The "Naughty or Nice" Test


To demonstrate how goldenrod paper can be used as an acid/base indicator


  • Goldenrod paper (true golden rod paper can be purchased online or at a science supply store)
  • Small unlit birthday candle
  • Two small plastic cups
  • Cotton swabs
  • Two small plastic cups
  • Windex- or any ammonia based product
  • Lemon juice or vinegar



Place a piece of goldenrod paper on a table. Use the wax candle (not the wick end) to write a secret message on the paper (naughty or nice). Pour some of the Windex (ammonia-based) in the cup. Dip a cotton swab in the Windex and wipe it across the secret message. What happens? For an extended activity, dip a second cotton swab in the cup of lemon juice and wipe it across the message. See what happens now!


The Windex (ammonia-based) on the cotton swab is a base and causes the dye in the special goldenrod paper to change to red. As a result, the message will appear. For an immediate change from red/orange back to yellow, the lemon juice or vinegar, an acid, is used.