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Real Science: Borax Crystals

Science Educator Becky Wolfe takes a few household items and shows us how to make Borax crystals.


  • String
  • Wide mouth pint jar
  • White pipe cleaners
  • Boiling water (with adult help)
  • Borax (Available at grocery stores in the laundry soap section. Use 20 Mule Team Borax Laundry Booster, not Boraxo soap.)
  • Pencil


  1. Cut a white pipe cleaner into 3 equal sections.
  2. Attach a piece of string to the top of one of the pipe cleaners and tie the other end to a pencil (this is to hang it from).
  3. Fill a wide-mouth jar with boiling water.
  4. Mix borax into the water one tablespoon at a time.
  5. Use 3 tablespoons of borax per cup of water.
  6. Stir until dissolved (don't worry if there is powder settling on the bottom of the jar)
  7. Insert your pipe cleaner into the jar so that the pencil is resting on the lip of the jar and the pipe cleaner is freely suspended in the borax solution.
  8. Wait overnight and by morning the pipe cleaner will be covered with shiny crystals.
  9. Hang in a window as a sun-catcher or use as a decoration.

What's going on:

Borax is an example of crystal - "a solid with flat sides and a symmetrical shape because its molecules are arranged in a unique, repeating pattern." Every crystal has a repeating pattern based on its unique shape. They may be big or little, but they all have the same "shape." Salt, sugar, and Epsom salts are all examples of crystals. Salt crystals are always cube-shaped while snow crystals form a six-sided structure.

How do the Borax crystals grow?

Hot water holds more borax crystals than cold water. That's because heated water molecules move farther apart, making room for more of the borax crystals to dissolve. When no more of the solution can be dissolved, you have reached saturation. As this solution cools, the water molecules move closer together again. Now there's less room for the solution to hold onto as much of the dissolved borax. Crystals begin to form and build on one another as the water lets go of the excess and evaporates.
Original activity by Jill Britton. 
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