Have you ever wondered how home pregnancy tests work? The sudden appearance of a plus sign or second pink line can seem downright magical. What kind of sorcery is this? How does it know?

In reality, the whole process is very scientific — and essentially just a chemical reaction. A couple weeks after the whole sperm-meets-egg thing — as long as the newly fertilized egg successfully implanted in your uterus — your body will begin producing “the pregnancy hormone,” hCG.

HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin — once you’ve built up enough of it — reacts with home pregnancy test strips and produces that second line. (Even with tests that report the result on a digital screen, this reaction is going on behind the scenes.)

For many, it stands to reason that you may be able to produce this chemical reaction using common substances you have around the house. Bypass the trip to the store and the expense of home pregnancy test strips? Yes, please.

The sugar pregnancy test is one such DIY method that has gained popularity on the internet. How do you do it, and is it reliable? Let’s take a look. (Spoiler alert: You know what they say about things that sound too good to be true.)

Like most homemade pregnancy tests touted on the internet, this one uses things you have around the house. Here’s what you’ll need for this all-in-good-fun science experiment:

  • a clean bowl
  • a clean cup or other container for collecting your urine
  • sugar

After collecting your supplies, most sources recommend the following:

  1. Put a couple spoonfuls of sugar into the clean bowl.
  2. Pee into the cup, using your first morning urine.
  3. Pour your pee over the sugar.
  4. Wait a few minutes (and don’t mix or stir) to see what happens.

According to the popular belief, if you have hCG in your urine, the sugar won’t dissolve like it normally would. Instead, advocates of this test say the sugar will clump, indicating pregnancy.

So for a supposedly positive result, you’ll see clumps of sugar in the bottom of the bowl. There’s no real clarification on whether these will be large or small clumps — but the point is, you’ll see undissolved sugar.

If the internet is to be believed, hCG is unique in its inability to dissolve in sugar. Because although urine contains a ton of other stuff — more than 3,000 compounds, many of which vary according to what you’ve eaten — homemade pregnancy test gurus claim that pee from a nonpregnant person will simply dissolve the sugar.

In other words, if you’re not pregnant, the claim is that the sugar should dissolve when you pour your pee over it. You won’t see any clumps in the bowl.

In a word — no.

There is absolutely no scientific backing for this test.

And anecdotally, testers have gotten mixed — and undoubtedly frustrating — results. You may experience sugar clumping and not be pregnant at all. In addition to there being no reason to believe that hCG makes it so sugar can’t dissolve in your urine, on any given day, the composition of your pee can differ. Who knows — perhaps it’s something else that’s preventing the sugar from dissolving.

Additionally, there are accounts of testers who do see the sugar dissolve — and then take a home pregnancy test and get a positive result.

Bottom line

The sugar pregnancy test isn’t reliable. If you want to try it for kicks and giggles, go for it — but to truly determine your pregnancy status, take a home pregnancy test or see your doctor.

Store-bought home pregnancy tests are generally proven to pick up hCG, though how low a level they can detect varies. (In other words, you’re going to get more accurate results the longer you wait to test, because that gives hCG a chance to build up.)

Sugar pregnancy tests are the opposite — they aren’t proven to pick up hCG at all. While it might provide some amusement to do the test, the best way to learn if you’re pregnant is to take a standard home pregnancy test after you’ve missed your period and then confirm any positive results with your doctor.