Liquid Layers


Stacking things is easy! Books, boxes, blocks, coins…you’ve probably stacked ALL of these things at one point. But what about liquid?

Surely you can’t stack water, honey, or oil…right? WRONG!

Learn how to layer liquids based on density using a seven-layer density column. You can even add food coloring to make a layered rainbow!

*Get an Adult* Lamp oil is highly flammable and you should NEVER light it!



  1. Measure about 8 ounces of each liquid (honey, corn syrup, dish soap, water, vegetable oil, rubbing alcohol, and lamp oil) into seven plastic cups. If desired, color the rubbing alcohol and corn syrup with a few drops of food coloring to make a “rainbow” of liquid. The following is the order of liquid layers starting from the bottom and going to the top: honey, corn syrup, dish soap, water, vegetable oil, rubbing alcohol, and lamp oil.
  2. First, pour the honey into your glass cylinder. Make sure you pour the liquids carefully into the center of the cylinder. Also, it is important that the honey doesn’t touch the sides of the cylinder while you are pouring. Additionally, let each layer settle before adding the next one. TAKE YOUR TIME!
  3. Next, pour the corn syrup. Don’t let the corn syrup touch the sides of the cylinder as you pour. Pour slowly and evenly.
  4. Repeat this process with the Dawn dish soap.
  5. From this point on, it’s okay for the liquids to touch the sides of the cylinder. Now it’s time for the water. Dip the tip of the food baster into the cup of water, squeeze the bulb, suck up some water. Rest the tip of your food baster on the inside wall of the glass cylinder and slowly squeeze the bulb to let water drip down to create another layer of liquid.
  6. Using the baster again, draw up some vegetable oil. Then, rest it against the inside wall of the cylinder and squeeze the bulb slowly to let the vegetable oil trickle down.
  7. Wash the baster with soap and water in the sink. Color the rubbing alcohol with food coloring and use the baster to add this liquid to the cylinder. Use the same technique shown in steps 5 and 6.
  8. Rinse the food baster in the sink. Make sure you are away from any open flame. Use the food baster to draw up lamp oil. Keep your finger over the tip of the baster since the lamp oil leaks easily. Slowly add the lamp oil to the cylinder, applying the same process from steps 5 through 7. This is the final layer of liquid

Tips and Tricks:

  • Take a few items from around the house (e.g. keys, peanuts, raisins, bouncy ball, paper clip, staple) and carefully drop each item into the center of the glass cylinder. Notice how some items stay near the top of the liquid layers, while others sink down. This is due the different density of each object. If the liquid is more dense than the object, the object stays on top of that liquid. However, if the layer is less dense, the object sinks until it meets a liquid that is more dense.
  • Using the kitchen scale, weigh equal portions of each liquid from your column. You will find that the mass of the liquids relate to their level in the column. For example, honey weighs more than corn syrup. Therefore, density and weight are related.


Density is a measure of how much mass is contained in a unit volume. In other words, density equals mass divided by volume. Mass is a measure of how much stuff there is in a substance, while density is a measure of how tightly this stuff is packed. If the mass increases and the volume stays the same, the density goes up. Conversely, if the mass decreases and the volume remains the same, the density goes down. Liquids with less mass (like rubbing alcohol or lamp oil) are less dense.

Each liquid has a density number, typically measured in grams per cubic centimeter. For example, water has a density of 1.0 grams per cubic centimeter, while rubbing alcohol has a density of 0.79 grams per cubic centimeter.







Image Attribute:
By Victor Blacus (Victor Blacus) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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