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How to Make a Lava Lamp with Household Ingredients Essay

Edited by Sondra C, Nicole Willson, Jack Herrick, Krystle and 104 others Two Methods:With Vegetable Oil and WaterWith Mineral Oil and Alcohol Have you ever caught yourself being hypnotized by a lava lamp? You hold it in your hand, move it slightly, and watch as the liquid quivers and separates into different shapes and colors. Then you look at the price tag – and put it back. To do your wallet a favor and make a lava lamp with household ingredients, follow these instructions.

Method 1 of 2: With Vegetable Oil and Water
Get a 16- or 64-oz soda or water bottle. Any tightly sealable container works, but you probably have an empty water bottle laying around somewhere. Ad

Add oil, water, and food coloring to the bottle. Fill the bottle 3/4 of the way full with vegetable oil, then top it off with water and about 10 drops of food coloring (or enough to make the solution appear fairly dark). 3.

Cut an Alka-Seltzer or Airborne tablet into pieces. You can either ration the pieces to make your lava lamp last longer or add more than one piece at a time for more interesting effects.

Add pieces of the tablet to the bottle. This will cause the mixture to bubble. Repeat every time the bubbling stops. Unfortunately, with this type of lava lamp, the effects are temporary.

Put the cap on and tip the bottle back and forth. This will cause the tiny droplets of colored water moving around inside the oil to join together, making bigger lava-squirt blobs. That’s what scientists call them, anyway.

Place a strong flashlight or search light under the bottle. This will illuminate the bubbles for maximum effect. But don’t leave your bottle on top of a heated surface! Plastic will melt and you’ll get oil everywhere.

Method 2 of 2: With Mineral Oil and Alcohol

Get a glass container. Glass can withstand heat if you want to keep your lava continuously moving — otherwise plastic will do just fine. Any container that you can seal up and shake is good.

Add in a combination of 70% rubbing alcohol, 90% isopropyl alcohol and water. You’ll need more 70% than 90% to get the right density and just a few tablespoons of water should do the trick. The water is heavier and makes it easier for the “lava” to flow through. Experiment with ratios to see what warrants the best results.


Add in mineral oil as your lava. If you’d like it dyed, use artist’s oil paints or shred a permanent marker. Stop before it reaches the top and overflows! The mineral oil will not mix with the alcohol/water solution. Don’t worry. If you’d like to dye the water, add food coloring, which is also water soluble. However, the more variables you have, the more likely it is not to work.


Put it on top of a heat lamp or light. As it warms, the lava should move. If the lava isn’t cooperating, you may want to add Turpentine or another paint solvent to force it to coalesce. Be careful with dangerous chemicals — you don’t want anything all over your furniture, on your clothes, or eaten by the family dog.

Top of Form
Add your own method
Bottom of Form
You can also add decorations like glitter, sequins, or tiny beads. If you don’t have Airborne or Alka-Seltzer, salt works as well. This experiment demonstrates some science you already know: that oil and water do not mix. Even if you try to really shake-up the bottle, the oil breaks up into small drops but will not mix with the water or the (water-based) food coloring. This will keep the oil distinct from the colored water, giving the lamp a nice effect. In addition, the Alka-Seltzer or Airborne 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. Salt is less expensive than Alka-Seltzer, but if you use salt, you will still have to add more to keep your lava lamp working. Lava lamps such as these are a great way to reuse empty jars such as those used for peanut butter and jelly. They’re also great for science projects. OozingGoo.com has instructions on how to make several kinds of “heatable” lava lamps.

Do not drink the contents.
Do not heat the bottle like a normal lava lamp or allow it to become heated by holding the light underneath it for too long if using plastic. Hot oil in a plastic bottle is a definite hazard.

Things You’ll Need

With Vegetable Oil & Water

16 or 64-oz plastic soda bottle and cap, empty and clean

Vegetable oil

Food coloring

An Alka-Seltzer or Airborne tablet

With Mineral Oil & Alcohol

70% and 90% alcohol


Container, sealable

Mineral oil

Artist’s oil paints

Food coloring (optional)

Light or heat lamp
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Sources and Citations
SteveSpanglerScience.com is the original source of this article and has more instructions on this experiment. Article Info
Featured Article
Categories: Featured Articles | Candles Lamps and Fireplaces | Science Recent edits by: WritingEnthusiast14, Qimu, Souphead
In other languages:
Español: Cómo crear una lampara de lava, Deutsch: Wie man eine Lavalampe aus Haushaltszutaten macht, Português: Como Fazer uma Lâmpada de Lava com Ingredientes Caseiros, Italiano: Come Costruire una Lampada di Lava con Ingredienti Casalinghi, Nederlands: een lavalamp maken, Français: Comment faire une lampe à lave avec des ingrédients ménagers, Русский: сделать лавовую лампу из подручных материалов Discuss

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