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Glowing Ice Cubes (Anne Helmenstine)Glow in the dark ice is really easy to make. How did I do it? I opened up a bottle of tonic water, poured it into an ice cube tray, and stuck it in the freezer. Tonic water glows vivid bright blue under a black light. The glow is activated by other sources of ultraviolet light, such as fluorescent lights or sunlight, though the glow won't appear as bright in part because the room won't be as dark. If you want to duplicate the effect in the photo, you just need a black light somewhere in the room with the ice.

Glowing Ice Flavor Tips
Personally, I think tonic water tastes vile, so I have a couple of tips for improving the flavor of the ice cubes. The first tip is to dilute the tonic water. If you mix the tonic water with normal water your ice cubes will last longer (pure tonic water cubes melt fairly quickly) and won't taste as much like quinine (the ingredient responsible for the glow). Otherwise, you can cut it with lemonade or another sweet-sour drink that won't suffer from the bitter tang of the quinine. The second option is to put the ice into a drink where the flavor is desirable. The obvious choice would be to use the ice cubes in gin to make a gin and tonic. Non-alcoholic choices include fruit juice, Mountain Dew™, or Kool-Aid™. Don't worry about diminishing the glow from the ice. This photo is of tonic water ice and water.

Types of Tonic Water
The tonic water has to contain quinine. It doesn't make a difference whether you use diet or regular tonic water, just be sure the label lists quinine. Some brands contain more flavoring than others, but I have had equally good luck with inexpensive store brands and premium brands. Another tip is to use clear plastic cups instead of glasses. Most plastic cups are brightly fluorescent under black light, so you get an added glow if you use them. You might want to take a mini-black light with you when you go shopping, to see what else will glow for you.

You can make the ice into a glowing crystal ball to decorate punch bowls or just look cool. Here's a YouTube video showing you how to do it and what to expect.

How to Make Flaming Ice | Glow in the Dark Slime


June 3, 2008 at 10:30 am
(1) Randall J. Schroeder says:

I’m tired of people calling things “Glow-in-the Dark” when it’s with a black light! That IS NOT GLOW IN THE DARK! It’s glow in the UV Light!!!!!!!!!!!

June 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm
(2) Molly says:

technically you are right but some grow in the dark items do glow in black light.

August 19, 2011 at 2:40 pm
(3) gage says:

this makes a great party anhancer plus anything like kool aid,jello will glow but i wonder if u can make ur fish tank water glow

August 17, 2011 at 6:50 pm
(4) gage says:

i think people should get that thats not glow in the dark but under a black light it glows.

October 16, 2011 at 3:22 pm
(5) ashley says:

So true!!!

June 3, 2008 at 11:03 am
(6) chemistry says:

My opinion is: you can’t see ultraviolet light, therefore it’s dark. If you turn out all the lights, there is always “light” that you cannot see, such as infrared, radio, gamma rays, etc. Anything that absorbs invisible energies and emits light is glowing in the dark. In any case, phosphorescent materials do glow even after you turn off the black light, just not necessarily for very long.

January 9, 2009 at 5:24 pm
(7) yasmin says:

u should list the materials, but i going to do this project can u email me the list of materials.

February 22, 2009 at 2:16 pm
(8) suckish proj! says:

thiis iis such a suckish proj really!

March 10, 2009 at 2:35 pm
(9) bethanie says:

goood job

April 22, 2010 at 12:17 pm
(10) wut says:

I make thing go do things!

May 13, 2010 at 3:03 pm
(11) nivvy says:

well, I’m not a chemist by any stretch of the imagination. But, you sure got me interested in why this works, not to mention the gears are turning for how I can use glowing ice at a party. Thanks for thinking of the taste as well… can’t wait to try it out :)

June 17, 2010 at 7:35 am
(12) dawn says:

can tonic water give any glowing effect on food?

for example: if you put tonic water with any mixture or food, is it still okay to eat it and will it glow?

how about a glowing cake,cookie,bread/bun ??

please reply to my email address :)

May 9, 2011 at 10:37 pm
(13) Exhilatara says:

I am not sure if it could still glow, but I know you could still eat it, the tonic water has a little bitter taste.

November 10, 2010 at 1:41 pm
(14) Elizabeth says:

That sounded so retarded Randall…haha who wants to say “Look at my ‘glow in the UV light ice?’ ” I mean for real…

December 7, 2010 at 11:43 am
(15) Heskins says:

Haha, UV light enhances glow in the dark properties of items, it doesn’t mean they don’t glow in the dark without it!

May 9, 2011 at 10:04 pm
(16) Exhilarata says:

Where can I get the tonic water? Walmart?

August 13, 2011 at 11:16 am
(17) Phillip says:

Do you pronounce it queye-9 or quinn-ene?

August 19, 2011 at 2:47 pm
(18) gage says:

if u soak spinach in rubbing alcahol it will glow red under a black light

August 19, 2011 at 3:04 pm
(19) gage says:

randalls a doush

November 6, 2011 at 9:16 pm
(20) Ellen says:

We just tried this with red jello and it doesn’t glow at all. Does anybody have any suggestions?

November 6, 2011 at 9:20 pm
(21) Mrs. AZ says:

We made our jello in the color red and it doesn’t glow. Does anybody have any suggestions?

