Science Experiment – The Lava Lamp

Our version of the lava lamp.


We have done some pretty cool science experiments around here. One of my all time favorites, and apparently yours as well  – for it sure gets a lot of Pinterest hits, is the one with baking soda and vinegar. However if you ask me, this lava lamp experiment topped the coolness chart!

According to Wikipedia, the classic lava lamps are made using a halogen bulb, water, mineral oil, paraffin wax (which is melted with the hot bulb), carbon tetrachloride, and dyes (to add color). If you are so inclined, you can learn more about lava lamps here.

The science experiment we did today uses much more common ingredients to create a simpler lava lamp, but produces similar results (just on a smaller scale).

If lava lamps intrigue you as much as they do me, you are definitely going to want to try this experiment!

Supplies for lava lamp science experiment

Supplies Needed:

  • plastic bottles (labels off)
  • water
  • vegetable oil
  • food coloring (the liquid kind – NOT the paste)
  • alka-seltzer tablets (broken up into smaller pieces to fit inside the bottle)
Adding the food coloring to the bottle

How To:

  • Fill approx 2/3 of the plastic bottle with water
  • Add some vegetable oil approx. another 1/3 way up the bottle
  • While making sure the contents in the bottle do not move, add 10 drops of food coloring
  • Again while making sure the contents do not mix, drop in the alka-seltzer tablet pieces
  • Watch what happens!

(As the tablets start to fizz the bubbles slowly combine the lava lamp contents together).

If you want to see what the final results should look like for this experiment click on this video I made today:


This particular science experiment can be extended quite easily:

  • You can add as many alka-seltzer tablets as needed to keep the fun going
  • You can add a variety of food coloring to see color changes (before adding more alka-seltzer tablets)
  • Once the tablets have stopped fizzing, put a lid on the bottle and secure tightly. Slowly flip the bottle over, and you will get an even better example of how water and oil mix (or  rather, don’t mix). No matter how many times you flip the bottle, the oil will always settle on top!

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