Maker Faire at Home Projects: Lava Lamps


Lava Lamps

Make colored bubbles dance (and even glow)!

Supplies

  • Clear Container (examples: Water bottle with smooth sides, Jar, Glass, Beaker)
  • Oil: baby oil (clear), vegetable oil (typically cheaper)
  • Food Coloring
  • Reagents
    • Option 1: Alka Seltzer or generic equivalent
    • Option 2: Baking Soda and White Vinegar
  • Optional flair: glitter, small sequins, beads, charms, or toys to add flair
  • Glow Extension: tonic water or a highlighter, black light bulb

Option 1: Alka Seltzer

  1. Fill the container about 1/4 full of water
  2. Add drops of food coloring and mix to achieve your desired color
  3. Add oil, filling the container until it is about one inch from the top
  4. Add optional flair (glitter, sequins, etc)
  5. Break the Alka Seltzer tablet into quarters and add one quarter
  6. Enjoy the show!
  7. When the reaction dies down, add another piece of the Alka Seltzer tablet to restart the flow

Alternative: Don’t pre-mix the food coloring and water. Instead, add the food coloring just before the Alka Seltzer and then let the reaction mix the colors for you.

Option 2: Baking Soda and Vinegar

  1. Fill the container about 1/4 full of vinegar
  2. Add drops of food coloring and mix to achieve your desired color
  3. Add oil, filling the container until it is about one inch from the top
  4. Add optional flair (glitter, sequins, etc)
  5. Make a paste of baking soda and water (this is just to make the baking soda heavy so it will sink into the vinegar quickly)
  6. Add some baking soda paste to the lava lamp
  7. Enjoy the show!
  8. When the reaction dies down, add more baking soda paste to restart the flow

Glow Extension

  1. Make glowing water, use photoluminescent pigment or try using tonic water
  2. Create a lava lamp using option 1 or option 2, replacing the plain water with the glowing water
  3. Dim the lights, turn on your black light, add your reagent, and enjoy the magic!

Alternative: dim the light and shine a flashlight through the lava lamp without using glowing water

Tips

  • If you want to store your lava lamp to reuse in the future, wait for the reaction to completely finish before putting on a lid! If you add the lid too early: the reaction releases gas that will build up pressure and potentially cause your lava lamp to explode.
  • Option comparison
    • Alka seltzer lava lamps tend to flow much faster
    • Baking soda and vinegar lava lamps tend to last longer
    • Try them both and see if you get the same results!
  • Oil comparison
    • Some sources prefer clear baby oil to the yellow tint of vegetable oil
    • Other sources claim that baby oil produces more, smaller bubbles that reduce the lamp clarity
    • Try them both and see which you prefer!



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