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DIY lava lamp with Museum at Home at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Museum at Home: DIY Bubbling Lava Lamp

Lava lamps hold a special place in pop culture history, but there's a lot of science that we can learn from them, too. With the Bubbling Lava Lamp, you'll learn how to make a homemade, kid-safe lava lamp using materials right in your home. 


  • Clear jar with a lid
  • Vegetable oil (the cheaper the better)
  • Food coloring
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Flashlight (optional)
DIY Bubbling Lava Lamp with Museum at Home at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis


  1. Fill the jar 2/3 full with water.
  2. Add 2–3 drops of food coloring.
  3. Fill the rest of the bottle with oil—almost to the top but not overflowing.
  4. Add clumps of salt. Watch what happens. When the bubbling stops, add more salt. It’s just like a lava lamp.
  5. Once the bubbling has completely stopped, screw the lid onto your jar. Tip the bottle back and forth and watch a wave appear. The tiny droplets of liquid join together to make one big lava-like blob.
  6. If you want to make it even more "lava-like," put your bottle on a flashlight and turn the room lights off. 

What's going on:

Oil is lighter, or more dense, than water. That's why oil and water don't mix. So the oil rises to the surface.
When you add the salt, the grains attach to the blobs of oil. That makes them sink. The salt dissolves and the oil returns to the top. This creates a lively liquid lava-like show.
Groovy, baby!
Share your creation by using the hashtag #TCMatHome on social media!
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Categories: Science
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