Scale model cockpit FPV

cool scale cockpit video

Funny Zoo Snap

man enjoys elephant My wife noticed this in the family archives.

RC Nitro motorcycle racing

rc motorcycle Motorcycle racing in Lilliput.

Manned RC Multicopter

manned multicopter
Here’s an RC multicopter big enough to ride on!

Make: Talk 004

make: Talk 004
I had a fun time talking to Mark Frauenfelder in episode 4 of his new podcast, Make: Talk!

One Man Basement Band

one man band
I feel like I could be getting more mileage out of my right foot.


liberty vintage motorcycles An Etsy portrait. Thanks, Danny.

Tequila Sleeve

tequila the champs
Champs sleeve

Wolf-Stelzer Book Lamp

Book Lamp
My friend Tess just made the cover of ReadyMade with her cool lamp design.

Tree Stump Bug

Can this be for real? The design is so awesomely Thunderbirds. Via

The Nothing Box

nothing box


Thunderbirds are go
Are Go!

Command Center

command center
Sweet assemblage spaceship’s bridge.

Four Drano’s

Watch the sink slowly, all but disappear from the design .

Toothpaste Aerosol

toothpaste aerosol
Aerosol toothpaste

Lava Repair


Flea markets and swap meets are my favorite commercial venues, but let’s face it, the treasures that you bring home are often in less than pristine condition. Such was the case with the flea market lava lamp that I received as a birthday gift one year.

It was more of a “magma” lamp, as when turned on and fully warmed up, it never actually erupted. The goo just sort of sat there in a ball at the bottom of the globe. I used it this way for a number of years, since it did emit a nice glow, and it a was Century model, the quintessential but now discontinued lava lamp.

Curiosity got the better of me one day, and I decided to open it up and try to figure out just what the stuff inside was, and see if I could get it to work again. Google eventually led me to oozingGoo.com where the serious lava lamp tinkerers hang. I spent some time on their Formulas message board, and decided to have a go at making some lava.

After some messing around, I ended up with my own successful recipe that is a variation of the “Retro Basic” formula that oozingGoo reccomends.

The ingredients are:

  • Water
  • 1 tsp. Perchloroethylene (brake cleaner)
  • Salt (non-iodized) or ethylene glycol
  • 1 cup Petroleum Jelly and/or Wax
  • Soap (surfactant)

The molten wax/petroleum jelly combo, and water are the two main fluids in the lamp. The “perc” is used to adjust the density of the waxy part, while the salt or ethylene glycol (either will work) are used to fine-tune the density of the water. The relative density (or is it specific gravity?) of the 2 parts has to be just right or, once up to full operating temperature, the lava will either float to the top and stay there, or sit at the bottom in a blob.

If the lava floats, you weigh it down by adding more perc. If your lava sinks, you make the water heavier by adding salt (the canning and pickling variety) or ethylene glycol.

A few drops of dish soap acts to break the surface tension of the wax so that it flows rather than remianing in a ball.

For more in-depth instructions on how to assemble your own goo, or to learn all you could ever want to know about liquid motion lamp theory, and lava lamp history, visit oozingGoo.com.

45 Responses to “Lava Repair”

  1. John R Says:

    Thanks for this entry! I’d always figured there was somewhere on the internet that discussed lava lamp theory in-depth, but I’d never had the time to look for it. Now you’ve saved me that time!

  2. Namaste Says:

    I have tried the “retro” formula and I keep getting seperation of the different parts. The Wax seperates from the perc so I tried mineral oil also. It still seperates and clouds really bad. Did you have the same problem? Have you tried the “retro” formula? My next plan is perk and mineral oil alone.

  3. Steve Says:


    I have not had a problem with seperation.

    Are you making sure that the perc is well blended in the molten wax?

    I would avoid mineral oil completely. The mineral oil formulas are a completely differnet beast.

    I have had the best luck with simply vaseline and perc. Using pickling salt if I need to make the water heavier.

    good luck

  4. Namaste' Says:

    Is there any other mixtures that do not use perc? Is there another oil based chemical that is denser than water that is safe?

  5. Coty aka Xearo Says:

    i just want to know whare i can get bulbs
    and Q two is thare any possible way i can add more water to this thing its kinda below the lines because my grandmother had it in her closet and it was under a bunch of junk. i dont have the bulb cuz the metal holder got crushed i managed to fix it with plyers and rubber wire insulation

  6. Chris Says:

    Most hydrocarbons will be less dense than water. You need something to increase the density, and chlorinated organic compounds will do the trick.

    I understand if you have health or environmental concerns about using something like that, but the alternatives are basically using chemicals containing iodine or bromine instead of chlorine. These are harder to find, and in my experience they may also react with the water over time.

