Ask Jimmy and the Bug

Jimmy and the Bug
there is a picture of Jimmy with his arms in the air. Hey Bug! Troy N., age 10, wants to know: How does invisible ink work?
Let me show you! there is a drawing of Bug
There is a picture of Bug and Jimmy holding a letter in front of a light, which reads Jim is bossy. Secret writing is very old and there are lots of invisible ink recipes. These inks work in different ways to hide and reveal messages written with them.

Some invisible inks—like milk, vinegar, or lemon juice—darken when they're heated. You can read messages written with them because they burn faster than the paper they're written on.

Other secret inks are solutions of chemicals that are colorless when dry but become visible when treated with another chemical, called a reagent.

Messages can even be written inside eggs, using a mixture of vinegar and a chemical called alum. Messages written with this ink are absorbed through the shell. When the egg is boiled and peeled, the message appears.

Spies not only need to hide their messages, they need to hide their secret inks. One method they use is to soak their shoelaces in the chemicals, then dry them in the sun. To make secret ink, they just put the shoelaces back in water.

In an emergency, spies can even use urine or a mixture of spit and pigeon poop as an invisible ink. But…would you want to receive that letter?

there is a picture of Jimmy showing jars of Alum and vinegar. I'll show you!
I've never read an EGG before! there is a drawing of Bug cooking eggs


  1. What is a reagent?
    Answer: A reagent is a chemical that is combined with another chemical.
  2. Why is the appearance of invisible ink on a piece of paper a chemical change? Tell how you know this is a chemical change.
    Answer: The appearance of invisible ink is a chemical change because it involves heating a piece of paper to make the ink appear. The ink is actually burning, which causes it to change color.
  3. A spy soaks a shoelace in water to create an invisible ink. Do you think the creation of the invisible ink is a chemical change or a physical change? Why? Write a sentence or two to explain your answer.
    Answer: The creation of an invisible ink by soaking a shoelace in water is a physical change. The shoelace has not changed, and the water has not changed. The two substances have just been mixed together.