How To Make a Lava Lamp

Few items have held the curiosity of generations of Americans as the well-loved lava lamp has done. The continuously moving blobs of mysterious liquid inside these lamps have hypnotized and entertained many people over the years. Its enduring appeal could be the reason why it is considered such an iconic design piece. Due to its colorful and dynamic nature, it is widely considered to be a fun accent piece for kids’ and teenagers’ rooms, a game room, or a den.

Although, a lava lamp is tremendously popular, we sometimes forget the science behind the moving blobs of liquid inside. In fact, finding out how a lava lamp works makes for a great science project for the kids. The basic principle in operation here is the fact that oil and water do not mix. In the lava lamp’s case, the blobs that we see are a mixture of colored melted or liquefied wax and some special expanding agent that allows it to take a more movable form as it is suspended in liquid. Definitely, a lava lamp can be made at home using ordinary ingredients. Here’s how to create your very own lamp.

Step 1

Gather the materials—Except two items (non-toxic automotive antifreeze and perc), most of the materials needed are found around the house. For the lamp, you will need a large glass jar with a tight cover, distilled water, and coloring. For the “blob,” you will need melted candle wax, tetrachloroethylene or perc (the ones found in degreasers or in dry cleaners), salt, distilled water, and non-toxic automotive antifreeze.

Step 2

Prepare the lamp and the water—To begin preparing the lamp, make sure that it is cold by placing the jar inside the freezer for a few hours before assembly. Once it is sufficiently cold, fill the jar with distilled water until it is about two or three inches from the lip or the rim of the jar. Add the coloring. Then, add a heaping teaspoon of salt, replace the lid, and shake the jar vigorously to ensure that the salt is completely dissolved. To this you may add small sparkly beads for added design and interest. Set this aside. You are now ready to create the mysterious “blob.”

Step 3

Make the oozing “blob”—To begin, mix 11 tbsps of melted wax and six tbsps of perc in a separate container. Do remember that the perc will expand and greatly increase the pressure inside the jar so carefully screw the lid back on. Afterwards, swirl (not shake) the jar to ensure that the two elements are mixed thoroughly. Before pouring drops of “blob” into the jar with distilled water, let it cool thoroughly because its density will change once it has cooled down. If you want a blob whose color contrasts with that of the water, you may also color the wax using a tinting agent. Tighten the lid and tilt it a few times to check for leaks.