četvrtak, 3. ožujka 2011.

Make your own Simple Lava Lamp

Learn how to make a wave bottle using oil and water and a secret ingredient that makes the whole thing fizz, bubble, and erupt.


  • Clean, plastic soda bottle (16 oz size works well)
  • Soda bottle cap
  • Vegetable oil (the cheaper the better)
  • Food coloring
  • Alka-Seltzer tablet
  • Water
  1. Fill the bottle 3/4 full with vegetable oil.
  2. Fill the rest of the bottle with water (almost to the top but not overflowing).
  3. Add about 10 drops of food coloring. Be sure to make the water fairly dark in color. Notice that the food coloring only colors the water and not the oil.
  4. Divide the Alka-Seltzer tablet into 8 pieces.
  5. Drop one of the tiny pieces of Alka-Seltzer into the oil and water mixture. Watch what happens. When the bubbling stops, add another chunk of Alka-Seltzer. It’s just like a lava lamp!
  6. When you have used up all of the Alka-Seltzer and the bubbling has completely stopped, screw on the soda bottle cap. Tip the bottle back and forth and watch the wave appear. The tiny droplets of liquid join together to make one big lava-like blob.

How does it work?

First of all, you confirmed what you already knew... oil and water do not mix. The molecules of water do not like to mix with the molecules of oil. Even if you try to shake up the bottle, the oil breaks up into small little drops, but the oil doesn’t mix with the water. Also, food coloring only mixes with water. It does not color the oil.

When you pour the water into the bottle with the oil, the water sinks to the bottom and the oil floats to the top. This is the same as when oil from a ship spills in the ocean. The oil floats on top of the water. Oil floats on the surface because water is heavier than oil. Scientists say that the water is more dense than the oil.

Here’s the surprising part... The Alka-Seltzer tablet reacts with the water to make tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. These bubbles attach themselves to the blobs of colored water and cause them to float to the surface. When the bubbles pop, the color blobs sink back to the bottom of the bottle. Now that’s a burst of color! Your own homemade lava lamp... groovy baby!

Expert Lava Lamp Formula


Here is a list of materials you may need, and some common sources for them:

WAX: Canning and candle wax is the best source. It is used to make candles, or to seal the tops of canning jars. It can be found in craft and grocery stores, usually in a one pound box. For coloring, use candle dye

PERCHLOROETHYLENE: Also known as: tetrachloroethylene, ethylene tetrachloride, or ‘Perc’. Dry cleaners will probably sell or give you some, they generally refer to it as Perc (pronounced ‘perk’). Also found in spot removers and degreasers. Carefully check the labels. Perchloroethylene is non-flammable, so if the label says ‘flammable’ or ‘combustible’ keep looking. In these instructions, we will refer to this chemical simply as perc.

WATER: Distilled water is the best choice.

CANNING/PICKLING SALT: You must use canning and pickling salt, as ordinary table salt will cloud the water. Canning and pickling salt is PURE salt, it has no additives, and it is not iodized. It can be found in most grocery stores. Sometimes called just canning salt, or just pickling salt.

AUTOMOTIVE ANTIFREEZE: Buy the regular ethylene glycol antifreeze. The "non-toxic" propylene glycol antifreeze has a slightly different specific gravity, so if you use it, you will need to experiment with it some.

DISHWASHING LIQUID: We will only need a drop or two.


Several old canning jars with lids are perfect for melting, mixing, and storing your ooze. Make sure the lids screw on airtight. The amount of ooze needed will depend on the size of your lamp, for ease, we will make 1 cup of ooze. If you don’t need a whole cup, use what you need and store the rest in an airtight container. If you need more, simply double or triple the measurements. We will start off mixing 1/3 cup of perc with 2/3 cup of wax. This is only a starting point, as different waxes will have different densities. Unless you have expensive, specialized, laboratory instruments, this is the only way to do it. Take notes while you make the ooze. If you use the same brand wax, chances are you can reuse the same amounts if you make more ooze.