    Another alternative would be to lower the density of the water, or replace it with another hydrophilic solvent altogether. If grain alcohol isn’t too volatile, you might be able to mix it with glycerine to match the density of the petroleum jelly. I haven’t tried it, though.

  7. KARRI BATES Says:


  8. Morgan Says:

    Ok, the problem with my lamp is that once fully heated and operating some stays at the bottom and top, with only minor little bubbles of wax moving up and down. The odd thing is that there are bubbles of air in the wax itself at the top and bottom and never seem to go away even after turning it off for several hours. And once its fully cooled to room temperature a small layer of wax stays at the top and never moves. So I have no idea whats wrong with it. Any ideas?

  9. Curt Says:

    Wow!! Thank you . What a wonderful site . Rescued my son’s lava lamp when he moved two drops of soap and a little water and it is working beautifuly .

  10. Gavin Says:

    I have the same problem with my lava lamp as Morgan. Is there any possible way to fix it, or do I just have to live with it?

  11. David_T Says:

    I had the same problem as Morgan (and Gavin), I removed the top (with much effort and swearing) and added TWO drops of detergent (washing detergent) and ONE tablespoon of salt (dissolved in a small amount of water first). This has resulted in the lamp working perfectly as if brand new. My one reccomendation though would be to heat the lamp before you put the stopper back in to allow for heat expansion (i did not do this and the stopper popped out which was no big deal, it is fine now thanks fo asking). My eight year old stares at the lamp for hours, I think there may be something wrong with him.

  12. davidT Says:

    I had the same problem as Morgan (and Gavin), I removed the top (with much effort and swearing) and added TWO drops of detergent (washing detergent) and ONE tablespoon of salt (dissolved in a small amount of water first). This has resulted in the lamp working perfectly as if brand new. My one reccomendation though would be to heat the lamp before you put the stopper back in to allow for heat expansion (i did not do this and the stopper popped out which was no big deal, it is fine now thanks fo asking). My eight year old stares at the lamp for hours, I think there may be something wrong with him.

  13. Gary Says:

    How did you get the cap off ?? And then how did you get it back on ??

    I used a bottle opener to get it off, and a fresh cap aand bottle capper (I have one for my beer making) to re-seal it.

  14. Levi Says:

    I had a lava lamp for about 4 days then the lava just sat at the bottom in a ball it will not rise to the top how can i fix it?

  15. Ame Says:

    I have the same problem as Levi. I have had it for a couple of weeks and it used to work fine. I really love my lamp and want to fix it so is there a home remedy or do i need to return it?

  16. Ame Says:

    I have the same problem as Levi. I have had it for a couple of weeks and it used to work fine. I really love my lamp and want to fix it so is there a home remedy or do i need to return it?

  17. Ame Says:

    I have the same problem as Levi. I have had it for a couple of weeks and it used to work fine. I really love my lamp and want to fix it so is there a home remedy or do i need to return it?

  18. Rob Says:

    My lava lamp has a coil or spring that goes in a circle around the bottom with some lava attached to it, but some of the lava got loose and it doesn’t work as well, how do i fix that? Do I need to open it up or put new lava in?

  19. Joe Says:

    I have a problem that my lava flows normally, but has started sticking to the sides near the bottom of the lamp. The small bits that have stuck now wont come off, and the flowing lava slides up the edges leaving a slug like track of cooler wax deposited on the sides.

    How do i get it to come off the glass sides?

  20. Trevor Says:

    I have just fired up an ancient lava lamp for the first time in 15 years…after a while a great result…except that after a couple of hours the fluid in which the wax performs has gone opaque. Question: is it posible to change the water without dsturbing the wax – and has anyone had this problem and resolved it?? Thanks guys, Trevor.

  21. Roger Says:

    My Lava lamp was shaken while hot, and now the lava is in small globs that do not move up and down. Does anyone know a cure for this?

  22. BhangraMan Says:

    A question from a young lava lamp enthusiast. I turned my lava lamp back on for the first time in about 8 months or so, and after about 5 hours of heating, all the wax grouped up at the very top and seems to have hardened in a glob. As the wax was moving to the top, many tiny bubbles floated up with up but they’ve combined with the large chunk of wax now. I do not know if this is normal because I’ve never had this happen before. Please help me out, any advice would be great. THANKS SO MUCH!!!

  23. Chalie Says:

    My sister brought me an 8/9 y.o huge lava lamp, I turn it on the wax at the bottom moves up a bit from 1 side but there is a patty of few stalactites on top that doesn’t move either, the bulb
    seem hot enough to heat the silver base and bottom part of the glass… yet the “magma” hardly moves other than it risen a bit from one side…huuummm… What A I to do to resucitate this nice big lamp? HELP ANYONE???

