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liquid motion lampOriginally a product of the 60's, these liquid motion lamps are found in dorm rooms everywhere. We used to have one in our living room, now we have it in our office. We love these psychedelic lamps and I imagine we'll have one kicking around forever. My husband claims it helps him concentrate, it usually puts me in a trance, but either way, this novelty lamp is a huge part of our pop culture. Have you ever stared at your lamp, mesmerized and wondered how it works?

The low temperature wax is almost the same density, only slightly heavier than the surrounding liquid. As the lamp heats up the wax expands and rises. When it is at the top it cools and falls. How stuff works has this short video explaining the reason behind motion in the lamps.

Now that you have a bit of an idea about how the wax creates this fascinating flow, I bet you're wondering how you could make one yourself. Kick off the new school year with a science project who's product just happens to be the coolest dorm room accessory. If you know your science, then you might want to try your hand at the these directions taken directly from the Lava Lamp patent. The exact Lava Lamp recipe is still secret, so you'll have to play around a bit with this one. If you're not a chemistry major, looking to turn your room into a lab, then you might want to try some more basic recipes. After the break, I'll tell you about the Poor Man's and Retro-Basic Lava Lamps. I'll outline the ingredients and point you to a source where you can learn exactly how you can make them on your own.

The Poor Man's Lava lamp is a great place to start.


  1. Mineral Oil
  2. Rubbing Alcohol
  3. Water

Perfecting this three ingredient recipe will entice you to try other more complicated ones in your quest for the perfect liquid motion lamp. Read this page, for more details, exact quantities and instructions on putting things together.

The Retro Basic lamp is a good one to try if you are a bit more comfortable with these sort of projects.


  1. Wax - Use canning or candle wax. These are light enough, particularly the wax that is used to seal jars or envelopes. It can be found at most craft stores.
  2. Perchloroethylne - Don't let the word scare you! It is commonly knows as perc and can be bought from your local dry-cleaner.
  3. Water
  4. Pickling salt - The salt must be non iodized. Regular table salt will not work.
  5. Antifreeze - Regular works best. If you get non-toxic you'll have to test it because it does have slightly different properties.
  6. Dish-washing liquid

Now that you know what you need, check out this page for important specifications and instructions on how to make each part of your liquid motion lamp.

Once you've which decided liquid and blob concoction you plan on using you'll need to assemble it in a container and on a base. The container you choose doesn't need to be the traditional shape, but will work best if it is tall. Place that over a 40 watt bulb and you're ready to go. Enjoy!



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