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:
- 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.