How to Light Money or Your Hand on Fire Without It Burning

Updated on June 13, 2016

Hands on Fire Trick

There is fire on the hands, but it doesn't burn!
There is fire on the hands, but it doesn't burn!

Playing With Fire

Have you ever wanted to play with fire without those pesky burn marks? With this experiment you can light money or your hand on fire without it burning.

This is a neat and relatively safe trick for all the pyromaniacs out there. It is fairly easy to do and is interesting for kids or adults.

Gather your materials, practice your best evil scientist laugh, and put on a show with fire.

MAJOR WARNING!

This experiment can be very dangerous. Be very careful not to burn yourself or anything else. Kids should not try this trick without adult supervision. Follow all safety precautions when doing this. Have a fire extinguisher handy. Remember - Stop, Drop, and Roll if you do catch fire.

Burning Money Experiment

Burning Money

Materials:

  • Alcohol
  • Candle
  • Lighter or matches
  • Water
  • 2 Containers
  • Tongs (preferably metal)
  • Paper
  • Money
  • Salt (optional)

First you will need a solution of water and alcohol. The preferred kind is ethyl alcohol. Many drugstores carry it. It is usually in a container similar to rubbing alcohol and is in the same section of the store. Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol will also work for the experiment.

Mix the alcohol and the water together into a mixture that 50% is alcohol and 50% water. Caution – the bottle of alcohol may already contain water. Most bottles of alcohol contain 70% alcohol and 30% water. The best way to get the correct mixture is to use a measuring cup. If the bottle is 70/30, pour 10 ounces straight from the bottle into the measuring cup. Then add 4 ounces of plain water. The mixture will then be 7 parts alcohol, 7 parts water, or 50/50. If the alcohol you have is not a 70/30 mixture, just keep in mind how much water is already added to the bottle (90/10 - Use 10 ounces from the bottle and then add 8 ounces of regular water).

Salt can be added to the mixture to make the flame more visible. A few shakes of salt in the solution is plenty.

Now pour normal water into the other container. Keep it close to the experiment in case something begins to burn.

Light the candle but make sure it is away from the solution. The solution could catch fire as well, so keep it away from the fire. Before using real money, test a piece of scrap paper to make sure the mixture is right. Dip the paper in the alcohol/water solution making sure it is thoroughly soaked. Holding the paper with the tongs, hold the paper over the candle until it lights on fire.

Be careful for drips, especially while the paper is over the candle. Hold the paper still. Waving it around can put the fire out or it could cause the fire to spread if it splashes or brushes against something. If the mixture is correct, the water will insulate the paper and prevent it from burning along with the alcohol. The flame will likely be a bluish color. If the paper begins to actually burn, quickly drop it into the container of normal water. If that’s the case, recheck the mixture.

If the paper lit on fire without burning, try the experiment with real money. The process is the same as with the paper. Soak it in the solution. Using the tongs hold the money over the candle until the alcohol catches fire. If it begins to actually burn, quickly place it in the water container. If your mixture is right, though, the alcohol should burn on the surface while the water keeps the actual money from burning.

The alcohol will eventually burn off on its own or you can dip it into the normal water to put the fire out.

Magic Trick Using Simple Science

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Gloves for Safety

A-blazing Hands

Now comes the awesome part. The same process can be used to light your hand on fire. It works best if you use rubber gloves, but you can use your bare hand as well.

This part is also more dangerous, so make sure you don’t have on baggy clothes or long sleeves that could potentially catch fire. Test paper before using your hand to ensure the alcohol and water are at the correct percentage.

Follow the same procedure as with the paper and the money. Put on the rubber gloves and dip your hands in the solution getting them as wet as possible. Then hold your hands over the flame until your hands catch fire.

The fire will begin to get hot on your hands. Make sure there is a container of normal water nearby so that you can put the fire out if it gets too hot. You can also wave your hands up and down quickly to put out the flames.

Now you can hold fire in your hands and amaze your friends. 

Ever Wanted to Hold Fire in Your Hands?

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The fire burns a blue color normally. It will look more yellow with salt added.The fire burns a blue color.
The fire burns a blue color normally. It will look more yellow with salt added.
The fire burns a blue color normally. It will look more yellow with salt added.
The fire burns a blue color.
The fire burns a blue color.

Why It Works

The trick with this experiment is all about science, not magic. Alcohol has a high vapor pressure, so the vapor is concentrated above the liquid on the surface of the object. The alcohol burns, not the water or the object that has been soaked.

Alcohol also burns at a low relative temperature which is not high enough to evaporate the water. Thus, the water acts as insulation on the object preventing it from catching on fire.

You may have noticed that the paper has a tendency to burn faster than the money when all of the alcohol has burnt away. This is because money is made of cottony material and does not burn as easily as paper does.

Adding salt in the experiment serves two functions. First, it alters the color of the flame making it more visible. Alcohol by itself burns a faint, light blue color. The salt also causes the alcohol and the water to separate in the mixture adding more protection for the object.

If you want to take pictures of the experiment, they will show up best at night or in a darkened room.  Keep the flash off.  The color of the flame won't show up with flash.

Using basic science principles you can appear to be a magician who can control fire.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • profile image

        dannelwilson431@gmail.com 

        7 weeks ago

        Very Nice

      • profile image

        Leonardo selast 

        10 months ago

        It's nice but please can you

        Bring a way to do it with just only your hands nothing else

      • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

        Candace Bacon 

        16 months ago from Far, far away

        It can if the fire burns on it too long. You may need more water in your mixture to help insulate better.

      • profile image

        Jeremiah 

        16 months ago

        Is the rubber supposed to burn on the gloves???

