Have you ever questioned how does Colgate toothpaste come out in stripes? Ryan Battistella, a TikToker, has for sure. And he came up with his own at-home experiment to get to the bottom of it. No matter how he mashed, squeezed, or mixed the Colgate Optic White tube, the results were always the same: stripes. He developed his own hypotheses in an effort to refute them all. The Internet was enthralled and perplexed by Ryan’s mind-blowing TikTok video series, which amassed more than 20 million views.
When you were younger, do you recall watching helplessly as the county’s cheapest magician sawed a woman in half at a friend’s birthday party? Watching Ryan Battistella push tube after tube of toothpaste into the toilet on his TikTok account is somewhat similar to how it feels. After mixing the contents of nearly six tubes of striped toothpaste, Battistella and a buddy discovered that stripes continued to come out when they squeezed the bottles in a sequence of three viral films that were published in late November.
They probed the mystery farther and further with each try. What started out as kneading an unopened tube before using it transformed into a frantic Battistella slicing open a tube from the bottom to mix the contents before squeezing out — you got it — black-and-white striped toothpaste from the nozzle. When the third video ended, one of the two men was just yelling, “It’s a portal!” over and over. There is hilarity in watching two grown men become absolutely frazzled about tubes of Colgate Optic White. Both the creators and the audience were perplexed.
There is generally science at work when you observe what appears to be a supernatural phenomenon in the ordinary. Theories about the characteristics of toothpaste’s physical composition and the ingenious engineering of toothpaste tubes swamped the comments sections of Battistella’s videos. Battistella decided to investigate some of the more straightforward ideas in an attempt to approximate the scientific method.
Hypothesis No. 1: Barriers in the tube stop the stripes from blending together. The tube’s single inside chamber was exposed after being sliced open, proving this to be false.
Hypothesis No. 2: As seen in this YouTube video of a tube of the company’s Dentagard toothpaste, the stripe effect is provided by a deposit of color kept right up against the tube’s nozzle, with specific apertures on the side of an interior tunnel designed to extract paste from the top. When Battistella thoroughly washed out one of the Colgate tubes and discovered no such mechanism, this theory was refuted.
A Colgate exec named Sergio Leite was enlisted by Inside Science to help solve the mystery.
Because Battistella had actually condensed some of the tube’s contents into one grey mass, there was no way to return the stripes to their original state. However, some of the toothpaste’s stripes remained after he failed to rub it in completely. Although he appeared to have crushed the tube to the point where it was completely empty, the grey stayed inside and was unable to make its great ingress.
According to Leite, this is where the genuine illusion is found. We’ve seen the tube fill up with toothpaste for what seems like an eternity, so how is it still so full? The key is in the toothpaste’s thickness and viscosity. As a result, when you squeeze a bit of toothpaste onto your toothbrush, it won’t flow off the end. As Leite noted, “toothpaste is not as simple to mix as you’d assume. Even though it appears that you’re mixing a complete tube of toothpaste, you’re not.
Leite held up an empty zip-top bag on Zoom and filled it with a few squirts of ketchup and mayonnaise to show what happens inside a striped tube. No matter how much he crushed the bag, the deposits of each condiment remained largely distinct when nestled side by side because the viscosities of the ingredients prevented them from entirely blending. The line between the two only somewhat became less distinct as a result. Leite said in the video, “The things the kids are doing are kind of like this. It doesn’t go well together.”
What about the video in which Battistella uses a knife to mix the paste? Leite said, “He is putting some of the stripes together, but it’s a lot less than it looks like.” Leite said, “If you mix in the middle [of the tube], you don’t really get the edges.” “When the kids squeezed and you saw the stripe, you were really just seeing the edges.”
It turns out that toothpaste’s viscosity makes the toothpaste on the tube’s edges push down and come out first, rather than the toothpaste in the middle. According to Leite, had Battistella kept squeezing, the paste would have ultimately came out grey and mixed, but the viscosity gave the impression that he had used more of the tube than he actually had.
Leite outlined the extensive scientific process involved in producing a tube of striped toothpaste. When creating a new product, his team must make sure that the toothpaste in each stripe has the same physical characteristics as the others in order to avoid one from evaporating more quickly than the others. Rheology is a science that they apply, and it is the reason stripes even manage to remain intact in the first place. Colgate simply loads their striped toothpastes in the top in slices that, from a distance, like pizza slices, according to Leite. The stripes are retained by even resistance to mixing, so there is no need for complex technology in the cap or segmented tubes.
The limitations of toothpaste science, however, are far from strict. Customers appear to favor the stripes over conventional, homogeneous toothpastes; could other designs start to appear in our tubes? A plaid with stripes going in both directions is Leite’s ultimate goal.
The secret of Colgate’s distinctive stripe was divulged by a Colgate scientist. The thickness and viscosity of toothpaste—which is thicker than one might imagine and does not mix easily—are crucial for maintaining the stripes, as Leite outlined. The toothpaste’s viscosity also allows the product near the tube’s sides to be pushed down and out first, causing the stripes to disperse evenly. Additionally, Leite’s team uses a method known as rheology (a branch of physics that examines the flow of liquid matter and the deformation of solid materials) when developing a product to guarantee that every component of the toothpaste has the same physical characteristics, preventing any of the toothpaste from squeezing out at a faster rate.