Science, Tech, Math › Science How to Make a Rainbow of Colored Flames Add Color to Flames Using Chemicals Share Flipboard Email Print PM Images / Getty Images Science Chemistry Projects & Experiments Basics Chemical Laws Molecules Periodic Table Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated September 30, 2019 It's easy to make a rainbow of colored flames using common household chemicals. Basically, what you need are chemicals for each of the colors, plus a fuel. Use a fuel that burns with a clean blue flame. Good choices include rubbing alcohol, 151 rum, hand sanitizer made with alcohol, lighter fluid, or alcohol fuel treatment. You can get a rainbow effect by placing chemicals directly on burning wood or paper, but sodium in these fuels produces a strongly yellow flame, which tends to overpower the other colors. Set Up the Rainbow On a fire-proof surface, line up small piles of powder for each of the colorants. You only need a small pinch of each chemical (1/2 teaspoon or less). Usually, you'll run your rainbow red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet (or the opposite direction). It works best if you try to keep the colorant chemicals separate. When the fuel is added, some of the colors naturally will run together. Once the chemicals are set up, there's no hurry to light the fire. When you are ready, add fuel and then light it at one end. You'll get the most vivid coloring using methanol, but it burns hot. Hand sanitizer burns with the coolest temperature flame, but the high water content means the rainbow fire doesn't last long. Feel free to experiment. One compromise is to dampen the powders with methanol and follow up with a layer of hand sanitizer. As the fuel burns, the water will naturally extinguish the flames. The colorant chemicals are not consumed by the flames, so you can add more fuel to renew the rainbow. Table of Flame Colorants Most of the chemicals used for the project can be obtained from a grocery store. All of them are available at a superstore, like a Walmart or Target Supercenter. Color Chemical Common Source Red strontium nitrate or a lithium salt contents of a red emergency flare or lithium from a lithium battery Orange calcium chloride or mix red/yellow chemicals calcium chloride bleaching powder or mix salt with flare contents Yellow sodium chloride table salt (sodium chloride) Green boric acid, borax, copper sulfate borax laundry booster, boric acid disinfectant or insect killer, copper sulfate root killer Blue alcohol rubbing alcohol, Heet methanol, 151 rum, or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, lighter fluid Violet potassium chloride salt substitute Rainbow Fire Safety Information In addition to performing the project on a heat-safe surface, it's a good idea to do it in a well-ventilated area, under a fume hood, or outdoors. There may be a small amount of smoke. Do not add fuel to the fire while it is still burning. Wait until the flames are extinguished and then add more alcohol and re-light the fire. The flames are easily extinguished by blowing them out, suffocating them (as with the lid of a pan), or by adding water. It's a good idea to wear protective eyewear and clothing, as for any science demonstration. Avoid wearing synthetic fabrics, as they readily melt if exposed to flame. Cotton, silk, and wool are good choices, or you can wear a lab coat. Cite this Article Format mla apa chicago Your Citation Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How to Make a Rainbow of Colored Flames." ThoughtCo, Oct. 29, 2020, thoughtco.com/make-a-rainbow-of-colored-flames-606193. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, October 29). How to Make a Rainbow of Colored Flames. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/make-a-rainbow-of-colored-flames-606193 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How to Make a Rainbow of Colored Flames." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/make-a-rainbow-of-colored-flames-606193 (accessed April 13, 2021). copy citation Watch Now: Make a Gas-Powered Rocket with Alka-Seltzer How To Make Green Flames Why Is Fire Hot? How Hot Is It? Making Colored Candle Flames Cool Halloween Jack o Lanterns 10 Amazing Chemical Reactions How to Make a Smoke Bomb How Flame Test Colors Are Produced Is Fire a Gas, Liquid, or Solid? What Happens to Candle Wax When a Candle Burns What Is Denatured Alcohol or Ethanol? Science Magic Tricks Smoke Bomb Recipes Make Ammonium Nitrate from Household Chemicals Dangerous Household Chemicals Can a Candle Burn in Zero Gravity? The Flammability of Oxygen: Does It Burn?