1) Take 1 cup of water and pour it into an empty jar, and then mark the water line with a marker or tape, and then pour out the water. We will use this line to measure the wax, this saves us the hassle of trying to clean a waxy measuring cup.

2) Get an old pot big enough to fit a canning jar in. Fill the pot part-way with water, and bring it to a boil. Take your candles, and break them into smaller pieces if necessary, and place them in an empty canning jar. Place the canning jar into the pot of boiling water, and wait for the wax to melt thoroughly.

3) Place 1/3 cup of perc into the canning jar with the 1 cup line drawn on it. Then carefully pour the melted wax into the jar until it reaches the 1 cup mark. This will give us 1 cup of ooze at a 33% perc, 66% wax solution. Screw the lid on tightly, and be careful, the perc will expand and greatly increase the pressure inside the jar. Gently swirl the jar to ensure the wax and perchloroethylene becomes mixed well. We now have created ooze.

4) After the ooze has cooled fully, stick a drinking straw into the ooze. When you remove the straw, some ooze should be stuck inside the straw. Squeeze this ooze out of the straw and into the test solutions.


I have an easy way to test the specific gravity of your ooze without using expensive test instruments. Automotive antifreeze usually has a specific gravity of around 1.1 when it is undiluted. Distilled water has a specific gravity of 1. Mixtures of water and antifreeze will have the following specific gravities: 100% water, no antifreeze = 1.00
# 90% water, 10% antifreeze = 1.01
# 80% water, 20% antifreeze = 1.02
# 70% water, 30% antifreeze = 1.03
# 60% water, 40% antifreeze = 1.04
# 50% water, 50% antifreeze = 1.05
# 40% water, 60% antifreeze = 1.06
# 30% water, 70% antifreeze = 1.07
# 20% water, 80% antifreeze = 1.08
# 10% water, 90% antifreeze = 1.09
# No water, 100% antifreeze = 1.10

Commercial ooze is usually around 1.03. Mix up an 80% water, 20% antifreeze solution. Also mix up a 60% water, 40% antifreeze solution. If your ooze floats in the 40% antifreeze solution, it has a specific gravity less than 1.04. If your ooze sinks in the 20% antifreeze solution, it has a specific gravity greater than 1.02. Therefore, your ooze is somewhere between 1.02 and 1.04, and should be close to 1.03.

NOTE: You can make your ooze any specific gravity you choose, but 1.03 seems to work well.

NOTE: It is important that you let the ooze cool thoroughly, as the ooze’s density will change with temperature.

NOTE: If the ooze does not sink in a 20% antifreeze solution, you will need to add more perchloroethylene. Add an 1/8 of a cup to the jar, screw the lid on, and remelt the ooze. Let the ooze cool thoroughly and test again.

Once the ooze will sink in 20% antifreeze solution, test it in a 40% mix of water and antifreeze. The ooze should float.

NOTE: If the ooze does not float in the 40% mixture, you will need to add more wax. I suggest that you use petroleum jelly or mineral oil, as it is easier to measure. Place a tablespoon of petroleum jelly or mineral oil into the jar, and remelt the ooze. Let the ooze cool completely and retest.

Once the ooze will sink in 20%, and float in a 40% mix, the ooze is ready to go into the lamp. Reheat the ooze until melted, and carefully pour it into your lamp. Let it cool thoroughly before you add the water.


Make sure the lamp is absolutely cold. Start by filling the lamp with distilled water, leaving an inch or two at the top. Add a teaspoon of canning and pickling salt to the water, and invert the lamp several times to help the salt to dissolve. Let the lamp heat up for several hours. You will now need to add more salt until the lamp operates properly.


