Gooey, stretchy slime is more than just a fad for two Chicago teens
CHICAGO, Ill. — In middle schools, high schools and kitchens across the United States, all the cool kids are doing science experiments.
And it's all because of slime.
The stretchy, gooey substance can easily be made at home with ingredients from the grocery store or craft shop. Making slime has become a fad with teenagers, though it is causing concern for some parents and teachers.
Chicago 13-year-olds Caitlyn Garofoli and Zoe Martin are caught up in the slime craze.
“At school, everybody will talk about it. Some people will have it in their backpack and at recess, they’ll play with it. Other kids talk about it at lunch, or whenever we can during class,” Caitlyn said.
"Full Slime Mode"
So Caitlyn and Zoe decided to cash in on the trend by opening an online business called Chicago-Slime.
In just three months, the girls have sold more than 100 tubs of their product. That’s $500 worth of slime to customers across the United States, without any advertising, Zoe said.
Slime has gotten so popular that stores are running out of Elmer’s Glue, a necessary ingredient for the slime recipe. Slimy messes are showing up in suburban Chicago school bathrooms. It has inspired frustrated Facebook posts from parents, who are tired of cleaning up after the junior chemists. Many parents are wondering if the slime’s ingredients can be harmful to children’s health.
“It creates a lot of dishes — a lot of measuring cups, spoons and bowls,” said Kelly DiFilippo, a mother of four girls. Three of her girls are in “full slime mode," she said.
“My measuring spoons are always gone, up in the bathroom.”
Making Their Slime Stand Out
Slime-making is not a new invention. The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago has had a slime exhibit since at least 2004, said Brett Nicholas, who works for the museum. Nicholas thinks slime has gotten popular again because of social media chatter, and how easy it is to share slime recipes and sell it online.
That's what happened for Zoe and Caitlyn. After months of watching countless slime-making videos on Instagram — there are hundreds of thousands of them — the girls came up with the idea for the business on the way home from gymnastics practice.
Many students at the girls' schools were already making and selling slime to each other. To stand out, the girls decided to create an Instagram account and online Etsy store to sell their product. A couple of weeks later, their business was born. The girls now offer dozens of varieties of colorful blobs, from chocolate mint to bubble gum.
“Regardless of where this goes, they’re learning so much that will carry over to other parts of their lives,” said Erin Garofoli, Caitlyn’s mom.
The Many Mix-In Experiments
Marta Block was puzzled when her daughter, Madeline, started asking for corn starch, glue and other random ingredients. But after seven months of Madeline’s slime experiments, Block has become used to seeing slime around her house.
For Madeline’s 13th birthday last month, Block gave her daughter three types of glue, shiny sequins and other colorful mix-ins. For Valentine’s Day, the gift was contact lens solution. Madeline thought the liquid might create an interesting slime texture.
“She’s always been very science oriented and has always enjoyed crafts,” Block said. “I thought it was great if that’s what she wants to do. This combines the two.”
As With All Science: Be Careful
The science behind slime-making is simple. White glue, like Elmer's, is loaded with long chain molecules called polymers. Borax is a mineral that can link those polymers together into a big network.
The result is even larger polymers that create a thickened slime, according to Nicholas, of the Museum of Science and Industry.
Borax, also known as sodium borate, can be toxic if eaten. It can irritate the respiratory system if inhaled and will sting if it comes in contact with an open sore. But doctors say children using small amounts of the substance for slime should not be harmed as long as they are cautious.
Slime can only be harmful after years of interacting with the human body. The current slime fad probably will not last that long, said Jennifer Lowry. She is a pediatrician and an expert in environmental health.
“This is cool to do every once in a while, but let’s not do it forever,” Lowry said.
A Sticky Situation
Martha Henrickson, the principal of Oak Elementary School in Hinsdale, Illinois, also hopes the trend does not stick around for long.
At a recent science fair, several third- and fourth-grade students brought in homemade slime to show off to their friends. Unfortunately, one of the batches had more water in it than students were anticipating. Pink and blue slime stuck onto peoples' shoes and clothes, sending many running to the bathrooms to clean it off.
Luckily, the slime washed away without much extra work from the janitors.
“There was lots of slime going on, but it turned out to be all right,” Henrickson said. The principal said she will continue to allow slime at school as long as it does not become a huge distraction or a problem for the staff.