wikiHow to Make White Smoke

Three Methods:Using Paper For White SmokeBuilding a Smoke BombMaking a White Signal Fire

Smoke colors change depending upon the substances that are being burned. To make white smoke, burn hydrogen-rich sources. This will produce a smoke full of steam. You can make white smoke at home with a few simple experiments. If you are a child, make sure you do this with adult supervision.

Method 1
Using Paper For White Smoke

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    Gather supplies. For this experiment, you will need a large bucket. You will need water. You will need a lighter, a pack of matches, or a fire igniter. Finally, you will need 5-10 pieces of plain printer paper.
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    Set up a safe fire location. Fill your large bucket with water and place it outside. Make sure it is not located near wood, paper or dry grass. For example, a driveway, parking lot, or gravel alley may be the most fire safe place to complete this experiment.
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    Roll up the paper into a tube. Roll several pieces of white computer paper as tightly as you can into a single tube. If you wish, you may secure them at one end with a rubber band a quarter of the way down the tube.[1]
    • For peak scientific precision, use a pencil to mark the quarter and halfway points along the tube. This will show you how much of the tube to burn.
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    Burn the tube. Hold your paper tube by its rubber-banded end over the bucket of water. Light the end that is furthest from you. You should see flame, but no smoke. Allow it to burn into a quarter or a half of the paper has burned away, then gently blow it out.[2]
    • Watch out for stray bits of paper. If you see any, stamp on them or drip water on them so that no fires start.
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    Watch the smoke rise from the paper. After you have blown out the fire, your tube should give off white smoke for a minute or so. The white smoke is the result of burning cellulose that releases water droplets and unburned fuel from the paper. [3]
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    Repeat the experiment as desired. You may burn it and blow it out until you are satisfied. Do not burn the paper once you can no longer hold it above the rubber band. Drop the paper in the water bucket before it gets too close to your hand.
    • Make sure to soak the paper in water when you're done with it to avoid starting a fire.
    • To produce black smoke, burn the end with the rubber band. It will smell horrible.[4]

Method 2
Building a Smoke Bomb

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    Buy supplies. You will need 40 g of ammonium nitrate. You can buy this online, or you can buy a cold pack and cut it open. Gather newspaper, water, and a metal bucket or pan of any size. You will also need rubber gloves.[5]
    • If using a cold pack, make sure to get one that contains pure ammonium nitrate rather than a substitute material such as urea.
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    Don gloves and put your ammonium nitrate in the pan. If using purchased ammonium nitrate powder, pour it into the pan. If you are getting your ammonium nitrate from a cold pack, cut open carefully at one end. Discard the packet of water, and remove the packet of ammonium nitrate. Pour the granules into your bucket or large pan.[6]
    • If the water pack breaks, you will use up the chemical properties of your ammonium nitrate.
    • Gloves should protect your skin from ammonium nitrate's toxicity. If you do get any on your skin, halt your experiment and wash your skin thoroughly with water.
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    Add water to just cover the granules. Watch them dissolve. Don't add extra water unless they aren't dissolving, as you want the mixture to be as concentrated as possible.[7]
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    Soak single sheets of newspaper. Take a sheet and dip it into the solution for half a minute so it absorbs the liquid. Remove it gently and lay it out to dry.[8]
    • Soak individual sheets until all the solution is absorbed.
    • Drying may take several hours.
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    Roll up the paper. Once your newspaper is dry, twist it and roll it up into a roll. The tighter, the better. Secure it with tape or string. This is your smoke bomb.[9]
    • You can make several small smoke bombs with individual sheets of paper, or one large smoke bomb that will last longer.
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    Take your bomb outside. Pick a parking lot, gravel lot, or large driveway. Bring a bucket of plain water with you to douse any potential fires. Light one edge of your smoke bomb, and step back several feet immediately.[10]
    • The flame should burn slowly and should not be visible through the smoke.
    • Douse in water when you are finished.

Method 3
Making a White Signal Fire

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    Set up a safe fire. Light a fire in a fire pit, barrel or campfire location. If your fire is on or in the ground, clear brush and debris from the site. Choose a spot that is downwind and is at least 15 feet from your belongings.[11] Make sure there is water and a fire extinguisher nearby so that you can douse a runaway fire.
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    Get dry and wet fuel. Gather dried out fallen tree limbs and dry twigs. You will want larger logs and branches for fuel, large twigs for kindling, and small twigs for tinder.[12] Gather dead wood that is thoroughly dry. Tinder can also be made of wadded up paper, bits of wax, strips of cardboard, or wood shavings.[13]
    • For wet foliage, gather leaves, weeds, and grass. If they are not damp, pour a few cups of water along them.
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    Build a file from the dry fuel. Loosely pile the fuel logs at the bottom of your firepit. Stack kindling on top in a tipi, cross, or square "cabin" shape. Don't pack too much in—there should be air between the branches. Add kindling to the top and light with a match or lighter.[14]
    • Add more tinder as the fire goes.
    • Blow gently at the base of the fire to encourage it.
    • When you have strong fire, you can add more kindling or fuel to keep it going.[15]
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    Pile on wet foliage. Once your fire has been going for a while, and shows no sign of stopping, dump the wet foliage on it. Step back several feet and admire the results: a tall plume of billowing white smoke.
    • If you do this in a remote location, you may attract rescuers. Don't build a signal fire unless you are actually in need of help.
    • Alternatively, add a paper bag of wet straw. You'll get a smaller but longer-lasting plume.
    • Douse the fire thoroughly with water when you are done. Check on it after the steam clears to make sure it isn't still burning, sparking, or smoking.

Things You'll Need

For every experiment:

  • Matches/igniter
  • Water
  • Fire extinguisher (optional)
  • Rubber band (optional)

For the paper:

  • Buckets
  • White paper

For the smoke bomb:

  • Ammonium nitrate (cold pack)
  • Rubber gloves

For the signal fire:

  • Straw, leaves, grass
  • Fire pit/campfire
  • Paper bag (optional)

Article Info

Categories: Science