Laundry Soap Crystals

Can we really make crystals out of soap?  You bet!  These crystals grow really fast, provided your solution is properly saturated.  In only 12 hours, you should have sizable crystals sprouting up.

You can do this experiment with either skewers, string, or pipe cleaners.  The advantage of using pipe cleaners is that you can twist the pipe cleaners together into interesting shapes, such as a snowflake or other design.  (Make sure the shape fits inside your jar. )

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60 Responses to “Laundry Soap Crystals”
  1. Tyler says:

    wow thanks Mrs. Aurora, there’s so much science out there! 😀

  2. Aurora says:

    Sugar molecules are large and sugar water is very thick and syrupy, so the molecules can’t move fast enough to stick together in an orderly fashion in order to form crystals quickly. Supersaturating the sugar water by heating it up will help the mixture to form crystals a bit more quickly.

  3. Tyler says:

    why does it take six months for sugar crystals to grow when it take twelve hours for borax crystals to grow???????????? 😀

  4. Aurora says:

    Diamond are made of carbon, not laundry soap, so in this case, while it make look like a diamond, the internal chemical structure is laundry soap, so that’s what you get!

  5. Brook Batzel says:

    can it make diamonds??

  6. Aurora says:

    Yes – make sure you are logged in first to see the video!

  7. Sreevalli Nookala says:

    Is there a video here or am I unable to see it?

  8. Aurora says:

    Wow – I have absolutely no idea, but if you have a video, put it on youtube and send me the link (put it unlisted if you want) and I’ll take a look and see if I can offer any suggestions.

  9. Julianna Richard says:

    Our Family did this experiment. When we were reheating and dissolving the excess crystals afterword, we noticed that the pot wobbled. When the pot was square on the burner, it barely wobbled, but when we put the pot on the burner at an offset it wobbled a lot. We are assuming that the bottom of the pot is convex. We were also using an electric stove. There is no difference in height on the surface. Why did the pot wobble? We also have a video if you would like one. I just don’t know how to post one. Thanks for the help.

  10. Aurora says:

    I will have my team connect with with you right away!

  11. Lisa Seals says:

    Hi, Aurora!

    Enjoyed the webcast yesterday. We signed up for eSummerCamp and got started navigating around the site today. Looks like we don’t have access to making crystals from Borax. My 2nd Grader is looking forward to this experiment. Can you help us out?

    Lisa & Evan Seals

  12. Michelle Stevens says:

    When my mom and I tried to get my crystal out of the container, it was stuck to a whole bunch of other crystals on the bottom and on the sides. Did we add too much borax?
    – Olivia

  13. Aurora says:

    What did you have in mind? I would try it and see, since it’s a simple solution you’re mixing up, and you’re not randomly adding chemicals together (right?)

  14. Peter Richter says:

    can you use other kinds of soap besides borax ???????

  15. Aurora says:

    First guess without actually seeing your experiment myself is that your solution was too saturated , meaning you have too much borax dissolved in the water. So, add a bit of water and see if that helps. You can dissolve all the crystals back into the solution first so it’s all a liquid by placing it carefully in a pan of hot water, or if you put it in a glass container, try the microwave. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t overheat. When the crystals are re-dissolved, then add 10-20% more water to your container and stir it up. 🙂

  16. Lisa Stoner says:

    My crystals set up really fast like 2 minutes.Do you know why?

  17. Aurora says:

    You can do a lot of different crystals – I’ve given you instructions for salt, vinegar, charcoal, sugar, and more in this section, so look it over and find the one that works best for you!

  18. Mia Rodriguez says:

    I live out of the country and i was wondering, is there a substitute for Borax because i have looked and cannot find it.

  19. Aurora says:

    Ah, good question. It’s the trigger to signal the crystals to start forming, and when they do (if you your solution is just right) they solidify very quickly.

  20. Diane Hunt says:

    I have a quick question. What was the chain reaction you were talking about when the little crystals got into the soda bottle? That was really cool to see! Thanks, Patrick

  21. Aurora says:

    Yes – look at the “Rock Candy” experiment.

  22. Leah Thompson says:

    can you do this with sugar

  23. Aurora says:

    You can add water and bring it to a boil (use a microwave or place in a saucepan of water) to dissolve the crystals.

  24. Tina Wirth says:

    Is there any way to “uncrystallize” the borax? We used way too much borax, and now have two glass jars filled with a borax rock. Can I do anything to reclaim these jars, or should I just chuck them in the trash?


  25. Aurora says:

    The dregs are part of the solution if you add more water, so the answer is.. not hard at all!! 🙂

  26. Yunhee Christian says:

    did you find it hard to separate the dregs from the actual solotion?

  27. Aurora says:

    That’s normal. Borax doesn’t dissolve well in water – you’ll usually get bits at the bottom. Just add more water to see if you can get them to dissolve with a little more heat.

  28. Martin Melody says:

    We have borax on the bottom of the pan

  29. Christy Kotter says:

    I can make ghost crystals out of soap!

  30. Aurora says:

    Yes! 🙂

  31. Maureen Mackin says:

    but will it change the color

  32. Martin Melody says:

    Wow I’m so going to do that

  33. Aurora says:

    Yes feel free to use food dye with this one!

