Fun with Milk, Food Coloring, Q-Tip, and Dish Soap

Posted: October 16, 2016 in Uncategorized
My wife is a science teacher, so she has some interesting experiments that she does in her classroom. This one uses whole milk, food coloring, a Q-tip, and some dish soap. In the image below I have some milk in a small container, with drops of different color food coloring arranged around the outside of the container and one drop in the middle. The colors will drift a little like you see here.
Using my Nikon D7000 with the Tamron 90mm macro lens. Tripod Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT and Acratech Ultimate Ballhead.

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Next take a Q-tip and soak the tip in dish soap. Stick the Q-tip end with the dish soap on it into the milk around the edges and swirl it around, and watch the colors go crazy. The dish soap is breaking down the fat in the milk making the colors to move around. That’s why we use dish soap to clean our dishes it breaks up any on the grease and fats on the dishes. So doing the same thing when it comes in contact with the fat in the milk.
Here is what it looks like after applying the soaked Q-tip and moving it around in the milk.

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Now try and get your camera over top and parallel to the milk. Shoot at f/8. I also used an LED light on the area.

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  1. John says:

    I’ve tried to do this, but liquid food coloring is now impossible to find in stores. Now all they have is gel and it doesn’t work for this project. Any idea where I can find liquid food coloring?

    • Mike Moats says:

      Didn’t know that John, I have no advice on finding it other than checking at a few local food store, or maybe try Amazon, they carry everything.

    • Carol wedekind says:

      This is fun, Mike! I’m definitely trying it when I get back to Wisconsin and my camera! I’m visiting my granddaughter in Florida and actually took a break from photography for a week. . . Although I did bring my “old” Sony Cybershot 717″ along for family pictures! lol

  2. mjspringett says:

    lovely experiment, i will try this on our first cold snowy day when i am bored silly, thanks

  3. bbonnieg says:

    Way better than the cabbage : ) Can’t wait for the conference Rhode Island!! See you soon. Bonnie and Larry Greenberg >

  4. Wow! This is very cool. I can hardly wait to try it.

  5. […] Go here to see the original post that I took as my inspiration: Fun with Milk, Food Coloring, Q-Tip, and Dish Soap […]

  6. Milton Williamson says:


    Saw you at NECCC last July.

    I gave this fun with milk exercise a try before a set up night at one of my camera clubs. Unfortunately I could not get the “colors go crazy” like yours.

    The only variable I could think of was the temperature of the milk. Cold milk would not react and then I tried room temperature and that did not work either. I used a local whole milk, then soy milk and then some heavy cream I happened to have. Still no result. Oh, one other variable was using a set of Betty Crocker Neon Gel Food Colors rather than the regular set of colors. In the end I only got what looked like a strawberry milkshake.

    Any suggestions?


    Milt Williamson Upper Cape Camera Club Falmouth, MA

    • Mike Moats says:

      Milt, not sure what to tell you, never had anyone say this didn’t work for them. You did use dish washing liquid I’m assuming so never had it not work for me, so without being there to see what’s happen it’s hard to give you any help.

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