Oozing Goo - The Lava Lamp Syndicate

As a person who is waiting for a new source of lava I have been rebuilding lamps for the better part of 20 years. Over half my collection I have rebuilt.  I have always used Magna Tower for lava.  Some batches really good, some not so much.  But one issue I have always had to deal with was lamps going dead. even factory lamps. Over the years I have gotten lamps working great and then sometimes days, months, or years later,  you turn them on one day and nothing.  I have never understood how they can work great one day and not the next. Many times I can add a tiny amount of surfactant and get them working again.  Sometimes not.

Can anyone shed any light on this issue and possibly have any suggestions on how to deal with it more effectively?  Thanks.

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I have one thought on a possibility.  I have 2 grandes that flow very well when new and now they just create golf ball sized blobs and no stretch.  I have noticed on the outside of the globes I have "water marks/runs" residue so I know something has evaporated out of the lamp and condensed on the top cap and ran down the lamp so the globes were not sealed perfectly.  I get no leaking when the lamps are cold and tilted so there must be a very very small opening that occurs once the lamps are hot and running.  End all be all on your lamps it may be a sealing issue with the cap.  I know I am guilty of moving most of my lamps by the top and I wonder if that doesn't loosen the seal of the cap over time.

Thanks for the reply but I dont think that is an issue.  I only loosely put caps back on mine for easier access in the future.  I have also noted that when adding surfactant in the form of dish soap, sometime adding to the water does not help but adding to the actual lava will sometimes create a good effect.  I do this by adding a very small amount on the end of a toothpick and inserting into the molten lava at the top making sure by moving that all the dish soap comes off inside the lava.  Works a good percentage of the time.

I was also wondering if anyone has tried to add the brake clean chemical to liquid lava to produce more lift.  I have seen videos where that chemical is used when making lava.  Could that chemical evaporate over time and cause the dead lava?


I prefer to only use orginal LavaLite wax and liquid.  When I used Magma lava and recipe the interior of my lamps get this film that only comes off when the lava rubs againt it otherwise they run beautifully and look great once the film gets rubbed off which takes a few runs. All my Magma lamps still flow beautifully.  I've done a series of tests and the one thing that fries the liquid the most is due to the heat of the water reaching a certain temperature and once it gets to a certain temp the lamp never operates as it should.  Some poeple leave lamps on for longer then the recommended time and they overheat and by the time the laps turned off it's fried.  Glitter lamps performed differently.  With glitter lamps the flakes curl from the heat and lose their shimmer and for some the glitter stops circulating.  The older Fantasia Glitter Graphics lamps stop flowing  once they heat up to a certain temp and even running a dimmer yields poor results as did using different lowere wattage bulbs.  Some flow as they should but most just stop circulating once they get too hot. Most lamp buyers think once you plug a lamp in it can remain on for days before turning off and we all know that some heat up faster than others...especially the smaller lava lamps.  I also switched bases on some of the globes and the lamps sprung back into action.  Could be a number of factors involved however my studies have proven time and time again it was the lamps being left on for too long and the temp of the liquid getting too hot.  

I think or know that you have a good point about overheating in these lamps.  Thus, I have a couple of lamps that require dimmers to operate properly.  It is disappointing to think that some lamps will overheat and quit working while I have seen some lamps go forever and keep working perfectly.

Trouble is you never know which lamp will be sensitive to overheating.  This thought has also crossed my mind when heating the Magna Tower lava to liquid to put into a rebuilt lamp.  While I dont know for sure, I always heated the lava just enough to pour fearing that overheating it in the microwave might ruin it.

On a slightly different note, I have always found the smaller 11 inch lamps the most difficult to rebuild.  Seems to me with such a small amount of water you have to be spot on with would chemistry with little room for error.

Patiently waiting for new lava source.

The Ideal lamps operating temp is @125F / 51C.

When overheated the lava will simply settle to the bottom or all float depending on the chemistry.

Let's all remember wax formulas and master fluid have changed over time due to regulations.
Newer "Safe wax" uses a combination of chlorinated paraffin and a mix of paraffin wax to achieve the sweet spot for flotation
PERC used in vintage wax formulas has been eliminated for environmental and liability reasons

The life expectancy as the chemical properties of wax and fluid will change over time and use.
A dimmer is absolutely for larger lamps as it will prevent overheating, expend the life of the lamp in general, and allow a longer time for use without damage,
Grandes for example came with dimmers on the premium models (Heritage, 50th, etc)

You are absolutely correct NOT to microwave wax as it will overheat portions of it and change the chemical properties listed in their spec sheets,
I have NO IDEA what prompted MT to suggest that in their original directions,??

Of course, the inadequate and archaic method MT used to mix their batches leaves a lot to be concerned about and explains why there was an inconsistency in the quality of the batches (combined with absolutely NO quality control of testing batches prior to selling them)
They didn't even monitor the wax temperature and let it boil thus exceeding the spec sheets parameters of the ingredients
They used high-speed mixers emulsification mixers thus creating microbubbles in the wax, then had to do a second procedure of using a vacuum pump to get them out so the end product wouldn't all float.  The list goes on,.. including leaving the mixer open overnight so you got insects in the wax.

The correct and only method that should be used to heat wax is a water bath
Even candle makers use this technique

Smaller 14" /20oz lamps are always troublesome and will never flow like a larger lamp due to the lack of volume of wax and fluid. They are purely for novelty purposes.

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