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20 Minute Labs: Candy & Soda Lava Lamp

20 minute labs logo | Yellow Scope


mentos and coke reaction | Yellow ScopeYou've probably seen the classic experiment with Mentos candy and soda - drop some Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke and watch it explode!

What if we did the same thing, but this time, instead of having an explosion in regular air, we performed the experiment in oil?
In this month's 20 Minute Lab, we'll use the properties of density and nucleation to put a spin on the classic Mentos and soda mix. You can follow along at home!


  • mentos lava lamp supplies | Yellow Scope
  • 3 12 oz bottles of room temperature Diet Coke (other carbonated sodas work as well).
  • tall jar or vase that will comfortably fit your soda bottle plus with three extra inches at the top
  • 1 gallon vegetable oil
  • 1 roll of Mentos candies
Note: when you're done, don't pour the oil down the sink! That much oil can cause clogging. Instead, follow your local municipality's directions, which is often to throw it away inside a closed container.


Note: Set up all your experiments outside on a tray where it'll be okay to get a little messy. 

Two optional experiments:

EXPERIMENT 1: First, if you've never done the standard Mentos and Coke experiment, let's do that now. Open the first soda bottle and drop about 5 pieces of Mentos candies in at once. (You can use a small piece of rolled up paper to funnel the candies in). Watch the explosion!

EXPERIMENT 2: In our Mentos and oil experiment, we'll be using just one piece of Mentos candy. Let's first see what happens without the oil. Open the second soda bottle, and place just one candy inside. Here's what happened to ours:

Okay, now for the Mentos Lava Lamp experiment!

EXPERIMENT 3: The Lava Lamp!

  1. Peel off the label of the third soda bottle (so you can see the whole reaction!).
  2. Open the bottle and throw away the lid.
  3. Place the bottle inside the empty jar.
  4. pouring in the oil | Yellow Scope
    Slowly pour oil into the jar but not directly into the soda bottle. Eventually, the oil will spill over into the soda bottle. Continue to fill the jar until it reaches about 3 inches over the bottle (more oil at the top makes a better show!)
  5. Next, drop one of your Mentos candies into the soda bottle (you may have to dip your fingers into the oil to make sure the candy goes directly into the bottle)
  6. Watch what happens! Here's what ours did:


So many questions!

1) Why does the soda stay in the bottle and not mix with the oil?

oil and water | Yellow Scope

As you may have heard, "oil and water don't mix"! If you poured water and oil together into a glass, they would separate, with oil on top and water on the bottom. But why is that?

Well, water is more dense than oil. Density is a measure of how many things you can pack into a space. Water has more molecules packed into it than oil does, making oil 'lighter' than water, so it goes to the top. Oil is also made up of hydrophobic molecules ('hydro-' meaning 'water', and '-phobic' meaning 'afraid of'), so oil repels water away from it.

rainbow in a jar | Yellow Scope

Well, the diet soda you used is made up of mostly water, so it just hangs out in the bottle, happy to have the oil rest on top of it.

To learn more about the density of different solutions, try out any of these other 20 Minute Labs:

2) Why does the Mentos candy cause the soda to bubble out like that?

We mentioned that the soda we used is mostly water. Well, it's also got some artificial sweeteners in it (we used diet Coke because it doesn't use real sugar and therefore is less sticky - helpful in the cleanup!), but more importantly it has carbon dioxide gas in it. In a soda-making factory, carbon dioxide is pumped into the coke at high pressure so that the gas will dissolve into the liquid. But that gas wants to escape back out of the liquid back into its gaseous form.

coke bubbles  | Yellow Scope

Have you ever noticed that when you pour a soda into a cup, little bubbles often form on the walls of the glass? That's because there are often tiny pits in the imperfect surface of the glass, which the carbon dioxide takes advantage of to form into gas bubbles that can rise up and out of the liquid.

Any place that creates a little nook or cranny for carbon dioxide gas is called a nucleation site. If you stuck your finger into a soda, the gas would find all the nucleation sites on your skin and form bubbles! This process is called nucleation.

mentos layers | Yellow Scope

Here's where Mentos comes in. Mentos candies are sprayed many many times with a candy layer on the outside. This provides millions of tiny pits (nucleation sites).  A Mentos candy also happens to be heavy (very dense!), so it sinks down to the bottom of the soda bottle.

The carbon dioxide gas soon discovers a whole host of nucleation sites and goes crazy turning into bubbles that then push the liquid up and out of the bottle!

mentos coke lava lamp | Yellow Scope

Because the bottle is immersed in oil, the liquid that rises out turns into globs of soda (remember - the oil's hydrophobic molecules prevent the water from mixing!). These bubble-like globs fall down to the bottom of the jar (just like a lava lamp!) because of their density.

This experiment is an example of a physical reaction, because molecules are just rearranging. For an example of a chemical reaction (where two things mix together to make an entirely new thing), try our 20 Minute Lab: Lava Lamp in a Glass.


Let us know how your experiments turned out! Share your photos and results with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or send us an email to We love getting your messages!

For more exciting experiments, check out our Yellow Scope science kits on the Shop tab of our website!

Chelsea Schuyler
Chelsea Schuyler