Lava Lamp Science Project

Have you ever seen a lava lamp? All of the colorful wax that rises and falls, bobbing around--it's mesmerizing! You've probably wondered how to make one. This is an easy science experiment that you can do at home to create your very own homemade lava lamp. And it only takes a few common household ingredients!

Looking for ways to keep your young scientist engaged and learning? Learn about chemistry and practice art skills with Planet Bath Bombs from the KiwiCo Store!

  1. Ages: 5 - 16

  2. <30 minutes

  3. Super messy


Materials you'll need

Step-by-step tutorial

  • Learn moremagnifying icon graphic

    We love watching the bubbles in a lava lamp dance. But before they get their groove on, there’s a lot of chemistry that has to happen!

    When you add the oil and water to your bottle, you’ll see that the water sinks to the bottom and the oil sits on top. Try shaking up the bottle (don’t forget to put the cap on) and see what happens. No matter how hard you shake, the oil and water won’t mix together — they’ll always separate out again!

    There are two reasons that oil and water don’t mix. The first reason has to do with something chemists call polarity. Water is made up of polar molecules. That means each molecule has a positive charge on one end and a negative charge on the other end. Positive and negative ends stick together kind of like magnets. Oil is made up of non-polar molecules. That means they don't have a positive or negative charge. Since the water molecules are looking for a positive or negative charge, they won’t mix with the oil molecules. The second reason has to do with something called density. The denser something is, the more stuff there is packed into it. If you weigh a cup of water and a cup of oil, the water weighs more. That means the water is more dense than the oil, which is why it sinks to the bottom!

    But there are ways that you can mix them up! Adding the fizzy tablet will create a chemical reaction that causes carbon dioxide gas bubbles to form. Water droplets will stick to the bubbles and hitch a ride to the top of the bottle. Once the bubbles escape, the water droplets will sink back below the oil. It is a density disco, polarity party, and a bubbly ballet all in one!

  • Step 1

    Gather your materials.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 1

  • Step 2

    Fill the container ⅘ full with vegetable oil.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 2

  • Tip

    We used a funnel, but it’s not necessary!

  • Step 3

    Fill the rest of the container (almost to the top!) with water. If the container is too full it might overflow when you add the fizzy tablets!

    Photo reference of how to complete step 3

  • Step 4

    Add a few drops of food coloring. They should sink to the bottom of the container and color the water.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 4

  • Step 5

    Break up a fizzy tablet and drop it into the container and watch your lava lamp come to life!

    Photo reference of how to complete step 5

  • Learn moremagnifying icon graphic

    Want to experiment more? Try making a glow-in-the dark lava lamp. Instead of tap water, use quinine water (aka tonic water) and no food coloring. Place your lava lamp under a blacklight to light it up!

  • Final result!

    A bubbly lamp!

    Photo reference of how to complete step 6

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