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Candy Experiment: Color Separation

Most Candy = Artificial Colors

candy experiments: color sep smallCandy makers turn sweet treats into a rainbow of colors using dyes. Just like when you're mixing paints in art, it's takes a combination of dyes to create certain colors. Colors get mixed up, but did you know you can separate them again?

In this experiment, water and coffee filter paper will coax a drop of candy dye to separate back into different colors. Brown candies work well. Why? Check the candy wrapper label and you won't see brown dye listed in the ingredients. That's because the candy company uses a variety of colors together to make brown dye.

Real vs. Artificial Colors

If you're looking for real color that doesn't come from dye, try fruits and vegetables. The red of a strawberry, the orange of pumpkin, and the blue of blueberries are 100% natural. Ever hear the healthy food advice "Put a rainbow on your plate"? It means eat a rainbow of brightly-colored fruits and veggies.

What you need:

  • A white paper coffee filter
  • Dyed candy such as M&Ms, Skittles, or Reese's Pieces (brown pieces work well)
  • A glass filled with a half-inch of water

What to do:

  1. Place a drop of water on a flat surface, such as a plate.
  2. Place a candy piece on the water and let color dissolve.
  3. Cut a rectangle out of the coffee filter. Use the flat part, not the ruffled sides.
  4. Fold the coffee filter paper rectangle vertically (long-ways). This will help it stand up in the glass of water.
  5. Measure up about an inch from the bottom and dab a drop of candy-colored water onto the paper.
  6. Fill a narrow glass with a half-inch of water.
  7. Place the filter paper rectangle in the glass of water so that the water line is below the colored drop of candy dye.
  8. Watch the water seep up to the top edge of the paper.
  9. Check the paper at 15 minutes, 30 minutes, and 1 hour. You should see the different colors emerge on the filter.

© Loralee Leavitt. Used with permission.
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Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: January 2011

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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