Introduction: How to Make NonBurning Money

A 20$ bill is taken from the pocket, or better yet, from a volunteer planted in the audience and is soaked in a liquid and set on fire. While holding the 20$ bill with tongs and watching the blue flame, one points out that the 20$ bill is not burning. Finally the 20$ bill is snuffed out with a quick jerk or doused in a bucket of water and passed around for inspection or returned to the volunteer. For more drama, an assistant can put out the flame with a fire extinguisher. The volunteer can be asked to hold up the 20$ bill for everyone to see.
In this demonstration, the liquid used is a 50/50 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water. Methanol or ethanol can be substituted for the isopropyl alcohol. Some salt in the solution will help to make the flame more visible. Other combustible materials, such as paper, can also be used in place of the 20$ bill. A dollar bill provided by someone in the audience is especially effective. Note carefully the purity of the alcohol before mixing. Rubbing alcohol as sold in drug stores is often 30% or more water. One could repeat the demonstration with varying mixtures of alcohol and water. Too much water will prevent the alcohol from burning, and too little water will allow the cloth or paper to char.

In a variation of the demonstration, a dry cotton cloth is wrapped tightly around a coin, and a lighted cigarette is touched to the cloth. The coin absorbs the heat and keeps the temperature below the point where the cloth burns.

This demonstration illustrates the variation in the temperature required to support combustion in different substances. The alcohol burns at a temperature below the kindling temperature of the cotton. In addition, the heating and vaporization of the water removes heat and prevents the cloth from burning.
Although the flame is relatively cool, it is capable of producing severe burns. Hold the handkerchief with a pair of very long tongs (30 cm or more) while it is ignited. Plan ahead to have a way to extinguish it before the water is completely vaporized or if it inadvertently drops to the floor while burning. Isopropyl alcohol can damage the eyes severely.


guyfrom7up (author)2008-01-28

I use to do that, then the fluid spilt over my friends driveway and lit on fire. It was a scary minute though.

uniboob tom (author)guyfrom7up2008-07-01

ive done that but it was with gas and it was all over his lawn haha

IfWeChoose (author)uniboob tom2010-04-10

 hahaha me too, was my lawn

Tommyhzy (author)guyfrom7up2009-08-07

I use a syringe (Not for drugs or anything LOL) and write things on my driveway with it... Just make sure all the little "Puddles" are connected or you break your back trying to light 30 little alcohol puddles... It doesn't leave a mark on my driveway! YAY Oh and I add a moderate amount of table salt to my alcohol too, so it burns brighter and with more colour. After all, this is a demonstration of how cool it looks, not how hot it is.

mcdonn123 (author)2008-09-01

Wow, I didn't know burning money is illegal.

coonass (author)mcdonn1232008-09-12

Yep. Currency and coin both belong to the Federal government. Think of them as bingo cards - you can hand them in for valuable prizes, but they don't belong to you. And if you're daft enough to destroy US coin or paper money and draw the attention of the US Treasury Department to the fact, expect a visit from the US Secret Service (the Secretary of the Treasury's personal cops). You'd think that in the case of paper money, the crime would be self-punishing, but we may actually reach the point where one-dollar bills are worth more as documents than as currency. Back in the 1970s, the US Treasury went from pure copper to a very thinly copper-plated zinc alloy for pennies - copper thieves were melting pennies down for the copper and making money selling the result as scrap copper, because pennies made from pure copper (or even a copper alloy hard enough to use as currency) were worth more than a cent a piece. Even our present copper-plated pennies probably cost very close to a penny a piece to make and keep in circulation, but there's no ready market for that zinc alloy in the sense that there is one for copper of reasonable purity. At some point, it may actually pay people to do something with one-dollar bills other than use them as currency, but not at this time. However, I'd feel a lot more comfortable trying that trick with a $1 bill than a $20 bill, just in case the last guy to handle the $20 was a fireworks vendor (in which case, the bill might have picked up enough nitrate salts to burn despite its protective dousing with water).

MostlyHarmless (author)coonass2008-10-31

Incorrect, while I'm not knowledgable enough to use/quote the correct verbiage, the law essentially prohibits "malicious" destruction of U.S. currency. In this case, we are perfectly outside the boundaries of the law, and the experiment regardless of how burnt the bill gets is completely legal.
Check the instructable on creating a knife out of a penny, it explains this in greater detail.

Xerillum (author)MostlyHarmless2008-12-08

Whoever mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or
unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill,
draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking
association, or Federal Reserve bank, or the Federal Reserve System,
with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence
of debt unfit to be reissued, shall be fined under this title or
imprisoned not more than six months, or both

So if you accidentally burn the dollar, you aren't doing anything illegal

Mr Cheeseo (author)Xerillum2009-04-18

To put it flatly... If you rip a doller you are a criminal.

thetech101 (author)Mr Cheeseo2009-06-21

No. If you rip and and then try to use it, you're a criminal. If you rip it and keep it and don't ever try to spend it, then you're not a criminal.

