Oil and Water

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When we add detergent to oil and water and shake the mixture, the liquids are held to each other by the detergent molecules and form an emulsion.

Why Don’t Oil and Water Mix?

An emulsion is a stable mixture of two or more liquids that would not normally mix. We use detergent when washing up because it attaches to the oil and grease on dirty dishes and lifts off into the water. Oil also helps animals that live in oceans stay warm because the oil on their feathers or coat keeps the cold water away from their skin. Share this on Facebook. Share this on Twitter.

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Why Oil and Water does not mix together?

Oil and Water. Screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar. Let the liquids settle and observe them. Add a few drops of detergent to the jar and shake again. Observations and results In this activity you combined oil and water then observed how adding dish detergent changed the properties of this mixture.

First you should have noticed that when you added the oil to the water they did not mix together. Instead the oil created a layer on the surface of the water.

Have You Ever Wondered...

This is because oil is less dense than water and therefore it floats to the surface. These beads, however, did not mix with the water. The detergent molecules can form bonds with both water and oil molecules. This activity brought to you in partnership with Science Buddies. You have free article s left. Already a subscriber?

Sign in. See Subscription Options. Materials 2 clear plastic water bottles with lids 2 cups of water One-half cup of oil olive, cooking or vegetable oils will all work Liquid dishwashing soap Clock or timer Permanent marker Measuring cup Measuring spoon Food coloring optional Preparation Remove any labels from your water bottles. Pour one cup of water into each bottle.


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Allow the bottle to sit on a countertop or flat surface while you observe the water and oil. Does the oil sink to the bottom of the bottle, sit on top of the water or mix with it? Does the oil sink to the bottom, sit on top of the water or mix with it? Try not to shake the bottle as you add the dish soap.

Make sure the bottle caps are screwed on tightly to each bottle. Holding a bottle in each hand, vigorously shake the bottles for 20 seconds. Set the bottles down on a flat surface with plenty of light. Note the time on your clock or set a timer for 10 minutes.


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Observe the contents of each bottle. Hold them up to a light one at time so you can clearly see what is happening inside the bottle. Did anything change when you shook the bottles? Do the mixtures look the same in the both? If not, what is different between them?