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Paper Chromatography Resources

Paper chromatography is an inexpensive method for analyzing some types of chemical mixtures. A Science Buddies Chromatography Kit is available to do several simple and fun paper chromatography experiments. If you would like to explore paper chromatography on your own here are our recommendations for suitable paper and readily available solvents for paper chromatography experiments at home.

Recommended Papers for Paper Chromatography

Paper Suitability Comments
Laboratory filter paper Excellent - Inexpensive, yet gives excellent results.
- Sometimes filter paper is available with porosities ranging from fine to coarse. We achieved good results with medium porosity paper, but others may work just as well.
- Don't worry if all you can find is circular filter paper. Just cut strips from it.
- Available from the Science Buddies Store.
Chromatography paper Excellent More expensive than laboratory filter paper.
- Available from Amazon.com.
Paper towel (white) OK Very porous which makes it difficult to get a nice "pattern."
Coffee maker filters Won't work Absorbs solvent so quickly that the sample "runs."
Printer / copier paper Won't work Does not absorb solvent.

Readily Available Solvents for Paper Chromatography

You can find these solvents at grocery, drug, and /or hardware stores.

Solvent Polarity (arbitrary scale of 1-5) Suitability Comments
Water 1 – Most polar Good  
Rubbing alcohol (ethyl type) or denatured alcohol 2 – High polarity Good POISONOUS!
Primary ingredient is ethyl alcohol (ethanol), but it is mixed with other ingredients to make it poisonous.
Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl type) 3 – Medium polarity Good POISONOUS!
Primary ingredient is isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol).
Vinegar 3 – Medium polarity Good  
Nail polish remover (acetone) 4 – Low polarity Good POISONOUS!
USE OUTSIDE or with good ventilation. You might be able to find pure acetone at a hardware store.
Turpentine 5 – Least polar Good POISONOUS!
USE OUTSIDE or with good ventilation-it really smells bad.
Vegetable oil 5 – Least polar Poor Too thick / viscous
Mineral oil 5 – Least polar Poor Too thick / viscous