      • profile image

        Deutschland Uber Alles 

        21 months ago

        add 1 teaspoon of borax and it makes the flame green.

      • profile image

        michael 

        22 months ago

        This is a nice experiment ever,can i use black label or castle lager?

      • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

        Candace Bacon 

        4 years ago from Far, far away

        K - 06/01/10 Good luck on your paper!

      • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

        Candace Bacon 

        4 years ago from Far, far away

        Heyhey - It would be very dangerous to do that. You wouldn't be able to control the fire and it could burn through your clothes and severely burn your skin. Watch videos of stuntmen who are on fire. There is always a team of people ready to spray them with extinguishers as quickly as possible.

      • profile image

        4 years ago

        Can you tell me when this was written? I am writing a bibliography for my school.

      • profile image

        Heyhey 

        4 years ago

        Can i use this experiment on my clothes?

      • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

        Candace Bacon 

        5 years ago from Far, far away

        Angel - Good luck! It is a fun experiment.

      • profile image

        angel 

        5 years ago

        I am doing this with money for my AP chemistry class, and it looks awesome... can't wait to try it.

      • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

        Candace Bacon 

        5 years ago from Far, far away

        kkiara - Thanks! Glad it worked for your experiment! It is an awesome trick.

        jannex - There isn't really a way that will still allow for good flames. You could try spraying the rope with flame retardant, but it may make it so the rope won't burn at all. Other than that, just let the flame burn just until the point when the rope itself starts to catch fire.

        Jason - No, as long as you put out the fire when your hands start to get too warm. That's the point when the water has burned off.

        Sharkye11 - My husband does this trick for Halloween every year. The kids love it. Thanks!

        Dustin - Yes, you can use any grade of alcohol as long as you end up with a mixture that is 50% water and 50% alcohol. You can even use the alcohol without adding water, but it will burn and start to get hot much quicker.

      • profile image

        Dustin 

        5 years ago

        Cocopreme-

        I am definitely gonna try this but will 92% alchohol work?

      • Sharkye11 profile image

        Jayme Kinsey 

        5 years ago from Oklahoma

        Wow! Now that is a cool trick! This would be so awesome to use on Halloween or at one of our fundraising events for a little extra show! Thanks for the idea and the formula!

      • profile image

        Jason 

        5 years ago

        Will this burn the hair off my hands???

      • profile image

        jannex 

        5 years ago

        i want to do it with rope , may i know how to make the burning last longer?

      • profile image

        kkiara 

        5 years ago

        i tired this for a science experiment and it was great give me your other science for fire i love it i give u a #100

      • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

        Candace Bacon 

        5 years ago from Far, far away

        Tristin - There was a typo in the mixture. It was supposed to be a 10 instead of a 7. It's fixed now.

      • profile image

        Tristin 

        6 years ago

        You should definitely edit your math on the mixture. If its 70/30 and you pour 7 ounces then only 4.9 ounces is alcohol. If you add 4 ounces of water you have a 61/49 mixture not a 50/50

      • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

        Candace Bacon 

        6 years ago from Far, far away

        ciaralw - Thanks! Playing with fire can be scary, but if you use safety precautions it can be relatively safe.

      • ciaralw profile image

        ciaralw 

        6 years ago from San Diego, California

        Very cool and thorough. You gave readers confidence in a normally scary thing. Great hub.

      • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

        Candace Bacon 

        6 years ago from Far, far away

        sanju - Alcohol is not the only chemical that would work. It is just a common household ingredient that is relatively safe to use. Chemicals that burn with low relative temperatures are likely to work as well. They might be dangerous to experiment with, though.

      • profile image

        sanju 

        6 years ago

        why only alcohol make it burn?

      • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

        Candace Bacon 

        6 years ago from Far, far away

        ConorJ - You can use your bare hands and light them on fire. The gloves just make it a bit easier and allow you to keep the fire going longer before it gets too hot.

        Just follow the directions for the mixture above and use your hands. When the water starts burning off and it gets too hot, just stick your hands in the bowl of water.

      • profile image

        ConorJ 

        6 years ago

        is there any way to appear to be holding it with bare hands?

      • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

        Candace Bacon 

        6 years ago from Far, far away

        jaquille pritchard - It's a neat trick and pretty easy.

      • profile image

        jaquille pritchard 

        6 years ago

        i tried this before

      • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

        Candace Bacon 

        6 years ago from Far, far away

        noahmiller - Glad it was fun. It doesn't hurt as long as you are doing it correctly.

      • profile image

        noahmiller 

        6 years ago

        well it is alsome it didn't hurt i ran with my hands on firer but it was fun lol

      • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

        Candace Bacon 

        6 years ago from Far, far away

        No, it doesn't hurt. Your hands will start to get hot as the water burns off usually after 30 seconds or a minute. Then you just dip your hands in the water. If you are wearing gloves it takes longer for your hands to start feeling warm.

      • profile image

        Alex 

        6 years ago

        Does it hurt to put fire on your hands like that?

      • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

        Candace Bacon 

        6 years ago from Far, far away

        Thank you for the comments everyone. Hope this info will "light" up your day.

      • RussellLHuey profile image

        RussellLHuey 

        6 years ago

        Fun hub! It is so cool.

      • profile image

        auburnisawesome 

        7 years ago

        this is amazing i will try this

      • coolbreeze profile image

        Rik Rodriguez 

        7 years ago from Hawaii

        Ouch Huh ;-) Nice Hub Very well done!

      • profile image

        kims3003 

        8 years ago

        Very well done hub! One of the best ones I have seen in a while. You can tell you really put a lot of thought and time into this. 2 thumbs up!

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