A.C.E. (author)thetech1012009-09-30

well what if somebody rips my dollar? And i was planning on using it?

bigbodysmallbrain (author)A.C.E.2010-03-06

if 75% of it is intact you can still use it

Mr Cheeseo (author)A.C.E.2009-09-30

Well that's your problem

A.C.E. (author)Mr Cheeseo2009-09-30


MacLean (author)Mr Cheeseo2009-05-17

nothings against ripping, just burning

eskimojo (author)coonass2008-09-12

sorry no links but I've heard from multiple areas, media as well as other people, that pennies cost somewhere around 1.6-1.9 cents to make and keep in circulation. this upsets me what a waste...

zzoe (author)eskimojo2009-03-23

This would be a problem, of course, if pennies were only used once, but the production cost may be justified by the VAST re-use a penny gets. Notice i say MAY- the U.S. penny is still one of the least valuable currencies in the world, and there has been discussion of fazing them out.

eskimojo (author)zzoe2009-03-23

So what if it's re-used, that's still dumb to keep in circulation a denomination that it costs more to produce than it's worth, also they come out with them every year or pretty damn close. If they took a break on the production I might see the viability of the denomination staying in circulation but it's all just a big waste. I hope they faze it out, people barely use them and most of the time they're practically thrown away.

zzoe (author)eskimojo2009-03-25

Perhaps they should phase (correction to my own misspelling above the above) them out. I've always thought they had a certain charm, and when i was a kid i thought they were lucky. Getting rid of them might be a good thing, but don't, please don't bother getting irate over it. There are many more important issues in life. Frustration brings heart-attacks (my dad went that way, so i know), and calmness doesn't. Life is unbelievably brief, enjoy it.

Tommyhzy (author)zzoe2009-08-07

I just toss my pennies in fountains where they allow it or I put it in a vending machine so the next person could have a 2 cent discount (:

lil nicky (author)mcdonn1232009-02-21

its not illegal to burn money

covey12 (author)lil nicky2009-05-31

defacing any currency is illegal, even putting a penny on a train track

JordanMaster22 (author)covey122009-06-03

@covey12: No it's not illegal to deface a penny. If it was then there wouldn't be those things at the zoo that turn pennies into fancy animal oval-shaped coins.

You have to have some kind of special permit to have those machines too, so I'm sure those are legal.

It's still illegal. It's just not a law that's enforced on people defacing single items of currency. If it were legal then they would sell the altered coins instead of having a machine that requires you to provide your own penny.

pindalanderz (author)2009-06-30

you can do whatever you want to money as long as you aren't gaining anything except entertainment from it.

___ (author)2009-06-15

The link picture looks like your'e on fire

dodo91 (author)2009-03-02

it is illegal, lil nickey. only the people that have the job to do it can destroy money (yes, there is a job where you shred money).

Evanator44 (author)2008-03-09

i suggest u practice with a 1 dollar bill :) Evanator44

matrix828 (author)Evanator442008-05-28

yeah, imagan settin fire to a 20$ bill and actually setting it on fire!

Xerillum (author)matrix8282008-12-08

think of a 100 on fire... : 0

volquete (author)Xerillum2009-01-13

lol those ppl wood be pissed

matrix828 (author)Xerillum2008-12-23

=O x100

volquete (author)matrix8282009-01-13

yah right, like THAT can happen...

eskimojo (author)2008-09-12

I've done this with my hand as the article to burn, but it was basically just Axe(AssTM) and I saturated my hand with it and lit it up. Dumb thing to do, but under controlled situation. I always kept a bigass bucket of water within a foot or so of my hand, the closest I ever got to serious burns were burning some hair off; it didn't smell too good >:C.

Ninja tip of the week (author)2008-08-27

is that you science lab or the schools or universitie's.

Ironious (author)2008-03-15

Im going to try this on my brother. So I just mix the alcohol and water and the water will protect his face from getting burned? Cool!

Oompa-Loompa (author)Ironious2008-08-10

That sounds a little dangerous, so you should probably try it on my brother first *wink* *wink*

dkfa (author)2008-08-05

can you use 70% isopropyl rubbing alcahol?

Matt D655 (author)2008-07-17

Dude i did that in science class in high scool that's the sh--

Kaiven (author)2008-06-16

LOL! gotta do it

dunnos (author)2008-05-08

you can also switch the dollar magicly with a fake one and dip that in your alchol (no water) light it and scream ITS BURNING ITS BURNING go on with this until your fake is gone and say it burnd! isnt that a great trick! then produce the bill you hid somewhere else in the show where they least expect it to make it look funny :)

casey321b (author)2008-04-15

so if i put water and alcohol on a huge propane tank and light it it wont blow up??? jk rofl i'm NOT going to do something so stupid

schimmi (author)2008-03-23

it's not a crime, welll, it is a law but it's not enforced

TheBestJohn (author)schimmi2008-04-01

the law is against those attempting to defraud the government. You can burn as much money as you want...

itsmanofpopsicle (author)2008-03-23

i had a bowl of it and lit it on fire. the bowl wasnot even hot.

mrpoe (author)2008-03-10

I tried that with pure isopropyl and my dollar poofed and then it was gone. lol

theRIAA (author)2008-01-28


GorillazMiko (author)2008-01-28

Cool! Might try it. :P

bumpus (author)2008-01-28

my chemistry teacher did it with ethyl alcohol, no water and made the bill nice and crisp

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