  24. Cornelius Fiddlebone Says:

    My Lava lamp hadn’t been turned on in many years, when I did a large glob went to the top and an equal amount stayed at the bottom but no lava activity, I tried shaking it up but it eventually settled back to how it was before.

    I was able to fix it though!

    What I did was open it up and pour all of the liquid (water I assume but it smelled like paint thinner) into a different container leaving behind the two chunks of lava, I then heated up the lamp without the fluid and without putting the top back on until the whole thing was melted, I swirled it around to make sure the floating mass and the sinking mass were mixed together as one and then I removed it from the heat (i used the lamp base to heat it up). after allowing it to cool I added the liquid back in and sealed it back up and now it works like a champ!

    It seems that the components that make it nearly neutrally bouyant had separated and the water prevented them from mixing back together.

  25. kelly Says:

    hey, i was wondering what would be the best way to take the lil cap off and to put it back on to get the best air tight seal?

  26. Steve Says:

    I f you have the later style lamp, with the bottlecap top as opposed to the screw top, you will find the easiest way to reseal it will be with a bottlecapper. You can borrow this little device from a friend who brews his/her own beer.

  27. lava lamp Says:

    HELP!!! the lava in my lava lamp is stuck at the top in a ball that sometimes sticks to the glass. i cant get it down. i admit i accidentally shook it but now its stuck at the top. i dont want to open the cap and do anything…that might break it. please help me get my lava lamp back to normal. HELP!!!!!!

  28. lava lamp Says:

    PS. when i accidently shook it all the lava when into little tiny particles. help me please

  29. Lauren Says:

    HELP ME!!!!!! i got a lave lamp for my birthday a few days ago and it was working great… until some of the lava got stuck to the top of the cap. I tried to get the lava down by tilting the lamp upside down, but now the lava is in a lump at the top of the liquid and looks soild. Also the top of the lamp stays much cooler the the rest. I dont know anyone who owns a bottle capper so i cant take the cap off.
    Also it was a gift so theres no recipt

  30. jerry Says:

    Help. I purchased my lava lamp in 1969. A gift for Mom and Dad on my return trip home from Viet-Nam. The bulb seems to be out. It does not light up and of course the lava goo won’t flow. Question? how to change the bulb.. Mom really likes this lamp and I want to get it fixed. Thank You Jerry 8/29/10

  31. Binh Vu Says:

    If anyone has questions how to fix their lava lamp, feel free to email me, I’ll answer your questions. nambinhvu@yahoo.com

  32. Bob Says:

    My problem with my lava lamp is the wire mesh bottom has floated up with lava under it. How do I fix it. Or is it a problem?

  33. Graham Says:


    I have a 1973 lava lamp that has recently become cloudy.

    When the lamp (at the base) is switched on, the “lava” flows up and down the glass OK but the surrounding fluid is cloudy.

    Have you any hints on removing the cloudiness?

    Thanks in advance for any useful info!

  34. Greg Brown Says:

    Where can i get the cone shapped tops?

  35. Sara Says:

    For years and years my lava lamp had a beautiful large glob that slowly moved with grace als one large “piece”.

    Now there are a lot of sperate “balls” and not the lovely flowing wax. There are numerous medium sized balls with a lot of other tiny wax small wax bubbles. Very unappealing and unattavctive…can someone suggest how to correct.
    Really miss the elagant calming affect of my old lava lamp

  36. Billy Bob Says:

    so all it is is water? wow i thought it was some kind of special liquid type stuff

  37. Marz Says:

    My problem and solution (I think): hard clumpy wax full of air bubbles that occasionally burst forth a couple paltry lava pellets.

    Solution: higher heat light bulb. Instructions say never increase the strength of e heat of the bulb in order not to burn the lava, but if it’s not working anyway, why not give it a try? Mine seems to be working now. Good luck?

  38. gookitnewbie Says:

    LavaLamp – shaking a lava lamp is the kiss of death(when hot that is, cold is no biggie). Unless you plan on buying another lamp, you have no other choice but to replace the wax which means opening it. There is no real way of fixing this until you become comfortable with opening it, yes opening it voids the warranty, but shaking it voided the warranty as well so either way your screwed. Plus Lava Lites customer service is ATROCIOUS and might as well be non existent.

  39. gookitnewbie Says:

    Sara – it sounds like someone shook your lamp while you were not aware of it (every shaken lamp I have seen acts like that), you are in the exact same predicament as the user Lava Lamp.