December 17, 2011 at 7:56 pm
(22) jasmine velasquez says:

that’s cool, but what i would like to know is how do you make water glow in the dark without using UV light.???…

January 27, 2012 at 12:11 pm
(23) Beccie Livermore says:

I hope someone can help me. I am trying to light up handpainted stars on a curtain without the use of black lights but just 2 nightlights. I am doing a themed room of A cold winter’s night, and I painted to dark blue curtains with different colors of stars. Only problem is my black light does not show the colors like I planned. Can anyone tell me what I can use to go over the stars to make them shine in the dark without using a black light. Besides that the room is really dark and I would not have any light on the curtains unless I leave lights on during the day which would be ok. Please help me. I have hours in painting these dern curtains and am so disappointed that I didn’t think about them glowing or how that was going to work. Thank you Beccie

January 27, 2012 at 3:06 pm
(24) Anne says:

If you use phosphorescent (glow in the dark) paint, then the stars will glow for an hour or two *if* the curtains are exposed to bright light for a couple of hours first. This ‘charges’ the paint. How well the color shows up really depends on the specific product.

If you don’t want any light at all, you’ll need to use self-luminous paint. This paint typically contains tritium, a hydrogen isotope, so that it glows without additional energy from light. Most self-luminous paint is green, but other colors may be available.

A pair of night lights won’t be sufficient to energize the paint. However, a black light in the main light fixture could illuminate the stars while keeping the room dark.

April 26, 2012 at 7:56 pm
(25) Justin says:

This is technically not glow in the dark unless its dark and it acctually glows without a light source, but using a black light is no longer making it glow in the dark.

August 6, 2012 at 1:24 am
(26) Ian says:

Can someone please explain what the experiment proves? Does it just show the chemical reaction between UV light and Quinine?

August 22, 2012 at 7:09 pm
(27) LOL says:

Experiment…Its for parties duh

August 24, 2012 at 7:34 pm
(28) yareli says:

wooow glow in the dark

August 27, 2012 at 11:36 pm
(29) Rose says:

All items that glow in the dark flores under black light. Not all items that flores in black light glow in the dark. There is a major difference.

October 26, 2012 at 7:20 am
(30) jimsdee says:

how i make a glowing ice cream?:-]

October 26, 2012 at 7:33 am
(31) jimsdee says:

if all of you are genuis can you make a glowing cream hahahaha!

October 29, 2012 at 6:16 am
(32) wdbengal says:

The luminus compound in spinich (yes it’s true) is Chlorophyll and it indeed glows a deep red. If you were to make jello with tonic water Check the label to make sure it contains queye 9 is how you say it, quinine is how you spell it as this is the compound that will make your jello glow under UV radiation (none of this works without Ultraviolet light) a pretty blue-white + the color of the Jello. Great as a mixer with gin or tequila or lemonade. Mix tonic water with regular water and make glowing ice cubes to use in any drink you choose and they’ll last longer than ice made with tonic water alone and the drink itself will begin glowing as the quinine is freed from its frozen prison and escapes into the liquid. About the only side effect will be a lessening of Malaria symptoms. I’m sure I could make a glowing cream but why when Vasoline glows brightly when exposed to UV light all by itself. Arrgh!! They’ve made whole pigs glow from the inside under UV light.

February 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm
(33) jeff says:

Scorpions (the animal not the drink) will glow under black lights as well. My friend bought one just for this purpose, and it is actually pretty cool to see.

February 28, 2013 at 9:56 am
(34) espi lopez says:

awsome project

April 15, 2013 at 8:34 am
(35) Alaniz says:

your the bes

July 31, 2013 at 1:06 am
(36) wolfsingleton says:

I’m just wondering why I’ve never seen ice sculptors using this, it would be amazing. I think I’ll try this during Halloween when I sit on the porch waiting for kids – drink a test tube full and then ‘mutate’ into a creature of some sort. Maybe stick some in a water gun and attempt to mutate some of my friends when they go by!

December 3, 2013 at 1:10 pm
(37) John says:

You are too anal!! Glow in the dark ice /funny!! Hate to be your waiter oh I mean food server!!

December 11, 2013 at 11:37 am
(38) baz says:

I too get bugged by the words ‘glow in the dark’ being used instead of ‘UV-reactive’. It’s because it causes a false expectation of how the thing acts! Not everybody has a black light at home but everyone can get a dark room, so which one do you think is the more exciting phrase?

And if you don’t want to say ‘glow-in-the-UV-light’ you can always just say what chemists and professional painters/ special effects people say: ‘Fluorescent’.

December 16, 2013 at 2:26 pm
(39) ranea says:

really shut up they being creative

March 16, 2014 at 3:56 am
(40) Nuka-Cola says:

Not a problem, we use the strontium-90 isotope in our beaverages to make them glow with flavor. Never a dull moment, always a fresh taste!

March 31, 2014 at 2:19 pm
(41) precious says:

I completely agree with Randall. Expectations are definitely different when you label something as “glow in the dark” vs “UV reactive”. This is not being snobby, anal, or a douche- like others have commented. Simply, a product should do what it is advertised to do. Everyone who reacted negatively I’m sure would be singing a different tune if they purchased a product and it did not do what it stated it would!

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