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


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.



Filed under blogging, books, home, homeschool, life, photography, science, thoughts

26 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.

  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!!!

    • 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?

  10. An excellent example of why we don’t let children have full access to our computer – even for a science experiment. Are you aware there is a disgusting cartoon tagged to the end of your comments on making the crystals? I thought it might be a video demonstration of your experiment when in fact it was a disgusting cartoon of Captain Crunch with a model naked from the waist down. This needs to be attended to.

    • Hi Connie, thanks for bringing this to my attention. I’m very sorry for the offensive ad associated with my crystal experiment. Unfortunately, I have no control over the ads that are shown. When I viewed the blog post, I did not see any ad, as it was blank. There was a message that said some viewers will see ads there. The ads are partnered with WordPress, and there is a link for reporting inappropriate ads. I will check back periodically to see if the ad appears. I’ll then take a screen shot and report it to WordPress. That is the best I can do.

  11. Chris Gustoph (dad) & Arianna Sydney Gustoph (7yr old)

    It’s a shame about the ad problem you had, because I’m using a tablet (mobile internet) and we (my 7yr old daughter & myself) haven’t noticed any advertisements vulgar or otherwise. My daughter and I have just started this new crystal growing hobby, and so far potassium alum and chrome alum have yielded the largest, best formed crystals for us. We are however still experimenting with epson salts (magnesium sulfate) solution as well as borax solutions as described above.
    We both love your walkthrough of how to setup and execute this experiment. It is very detailed and informative, and I especially appreciate the “voice of experience” insight you provide about different techniques you’ve tried and had poor results with. Most sites say “do this” and that’s it. Yours elaborates with “I tried this and don’t suggest it” type info. Thank you!

    • Thank you for the nice comment, Chris. I’m glad to see parents are still benefiting from this post from over 4 years ago. My son is in 10th grade now. My, how time has flown by!

  12. Nancy Marks

    Hi! I’m a Grandma working with my 8 yr old grandson for his science experiment project. Our borax solution came out very over-saturated. His snowflakes are covered to almost unrecognizable. I did my own little experiment because we had talked over so many variables…3 bent up paper-clips and they are equally huge now. Each of our 3 mason jars has a good 1-1/2 inch of “crystals” laying on the bottom too.
    I love your instructions and will try again just for fun. I don’t think I’ll show him your results until after we try it again with the fun yarn. Even old grandmas can learn new things. I am now fascinated with crystals, and how they grow. I’m only here for 3 weeks, so any fun things that we can do together is great. All my questions were answered above. Thanks!!

    • Chris Gustoph

      Hello Nancy Marks:
      It sounds to me like you may have added just a little to much borax to your supersaturated solution. I’m not sure of the size of jars that you used, or how much borax you added to them, but you should try again using around 5-10% less borax to yield better results. My 7yr old and I had the same problem the first time we tried… Additionally you and the grand kids might enjoy making Alum Crystals! My daughter has been growing crystals about 2 inches in diameter, that are PERFECT octahedrons! Alum is available in grocery stores everywhere, and is in the spice isle! Here in Ontario Canada it only costs $3.49. Don’t use alum from bulk stores as it has a different chemical and therefor molecular makeup- that does not yield crystals. For an extra two bucks, food coloring is a good investment for a crystal farmer! When my daughter started making crystals of all different colors it really impressed her friends at school, as well as the teachers and other parents!

  13. Avis

    Its my daughters birthday today, and its always been a tradition to gift her crystals that we hang in the window to catch the sun. I’ wondering is there a certain ingredient that enhances clarity, and also can i use something other than the “fabric” pipe cleaners and yarn? like actual rocks and twigs?

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