Over the past few decades we have become even more and more aware of the damages that we as humans are doing to our planet. One of the most discussed environmental issues of recent times is the pollution that is occurring within our oceans. 

As well as the increase in plastics within our oceans you may have also read or seen in the news about oil spills that have happened within our oceans. Oil spills can be toxic to marine birds and mammals as well as fish and shellfish. Oil spills are often caused by human mistakes and negligence. One of the major causes of oil spills occurs when mistakes happen on oil rigs and a major example of this was the BP Oil Spill in 2010 when an oil rig exploded and 4.2 million tonnes of crude oil was pumped out into the ocean. Another cause is when ships carrying oil tankards sink in the ocean causing oil to leak. It is vital when oil spills occur that we take action to clean things up to lessen the damage caused to marine wildlife and fish. These clean ups are very costly and do take a long time, however they are vital to ensure we minimise the damage to marine lives and the ecosystem caused by oil spills.


This experiment is a great way to encourage discussions about our oceans and the pollution that is happening within them 


  • 2 Foil Cartons
  • Water
  • Oil
  • Washing Up Liquid
  • Medicine syringe
  • Spoon
  • Paper Towels
  • Cotton Balls
  • OPTIONAL: Food Colouring and Cocoa Powder


1:  Fill the foil tray half full with water. OPTIONAL - add some blue food colouring to the water and shake to mix.

2: OPTIONAL - now mix your oil with cocoa powder until you create a smooth brown liquid to make it look like crude oil

3: Pour your oil into the water.

4: Try different ways to clean up the oil. Can you use the cotton pads? The paper towels? How about the spoon? Or medicine dropper to suck up the oil?

5: Now try using your washing up liquid... What happens?



Try changing up the amount of oil you add to your water - what happens when you add more or less oil?

You could also do the same with your washing up liquid and time how long it takes for the oil to clear.

Add some feathers and toy animals to the water so that they need to be cleaned up too. This can create a conversation about how difficult it is for the clean up operation on the wildlife after an oil spill.

Turn it into a sensory experience with your smaller children and get them to use different utensils to move the oil around the water


Soap breaks up the oil into smaller drops that can mix with the water and rinse away.

The chemistry behind soap is the key! Each end of the soap is made of different molecules. One end hates water (hydrophobic) and the other loves water (hydrophilic).