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If you've seen the cute Pinterest projects made from gorgeous, rainbow-colored pasta and wondered where people find this stuff, have no fear! The answer is actually as close as inside of your own pantry. We've researched this simple method to dye pasta using hand sanitizer, safe enough to do as a project with your children.
You can achieve this amazing, colored pasta effect -that looks like something the Care Bears would make for dinner -using two basic ingredients (in addition to the pasta, of course). All you need is food coloring and hand sanitizer. Follow these simple steps:
- Pour hand sanitizer into a Ziploc.
- Add 2 to 3 drops of food coloring.
- Seal the Ziploc and mix until coloring is evenly distributed.
- Add dried pasta to the Ziploc; mix until evenly coated.
If you're interested in this project, keep reading to learn exactly how to do it. We'll provide measurements for this dye recipe, some alternative methods to try, and share craft project ideas that you can make with your newly-dyed pasta.
Can you dye hand sanitizer?
Dying hand sanitizer is actually very simple. Pour some hand sanitizer into a plastic Ziploc baggie, and add two to three drops of food coloring per each cup of sanitizer. Avoid adding too much food coloring as extra dye could accidentally color your hands. If you want to add glam, toss a dash of glitter into the hand sanitizer. Seal the bag well, then mix by squishing the mixture around the bag until the color is evenly distributed.
How to Dye Pasta Using Hand Sanitizer
To die pasta, use about two tablespoons of hand sanitizer (or roughly two squirts from the bottle) and 10 to 15 drops of food coloring. Add as much food coloring as needed until you obtain the desired shade (remembering that the color will fade slightly as the pasta dries). Once it's thoroughly mixed, add two cups of uncooked pasta into the bag. Continue mixing the pasta with the colored hand sanitizer until pasta is evenly coated.
If you want to let your child do the mixing and are afraid of a mess, you have two options:
- Reinforce the seal on the plastic bag with packaging tape
- Place the mixture in a smaller sealed bag, then place the whole thing in a larger sealed bag. Even if the seal gives way, the mess is contained.
Is Hand Sanitizer Safe to Use to Dye Pasta?
This pasta should never be ingested, only used for craft purposes. As long as this project is done as recommended and the pasta is not considered edible, the hand sanitizer is safe. According to Poison Control, even a toddler who may lick a little sanitizer off their hands would not ingest enough to be dangerous. While reports do exist of severe illness occurring due to hand sanitizer, these cases refer to large amounts of sanitizer being ingested, not incidental exposure.
As recently as June 2020, some concerns were raised by the FDA regarding hand sanitizer containing methanol or methyl alcohol. Methanol has a much lower range for safe intake before side effects (or even death) occur. However, incidental exposure is still not considered toxic. Methanol may not be listed as an ingredient, even if it is present in your hand sanitizer. You can check this list to find what products contain methanol.
Alternative Pasta Dyeing Methods
If you aren't comfortable using hand sanitizer, there are two other ways to dye pasta:
- Put pasta, a powdered kool-aid packet, and a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol into a Ziploc bag. Shake it all up until the pasta is evenly coated.
- You can also follow the original recipe, but replace the hand sanitizer with 1/4-cup of vinegar or rubbing alcohol. Just be aware that using vinegar does leave an odor on the pasta.
Dye Dried Rice Using Hand Sanitizer or Alternatives
You can also dye rice by using any of the three methods listed above. Remember, this is not edible, and the rice should only be used for crafting.
How To Dye Edible Rainbow Pasta?
If the idea of multi-colored pasta appeals to you more as a fun meal than a craft, there is an edible version of this project.
Just follow these simple steps:
- Cook a pound of pasta.
- While the pasta cooks, place two tablespoons of water and 20 drops of food coloring into a sealable plastic bag. Make as many bags as you need, one for each color you want to use.
- Rinse cooked pasta in cold water.
- Divide pasta into each bag. Seal, and mix it up in the bag. Let dyed pasta sit bagged for a couple of minutes while the color sets.
- Rinse dyed pasta in cold water in a colander to remove any excess dye (one color at a time) and return it to the pot.
You can now either reheat the pasta for a colorful meal or enjoy it cold for a festive pasta salad.
What crafts can you make with dyed pasta?
The list of potential crafts using dyed pasta is virtually endless! We've got some great suggestions to spark your imagination; take a look and start creating from supplies you likely have at home.
Make a rainbow by gluing appropriately colored pasta in place. Use wax paper as your gluing surface, and hang this piece on the window to let the natural light shine through your rainbow.
Make a snowflake by gluing larger pasta noodles together, such as rotelle, ziti, and rotini. These make lovely ornaments to dress your home during the winter season.
Arrange flat lasagna noodles on wax paper to mimic the look of a stained glass window or mosaic.
Use clay or pipe cleaners with bow tie noodles to make a butterfly. You can paste all materials to paper or cardboard for a delightful scene, or glue the antennas to the noodles and tie a thread 'round the center of the bow for hanging fluttery butterflies.
Tree In Spring, Summer, Or Autumn
Use small shell pasta or bowties as leaves to fill in a tree. This would work really well with red, orange, and yellow pasta to make an autumn-inspired artwork. Consider writing in names among the branches to create a family tree with your children.
Make a turkey with fusilli or rotini noodles. These festive tail feathers will put you in the mood to start the holiday season.
Geometric Shapes, Letters, Or Numbers
For young children, make basic shapes like this heart for Valentine's Day - but you don't have to stop there; you could practice any shape or letter with dyed pasta.
Decorate a photo frame. Using craft tongue depressors is a great backdrop for a sturdy frame, and you can glue a photo or original piece of art to the back to display through the frame.
Necklace Or Bracelet
Make noodle jewelry. This is a great activity for young children working on hand-eye coordination and pre-writing skills. All you'll need is the pasta shape of your choice and thread, twine, or yarn.
Learn basic engineering using dyed pasta and playdough to build houses, animals, and vehicles. Let the imagination run wild and even create monsters.
Dyed Pasta Stimulates Sensory Play
Not only are these crafts fun, but they also make excellent sensory play ideas to do with young children (supervised, of course!). Uncooked pasta stimulates both touch and sound, and the colors will stimulate the visual sense. As a sensory play activity, crafting can promote cognitive growth, brain development, language development, fine motor skills, and, potentially, problem-solving (depending on what activity you choose to do with the pasta). While all of the previously listed projects are great ways to play, the following ideas provide a colorful learning experience.
Drop spaghetti noodles through the holes of a colander.
Fill & Pour
Use measuring cups, bottles with lids, etc. in a bin full of pasta to allow children to fill, dump, and shake to explore.
Use a muffin tin to promote sorting the pasta by color.
Use a muffin tin, small paper plates, or plastic cups. Label each unit with a small piece of paper and a number. Help children count out the correct number of noodles to make the right number for each unit.
Place uncooked spaghetti or straws in a wad of playdough so that spaghetti sticks up. Help children thread pasta over the spaghetti to build a "tower."
Hand sanitizer and food coloring can be used to dye pasta for a fun and eye-catching craft project. You can also dye rice instead if preferred. Other dyeing options include using kool-aid to replace food coloring and rubbing alcohol or vinegar in place of hand sanitizer. While the finished product should never be eaten, it's a safe and fun way to make a colorful piece of artwork. Happy crafting!