We recommend that you do not do a demo because oil fumes fill up a classroom quickly, and you will end up with messy, toxic garbage afterwards.  Take it from us, we’ve done so many demos and we know what we’re talking about.  Here is a video that you can use which is a lot less smelly .

But, if you really still want to – here are our suggestions:

You can purchase small sample hair mats from our online store to use in your classroom demonstrations or you can make your own hair stocking booms (instructions below).


– Contact your local hair salons and ask them to save hair clippings for your classroom experiment.  Salons are usually very generous with their time and willing to help teachers and students.  Ideally 4 pounds of hair or a whole shopping bag full is a good amount.

– Ask your students to ask their moms to save and send in old, washed, nylons (runs are OK as you can use the other leg or double them if the runs are big). You may need to buy new nylons and we suggest regular, nothing too thick. (ideally 5 pairs)

– Ask your students if any of their parents change their own oil and if so, ask them if you can have the used motor oil. You can also try going to a local oil changing company, they may be willing to help you get 2 quarts. Have plastic bags and wipes ready when you pick it up since it’s messy.  Used motor oil is best for demonstrations since it is black and looks like crude oil.  You can use other oils (like vegetable or new motor oil…) but it is not as visually impactful for students because they are very clear oils.

– Ask your local disposal company where you can dispose of the oily hair stockings and demo water once you are done with the experiment.


– hair
– stockings
– used motor oil
– tupperware clear plastic bin (kitty litter box size) with lid
– water
– baby wipes
– rubber gloves
– plastic garbage bags 3
– scizzors
– tray
– papertowels


These demos are using hair mats – but demos work just as well with hair stocking like you saw in the first video on top.  They leave the hairmat in for 2 minutes, but you can use less oil in a demo and swish the stocking around to reach all the oil within seconds. You’ll see that you can lift it up rather quickly and it will have adsorbed a lot of the oil. It’s better to keep the stocking floating so as not to push the oil down and smudge it on the bottom. Hair floats so this is relatively easy. Hairmats can be wrung out, hair stockings cannot be wrung out as easily – but that’s ok – it is an even messier process and truly better not to do in the classroom.

Demo process:

Cut the stockings at the top so that you have single legs and see how much you need to leave so you can tie a knot at the top. You want each hair stocking tube to be a bit shorter than the length of the tupperware bin.

See if any of the stockings have huge runs and will need to be doubled with another runned leg so there are no holes.

Take handfuls of hair (this is something the kids can do – and they’ll love it – expect much squealing) and stuff into the nylon stockings.

1 nylon stocking leg can be packed very tight. It will look like a very gross, stiff, hairy leg.

The others can be loosely stuffed so that the oil and water can seep in and get to all the hair. They should be floppy, like pillows.

Save one loose filled stocking for final clean up of bin.

Tie knots on the end and have in a ready pile.

open 2 plastic garbage bags- 1 ready to dump the oily hair stockings. Make sure one is so close it is touching the tupperware bin so you don’t have oily drips when you are throwing the oily stockings away.

Pour clear water into the clear tupperware bin.

Put on gloves and bring out the used motor oil on a tray with paper towels

When everyone is ready and watching, pour in about a half cup of the used motor oil into the middle of the bin. This is very visual and interesting looking. It will float and kids can see both from the top and the sides.

Put in a loose hair stocking on top and gently swish it around to see how it slurps up the oil.

Lift up the stocking and show how the oil clings to the hair but clear water sheets off back into the bin.

Dispose of the oily hair stocking into the garbage bag.

Use another loose hair stocking to wipe any oil on the edges so the experiment can be done over till you run out of oil or stockings.

These stockings filled with hair are called “booms” or “oil socks.” Booms are used to contain a spill and protect fragile eco-systems. You can show this by pouring in oil and using the tightly packed leg to push the oil from one side of the bin to another and keep if from flowing back.

When done, use your saved loose stuffed stocking to do one final clean up wipe. And use baby wipes for any corners you can’t quite get to. Please, do not pour out the water. Put rubber gloves and oily plastic motor oil bottles in the other garbage bag. Put lid on tupperware full of water. Be sure to dispose of water, oily hair and other oiled garbage accordingly and not with the regular trash or down the drain. Remember drains always go somewhere and 1 quart of oil can contaminate 1,000,000 gallons of clean water.