Oozing Goo - The Lava Lamp Syndicate

Since I am new here, I'll first introduce myself a bit.  I've been fascinated by Lava Lamps since I was a little kid.  I can remember when my older sister had moved into her first apartment we all went to visit her.  As we left, everyone was out front of the building yakking away, it was about dusk.  I noticed a Lava Lamp on the window sill of a garden level apartment so I wandered over to watch it, messmerized.  After about 10 minutes I guess the resident wanted a little more privacy and came to the window and drew the curtains shut!  I'm not a peeping Tom, just a kid fascinated by the goo!


I must have been successful expressing to my parents how bad I wanted a Lava Lite because I got one on my 14th birthday and I've had it ever since.  I wish I'd kept the box!  I do still have the warranty card and instruction sheet around somewhere...  Anyway, it was a gold Centry, it is dated May 1975 and originally had yellow fluid and red goo.  I used it a LOT when I was a kid.  That may be why it has a few issues now.  It still functions and does okay, at least as well as it ever has, but it has a few issues I hope I can correct given all the data I've found and read on this site.  Anyway, I'll list out the issues I want to address and hopefully I can get some good advice on how to bring it back to like new condition.


1.  The cap is cracked.  I posted a note in the Buy/Sell/Trade section, hopefully one will turn up. 

2.  The fluid now appears clear, not yellow.  It never sat in a window, heck for the past roughly 20 years it sat in a closet away from all light.  How can I recolor the fluid back to its original yellow?  I read that McKormick's food coloring can be used.  Is this correct?  Perhpas just add a drop or two at a time until the proper color is acheived?  Any dangers in doing this?  Any idea why it faded?  It was certainly yellow when it went into the closet.

3.  The fluid, while not exactly cloudy, does have a fair amount of visible particulate in it.  Is there any way I can safely filter this out without damaging the fluid and perhaps without going so far as the ceramic filter method I read about?

4.  The flow isn't the greatest.  Good sized chunks of wax get stuck at the top while on.  Much of it eventually falls, but often it has a writhing column of goo from top to bottom instead of nice floating blobs and terminated fingers of goo. 

5.  The wax appears chunky.  The method for addressing this strikes me as rather drastic (boiling) and I'd be concerned about doing harm to the wax or fluid but I do want to take some action.  This probably came about by overuse when I was a kid (I often left it running for days at a time) and/or having sat neglected for so long although I remember it being chunky also many years ago.


Even with a cracked cap, the lamp has not lost much fluid, maybe 1/8" or 1/4" from back in the day.  I've read I can top this off with distilled water.  I see no harm in trying this.  Mechanically the lamp is in great shape.  I just installed a new bulb and it warms up in less than two hours and seems to work as well as it ever did, I just know it could work better.


I recently bought a new LL at Menards for $7.50!  I wanted to remind myself how one SHOULD work.  It is a 14.5" tall (32 ounce?) unit with purple fluid and yellow wax.  I love how the goo looks yellow/orange/red depending on how the light catches it and how far up the globe it goes.  I've heard the current (made in China) lamps often don't work that well, but this one works great.  Who would have thought you could find a bargain on Lava Lamps at Menards of all places!


Anyway, thanks in advance for any and all help that may be provided.


I'll try to post up some photos at a later date.

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Hopefully some of you can give me some advice from actual experience before I charge in and try some of these techniques. 

BTW, the doggie in my avatar picture is Lilly, my cocker spaniel.  She is 13, going on 14!  She is my sweet pea!

hi rich - nice pup!

as for the cap, many of them break over time.  is there a way to glue it back together until you find one?  it may be tough to find a cap, but you never know.

mccormick's food coloring works and will not alter the specific gravity of the liquid.  you can use it safely - just a drop at a time, let it dissipate, then adjust to your liking.  

as for filtering the liquid, i've heard of people using panty hose, but i've never tried it honestly.  i assume you would pour the liquid over a panty hose lined jar to catch the particles.  a photo of the globe would help here.

if you're getting chunks and wax stuck at the top along with columns, the globe isn't getting hot enough.  make sure the bulb is 40w.  if this model came with a heat shield, make sure you're using it.  otherwise, perhaps move the lamp to a warmer environment or away from drafts.

welcome to OG! 

Once I decide to filter the fluid, I'll try the yellow dye.  Would a coffee filter work or would it do any harm?  I don't need to filter it due to cloudiness, just some particulate.  An article on this site said to avoid using a coffee filter, not sure why but I don't want to do any harm.

