Best Portable Products

What Happens if You Shake a Lava Lamp?

A lava lamp is also known as a liquid motion lamp. When you switch it on, the heating effect produces an up and down fascinating motion.  For that reason, most people incorporate lava lamps in their rooms to bring about a decorative effect at night.

But What’s a Lava Lamp?

A lava lamp has an electric light at the base of a jar containing viscous fluid and a waxy substance. When you turn on the light the colored waxy substance rises and falls slowly in the liquid, hence the mesmerizing effect.

For example, most lava lamps use wax of diverse colors in a jar of translucent liquid. And to produce more visual appeal, there are different jar shapes to choose from.

A bulb at the base of the vessel produces light and heat. In effect, it ignites a captivating motion effect on the lava lamp. The Lamp Lava 2149 and the Lava Lite 2124 are good examples.

How a Lava Lamp Operates

The operation principle of a lava lamp (liquid motion lamp) is very straightforward. It comprises of the following;

  • A thick floating liquid (compound)
  • A transparent liquid where the blob (thick liquid) will float
  • A source of heat and light at the base (usually a bulb)

For the lava lamp to work, the two compounds in the jar must be mutually insoluble. In other words, one liquid cannot dissolve in the other, but rather floats on top.

So let’s assume your lava lamp consists of wax and oil in the glass jar (usually it contains much more than that). Commercially made lava lamps contains water, paraffin wax, mineral oil, and even carbon tetrachloride).

When you switch on the lamp at the base, it lights up and produces heat at the same time. And owing to the radiation effect, heat reaches the bottom of the jar.

On receiving heat, the wax in the jar changes into a molten state and becomes less dense than the surrounding oil.

Therefore it begins to rise slowly. But in the process, it loses heat. Hence after a while, it becomes denser than the oil and thus sinks to the bottom again.

The whole process will repeat itself for a number of times. Depending on the lamp rating and brand of the lava lamp, it may go on for about 8 to 10 hours. After that, you will have to switch it off and allow it to cool down.

So What Happens When you Shake a Lava Lamp?

During operation, you must leave the lava lamp undisturbed. However, at times you can accidentally knock it off, shake or turn it upside down. Shaking a lava lamp forces it to malfunction.

The oil in the jar is delicate, and thus shaking the setup will force the liquid in the container to turn cloudy. Once you have lost the clarity of the water in the vessel, it can’t function normally. You’ll have to do something about it.

Fixing a Lava After a Shake-Up

If you have unintentionally disturbed your lava lamp, then here are a few tips that can help fix it;

Alternate Between Turning the Lamp On and Off

The initial step in fixing the lava lamp is switching it off for a while. Doing so will so allow the wax to recollect again. After an hour or two, turn it on.

Once the water begins to get cloudy again, switch it off. Repeat the process for a number of times (approximately 6 to 8 times) and see if the problem clears off.

Let it Run for About 10 Straight Hours

Alternatively, you can switch it on and leave it to run for about 9 to 10 straight hours. The longer duration is intended to produce intense heat and hopefully restore it to its normal functioning state. However, if it doesn’t solve your problem try the next trick below.

Replace the Liquid

If you haven’t been successful with the two previous tricks, then switch the lava lamp off. After which, unplug it from the socket let it cool down.

After it has cooled off, attempt replacing the liquid in the lava lamp. Carefully follow the following steps;

Loosen the Lid

The wax should have solidified during the cool-off duration. Therefore, loosen the lid of the jar and carefully pour out the liquid.

Carefully Add Distilled Water

Next, pour into the jar cool distilled water. However, since the wax may be fragile, don’t let the water hit the wax directly. Furthermore, do not shake or stir. Then pour out the water and repeat the procedure about three times.

After that, refill the jar with distilled water but leave an air space of about 2 inches. Switch on the lamp and let it heat for about an hour with the lid open.

Prepare Saline Solution

Take a glass of distilled water and heat in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Then dissolve a significant amount of Epson or pickling salt into the microwaved water to form a saline solution. Never use table salt as once iodized it may turn the water cloudy.

Transfer Saline Solution to the Lamp Jar Using a Drinking Straw

After that, dip a drinking straw into the saline solution to a depth of about two inches. Then pinch the remaining open end of the straw to trap water into the tube.

While maintaining the pinch, transfer the saline water into the lava lamp jar. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Repeat the procedure maintaining an interval of every 10 minutes until the wax floats on top.

Add few drops of liquid detergent and food coloring for best visual appeal. Lastly, finish off the process by screwing back the lid.

Precautionary Measures

For efficient performance of your liquid motion lamp:

  • Locate the best position for the lamp that gives optimum visibility and has less traffic
  • Keep the lava lamp from direct sunlight
  • When replacing the bulb, do so with the same type and rating
  • Do not light the lamp for more than ten straight hours


Shaking a lava lamp malfunctions it. So set it up in the right place where you won’t need to relocate again. But in case you accidentally bump or shake it, the above steps can help restore it to a working state.

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