Making borax crystals

Science is my son’s favorite subject; math is his second.  He wants to be an engineer (preferably robotics) when he “grows up.”  People have told me that he is on the right track with liking and doing well in both of those subjects.  He loves science and doing science experiments is his favorite part of homeschooling.  In the early years, I discovered that he is a kinesthetic learner and so I try to make learning in any subject have as many hands-on opportunities as possible.  Understanding your child’s learning style and allowing them to learn in that way is important whether it is in a traditional school or homeschool. 

Over the past weeks, we have been studying chemistry.  Our last chemistry experiment was to make borax crystals.  I was surprised with how quickly we saw crystals form, by the next day.  In our experience with making salt and sugar crystals, it took at least a few days to see crystals form.   

The experiment is from 501 Science Experiments. 

501 Science Experiments

It is a very simple and easy experiment.  All you need is:

  • borax powder laundry booster (3 tbsp.)
  • hot water (1 cup)
  • glass jar
  • 1 popsicle stick
  • cotton string (I used floral wire)
  • pipe cleaner/chenille stick (I used ‘eyelash’ yarn)
  • food coloring (optional)
  • scissors

Steps:

1.Dissolve 3 tablespoons of borax powder in 1 cup of boiling water.  We did this in a small pot on the stove.  Remove from heat and add a few drops of food coloring and stir.  My son used yellow food coloring. 

2.Tie the string or wire around the center of a popsicle stick.  Allow a few inches to hang down into the water. Bend the pipe cleaner or floral wire into a star, circle, or shape you prefer. Using floral wire, I wrapped the yarn around the wire and bent it into a circle.  Attach the shape to the wire hanging down from the popsicle stick.

3. Pour the solution into the jar and place the popsicle stick across the top of the jar so your shape hangs into the borax water.  Place in a location where it is undisturbed.  Wait for the crystals to grow.

Doing crystal experiments is very common, and everyone can get different results based on what kind of material they use.  So far, we are very pleased with our results.  I am really glad I used the ‘eyelash’ yarn rather than a pipe cleaner or chenille stick.  I think the crystal formations are most impressive because they formed on the loose strings.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “Making borax crystals

  1. Very cool!
    You could start another blog called “501 Scientific Experiments”!
    You could be the next “Bill Nye the Science Guy”!

    • planetross: Thanks! I could start another blog. Then, I’ll have three blogs I don’t update regularly. hee hee!

      Bill Nye is interesting, in a nerdy kind of way.

  2. What beautiful photos of your experiment! Would you please submit this to the Hands-on Carnival? I’ll be hosting that on Oct. 11. This post would be great!

  3. Tasneem R

    Well now that was a cool experiment! I have all the ingredients you’ve mentioned for this experiment except the borax powder. Will get it and then will try to do this wonderful experiment!
    Your Child’s Aptitude – Find out if your child is an aspiring artist or a mini scientist.
    http://www.3smartcubes.com/pages/tests/child_aptitude/child_aptitude_instructions.asp

  4. The results are stunning! A work of art! Here’s to your son’s growing love of science and maths!

  5. Wow! his is very cool. I have wanted to do this in the past but experiments often go wrong here. Thank you for the pics and step by step. I am tempted to try it now.

    Hope to see you again at the Hands On Carnival!

  6. This takes me back. For a much slower but equally satisfying experiment, you could do roughly the same with copper sulphate. The end crystals are really beautiful and complex and very, very blue. You and your son could start a home accessory business with the borax results – really beautiful, kind of like a crystal dreamcatcher.

    • Epicurienne: Thanks for the suggestion to make copper sulphate crystals.
      I thought our experiment looked like a dreamcatcher, too. I had an idea to make some for gifts.

  7. OH MY GOOODNESSS!!! Coolest thing ever! It really does look like an embellished dream catcher hanging in the window. Thanks so much for the step-by-step, Tammy! My daughters will LOVE making these! xo

    • Christy: There are many possibilities with using different types of yarn and adding drops of food coloring to the solution to make colored crystals. We used yellow food coloring, but not enough as the crystals were white/clear. Hope your daughters like making them. :-)

  8. Hilary

    Love projects that combine art and science! I want to do this with my class at the LA Arboretum this summer, but I have a couple of questions!…
    1.) How long do the crystals take to grow?
    2.) Do you let the borax mixture cool down before the next steps? (Don’t think giving little ones jars of boiling water would be a good idea).
    2.) Since I will be working with a large group of kids (enrollment varies from 15 – 30 & 5-10 yr. olds, which makes my job very… interesting), would you recommend mixing a large batch of water and borax (1c.water/3 tbsp borax per child?) and then make jars for each of them? I suppose I could do smaller jars..

    Thanks so much for the idea!!!
    H

    • Hi Hilary, thanks for the questions. Here are my best answers.
      1.) The crystals will grow overnight. So that would mean several hours.
      2.) Yes, it would be best to allow the mixture to cool down before pouring into the jars.
      3.) I’m not sure about mixing it ahead of time. With my experience, crystals formed in the bottom of the jar, even without attaching to string or yarn. You could test it and make some ahead to see if the results were the same as mine.

      Also, take precautions as the borax is toxic and children should not put their hands in their mouths, and should wash after handling it.

      Hope this has helped. If I can answer anything else, please let me know. -Tammy

  9. Rhonda

    This is really pretty. How did you get the different colors on the top of your string?

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