The whole density thing may cause you problems. It is very easy to get confused and get it all backwards. So again, go slow. Let the lamp heat up for an hour or two before adjusting the mixture. Let the lamp run for an hour between adjustments. Add the canning salt a bit at a time. Check to make sure the salt doesn’t collect on the bottom under the ooze, if this happens, let the lamp cool, and gently invert the lamp to help the salt dissolve. As you get close to the correct amount of salt, the ooze will start to ‘dome’.

Now add a VERY SMALL DROP of dishwashing liquid to the water. (The dome may settle back down, that is OK.) Add more salt until the ooze begins to break into bubbles and rise. If the bubbles seem to be rather large, and are moving very slowly, you may want to add one more SMALL drop of dishwashing liquid. If you add too much dishwashing liquid, your ooze will become ‘runny’ and not break into bubbles properly. If you add too much dishwashing liquid, you will have to pour out the water, and start with fresh water.

The dishwashing liquid helps reduce the surface tension of the ooze slightly. If you don’t add any dishwashing liquid, the ooze will form one giant bubble. This giant bubble will rise up, and when it settles back down on the bottom, it will not connect with the coil. This giant bubble will just sit there, and the lamp will not cycle at all. With the addition of a small amount of dishwashing liquid, the giant bubble will flow down and connect with the coil. The ooze will break into smaller bubbles, and the lamp will cycle properly. If you add too much dishwashing liquid, the ooze will become ‘runny’ and will not form nice bubbles. If you add too much, you will have to start over with new water, as it is impossible to take the dishwashing liquid out once it is added. Go slowly and carefully!

Remember: If the ooze doesn’t float enough, add more canning and pickling salt. If the ooze floats too much, add more distilled water.

Don’t get discouraged if it takes you several tries to get your lamp working right, this is normal. A motion lamp requires a very close balance. I’ve read that at the factory, they measure the specific gravities down to the ten-thousandth! Patient, small adjustments are needed, but when you get it right, it will be worth it.


I thought it might help to go over how you can calculate the specific gravity of a mixture. Estimating a solution’s specific gravity is not too hard, you just need to know the specific gravities of each component. I looked up the material safety data sheets for each of the ingredients for the lamp, and the specific gravities are approximately:

Distilled Water = 1.0
Glycerin = 1.26
Perchloroethylene = 1.62
Wax = 0.8

Multiply the specific gravity times the percentage for each ingredient, and add together.

For example, A 50% glycerin, 50% water solution has a specific gravity of:
(1.26 x 0.50)+(1 x 0.50) = 1.13

If we have a 25% glycerin, 75% water solution, we can estimate the specific gravity as follows:
(1.26 x 0.25)+(1 x 0.75) = 1.065

A 1/3 perc, 2/3 wax solution would have a specific gravity of:
(1.62 x 0.3333)+(0.8 x 0.6666) = 1.07


This electronic document deals with and involves subject matter and the use of materials and substances that may be hazardous to health and life. Do not attempt to implement or use the information contained herein unless you are experienced and skilled with respect to such subject matter, materials and substances. The author makes no representations as for the completeness or the accuracy of the information contained herein and disclaim any liability for damages or injuries, whether caused by or arising from the lack of completeness, inaccuracies of the information, misinterpretation of the directions, misapplication of the information or otherwise. With these plans, you can create your own motion lamp with easy to find ingredients, at a reasonable price. Because it uses ingredients compatible to those found in the commercial lamps, you will be able to restore old motion lamps. If you have an old commercial lamp that only needs the water replaced, just follow the ‘MAKING THE WATER’ steps. You might also refill an empty, or old non-functioning lamp with new ooze and water. Or, you can build your lamp from scratch, and make it any size. The chemicals used are relatively safe, just work in a well ventilated area, and whatever you do, don’t drink any of this stuff! The wax and water can get VERY HOT and cause severe burns, so be extremely careful. Other than the wax, none of the ingredients are flammable, so it is much safer than the mineral oil/alcohol based formulas. Read the instructions through several times before starting. Be careful, and enjoy!

