Have you ever wanted to make your very own Lava Lamp?! Well now you can, in just 4 steps! Let’s go…

See what effects you can get with a few simple ingredients. Please check with an adult first before you raid the kitchen cupboards though!


The lava lamp was invented in 1963, by Edward Craven-Walker who set up a factory in Poole, Dorset, where lava lamps are still made today.

During the 1960s, more than seven million lamps were sold around the world each year. They went out of fashion in the 70s, but became popular again in the 90s, when even more were made and sold

In 2004 a 24 year-old American called Phillip Quinn tried to heat up a lava lamp on the kitchen stove. The lamp exploded, and shards of glass were sprayed out with such force that one pierced his heart and killed him. The safety instructions clearly state that lava lamps should never be heated.

As well as water, lava lamps contain a mixture of mineral oil, paraffin wax and carbon tetrachloride, coloured with dyes, but the exact formula is a closely guarded secret! The heat and light come from a bulb in the base of the lamp, and as the wax mixture warms up, it rises to the top, and then falls at it cools.

The largest lava lamp you can buy is over 1.25 metres fall. There are over 100 different styles and colour combinations, but no two lava lamps are exactly the same, they all have their own personality.


You will need:

  • A glass jar or bottle
  • Cold water
  • Food colouring
  • Cooking oil (e.g. vegetable or sunflower)
  • Alka-Seltzer or similar fizzing tablets
  • A torch (optional)
  • Small funnel for narrow-necked bottles (optional)

1. Make sure your bottle or jar is completely clean before you start. Pour in a small amount of cold water until it’s about a quarter full. Then add a few drops of food colouring.

Illustration by Isabel Otten

2. Fill the rest of the bottle with oil. Leave a gap of 2-3cm at the top. This will allow space for the tablets to fizz without erupting over the top.

3. Straight away, you’ll see that the oil and water won’t mix! The oil is less dense than water, so it will rise to the top of the bottle and ‘sit’ on the coloured water. Watch and wait for a few minutes until the mixture has completely settled and separated.

4. Break an Alka-Seltzer tablet into quarters (don’t worry about being too precise), then drop a piece into the top of the bottle. As it starts to fizz, colourful water bubbles will rise up through the oil, then drop back down again, making a cool lava lamp effect. Once it’s finished, drop in another piece of tablet, and watch again!


  • To make your lava lamp glow, stand it in front of a sunny window, or shine a torch underneath the bottle.
  • Experiment with different shapes and colors. Blue food colouring and using a short, wide jar instead of a bottle makes for a very different-looking lamp.
  • It’s a good idea to stand your lamp on some kitchen paper or old newspaper, just in case the mixture overflows when you add the fizzing tablet.

Now try this:

Take a different bottle or jar and this time fill it with more coloured water than oil (roughly three parts of water to one part oil). Slowly tip a teaspoonful of table salt into the bottle. As it sinks to the bottom of the glass, some of the oil will stick to the grains of salt. The salt then dissolves in the water, leaving the lighter drops of oil to float back up through the water. It’s slower and less dramatic than using fizzy tablets, but still really fascinating to watch!

Written by xxxxxxx.