Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Melting Ice in Oil: a Sinking Experiment

We don't get much snow and ice in the Southeast in the winter but that does not stop my girls from asking almost everyday when it might snow.  So I decided to bring winter inside with an icy experiment that built upon some of our previous ice and float-sink experiments.    The goal was to discover what happened to ice cubes in oil.

The day before I made some colored ice cubes in an old baby food freezer container (because I do not own an ice tray).  I put the ice cubes out in a bowl and filled a glass vase with olive oil and put it out for the girls.  They were excited and intrigued.  We started talking about the ice and how it can melt and change.  We felt the oil and wondered what would happen to the ice cube when we put it in the oil.  Each girl selected a cube and carefully put it into the oil.

We were surprised when the cubes sunk to the bottom as we are all used to ice cubes floating in water.   We watched for a few minutes and did not see anything so the girls went and got ready for bed.  When they came back we did not see much of a difference so we put on our super googles to see if anything had changed.  When we looked closely at the bottom we saw that our ice cubes had developed "stands".

They looked a bit like jellyfish and when the girls reached in and pushed down on the cubes the "stands" flared out like jellyfish too!

The girls had a great time pushing the cubes around in the oil and watching the colored "bubbles" or "globs of muck" appear.

Thankfully we had lots of paper towels and a sink of warm soapy water standing by for a quick clean up!  When the oil settled we could see the water from the melted ice forming "bubbles" on the bottom and we could see drops of water falling off the ice cubes through the oil.

We left our experiment on the table overnight to see what would happen the next morning.   They awoke to find a layer of dark water under the layer of olive oil - all the ice cubes had melted.

Overall the girls loved this experiment - especially the playing in the oil!  It was a wonderful way to explore ice melting and to look at liquids floating and sinking.  I am sure this is one we will do again.


  • food coloring
  • ice cube tray (or something to make colored ice in)
  • large glass bowl or vase
  • oil (we used olive oil)


  1. The day before make the colored ice cubes with food coloring.
  2. Pour the oil into the glass container high enough to cover the ice cubes.
  3. Carefully drop the ice cubes into the oil and wait about 15 minutes.
  4. See what is happening in your bowl - be sure to check under your ice cubes.
  5. Play and discover what happens as your ice cubes melt and disappear.


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