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Making Invisible Ink Appear

Invisible ink isn't just something you see in James Bond movies or X-Files re-runs. Even Harriet the Spy has her own invisible ink pens. In fact, prisoners of war used their own sweat and saliva as invisible ink.

The way invisible ink works depends on the method used to make it. There are several ways to make invisible ink and below you will find a few different recipes for making your own invisible ink and how it works.

Invisible Ink the Baking Soda Way

Mix about 1/4 cup (60 ml) of baking soda and 1/4 cup (60 ml) of water. Next, write using a Q-tip, toothpick or brush on a piece of paper. Let it dry completely. To read the secret message, paint grape juice concentrate across the paper with a paint brush or a sponge. Don't forget - grape juice stains.
Why it works: Grape juice has an acid that reacts with the baking soda. A different color appears wherever the secret message is written.

Invisible Ink the Milky Way

Put a little milk in a small bowl. Write with the milk on a piece of paper with a Q-tip or a brush. Let your message dry completely. To read the message just heat the paper. Use an iron or 100-watt light bulb or stove element. Don't rest the paper on the bulb. Ask an adult to help in case a fire starts and never use a halogen light.
Why it works: Milk is an organic product which means it comes from a living thing. When it's heated, it burns at a slower rate than the paper. Your invisible message shows up brown.

Invisible Ink the Lemon Way

This works the same way as the Milky Way. Simply dab a Q-tip or brush into a bowl of lemon juice and write away. Just make sure you don't use too much. To see the message, simply heat the paper after it dries. Another way to see the message is put salt on the drying ink. Give it a minute and then wipe the salt off. Use a wax crayon to color over the message.
Why it works: Both lemon juice and milk are mildly acidic and acid weakens paper. The acid remains in the paper after the juice or milk has dried. When the paper is held near heat the acidic parts of the paper burn or turn brown before the rest of the paper does.

These are only a few ways to make invisible ink. Using the same heat method, you can also use white wine, vinegar, apple juice, and even orange juice, to name just a few. Try some other fruit juices to see what works.

Do you have your own recipe for making invisible ink? What works best? Let us in on your secret.

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Who's Your Favorite Spy?

  • Harriet the Spy.
  • The SPY Kids.
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  • Agent Cody Banks.

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