Melting Styrofoam with Nail Polish Remover: the Separation of Polymers

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Updated on May 06, 2013

Grade Level: 3rd to 8th; Type: Chemistry


This experiment demonstrates the separation of polymers by melting Styrofoam cups with nail polish remover.

Research Questions:

  • Why does acetone melt the cup, but water or soda does not?
  • What is this reaction called?


  • Acetone (nail polish remover)
  • Styrofoam cups
  • Metal bowl or pot

Experimental Procedure

  1. WARNING: Please follow the manufacturer's warnings on the container of acetone. Only adults should use acetone. The solvent is very flammable and harmful if inhaled, so conduct this experiment outside!
  2. Pour ½ cup of acetone into the bowl.
  3. Slowly lower a Styrofoam cup into the acetone. Observe the reaction between the acetone and the Styrofoam.
  4. See what happens when you put more than one cup into the acetone at the same time.

Terms/Concepts: polymers, monomers, chemical reactions

References: Polymers and Monomers:

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