Virtual Community Lab: DIY Lava Lamp


  • A clear container (preferably with a lid but can be done without one)
  • Water
  • Oil (i.e. vegetable, baby, etc.)
  • Food Coloring
  • Alka-Seltzer Tablet or alternative including:
    • Mixture of baking soda and citric acid
    • Baking Soda and Vinegar
    • Table Salt



1. Fill the container 1/3 of the way with water

2. Fill the rest container most of the way with vegetable oil. The oil will stay on top of the water

3. Add a few drops of food coloring; your choice of color. The food coloring is water-based, so it will also sink and color the water.

4. Break an alka-seltzer tablet into a few small pieces and drop them in the flask one at a time.

a. If using baking soda and citric acid, mix 1 spoon of baking soda with 2 spoons of citric acid and then pour the mixture slowly into the container

b.  If using baking soda and vinegar, mix two heaping spoons of baking soda with your water before adding it to the container. Then proceed to add the oil and coloring as above. Next, slowly pour vinegar into container.

c.  If you do not have an acid-base combination, salt can also be used. You can add a generous amount of salt to your oil/water/coloring combo. As the heavy salt falls through the oil, it will carry some of the oil into the water. Once the salt dissolves in the water, the oil that was carried will immediately float back up to join the top oil layer. This is a less reactive lava lamp and will produce fewer bubbles. (But it still looks really cool)

5. Watch your lava lamp erupt into activity! As the reaction slows down, simply add more alka-seltzer.

6. If you used a lidded container, make sure to leave the lid off while the reaction is taking place. Once all of the alka-seltzer is dissolved, you can close the lid and keep your lava lamp to reactivate later (add more alka-seltzer whenever you want to reactivate the bubbles)

7.  Be sure to properly dispose of your lava lamp as you would any cooking oil.


Take a video or picture of your Lave Lamp in action and share it on social media, using the hashtag #BiogenCommunityLab


Virtual Community Lab: Lava Lamp Explained - Acid Base Reaction

Virtual Community Lab: Lava Lamp Explained - Hydrophilic vs. Hydrophobic