Growing salt crystals is a popular experiment for adults and children. This project will teach you how crystals grow from a liquid solution and uses simple, household items. Salt crystals begin to grow within a few hours and will become larger overnight. With this experiment, you can have fun on a rainy weekend or closely document the crystal growth for an educational home science project.
- String, cotton
- Measuring cup, glass
- Glass jar
- Spoon, long handle
- Boiling water, 1-2 cups
- Table salt, 1-2 cups
- Saucepan (optional)
- Stove top (optional)
- Tape (optional)
You can prepare the salt solution in the microwave container or saucepan before you transfer it to the glass jar. If you are performing this experiment in a classroom or group setting use covered baby food or mason jars so that the students can leave the solution on their desks to observe the crystals over several days.
Due to hot water and use of scissors, this experiment requires adult supervision.
Fray the edges of the cotton string using the blade of the scissors then tie one end of the string to a pencil. The salt crystals will begin to grow on a rough surface more easily than on a smooth string.
Heat one to two cups of water in a glass measuring cup in a microwave for 2-4 minutes until the water begins to boil. You may need to adjust the time based on the power of your microwave. If you do not have a microwave, you can heat the water in a saucepan on the stove. Transfer the boiling water into your clean, glass jar.
Pour the table salt into the glass jar while you stir constantly. Add the salt slowly to allow sufficient time for it to dissolve into the water. You will add approximately the same amount of salt as water in the jar in order to saturate the solution. For example, if you boiled two cups of water you will add two cups of salt. You can adjust the amount of salt, if necessary. It is important to keep adding salt until no more crystals will dissolve. Once you see salt settling to the bottom of the jar then the solution is fully saturated and no more salt will dissolve.
Place the string in the jar so that it hangs in the center and does not touch the glass. If necessary, roll the pencil to shorten the length of the string. If the string touches the glass, the crystals will glue the string to the glass and you will not be able to remove the string to observe the crystals without dissolving the salt. Tape the string and pencil in place, if necessary.
Sit the jar on your counter overnight to allow time for the crystals to grow. While small crystals will grow within a few hours, large crystals will take longer.
Things You'll Need
- You can prepare the salt solution in the microwave container or saucepan before you transfer it to the glass jar.
- If you are performing this experiment in a classroom or group setting use covered baby food or mason jars so that the students can leave the solution on their desks to observe the crystals over several days.
- Due to hot water and use of scissors, this experiment requires adult supervision.
About the Author
Tracy Barnhart is an earth science expert. A professional geologist with over 16 years of technical writing experience, she has expanded her writing skills to include instructional articles on business, parenting, finance and science. She has Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in geology from Furman University and the University of South Carolina.
salt image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com