The Poor's Man Lava Lamp

Use mineral oil as the lava. Use 90% isopropyl alcohol (which most drugstores can easily order) and 70% isopropyl alcohol for the other ingredient. In 90% alcohol the mineral oil will sink to the bottom; slowly add the 70% alcohol (gently mixing all the while; take your time) until the oil seems lighter and is about to "jump" off the bottom. Use the two alcohols to adjust the responsiveness of the "lava." More of the 70% alcohol is needed than the 90%. So, plan ahead and leave enough room in your container for all the 70% which you will be adding. This mixture is placed in a closed container (the "lava lamp shape" is not required, although something fairly tall is good) and situated over a 40-watt bulb. If the "lava" tends to collect at the top, try putting a dimmer on the bulb, or a fan at the top of the container. To dye the lava, use an oil-based dye like artists' oil paints or a chopped-up sharpie marker. To dye the liquid around it, use food coloring.

Two suggestions for better performance: 1) Agitation will tend to make the mineral oil form small bubbles unlike the large blobs we're all used to. The addition of a hydrophobic solvent to the mixture will help the lava coalesce. Turpentine and other paint solvents work well. To make sure what you use is hydrophobic, put some on your hand and run a little water on it. If the water beads, it should work fine. 2) For faster warm-up time, add some antifreeze or liquid soap. Too much will cloud the alcohol. Keep in mind that the addition of these chemicals may necessitate your readjusting the 90% to 70% alcohol mixture. We recommend staying simple at first - just work with the 3 indgredients. After you've mastered the motion, which is by far the hardest part, you may want to throw in the additives. We know you want to add the food coloring right away but just hang on because you'll have a hard time figuring out the balance if you have too many variables.

utorak, 1. ožujka 2011.

How to change colors of a lava lamp

There's two ways to change your lava lamp colors: Order a new lava lamp globe or "break the seal" on your current globe and alter the colors. Of course, we can not encourage or condone the latter since technically it will void your lava lamp warranty. Second caveat, we will not be held responsible if you blow it and ruin a perfectly good lava lamp.

Wait for your lamp to cool completely and then very carefully pry up the edges of the bottle cap all the way around the lip of the bottle until you can get it off, it only takes a little bit of prying, don't go overboard. Take care not to damage the cap as you will have to replace it later. Choose which color you want and add enough food coloring to achieve the desired color. If you're starting from another color already, then first you should consult a color wheel, and then I'd suggest taking a a similar volume of water as is in your globe, and coloring it to match the starting color in your lamp, then add the new color until the desired mix was achieved, and write down how much of the new color you had to add. IE, if your 32 oz. globe has blue fluid in it, get ~32 oz. of water, and use blue food coloring to try and match the color of this water to the color in the globe. Now start adding your red until you get the desired shade of purple, and write down how much it took. This may sound like a lot of work, but you really don't want to wreck the fluid in your globe as its a fairly specifically engineered solution that would take considerably more effort to replace than it would to do a practice run and get it right the first time. Now add your food coloring to your now open globe. Last step is the hardest, replacing the cap. Replace the cap and push it down firmly, then use a screwdriver and a pair of needle nose pliers to undo all the prying you did to get it off, pushing the edge of the cap back down around the lip of the bottle. Be careful not to squeeze the lip of the bottle with the pliers or slip with the screwdriver or you may break the glass. Last step is to take a pair of needle nose pliers and squeeze each of the little crimps in between the indentations. This tightens the cap around the lip and pulls it down so it's sealed. If this doesn't work, put a couple of layers of masking tape around the lip of the bottle and try again with the cap. Try to twist the cap to see how tight the cap is. If the seal isn't tight, keep working it until the cap is hard to twist. The seal is essential, if its not sealed properly, all the fluid will evaporate out of your lamp! The internal pressure may also be vital to the function of the lamp. Throw your globe back on the base and heat her up. This will void your warranty if you're concerned about that, so be extra careful and good luck.