DIY Lava Lamp

Here is a classic experiment for your Thursday, making a lava lamp.  I’ll admit, the hardest part for me was finding the most important ingredient, Alka Seltzer.  (Apparently in my Target, Tums has taken over the predominate shelving location.)

A few weeks ago, I set up an experiment that called for Alka Seltzer but I reached for my old Tums instead. I figured all antacids are the same, right?   Wrong.  The experiment fell flat… literally.

Alka Seltzer is made of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and citric acid.  When you toss it into water the tablet dissolves and mixes the acid and base together and releases carbon dioxide.  This is a similar reaction to  mixing baking soda and vinegar.

Here are the ingredients to make your lava lamp:

  • water
  • vegetable oil ( I used left over grapeseed oil)
  • food coloring
  • Alka Seltzer  (Have several tablets on hand)

Here is what you do:

  • First pour water in a clear glass jar.
  • Then pour the oil on top of the water.  The oil and water will eventually separate out (like salad dressing).
  • Throw in a few liberal drops of food coloring.
  • Wait for the oil and water to separate and then toss in a tablet of Alka Seltzer.
  • Prepare to be amazed while the carbon dioxide bubbles up through the vegetable oil.

I love Andrew’s expression while experiencing our lava lamp and I am so proud that Allie knows how to identify carbon dioxide.  Either we’ve done a lot of experiments with this bi-product or she has seen us drink our fair share of carbonated beverages.

Remember, when you’ve got the right antacid, carbon dioxide bubbles can truly be amazing.

Categories: 5 minute experiments | Tags: , , |


  • Agnes Steelhammer | May 14, 2015 | Reply

    I am going to try this one. Andrew tries to be just like his sister.

  • Jim Steelhammer | May 15, 2015 | Reply

    Papa loves watching his little scientists at work

  • Lisa | May 25, 2015 | Reply

    Abbey did a similar experiment in her science class for a fun end-of-year activity. She added glitter to hers – it was really cool!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *