Making slime is a fun activity that demonstrates the scientific principles of creating a polymer.
The most common method for producing slime in school laboratories is by combining polyvinyl alcohol with sodium tetraborate, which is commonly known as borax.
QLD DET Advice
Science ASSIST has been in contact with the Queensland Department of Education and Training (DET) regarding the issue of students being allowed to take home any slime made at school. They have advised that they have no current state-wide publication about taking borax slime home from school, and it is likely that any advice issued previously would have originated at a local level or have been distributed as local advice following a health and safety incident. QLD DET schools are required to take a risk management approach for granting permission to take material home that is generated as part of the science curriculum.
From both a curriculum-learning and safety perspective, there is no particular benefit in allowing students to take borax slime home. However, if a school determines that it is suitable to allow students to take the slime home, then it is advised to ensure the product is non-toxic.
QLD DET has an established health and safety advisory system that state schools are aware of and are expected to follow when seeking advice with regard to matters like this one. A staff member should contact their school-based health and safety advisor (HSA) for clarification. If the HSA cannot provide information, they should seek advice from the Regional Health and Safety Consultant, see http://education.qld.gov.au/health/contacts/hscontacts.html.
Concerns about taking material home from science activities
- There is a possibility that material produced in science experiments may be contaminated with a toxic chemical or biological hazard. Laboratory surfaces and equipment can be a source of contamination from chemical and biological material from previous experiments.
- There is a possibility that material taken home from science experiments may be accidently ingested by a young child or pet.
- There are also concerns that students may take home material that may cause an allergic reaction, either to themselves, someone else in the family, or their friends.
Science ASSIST recommendations
- School and jurisdictional policies should be followed at all times. Some school jurisdictions do not allow any chemicals to be taken home.
- A site-specific risk assessment should be conducted prior to any experiment.
- Safety data sheets should always be consulted for specific precautions and any handling and disposal information for all chemicals being used.
- Cornflour slime should be considered as an alternative method, if it is deemed appropriate for students to take the slime produced home. With careful planning, the activity should be conducted in a location away from the science laboratories using ingredients and equipment that have been purchased specifically for the activity and have not been in general use in the science area, and hence have had no opportunity to be contaminated by other chemicals or biological substances.
- Another option is to provide the students with a cornflour slime recipe to take home, where they can make their own slime safely with their parent’s permission.
Borax is a poisonous chemical, which is available from supermarkets. Polyvinyl alcohol is a hazardous, flammable chemical generally not available for household use and needs to be purchased from scientific suppliers. Eye protection and gloves need to be worn at all times when handling both these chemicals.
Once these chemicals are reacted, the slime produced is washed with water and is then considered non-hazardous. The slime produced should not be ingested. Food colour is usually added, and this may stain skin, clothing and upholstery. The slime can only be stored for a short period of time, usually in a ziplock bag in the fridge, as it has the potential to become mouldy after handling. Slime bought commercially generally contains preservatives.
There are several different ways of making slime. See the following links for various methods.
‘Borax slime’, Questacon website, http://www.questacon.edu.au/outreach/programs/science-circus/activities/borax-slime (Accessed February 2016)
‘Cornflour slime’, Questacon website, http://www.questacon.edu.au/discover/cornflour-slime (Accessed February 2016)
‘Cornflour slime’, Questacon website, http://www.questacon.edu.au/outreach/programs/science-circus/videos/cornflour-slime (Accessed February 2016)
‘Make slime without borax: 5 easy recipes for gooey homemade ooze’, WonderHowTo website, https://science.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-slime-without-borax-5-easy-recipes-for-gooey-homemade-ooze-0147194/ (Accessed February 2016)
Flinn Scientific Inc. 2010. The Preparation of Guar Gum Slime, Flinn Scientific website, http://www.flinnsci.com/Documents/demoPDFs/Chemistry/CF0377.10.pdf
Harper, A., and Nickels, K. 2008. Slime investigation, Teacher worksheet, QUT website, https://cms.qut.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/23983/Slime_investigation_teacher_worksheet.pdf
‘How to make cornflour slime’ CSIRO Education, CSIRO website, http://web.archive.org/web/20160824143858/http://www.csiro.au/en/Educati... (As of 1 March 2017 the original resource was no longer available, this copy provided by the Internet Archive's Wayback machine)
‘Polyvinyl Alcohol Diluted solution’, Safety Data Sheet, Chem-Supply website https://www.chemsupply.com.au/documents/PT0761CHF7.pdf (July 2014)
‘Sodium Tetraborate’, Safety Data Sheet, Chem-Supply website https://www.chemsupply.com.au/documents/SL0371CH6U.pdf (February 2013)