasn’t really disappeared though– it’s just broken down.  If you tasted it you could clearly deduce that there is still salt in the water!  You can also allow the water to evaporate over time and watch the salt reappear.)  Alcohol can’t break the salt molecules down though.  Alcohol is better at breaking down certain substances and water is better at others.

Try the same experiment using sugar.  Which solutions does sugar dissolve in?

Additional Layers

  • You can go on any household tips websites to find hints on how to remove stains.  You can tell what liquids dissolve things by reading the hints.  Hairspray, alcohol, bleach, and various temperatures of water are all popular solvents for many household stains.
  • You made ink disappear in this experiment, but why not try making invisible ink appear?  Just write a message on a sheet of paper using lemon juice.  To make it appear, heat it up under a hot lamp.  The acid from the juice breaks down the paper and the part where you wrote the message will turn brown.  This works with vinegar or other acids too.
Invisible Ink
  • Heat often affects the way things dissolve.  For example, you can dissolve more salt in hot water than in the same amount of cold water.  Set up an experiment and test this out.

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  1. Hello,
    My cousin is a teacher and I asked her about a science experiment that could be used for a time capsule experiment as my granddaughter needs one for a school project. She has to turn it in on Monday, Sept. 30th and we couldn’t think of any experiment at all. The teacher says they will open it in May and the students have to be able to write a prediction about what will happen to her experiment. These are second grade students. We were going to use the dissolving ink experiment and not sure that is a good one for a time capsule, but seems like a good one. They can’t use a food item, but liquids are fine. My question is, how can I have my granddaughter do the project is I can’t print out the experiment from your web site, if you say everything is copyright and you do not want anyone to copy and paste, of which I would not do. It would be just to let my granddaughter see the directions and the picture of results. Any quick information would be greatly appreciated as I said this is due on Monday, so she would have to do the experiment tomorrow.

    1. Marilyn,

      We have no problem with your granddaughter copying and printing the post for her personal use. We even have a green “print” button below each post for just that purpose. Our copyright notice is for people who want to steal our work and display or print it publicly and pass it off as their own.

      Best of luck with the science time capsule! What a great idea!

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