  40. gookitnewbie Says:

    Graham – I have not had the opportunity to work with older lava lamps, but I do know that if you use a water pitcher filter to clean the fluid it will remove the cloudiness from your lamp.

    I know for a fact this works because I have fixed 3 lava lamps (250 ounce, 52 ounce and 32 ounce) using the CR6000 2 stage PUR pitcher filter. If you decide to go this route make sure it is the exact filter I mentioned, other people have tried better water filters and it would strain out the surfactant which results in no flow.

    I know from first hand experience the CR6000 2 stage PUR pitcher filter model will clean the newer lamps with no loss in performance.

    Again it is the CR6000 2 stage Oval shaped PUR pitcher filter and you can find them at any K-mart of Wal-mart near you for maybe 12 – 15 dollars.

    Since you have an original model there is a possibility it might not work for you, so do this at your own risk! If you have any newer lamps that are cloudy I am confident this filter will fix them.

  41. gookitnewbie Says:

    Chalie – The huge lamp you have is a Grande Lava Lamp (250 ounce) I own one as well and it sounds like you do not have the proper bulb. When I first purchased my 250 ounce Grande the bulb had burned out in it because it was a floor model (and it was cloudy so I got it for 40 bucks! which I fixed using the method in my post above this one).

    What you need is an R-20 100 Watt bulb, and it must be 120 volts too. Any other bulb type (including the 130 volt R20 100 watt) will only melt the lava and cause it to move around at the bottom, no flow or blobs.

    It may sound ridiculous but I tried every other bulb under the sun and in the end it is that EXACT bulb type only that works.

    I cannot find these bulbs anywhere in the town I live in or in the cities surrounding. I had to purchase my bulbs from an online store that Lava Lites site suggested, and out of all of them only two of the stores actually had them in stock, it sucks but it is SO worth the time and money.

  42. gookitnewbie Says:

    BhangraMan – if wax is hardening at the top it means that the bulb your using is not putting out enough heat to warm the globe. You need to make sure you have the exact bulb as described on the inside of the lamps base. Any wattage lower than the recommended will only cause what your experiencing.

  43. gookitnewbie Says:

    To the others with the ball of wax at the bottom – If the wax is collecting at the bottom of the lamp while molten but sits above the coil, I know a way to fix it. Warm the globe until the wax is liquified and goes into its ball state, from there take the globe out (VERY GENTLY!!!!!!! cant stress this enough) place it on a table and slowly start to turn the globe until you see the blob of wax merge with the coil again. I have had this happen with new lamps from Lava Lite and I was able to get them to working by using this method. I had to do this twice with one I received from Amazon, and that is the most I have had to do this to fix that particular problem.

    If the lava is connected to the heating coil and just not leaving from the bottom of the bottle then it is either the wrong wattage or voltage bulb, or worst case scenario the liquid or wax is ruined and you will need to either fix it yourself or replace it.

  44. Harry Says:

    Hi – I recently purchased a 52 oz red/clear Lava Lite at Spencers. The water was somewhat cloudy and there were white flakes floating around in it – so I returned the unit. I opted to exchange it for the orange wax/purple liquid – (H5225). The liquid is very clear and the unit flows beautifully, however – there appears to be either wax particles or something on the inside walls of the globe, just above the (cooled) wax line.

    I’ve tried running the lamp for several hours at a time, hoping this residual matter would melt and mix with the blobs but so far there is no improvement.

    I really love this lamp but fear I’ll probably have to return it as well – this time for a credit to my card – as I now have very little faith in Lave Lite products.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

  45. Brian S Says:

    You guys are all insane, so much to do about NOTHING.

    BOTH of mine didn’t require any of this crazy nonsense to fix.

    All I did was (for wax floating at top and fogginess):

    1: Turn on for 6 hours and then turn off all night 3 days in a row. Let completely cool down all night. On the 3rd night when still warm I tilted mine SLOOOOOOOOOWLY, almost all the way upside down until some of the oil substance at the bottom went to the top, so that the wax would not completely stick to the glass at the top when cooled.

    2: Then the 4th day, take the glass off the base and tap the top side of the glass where the wax is floating, with your finger, a plastic kitchen tool or whatever you want, but don’t smack it hard to break the glass.

    3: If that doesn’t loosen the wax and make it sink, then lightly move the glass in the motion of a clock hand while tapping it.

    4: Once the wax breaks loose from the top and sinks to the bottom, put back on the base, turn on and let it whirl.

    I left mine on all night, from 11pm – 7am and when I woke VOILA, BOTH my lamps were like BRAND NEW


    I tried this completely on a whim, just wondered if it would work and it did.