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Firebreathing

How Firebreathing Works

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Corn starch is the fuel being used for this firebreathing.

Firebreathing can be accomplished using a non-toxic, less-flammable fuel than the ones used by traditional firebreathers. Corn starch is the fuel being used for this firebreathing.

Anne Helmenstine
Firebreathing involves breathing a fine mist of fuel over an open flame to form a fireball. It's playing with fire in a big way, so there are obvious risks involved. It's adult-supervision-only time here, okay? I strongly advise you never to attempt fire breathing with a flammable fuel because this carries a risk of the fire traveling back to you and setting you on fire. Additionally, most of the traditional flammable fuels are toxic. Here's how to breathe fire with a non-toxic, non-flammable fuel. You probably ought to try this project outdoors, not because of the risk of a fire, but because you're going to make a big mess with the fuel, which is corn starch. A video tutorial of this project is available, if you would like to see what to expect.

Firebreathing Materials

  • big container of corn starch
  • big spoon
  • big glass of water
  • big flame

How to Breathe Fire

  1. Fill your mouth with a big scoop of corn starch. Do not breathe in any of the corn starch! The biggest risk from this project is inhaling corn starch, which could damage your lungs (like any fine powder). Laughing is your biggest threat here. The corn starch doesn't have a bad taste, but the texture is every bit as nasty as whatever you're imagining.

  2. Blow the corn starch out over a large flame. There is some skill to this: try to whistle out the corn starch. It's easy to blow out a candle or lighter, plus it puts your hand in harm's way, so I used a big burning piece of cardboard. You could blow the starch over a campfire or whatever, just be careful not to blow it toward anyone or anything that might catch fire.

  3. Repeat as desired and then swish the water around in your mouth. Spit it out and repeat to clean your mouth. The big advantage of using corn starch over flour (which would also work) is that the corn starch rinses out pretty easily.

How It Works

A mass of corn starch will not easily burn (try it), but when you disperse the starch into a fine powder you can ignite it as a fuel. Starch, like sugar or flour, is a carbohydrate and can be burned. In fact, the dust burns instantly. If you've heard of a grain elevator explosion, this is the most common cause. A much smaller quantity of starch is used for this firebreathing trick.

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