Candy Cane Chemistry

If you suck on a candy cane long enough, it will dissolve in your mouth. In this experiment you can observe the process up close, and also find out which liquid will dissolve a candy cane the fastest. It is easy to set up with household materials and substances (and a packet of candy canes), and a great opportunity for developing the science skills of hypothesising, observation, measurement, fair testing, comparison and analysis. It also a great way to use up your left over candy canes at Christmas!

You Need

  • 6 candy canes, any plastic wrapping removed
  • 6 clear glasses or jars
  • A stopwatch
  • bar magnet
  • 6 different liquids such as cold water, hot water, salty water, water with food colouring, vinegar, oil, juice, milk etc.

What To Do

  • Pour different liquids into each glass or jar, then label each glass to identify the liquid.  Make sure you have the same volume of liquid in each jar. Talk about why this is important – it makes the experiment a ‘fair test’.
  • Place one candy cane near each jar. When ready to begin, quickly drop them into the jars and start the stopwatch.
  • Settle in to watch what happens. You should find that the red stripes come off first, and that the candy cane in hot water dissolves the fastest.
  • The photos below show the experiment set up, the 10-minute mark, and the end (after about 15 minutes, when one candy cane had completely dissolved).

Before During After

Why Is It So?

Substances dissolve faster in hot water than in cold water because hot water particles have more energy. They are able to ‘break off’ particles of candy cane and carry them away (exposing new candy cane particles) faster than the particles in cold water. Oil is a very different liquid to water and cannot dissolve the candy cane at all.