If you’ve got kids, you’ve got slime. Sure, there’s a general stickiness that comes with parenting, but we’re talking about the global DIY slime craze dominating social media and store shelves, and most likely, your kitchen.
The craze began in mid-2016 and shows no signs of slowing down. Kids and savvy crafting entrepreneurs are making homemade slime concoctions using household glue, Borax, food coloring, glitter, essential oils and other ingredients for fun and profit. Googling “slime” garners 82.8 million hits and there are more than 6 million slime videos on YouTube. If you’re in the market for milk and cookies slime, zombie slime or rainbow sherbet slime, Etsy’s many tween and teen slime entrepreneurs will happily oblige.
It’s big business with big business, too. With slime in the spotlight, glue has been flying off shelves. In 2016, sales of Elmer’s Glue grew 25 percent, with 50 percent growth in the first quarter of 2017. The craze is also driving demand for the 20 Mule Team brand of Borax, a laundry booster that’s been a mainstay in stores for more than 100 years.
Closer to home, in Sparks, the global spice and food color behemoth, McCormick, is wrist-deep in the slime business. “Food color has always been a common ingredient in kids’ crafts like putty and slime, and we’ve had recipes for them on our website,” according to a company statement in response to questions from Baltimore’s Child. “However, we noticed a significant uptick, both in the social and digital space and in [food color] sales last January and February.”
McCormick’s test kitchens went to work updating the McCormick slime recipes. First, experts tested about 50 other online recipes, but found them too stiff or rubbery. Their new recipe is Borax-free and is sufficiently free-flowing to delight slime fans young and old. Visit mccormick.com/recipes/other/how-to-make-slime for the detailed recipe.
Today’s slime is all about the color and smell. Though McCormick hasn’t launched any new extracts for the slime market, the company has created different color and extract combinations to make scented versions. “We’ve created fun Halloween versions, like a Pumpkin Spice-O Lantern and Lime-Scented Monster Slime,” according to McCormick. “We’ve also created holiday versions, like adding peppermint extract to red and white colored slime for a Candy Cane.” All recipes may be found at mccormick.com.
While you are whipping up batches of slime with the kids, consider including the cool science of polymers behind it. White glue in slime is the polymer, or large chain of molecules made up of repeating units, that allows the substance to be poured. In glue, the molecule chains slide past one another fairly easily, but add Borax or contact solution, and voila! — the molecules are now too large or too viscous to slide past one another. Viscosity, another great scientific term to share with your young scientists, is the rate at which a substance flows. Ketchup is more viscous than apple juice, peanut butter is more viscous than ketchup, and so on.
Further impress your kids by explaining that slime is a non-Newtonian fluid, neither a true liquid nor a true solid. What makes slime a solid? (You can pick it up.) A liquid? (It flows like a liquid and will take the shape of a container.) Spread it over the table or counter to explain that it can also take on no shape at all.
Check out littlebinsforlittlehands.com for science basics (and more recipes) geared to the younger crowd. For middle-school and high-school slime fans, Google Brian Rohrig’s “The Science of Slime” from ChemMatters. The 2004 article pre-dates the current craze, but does an easily understood job of detailing the science behind what has long been a mainstay of chemistry experiments in the classroom.
Just like the Butterball Hotline on Thanksgiving, there is a website for Frequently Asked Questions about slime. How long will slime last? A couple of weeks, if refrigerated. For more 4-1-1-, visit thoughtco.com/frequently-asked-questions-about-slime-3976005.
Slime Tips and Trails
- Safety first. Though it may smell like cotton candy or Cheetos (yes, Cheetos), slime should never be ingested. This is not an activity for toddlers. Make sure older children know never to eat slime.
- Err on the side of caution. Borax (sodium borate), is a key ingredient in many DIY slime recipes. It’s also a known respiratory, eye and skin irritant and toxic if ingested. There have been a few cases of children being burned from making slime with Borax. There are lots of Borax-free recipes online, but all are not necessarily chemical free. Know the ingredients and if you use Borax, it’s smart to wear gloves.
- Get some digital inspiration by watching videos together or perusing Etsy’s many interesting varieties.
- Slime-making is also another chance to hammer home that ageless parenting challenge: Getting kids to wash their hands. Before and after making any slime, it’s important to wash hands.