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How to Dye Eggs with Red Cabbage

Embrace natural dyes this Easter by using red cabbage to dye eggs! (Red cabbage is the same thing as purple cabbage)

Click to read also: How to Make Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs that Peel Easily

How to Dye Eggs with Red Cabbage

Red (sometimes called purple) cabbage is fun to work with for kid-friendly kitchen chemistry experiments.

Click here to find more chemistry experiments to try at home

How Does Red (Purple) Cabbage Dye Work?

Boiling the cabbage in water yields a bluish-purple liquid called purple cabbage indicator that changes color depending on pH. Raise the pH, and the cabbage water turns from purple, to blue, to green, to yellow. Lower the pH and it turns more of a magenta color.

This cup has citric acid before adding the cabbage liquid. We buy food grade citric acid from Amazon. The cabbage indicator was a bluish purple before being added to the citric acid; it turned magenta in the cup.

borax in a cup

What is pH?

pH is a number that tells us how acidic or basic a liquid. A liquid with a pH of 7 is neutral. Anything higher than 7 is basic. Anything lower than 7 is acidic.

Learn How to Dye Eggs with Red (Purple) Cabbage

My kids and I boiled some cabbage and then experimented with raising and lowering the pH, adding household ingredients like vinegar and citric acid to lower the pH, and baking soda, soap, and borax to raise the pH. Note: borax is not safe to eat in any quantity, and it should not be used to dye eggs that will be eaten.

This cup has citric acid before adding the cabbage liquid. We buy food grade citric acid from Amazon. The cabbage indicator was a bluish purple before being added to the citric acid; it turned magenta in the cup.

We ended up with several jars with different colors of liquid, with most acidic on the left and most alkaline on the right:

Cabbage juice pH indicator experiment

Since it was Easter time, we decided to see if our cabbage liquid would work to dye eggs.

Click here to learn how to make crayon shaving eggs

We carefully placed white hard boiled eggs into each of our purple cabbage indicator jars and left them there for a few minutes.

Here are our results:

red cabbage naturally dyed Easter eggs

We ended up with Easter eggs in lovely pastel colors.

Why Don’t Cabbage Dyed Eggs Match the Indicator Dye?

The eggs didn’t take on the precise color of the cabbage indicator dye, probably because the pH of the egg shell itself affected the color that the cabbage pigments took in contact with the shell.

This was particularly true at the further ends of the pH scale–the magenta dye yielded an egg that was more violet than magenta, and the greenish-yellow dye yielded more of a pale green egg.

This was a fun way to blend science with the Easter tradition of dyeing eggs.

Egg Dyeing Safety Note

For eggs that will be eaten, make sure any chemicals used to change the pH of the purple cabbage indicator are non-toxic. Baking soda for higher pH, and vinegar or citric acid for lower pH are good bets and safe for kids and for anything you plan to eat. You can experiment with different amounts to get different colors.

If you don’t plan to eat your hard boiled eggs, just have fun with dying them, you can experiment with a variety of household substances–with careful adult supervision. Soap is usually more alkaline than baking soda, and is safe for kids to experiment with. Borax (you can often find this in the laundry aisle at the grocery store) is what we used to get yellow.

More Easter Crafts and Activities

Fun crafts and activities for celebrating Easter. Plus a fun way to make use of all that candy!

What is your favorite way to decorate Easter eggs?

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Sarah Evans

Sarah chooses to see in life an endless adventure, and greets each new side trail as a path to explore and learn from. An Air Force veteran with degrees in anthropology and education, her current endeavors include attempting to wrangle seven children, four cats, and eleven chickens and planting as many fruit trees as will fit on her property. In her spare time, she listens to many audiobooks and indulges in occasional writing of poetry.

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