5 minute DNA Extraction in a Shot Glass

Picture of 5 minute DNA Extraction in a Shot Glass
Despite its exotic-sounding name, DNA is ubiquitous - it can be found in every cell of every living thing and almost everywhere on the planet. Nonetheless, we rarely come face-to-face with the molecule itself - and it's not because DNA is difficult to find or isolate! In this instructable, we'll show you how to isolate your own DNA with little more than some dish soap, table salt, high-proof alcohol, a shot glass, and a bit of your own saliva.

It only takes a couple of minutes, and after you've isolated your own DNA, you can either drink it back down in a tasty "DNA shot" (great party trick) or better yet, purify it further for more analysis*.

Materials & Set Up
  • 1/4 of a shot glass full of your saliva
  • several drops of dish soap (look for sodium laurel sulfate in the ingredients)
  • a pinch of table salt (1/16 of a teaspoon)
  • some contact-lens cleaning solution, meat tenderizer, or pineapple juice (optional)
  • Ice-cold 120-proof+ liquor (overproof rum works well)
The chemicals used in this experiment are "everyday" household items and are not particularly dangerous. Nonetheless, exercise extra caution and think twice if you decide to consume your DNA shot and ABSOLUTELY do not substitue rubbing alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, or any other non-consumable alcohol for the overproof rum we used. Besides using "denatured' alcohol, the other potential safety concern is the dishsoap added to the mixture. A couple drops won't hurt you, but if you are concerned about it, feel free to leave it out.

This instructable was produced by DIYbio - an organization for amateur biotechnologists. Visit for more information.

EDIT: Some DIYbioers are developing a simple gel box and a gel box on steroids. We should have some instructables put together for them before Dec 08. If you are interested in helping, please join the DIYbio google group!
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ccrespo26 months ago
WARNING: DRINKING ANY AMOUNT OF DISH SOAP CAN CAUSE DIARRHEA. Just wanted to put that out that since nobody's said it yet.
lifeonthedge7 months ago
Would this process work only on animal cells? Or could it be used to extract plant DNA as well? What about bacteria? Is the DNA pure enough to use in experiments?
Is there an "under-21" way to do this?
the 70% or 91% isopropanol you can buy at any supermarket should be fine, just don't drink it : )
Broom2 years ago
Any chance I'll get superpowers, if I expose the shot of DNA to some radiation? Maybe 10 seconds in the microwave...
JuCo2 years ago
not to be too crude, but the implications of "5 minute dna extraction in a shot glass" had me giggling for a moment.
gogoplata5 years ago
We did this in biology a few years ago with strawberries. Is there any way to do this and extract the DNA from white blood cells?
A more important question is can you isolate white blood cells? That is far more difficult than ethanol precipitation
i did this with strawberries too. oh, and we used freezer cold methynol. we used a microscope to look at it after. we saw some double helixes.
Um. BS. If you saw double helices, you were hallucinating.
Yeah, you need an electron microscope for those...
Wow - that must have been some microscope ;-)

no, just a typical school grade light-microscope.
what grade? I did it in grade 5 with strawberries and used methalated spirits
There are no White blood cells in Strawberries :-) But if you want DNA from WBC's, you might consider following this protocol using puss from an acne lesion (a puss filled zit, or other source of puss) instead of spit. Otherwise, you'll need to get some blood, separate the Red blood cells (very easy really) and then you'll have mostly WBCs. It depends on how "purely WBC" the DNA needs to be. Why do you want to do this?
I was just interested to see if this could be used for some amateur research or something. I think the DNA would need to be from only WBC.
MediaTech sells a product call Lymphocyte Separation mediumLymphocyte Separation medium (cat # 25-072-CI, 100 mL for <$20). That will do the trick, if you're starting with whole blood
Thank you. I will look into that.
jobard2 years ago
Can I use Absinthe instead of overproof rum?
jschroedl5 years ago
Ew. cool project. Would there be anything interesting to see under a microscope?
 i dont think you can see dna under a microscope if you could it would have to magnify like one centillion time

oh and yes centillion is a number it has 330 zeros
thats a lot
No, magnification of M=10^8 should be sufficient. Neutron scattering could do a good job for regarding DNA molecules.
If you chew your cheeks, you get more DNA.
McGrep3 years ago
Fascinating. Why had I no idea this could be done so easily?
 Hey - how long can these last for, What liquid can I preserve mine in (indefinitely), and How do you dye them?

we did this in Project STEM and you can just swish salt water and it works fine.
Nitsuji4 years ago
Canida is almost right. Pineapple, kiwi, and papaya all contain "proteases," enzymes that break-down proteins. However, each fruit contains a pretty different enzyme: pineapple has bromelain, kiwi has actinidin, figs have ficin, and papaya has papain. 
niwrad4 years ago
hahaha nice trick! I did this with onions!!
hamado4 years ago
really going to try it right now
wish it works...
CapnTac4 years ago
What if you could clone yourself with it? That would be shweet.
kid1235 years ago
you can do this with rubbing alcohol
yes but drinking rubbing alcohol will kill you
yes, but you don't have to drink it. 
nrepak4 years ago
i dont know how much I would want to drink contacts lens solution considering what it does to the bowels
bears04 years ago
 we did that with spinach one time
SlashDev5 years ago
did you just drink dish washing detergent and/or meat tenderizer? bleah :P
awang8 SlashDev5 years ago
Steak contains meat tenderizer...
also, your plate must contain traces of dish washing detergent.....
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