Oozing Goo - The Lava Lamp Syndicate

Hey guys, pretty much a newb here. Technically savvy, but missing something. My kid got an old gold metal base lamp at an antique store. Worked, but missing quite a bit of water, and not very clear. Read the directions on here, seemed easy enough to change water. Followed the "retro-basic" instructions for water change, but goo just won't come off the bottom. Oh yea, it's a 32oz. I have put probably two teaspoons of pickling salt in so far and don't want to over do it. It seems like it needs more salt, I just wanted to check here first. I can slowly stir the goo with a skewer, and when a bubble does break loose, it quickly sinks back to the bottom and rejoins the rest. This indicates to me the goo is still to heavy compared to the water.

 Am I on the right track, or doing something horribly wrong? (something in-between...hope-hope)

Thanks in advance for any tips.

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a friend of mine once cleared the bubbles with this salt that goes into dishwashers...I was never brave enough to try an never had such a bubble problem but it might be worth a try.

Interesting that you mention that. I didn't know it had a life expectancy, but was wondering. Through this last process, somehow the wax became "browner" than orange. Almost like it got burnt or something, but I didn't heat it any more than I had to for getting it out globe. Also had me thinking about making my own ooze from the retro-basic recipe. Mmmm, could try that and new water before goo kit.

if you try the perc mix, do it outside, its highly toxic...you can get perc from breaklean, a spray cleaner for car breaks

Some notes on how to fix a cloudy lava lamp. This applies to a 52.oz lamp which is what I tested on.

1. Run the lamp for several hours. It needs to get as hot as it can so that all the ooze will melt and become transparent, preferably. If it doesn't get hot enough, heat up the bottle in a water bath until it gets to that state. Ooze = translucent.

2. Pour out the whole thing in a stainless steel container and place in the freezer. That's right, the freezer.

3. Rinse out the bottle and remove the steel coil. Wash the bottle and the spring in hot water and lots of detergent until both are clean and not oily or waxy to the touch. Dry them and set them aside.

4. The water and ooze will freeze eventually. The water on top, the wax on the bottom of the stainless container. Once frozen solid, remove from the stainless steel container. The ice will peel off the wax as a separate block. The wax will not freeze solid but will be solid enough to separate from the frozen water. Discard the ice puck. leave the ooze in the stainless steel container and warm it up gently on the stove on Low until it becomes a liquid again.

5. Insert the coil in the clean bottle and carefully pour the melted ooze back into the bottle. Allow it to cool until it is solid again.

6) Refill with plain water leaving some room at the top in order to add more (see below). Buy some food coloring from any supermarket. The box will have instruction on how to achieve various colors, so many drops of this, to so many drops of that. Cut the number of drops in half from their recipe. Their recipe is for coloring food or dying eggs and it's way too concentrated for a lava lamp. As a matter of fact, cut the recipe by 2/3 first and see if the reduced quantity achieves the color of water your want. If it doesn't, increase it to half the recipe but only after you run the lamp for a day or two. Remember it is always easier to add things than to remove them.

7) The saline solution. This is very important and I think most people use way too much salt in their recipes. Maybe that is because I like my lava big and lazy. At any rate, here is mine. You will need some distilled water and some picking salt (kosher salt) preferably coarse. You will need the distilled water anyway for later, so buy a gallon jug of it. Fill a glass with about 2 to 4 oz of distilled water and pour in it one tablespoon of picking salt. Stir until the salt dissolves. If all salt crystals have dissolved, we need to add more. Add another half a tablespoon and keep stirring (might take a while, so stir and let it sit, then stir again later in the day). What we are looking for is a saturated saline solution, that is a solution where the water is so saturated with salt that it can no longer dissolve any more salt). You will know you have the right saturation when the pickling salt crystals no longer dissolve but just sit on the bottom of the glass, no matter how long you stir or wait. When that happens, you have a saturated saline solution.

8) Add the food coloring to the plain water you have put into your bottle and gently swirl it around until the coloring blends. If you are happy with the color, proceed to the next step. If you are not (especially if it is too dark) dump out the water and replace it with more cold tap water and try a different color mixture until you get the shade you want. Write down the number of drops of dye so that you can duplicate the shade again, in the future.

