How to make your fingers smoke

The smoking fingers trick

Many ma­gi­cians have a few chem­istry tricks up their sleeve! Let’s talk about the se­cret be­hind how they make their fin­gers smoke.

Safe­ty pre­cau­tions

Wear pro­tec­tive eye­wear and a mask when per­form­ing this ex­per­i­ment. Work in a well-ven­ti­lat­ed area. Do not per­form this ex­per­i­ment of­ten, even with pro­fes­sion­al su­per­vi­sion – phos­pho­rus com­pounds are harm­ful to your health.

Reagents and equip­ment

  • match­box scratch­pads;
  • a porce­lain bowl;
  • a lighter.

Step-by-step in­struc­tions

The scratch­pads are placed in the porce­lain bowl and burned, and the un­burned rem­nants are dis­posed of. A thick tar is left in the bowl. This tar is ap­plied to the hands and rubbed be­tween the fin­gers.

Process de­scrip­tion

The scratch­pads con­tain red phos­pho­rus. As they burn, a thick tar con­tain­ing phos­pho­rus(V) ox­ide is formed in the porce­lain bowl. Phos­pho­rus(V) ox­ide rapid­ly ab­sorbs wa­ter from the air to form phos­phor­ic acid. When fric­tion is ap­plied, the phos­phor­ic acid par­tial­ly evap­o­rates, cre­at­ing a “smoky” ef­fect.

4P + 5O₂ = P₄O₁₀

P₄O₁₀ + 6H₂O = 4H₃PO₄