Laundry Detergent Glowing Skull

Glowing Halloween Decorations with Laundry Detergent

This glowing skull was made by sponging laundry detergent over a stencil.
This glowing skull was made by sponging laundry detergent over a stencil. Laundry detergent contains brightening agents that glow vivid blue under a black light. Anne Helmenstine

If you have laundry detergent, you can make a glow-in-the dark skull that you can put on your sidewalk or window that will be invisible during the day but will glow at night. Here's how you do it.

Glowing Skull Materials

You only need a few basic household materials for this project, plus a black light.

  • Liquid laundry detergent or else mix powdered detergent with a bit of water
  • Sponge or paper towel
  • Artistic talent or else a stencil
  • Black light

Make the Decoration

  1. Download a skull stencil pattern and print it.
  2. Cut out the eyes, nose, and mouth of the skull.
  3. Select the location for your decoration. You may wish to choose part of the front walkway near a porch light so you can switch out the normal light bulb for a black light. You could also use a black light and an extension cord to put the decoration anywhere. This project works well on a sidewalk or a wall. You could put the skull on a windowpane if you wanted.
  4. Dampen a sponge or paper towel with liquid laundry detergent. You want it wet enough to deposit the color, but not dripping wet.
  5. Place the stencil where you want the decoration.
  6. Blot over the stencil with the detergent-coated sponge to fill in the shapes of the skull. If you mess up badly, just wash it off and try again.
  7. Turn on the black light when you want to see the decoration. Turn the light off when you don't want to see it. Wash away the picture when Halloween is over.

How It Works

Laundry detergents contain brightening agents that glow when exposed to light. They are intended to make whites appear whiter by adding a bit of blue light to them under ultraviolet light, like in sunlight or under fluorescent lights. When you shine a black light on detergent, you get a very bright glow. The glow is bright enough that you don't need total darkness to get a nice effect.