8) Assuming you have the color you want, we proceed to to the saline solution. On a 52 .oz lamp, I found that two TEAspoons of the saline solution are sufficient to produce the large and lazy lava I like. But begin with one TEAspoon of the saline solution. Place the bottle back in the lamp and run it until it has warmed-up (couple of hours probably). Look at the lava. If it form proper bubbles but they DO NOT rise all the way to the top and then drop back down, then you will need more saline solution. Add another TEAspoon of the saline solution and wait a couple of hours and see how the lava behaves. If the lava cycles properly, you are done. If it still does not cycle properly add another HALF of a TEAspoon of the saline solution and wait again. Repeat this process until the lava cycles properly. If the lava rises to the top but does not descend again, you went overboard with the saline solution and there are only two fixes to this. Dump out half of the water, after the lamp cooled down, and replace it with fresh water and begin the process again in half TEAspoon increments or dump out all the water and begin again from scratch with the saline solution. Write down the quantity of saline solution you use, so that you don't repeat the wrong dosage.

9) Assuming you have arrived at the proper consistency and cycling of your lamp, you are done. "What about surfactant?", some will ask. Well, I tried it with one drop of Palmolive detergent. It made no difference and the water clouded a bit. Dumped out the water and replaced it with tap water and then repeated the process as described above, without the surfactant. Water stayed crystal clear and the lamp works perfectly. So, in my case the surfactant was not necessary. If you encounter ooze sticking to the sides of the bottle (AFTER the lamp heated up properly) you may need the surfactant. Begin with one DROP only and wait for it to take effect. On a 52 .oz lamp you will not need more than TWO drops maximum. In my case, I did not need any, at all.

Good luck and let me know how it turned out.


  I mentioned above (in paragraph 7) that you will need distilled water later, without mentioning what for. This is entirely optional, although there are always benefits to using distilled water to tap water. Tap water varies from region to region. Some people have "hard" tap water (lots of dissolved minerals in it) others have "soft" water in their public water systems. In such cases, it makes the formulation of a consistent recipe difficult since no two people will have the same water. To eliminate these variables and to level the experimentation field, it is best to use distilled water across the board. Distilled water is free of minerals and it dissolves salt better than tap water.

  Assuming that you have arrived at a recipe that works well with your tap water, the problem arises when the recipe is posted and others do not achieve the same results as you, since their water is different. Hence, a good recipe, will use distilled water and as such it is more likely to produce consistent results for anyone who uses it. My recipe above, has been tested with both, tap and distilled water. The only difference I noticed, is that the distilled water required about 5% more saline solution to achieve the same results as the tap water version. Again, both were used without any surfactant, in my lamp. It still works great so I am assuming that perhaps enough surfactant was trapped in the ooze, not to require me to add any more.

P.P.S. Also you may notice two paragraphs numbered 8, above. Ignore the numbering, it's my spastic typing. :)

Thank you Morbius for a thorough post!

i agree with tim. sounds like the wax is breaking down causing the water to cloud and the wax to discolor.

Morbius your right about the process of using salt - when i have done it I haven’t used as much salt in a concentrated solution as you so more of the salt solution was needed and I used Epson salts but picking salts work probably work better as they are more of a pure form.

I don't think its necessary to put in a freezer or clean out the globe and coil etc unless its required (i.e. if there is still muck in the globe). What I have done with water change is just to empty out the water when the lamp is off and wax solid and then start to refill. if it is necessary to empty the wax i use the base to melt the wax its just simpler that way.

However I still feel that your best bet would be to get a replacement globe as I think the wax is on its way out - a change in water wont be the answer if this is the case.

I tend to agree with you Tim. It WAS clearer when I first put the new water in. I used pickling/canning salt with distilled water. When it finally started to flow I thought "Aha!....got it". But then had the trouble with the bubbles, AND has been getting cloudier every time I run it, not clearer as was suggested on here. Think it's time to make some new goo!!

thanks all for help and input, been really fun finding this new site and "hobby/obsession". Everybody has been super helpful, and I never felt "talked down to", which I can't say for all the forums I am a part of.

Oh, and you too lava luva.

no problem, carl.  if you go with the goo kit, just know that it's very easy and, in my opinion, not quite as fun as altering the LL water formula to get it flowing again. :)

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