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Have you seen these simple soap & pepper experiments that teach kids the importance of washing hands to stop germs from spreading?    If you’ve talked to your kids about everything that is going on right now, you’ve probably talked to them about germs & how they are spreading right now.  

As I mentioned in this post about how to talk to your kids about the spreading virus,” Rachel Ehmke reminds us that “Kids worry more when they’re kept in the dark.”   

There are some things you’ve probably been more diligent about lately, and you’ve been asking your kids to do the same; not touching things when out in public, not getting too close to strangers or other kids, disinfecting your home more often than usual, and washing their hands every time that they go anywhere.

We need to teach our kids how to protect themselves and the ones that they love… luckily it is as easy as hand-washing and as fun as today’s science experiment! Plate of soapy water with pepper in it to conduct a hand washing experiment.

Simple Experiment about the Importance of Washing Hands 

This experiment is a great way to teach kids that you can prevent the spread of germs by washing your hands.   This is a great way to teach a full lesson on germs & the importance of doing what we can to minimize the spread of the germs.   

When I taught elementary school, we loved to perform science experiments!  One of our favorite science experiments was a simple hand washing experiment.   In this experiment, we needed a bowl, milk, food coloring (represents germs), a toothpick, and soap. 

We filled a bowl with milk.  We added drops of food coloring into the middle of the bowl and called the coloring our “germs.”  Next, we took a toothpick, dipped it into a bowl of dish soap, and then touched the dot of food coloring with the soap. 

The food coloring will disperse through the milk as the fat in the milk is repelled by the dish soap, but all that the kids see is that the ‘germs’ ran from the soap!  Their reactions were priceless! 

Parents Teach Kids About Germs Using Pepper And Soap 

This week, I saw a similar video circulating from Kelly Rose Sarno. In this Instagram video, she does the same experiment, but instead of using food coloring, she uses pepper as the “germs” and it works like a charm!   


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kelly Rose Sarno (@kellyrosesarno) on

I also loved the way that it was explained by a preschool teacher, Amanda Lorenzo.    A preschool class, or any class, is the perfect place to teach good handwashing!   I love that she brought this simple experiment into the classroom.     I hope that it encourages others to do the same! 

When parents teach their kids about germs using pepper and soap, it really brings it to life, because they can SEE the reaction.  This fun exercise will absolutely be your homeschool science lesson of the day! 🧼🖐🏻🦠

Instructions:  Science Experiment about Germs Using Pepper And Soap 

teaching kids about handwashing with pepper & soap experiment

What You Need for the Germs Experiment Using Pepper And Soap

  • A small bowl of water (one for each child would be best)
  • Ground black pepper
  • A small bowl of soap (everyone can share)

Steps for Teaching Kids About Germs Using Pepper And Soap 

  • Sprinkle pepper on the tops of the bowls of water
  • Explain to your child that the pepper represents germs like viruses that can make us sick
  • Have them stick one finger in the ‘germs’ and ask them what happened. They will probably recognize that germs got stuck on them!
  • Then have them put a clean finger in the soap and swirl it around until it covers the end of their finger
  • Have them put the soapy finger in the ‘germs’
  • The ‘germs’ should be repelled by the soap and should quickly move away from your child’s finger

I hope this is a fun and educational activity for your kids as you continue to talk about social distancing and sanitation.   The biggest thing is to remind your family to wash their hands!   

Teaching Kids: What is a Germ and What Does It Do?  

A germ is any microorganism, especially one which causes a disease.
Germs can be bacteria or viruses, as well as a few other types of microorganisms, too. They are EVERYWHERE. We are currently dealing with a global pandemic because of these small but mighty little organisms. 

A close up of a virus.

What is Soap?

“Soap is a mixture of fat or oil, water, and an alkali, or basic salt.  The ancient Babylonians are credited with being the first people to make soap. Their recipe for animal fats, wood ash and water has been found carved into clay containers dating back to 2800 B.C.”

“The basic recipe for soap hasn’t changed for thousands of years. It’s still a combination of fat or oils with an alkali — basic ionic salt — and water. When those ingredients combine in the proper proportions, they go through a chemical process called saponification, which results in soap.”  – LiveScience 

How does soap get rid of germs?  

First off, it’s important to realize that soap does not kill germs.  Soap removes germs.  The germs stick to the oil on our hands, and water will not remove it, so we need to use something else.  Soap likes water and soap likes oil, so it makes the perfect match!  

“When you wash your hands with soap, the soap molecules act as a mediator between the water and oil molecules and bind with both of them at the same time. Then when you rinse everything off, the soap carries away the germs with the water. ” – lifescience

Adult teaching child the correct way to wash hands.

When Should We Wash Our Hands?

It’s important to wash our hands often, and our kids need to understand it and make it a habit.  Here are a few important times to remember to wash our hands: 

  • Before a meal or snack
  • After playing outside
  • After being at a playground or busy area
  • Before cooking or preparing a meal
  • After school 
  • After playing with friends
  • Before & after visiting anyone that isn’t feeling well 
  • After using the bathroom
  • after cleaning 
  • after touching animals 
  • After leaving a store
  • After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose

It’s hard to imagine, but there was a time when humans had no idea we needed to consider sanitation, disinfection, or even basic cleanliness. That’s because there was a time when we didn’t know about bacteria or viruses. In short, we hadn’t discovered germs.   Luckily, we’ve come a long way!   I love that we learn more every day… and we can pass on that learning to our children.  

If you are looking for more ideas for the kids, check out these ideas: 

50+ Screen-free activities
50+ Free Educational Subscriptions for Students Due to School Closure

5 from 1 vote

Hand-washing Experiment using Pepper & Soap

Using a simple experiment of water, pepper & soap to teach your kids about GERMS!
Prep Time: 5 minutes


  • 1 small bowl per child + 1 more
  • A few teaspoons of ground black pepper
  • Water
  • Dish soap


  • Fill 1 small bowl half full of water for each child
  • Cover the top of the water with black pepper (about 1 tps each). The pepper represents 'germs'
  • Have each child put one finger in the pepper to see how the 'germs' stick
  • Put some dish soap in the extra small bowl
  • Have each child put a clean finger in the dish soap
  • Now have them put the dish soap covered finger in the pepper to see the 'germs' move away from the soap

Additional Info

Tried this recipe?Mention @yourmodernfamily or tag #yourmodernfamily!

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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