Introduction: 3 Ways to Make Water Glow!

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Do you have a party to host soon? Stand out from the crowd at your next get together with these 3 super simple science tricks to make water glow!

For all of the following you will need a UV black light. These lights have lots of applications in the sfx and lighting industry, but are also great for your social gatherings. The following will not work without one. You can find many different types of UV black lights online from ones that simply fit into your original light fitting too standalone units that plug into the wall.

Some of the following science tricks can be quite messy so be certain to wear suitable clothes and protect your workspace. Also, some but not all of the following are edible. However be extremely careful not to consume the ones stated and if you use common sense, you'll be just fine.

Now let's make some awesome water and just glow with the flow (no pun intended)!

Step 1: Tonic Water

The first method to make water glow is as simple as getting hold of some standard tonic water. If you look at the ingredients on the bottle, you will see that it has an ingredient called quinine or quinine hydrochloride and this is the ingredient that makes the water glow under UV light.

Hold the bottle close to the UV light in a dark room and watch the water glow a pale blue colour!

Tip: experiment with different brands of tonic water as some may contain stronger concentrations of quinine resulting in a brighter and more vivid glow.

A great use for this trick (as tonic water is perfectly safe to consume) would be to fill your drinks with tonic water at your next party to give your guests a spooky surprise.

Step 2: Drain Tracing Dye

The second method to make water glow is using something called "drain tracing dye" which is used by plumbers to detect leaks and the flow of waste water. You should be able to get this from your local plumbing store or DIY store in a small jar. It's chemical name is fluoresceine.

When you open it up, it looks like a lot of small maroon colored grains.


Use either tweezers or your fingers (it is messy) to take a pinch of the grains and drop them into the water. Stir well.

Amazingly, this is all you need to dye over a liter of water (you can always add more for a more vivid colour).

This method will produce a vivid green glow when exposed to UV light.

Note: This method is NOT edible so do not consume the water. The dye can stain clothes and other objects it touches. Be careful to prevent it from spilling.

Step 3: Highlighter Pens

The final method to make water glow is possibly one of the easiest to reproduce however the process is quite messy so make sure you wear suitable clothes and protect your work area. This method also has many applications.


First experiment with different brands of highlighters as not all of them will work. You can see if it works by writing on a piece of paper and it should glow vividly under the UV light.

If it works, use a pair of needle nose pliers and pull the tip out from the body of the highlighter. Submerge the felt tip and the highlighter body in the water and let the ink and water blend together for a few minutes.

Expose the solution to UV black light and the water will glow!

If you intend to use more water, also use more highlighters to ensure the correct concentration of ink in the water.

This method will produce a colour the same as the highlighter colour that glows boldly under UV light.

There are lots of things you could do with this effect:

• Use the highlighters undiluted as they come out the packet and write funky messages in different colours.

• Pour the mixture into glass jars and turn them into vats of radioactive waste to display at your next Halloween party.

• Pour the mixture into a funky shaped clear container and display them as neon light pots at your next party.

• Pour a small amount of the mixture into a clear plastic straw with hot glue sealing one end and then seal the other end of the straw with hot glue and create DIY glow sticks.

Note: As before, this method is NOT edible so do not consume the water. The highlighters can stain clothes and other objects it touches. Be careful to prevent it from staining and use common sense.

Step 4: Results

So, that's three awesome ways to make water glow in funky colours.

Edit: There are actually a lot more common everyday items that glow under UV. Here's just a few:

  • Liquid Laundry Detergent.
  • Bank Notes.
  • Toothpaste.
  • Vitamin A and the B vitamins thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin.
  • Petroleum jelly i.e. Vaseline

If you know of any more items that glow in UV, please leave them in the comments.

It has to be said that the tonic water method is edible but the other two are not so please be responsible and use common sense.

If you have any problems or questions please don't hesitate to comment below.

I hope you enjoyed it. See you in the next instructable and as always - Happy Making!

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