My son started virtual learning for 1st grade last week. We’ve had our ups and downs figuring out this new way of learning, but overall it’s been a great experience. His first science assignment was this fun experiment (talk about a teacher after my heart!).

I have seen this experiment gaining popularity on Instagram and Pinterest since the beginning of the pandamenic, but we hadn’t tried it ourselves at home yet. I was so glad we finally had a reason to try it out, and it was a huge success!

Both my kids were enthralled with this experiment. We repeated it at least 3 times in a row, and they have asked to do it again since then. It is that cool! And even better, it is so simple with very little prep and cleanup required!


  • Bowl or plate
  • Water
  • Pepper
  • Dish soap


  1. Fill a bowl or dish with water.

2. Sprinkle or grind pepper to cover the surface of the water. Explain to your kids that the pepper represents germs.

3. Stick your finger into the bowl or plate, what happens? The pepper might stick to their fingers and doesn’t move.

4. Squeeze some soap into the bowl or better yet put soap on your finger and stick your finger back into the bowl, and watch the pepper scatter. Explain to your kids this is how germs are repelled from our hands when we wash them with soap.


  • Science: The soap reduces the surface tension of the water, which causes the water molecules on the surface to push away from that point, taking the pepper with them. Soap is a surfactant with two opposite sides. One side is attracted to water and repels oils, the other side is attracted to oil and repels water. Germs are attracted to the oil in our hands. Water alone won’t remove it because water and oil repel each other. The soap carries both oil and water, so it removes the germ filled oils on our hands and washes them away with the water.

This is such a fun and simple way to teach kids about germs and the importance of using soap while washing their hands. This experiment gives kids a visual understanding of how soap repels germs.

If you haven’t tried this experiment yet with your kids, I highly recommend it. Thorough hand washing has become a critically important life skill this year, and this helps explain to kids why it works.


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