For Kids

Science Experiment: Solubility - Sharpie Pen Tie Dye

07/13/2020 | Science Experiments

Sharpie pens are permanent markers. That means that the ink will not come off with water. If something will dissolve in water it is called soluable. If something will NOT dissolve in water it is called hydrophobic. Permanent marker ink is hydrophobic. Here is a demonstration of solubility.

What You Need:

  • White T-Shirt
  • Permanent Markers (Sharpies)
  • Plastic Cup
  • Rubber Band
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Dropper

Try it at Home!

Stretch part of the white t-shirt over the top of the plastic cup and secure it with the rubber band - it will look like a little drum. Choose one of the colors of Sharpie pen and make dots in the center of the t-shirt circle. Choose another color and make more dots. Repeat. The circle of color should be about the size of a quarter.


Now slowly squeeze about 20 drops of rubbing alcohol into the center of the circle of dots. Drip the rubbing alcohol really slowly. What do you see happening to the ink? Let the ink dry for about 5 minutes and then you can move the cup to a different part of the shirt. When you are done making colorful circles put the shirt in the dryer for about 15 mintues to set the colors.

The permanent ink of Sharpie pens is hydrophobic. It will not dissolve in water. The permanent ink WILL dissolve in rubbing alcohol though. That is why the colors "run" to make the pretty pattern.

Science Project Idea:

Try this method of tie dying with different kinds of markers and pens. Test whether the ink in the pens is soluable or hydrophobic. HINT: the word "washable" would be a clue to help you guess the answer to that question. Then try using the rubbing alcohol. Can you find an ink that will not dissolve in water OR rubbing alcohol?

Websites, Activities & Printables:


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