Have you ever felt very attracted to lava lamps? You hold it, move it slowly, and watch the liquid in the lamp move and separate into different shapes and colors. Then you look at the price tag, and put it back because it's expensive. To save money, you can make your own lava lamp with homemade ingredients. To do this, follow the instructions below.
Method 1 of 2: Creating a Temporary Lava Lamp
Step 1. Clean the large used drink bottles
Any sealed container will work, but you may have empty water bottles at home. Look for a bottle that holds a minimum of 500 milliliters, so you can clearly see how it looks.
This method is safe for children to do on their own, and is quicker and easier than making a permanent lava lamp. Children can ask adults to do the pouring
Step 2. Add oil, water and food coloring to the bottle
Fill bottle with vegetable oil, then add water and about 10 drops of food coloring (or enough to make the solution slightly dark).
Step 3. Add salt or Alka-Seltzer tablets to the water
If using a salt jug, sprinkle for about five seconds. For a more fizzing, fizzing lava lamp, instead of taking one Alka-Seltzer tablet, cut the tablet into pieces and then add it all in.
Other tablets labeled "effervescent" may also be used. These tablets are commonly sold as Vitamin C tablets in drug stores
Step 4. Put the cap back on and then turn the bottle upside down (optional)
This will cause the tiny droplets of colored water to move in the oil to coalesce, creating larger clumps of lava spout.
Add more salt or effervescent tablets whenever the lumps start to move
Step 5. Place a flashlight or strong spotlight under the bottle
This will light up the bubbles with maximum effect. But don't leave the bottle on a hot surface! The plastic will melt and the oil will spill everywhere.
Step 6. Understand what happened
The oil and water will never mix, but just break up into those weird lumps that you see passing through each other. Adding the last ingredient really stirs things up. Here's the explanation:
- The salt sinks to the bottom of the bottle, pulling the lumps of oil with it. Once the salt dissolves in the water, the oil will float to the top again.
- The effervescent tablets react with water and create tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. These bubbles stick to the colored clumps of water and float to the surface. When the bubbles burst, the colored lumps sink back to the bottom of the bottle.
Method 2 of 2: Creating a Permanent Lava Lamp
Step 1. Only build this lamp with adult supervision
The alcohol and oil used in these lamps are flammable, and care must be taken when heating them to make the lava move. Children should show these instructions to adults and ask for help, and don't try them alone.
Lava lamps sold in the market use a combination of melted wax. The home version doesn't really look the same, but after a few tweaks your "lava" will move up and down with similar beauty
Step 2. Use a glass container
You can use a clear glass container that you can close tightly and shake. Glass retains heat better than plastic, making it a great choice for making lava lamps.
Step 3. Pour in a small cup of mineral oil or baby oil
This will be "lava" heaving in the lamp. Pour just enough, and you can pour it again later.
Using regular oil for starters is also good, and you can add oil paint to paint first if you want some colored "lava." Be careful that the paint may separate, and clot on the top or bottom of the container
Step 4. Mix 70% rubbing alcohol with 90% isopropyl alcohol
Both types of alcohol are sold in drug stores and pharmacies. Once mixed with the right amount, this liquid will have almost the same density as mineral oil. Here's how:
- Mix 90% alcohol and 70% alcohol in a ratio of 6:13. (You can guess by filling a small cup of 90% alcohol once, then 70% alcohol twice, and adding another small amount of 70% alcohol.)
- Pour this mixture into the jar and wait for it to settle. The oil will be at the bottom, but slightly puffy in the middle. If it looks smooth, you can add a little more 70% alcohol, but it doesn't have to be that perfect at this stage.
Step 5. Place the container on top of a solid, hollow object
Close the jar tightly before you start moving it. Place the jar on a stable, heat-safe surface, such as a large, inverted flowerpot. The bottom has enough space to put a small lamp.
Step 6. Add a heat source
Once the oil and alcohol have nearly the same density, add heat from under the lamp. Heat causes the ingredients to expand, and the oil will expand slightly faster than the alcohol around it. When this happens, the oil will float to the top, cool and shrink, then sink back down. Let's get started:
- Choose incandescent bulbs carefully. For canisters with a capacity of 350 ml or smaller, use a 15 watt lamp. Larger receptacles can use 30-watt or 40-watt lamps, but never use higher-wattage lamps, as there is a risk of overheating and shattering the glass.
- Place this incandescent bulb in a small directional lamp under the tube, facing up.
- For maximum control of light and heat, install a switch on the lamp.
Step 7. Let the lamp warm up first
Some lava lamps take a few hours to warm up enough and start to float, but these homemade versions of the oil usually start moving in less than that. Wrap your hand in a cloth and touch the tube every 15 minutes. The lamp should be warm enough, but not scorching hot. If it gets too hot, immediately turn off the light and replace it with a lower wattage.
- Try to turn the lamp slowly occasionally as it warms up, using a cloth or thong when touching it.
- Do not leave the light on. Turn it off and allow it to cool after a few hours on.
Step 8. Troubleshoot if necessary
If the oil is still sticking to the bottom after a few hours, turn it off and allow it to cool completely before you mess it up. After reaching room temperature, gently unscrew the jar and try one of these solutions:
- Combine a tablespoon full of brine and mix well to increase the density of the alcohol mixture.
- Gently shake the lava lamp to separate the oil into smaller lumps. Don't shake too hard, or you'll end up with mud instead of lava.
- When the oil has separated into small balls, mix in a tablespoon full of turpentine or other paint solvent. This is a hazardous chemical, so do not try it when the lamp is within the reach of children or pets.
- You can also add embellishments such as glitter, sequins, or small beads.
- Try making different colors!
- Do not shake the lamp as all the oil will stick to the top.
- Immediately close the bottle so it doesn't overflow.
- Don't forget to experiment with different colors. Try combinations like red and orange, blue and pink, or purple and green. Of course there are many other color choices. Experiment until you find a color you like. You might want to try mixing the colors on the paper first, to see how it looks.
- Don't heat the bottle like a normal lava lamp or heat it by keeping the lamp under it for too long, especially if you're using plastic. Hot oil in a bottle is definitely dangerous.
- Do not drink the contents of the bottle.