How to Lift Fingerprints at Home

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Find them for yourself!
Find them for yourself! (Image: fingerprint image by dip from Fotolia.com)

Comparing fingerprints is the most common method of identifying people because each fingerprint is unique. Lifting fingerprints also can be easily done at home. No special tools are needed, just common household items.

Things You'll Need

  • Dark powder
  • White powder
  • Brushes made with camel hair or fiberglass bristles
  • Clear tape
  • Index cards

Sprinkle light-colored power -- such as talcum powder or chalk dust -- on dark, nonporous surfaces, or sprinkle the dark-colored powder -- such as coco powder or carbon dust -- on light, nonporous surfaces. Be careful not to throw large amounts of powder on the print, as this may obscure it. Carefully brush away the excess powder using light strokes. Reapply powder as necessary, brushing it away until you have a complete fingerprint.

Press the clear tape over the dusted fingerprint, picking up what is known as the "impression." The dust transfers to the tape, preserving the fingerprint. Carefully peel up the tape, and press it to an index card, making sure the tape is completely smooth against the card and cannot be peeled off. To ensure the print will not be removed from the card, press down the corners of the tape.

Label the index card with where you found the print, what surface the print was found on and the date and time that the print was found. If you can determine it, also include what finger you believe the print is from. File the print in a safe place.

Tips & Warnings

  • This is a fun activity to do with children, provided they're under adult supervision.
  • Prints picked up by yourself may not be not admissible in criminal or civil proceedings. If you suspect you are the victim of a crime, contact your local police department, and its forensic unit will collect fingerprints.

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