I have tried gluing the crack shut.  It appeared to work until the lamp warmed up, then it split open again.  I might try it again with some industrial grade epoxy which can take moisture and heat exposure.  Luckily the crack is outside the o-ring so I don't need to worry about the epoxy being exposed to the fluid and perhaps damaging the fluid's chemical balance.

I'll try to post a photo or two up in the next few days.

I have  been running it in my basement which is cooler than the rest of the house, but my new LL sits right next to it and works fine.  Back in the day, my old Century typically sat close to a heat register and worked pretty much the same it does now.  The wax is very chunky, with clearly visible white chunks inside the red, been this way since I can remember, even back in the day.  The chunks appear to becoming less prevalent as I run the lamp each day, but they are still very prominent and seem to contribute to the stuck chunk at the top which always seems to have the largest grainy white chunks of all.  Maybe I'll post a short video soon.  The bulb is a brand new 40w clear appliance bulb.  It had a working bulb when I pulled it out of the closet, but I thought it might like a fresh one!

One new thing it has done the past few days is when it is warming up and sending up columns of quickly hardening goo, it eventually sends up a burst of melted goo and turns the whole yet-to-be-warmed-up goo on its side, taking the coil with it.  It eventually warms up enough and the coil sinks back to its proper resting place, but it takes the lamp a lot longer to warm up while the coil is not resting on the bottom.  It doesn't seem to harm anything, but it sure takes a lot longer to warm up fully.  Has anyone else experienced this?  In all the (nearly 40) years I've had the lamp, I've never seen that happen before.

not sure on the coffee filter, but i guess it would eventually rip and cause a mess.  if the particulate is large enough, perhaps you could use a strainer.  

regarding the chunks of wax, i would cycle the lamp by running it 8 hours on and 8 hours off.  a timer helps.  

the behavior you speak of in the last paragraph is commonly referred to as "coil flipping" and is common.  it won't harm the lamp but will take longer for the wax to melt as you mentioned.  sometimes i'll twist the globe until the spring side of the wax positions itself at the bottom of the globe.  other times i just leave it and it eventually works itself out.

I'm going to hold off doing much of anything until I run it through some on/off cycles for at least another week I think.  I did add a splash of distilled water and it seemed to like that.  The more it runs, the less chunky it becomes, but it is just the chunks getting smaller, not disappearing altogether.

I took a few lit but cold photos, but I'll post some more later when I also have flow photos or videos.  I just started it up a hour ago or so so it will be a while yet, maybe tomorrow.  I don't like having it on when I'm not home so I can only run it once a day.

Here is the Century cold, just after I turned it on tonight.  It is still warming up....**EDIT***

How do you get photos to imbed on this site?  All the codes I know from other discussion boards don't seem to be working here.  I have the photo stored in my photos in my profile area but can't imbed that here for some reason.

Here is a video of my old Century vs. my new Classic.  The brand new Classic works great, it is the one on the left.  The Century typically has just a column of goo, most often not random solitary floating blobs.  You should also be able to tell the fluid is mostly clear looking now and I hope the close up shot shows the chuckiness of the wax.  The colors are all washed out because I captured the video on my GoPro which is an older model which doesn't work so well in low light situations.  Anyway, I hope you all can take a look and tell me what you think and provide ideas on what to do to make my old Century work like it should.

<iframe width="459" height="344" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/vr28SJCdTe4?feature=oembed&amp;wmode=opaque" frameborder="0"></iframe>

1975 Century, cold

 Here is the photo of the Century when cold.  You can see the fluid looks basically clear, not yellow.

Hopefully the video or a link to the video will imbed this time.

judging by the flow, it looks like it's running a bit cold.  all of my lamps are in the basement as well, and they flow like that when it's below 70F in the room.  otherwise, i personally like that kind of flow, so it doesn't seem strange to me.  the idea to cycle it for a week or so sounds good.  good luck!

Yeah, it has pretty much always flowed like this.  The wax is very chunky, I'd like to address that for asthetic reasons if nothing else and who knows, it might flow better if I can repair the wax.  It is cool in my basement, but it seems to run the same even in a warmer room  The new little Classic right next to it is going well.  Are there any particular 40w bulbs that burn a little hotter than others?

I'm trying to convince myself that cycling it is helping but I just don't know if that's the case yet.  The goo blobs seem just a little to eager to meld with one another, don't know what I can do to improve on that though.  A touch more surficant?

clear bulbs run warmer than frosted ones in my experience.  if you don't want the blobs of wax to conjoin as easy, then you would actually want less surfactant.  a surfactant reduces the surface tension of the wax, making it stretch and join other masses of wax.

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