How to Make Goldenrod Paper

Tami O'Connor, Educational Innovationsby Tami O’Connor

Gone But Not Forgotten

Goldenrod Paper - Educational Innovations BlogMany years ago at Educational Innovations we had heard rumors that our wonderful goldenrod paper that served as an easy to find indicator paper was being discontinued for environmental reasons.  If you haven’t seen it before, it is was a golden-yellow paper that turned a deep red when it came in contact with a base like washing soda or Windex®.  The process was reversed if an acid such as vinegar was sprayed on the paper.

Apparently, because the fibers in the paper were saturated with golden colored dye, Goldenrod paper was not able to be recycled.  In the process of turning the paper back into a pulpy mixture, the golden dye would color all the other paper pulp that was also being recycled.  Think of it as the bright red shirt in a washing machine filled with whites…

Knowing that shortly it would be impossible to find, and also knowing that teachers around the world loved this paper, Educational Innovations bought up as much as we could feasibly fit in our warehouse.  Some five years later, we finally ran out, and we had not been able to find a supplier for it.

Since it is still referenced in many science journals, we have decided that teachers might be interested in making their own goldenrod paper to use with their students.

(Update Aug. 2015 – Goldenrod Paper is back!  You can still make it if you like, however if you want to purchase it, please use this link.)

 How to Make Goldenrod Paper –


  • Turmeric
  • Distilled Water

Boil water. Add four tablespoons of turmeric for every two cups of water.

Turmeric is a bright golden colored spice used in many Asian dishes and is available at most grocery stores. Stir the turmeric into the water until the water turns a bright yellow.

Pour the turmeric solution into a plastic tub and then soak your regular white paper in the solution. Be careful not to get the solution on your clothing, nails or skin unless you like yellow stains…

Remove the paper from the turmeric solution and lay it on a clean paper towel.  As it dries, excess turmeric powder begin to flake. To remove the excess turmeric, tap the dry paper over the tub or you can also use a soft paper towel to wipe off the excess turmeric.  You are now ready to conduct your acid base chemistry activities!  For some suggestions take a look at an older blog post written by Ron Perkins.

13 Responses to How to Make Goldenrod Paper

  1. Janice VanCleave says:

    I’ve cut turmeric paper into strips, about the same size as litmus paper strips. Easy to store and used in the same way one uses litmus paper strips.

    Have Fun With Science
    Janice VanCleave

  2. Korinne Rasmussen says:

    So can you do the bloody handprint on this paper?

  3. Laura says:

    I followed the recipe but have not had luck getting it to react. I’ve tried both baking soda in water and ammonia. The baking soda+water solution worked slowly (it was not instantaneous or dramatic) and turned more brown rather than red. Ammonia did not do anything (other than make it wet). Any ideas what might be going wrong?

    • Tami O'Connor says:

      Hi Laura,

      I’ve never had this paper “not” work. I assume you have a saturated solution of water and Baking Soda. I tend to use washing soda, but it shouldn’t make much of a difference. Ammonia or any other base should work equaly well. Once the paper has changed to red, you can use an acid such as lemon juice to return it to its original color. If you continue to have problems, please give us a call so we can figure out what’s happening. 203-748-3224

      Educational Innovations

  4. Kristine says:

    Hi!! How ling does this take to dry???

    • Tami O'Connor says:

      Hi Kristine,

      That all depends on where you are. If you are in a warm, dry environment, your paper should dry within a few hours.

      Educational Innovations

  5. Javier Herrera says:

    Does this paper change back to its original color???

    • Tami O'Connor says:

      If you use Windex or another base the paper will return to its golden color. If you use washing soda, then it remains red.

  6. Joel says:

    Will this paper react with regular tap water?

    • Tami O'Connor says:

      Regular tap water tends to fall right in the middle of the pH scale, so it wouldn’t turn the paper red. The paper changes color with a base and turns back to gold with an acid.

  7. Lawrence says:

    Hey, if my palms are sweaty and put them on the paper, does it change color? 🙂

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