Growing Epsom Salt Crystals

Epsom salts are probably in your bathroom cabinet, but don’t let them languish there. Why not use them to make a pretty centerpiece for your dining room table or living room, and have fun doing it at the same time? You can grow your own Epsom salt crystal (one big one or many little ones), and arrange them in a dish. It looks even better with strategic use of food coloring.

Time required: A few days.

School links: Chemistry.

What you’ll need:
-A shallow glass dish to display the crystals in;
-1/4 cup epsom salts;
-Small cotton ball or sponge piece;
-(optional) Food coloring

1. Pour the water into a saucepan or container and heat it up to boiling temperature, either on the stove or in the microwave or kettle.
2. Stir a few drops of the food coloring into the epsom salts or water and mix well if you want to have colored crystals.
3. Slowly add the epsom salts, a little at a time, stirring constantly. Stop adding once you get enough salt in the mixture that it stops dissolving and just sits on the bottom.
4. Put the sponge or cotton ball into the dish, and pour the mixture over it. There should be just enough to coat the bottom of the dish as well as soaking the sponge.
5. Leave the dish in the sunshine or a warm place, making sure not to disturb it unnecessarily, and the crystals should begin to form.

If the method above fails to work (you don’t get any crystals, or the crystals are not as big as you’d like), you can try another method.

1. Pour the water into a saucepan or container and heat it to boiling.
2. Stir drops of food coloring into the salts or water if you wish.
3. Tie a string to a pencil (nylon if you don’t want epsom crystals forming along the string, and rough twine or yarn if you do want them), and a paper clip to the end of the string.
4. Slowly add the salt to the water and stir until all the salt has dissolved (stop adding salt if the salt just sits on the bottom without dissolving).
5. Pour the mixture of water and salt into a jar, and balance the pencil on top of the container. The string should be suspended in the solution.
6. Leave the jar on the windowsill for a few days, and keep checking back. Crystals should start to form.

Experiment with combinations of Epsom salt crystals and other types of crystals, different coloring or combinations of colors, and so on. This can be a great science project for homeschoolers, or science fair project, or just a rainy afternoon activity for the kids (and kids at heart).