  34. Maureen Mackin says:

    can you add dye to change the color

  35. Aurora says:

    Wow – that sounds like fun! It also sounds like you might have too much borax. You want to add small amounts of borax in small increments, until it stops dissolving. When you can’t get rid of the particles at the bottom, you know you’ve got enough mixed in the water. I’d add water to your paste, heat it up, and get it back into a solution. Keep working on it… science is about experimenting and trying different things until you get what you’re after! It’s not a perfect, step-by-step clean process. It’s usually messy, wet, or not working right – that’s where you’ll experience the greatest growth and ah-ha! moments… 🙂

  36. Shirley Po says:

    hi Aurora, we seem to have an enormous problem with the borax!! We are in the Philippines so we just brought a huge bag of borax from a hardware store. but as we heated it the whole mixture congealed together into what looked like a soft paste!!! What is wrong with the borax and are there different types of borax mediums!! Can you advise ASAP. The kids are wondering why they cannot make crystals. Thanks, Shirley (Po)

  37. Aurora says:

    Yes, you’ll find a couple of these in Unit 9: Lesson 1, especially Mixing Cold Light and Rainbow Shadows.

  38. alice rawecki says:

    i would like to see colour experiements with primary colours

  39. Aurora says:

    My guess is that you’ve pulled enough of the borax out to make the solution heavy on the water and light on the borax. You need a super-saturated solution to make the borax want to crystallize and fall out of the solution. You can pour the solution back into the pot on the stove and simply add more borax as before and then reuse it.

  40. Colleen Canary says:

    Hi Aurora,
    We had great success with creating my sons crystal dagger… my dragon fly stuck to the side. The crystals formed very quickly! We are trying to create a geode with the left over solution in the 2 liter bottle. The first day tons of crystals formed, there is a very thick formation at the bottom of the bottle and about 1/4 inch thick up the sides. We are hoping to let the sides get a little thicker but 2 days later there hasn’t been much of a change. There is still plenty of liquid in the bottle. We where hoping to get the sides thick enough to withstand removing the bottle. Do you think we have all the crystals we are going to get out of the solution?

  41. Liam Fishman says:

    Aurora in the video your right the borax crystals grow fast.
    also I got chunks of crystals for only one experiment.

  42. Aurora says:

    I apologize for the delay – I must have missed your question! Here’s the info you need:

    A hot solution of borax and water can hold more borax than a cool solution. As the borax solution cools, crystals of borax “fall out” of solution and deposit on the shape you have placed in the container. This is not a chemical change, however. In a chemical change, bonds are broken and new bonds are formed between different atoms resulting in different substances. A physical change does not involve a change in the substance’s chemical identity. The crystals “grow” because the cooled solution cannot continue to hold all the borax that had been placed in it any longer. The shape you have put in the solution provides a home to the borax crystals that are falling out of solution.

  43. Laura Todd says:

    Hi Auora, I asked the previous question a few weeks ago. When you have time could you please respond. I am teaching this tomorrow. Thanks, Laura Todd

  44. Laura Todd says:

    I am currently doing the chemistry lessons with the kids. We did not make these crystals because we skipped straight there. I would love to do them now. Can you help me know what to talk to the kids about? I am sure this is a chemical change but that is about all I can tell them. What is happening to cause the crystals to grow? Thank you, Laura

  45. Aurora says:

    Yes – you’re absolutely right! Seeding the stick will speed up the crystallization process.

  46. Sophia Pitcher says:

    Hi Aurora,

    Would it speed up the process if I “seeded” the pipe cleaner with borax before I let it sit? Just wondering. . .


  47. Aurora says:

    Yes absolutely!

  48. kimberly hinck says:

    is it safe to color the crystals with food coloring?

  49. Rebecca Thomas says:

    This is interesting. We did the borax with pipe cleaners. It grew the crystals really fast, in only a matter of a couple of hours we had A LOT of crystals on our pipe cleaners. It was really cool! After the kiddos removed the pipe cleaners with the crystals on them they wanted to try it again, but they had no more pipe cleaners, so they have tried wire They made shapes out of the wire and left them over night. The crystals are growing MUCH slower on the wire than on the pipe cleaners. We are wondering why that is? SUPER FAST with pipe cleaners and SUPER SLOW with the wires. They hypothesized:
    The crystals are growing slower because the saturation is decreased
    The crystals are growing slower because wire is hard and nonporous and slippery while pipe cleaners are soft and porous?

    We sure are curious.

  50. Aurora says:

    Wow – that sounds cool (and not quite what you were expecting!) Can you send me a picture? Maybe I can suggest something…

  51. Jennifer Hayward says:

    on are first try, we could not get the 2 cups of Borax and 2 cups of water to mixed.we mixed and mixed. So we dumped that one and turned up the heat. then it seemed to work so i let it sit for a few minutes and saw crystals forming on top when we came back..we took the crystals off the top then poured just the liquid into a 2 liter soda bottle like you shown . we put the stick in it, we a snowflake pipe cleaner hanging from holes on the side . We looked at it three hours later and it just looks like a big rock with some water in it. What did we do wrong?

  52. Aurora says:

    Oops! Sorry – I didn’t see your question before. The temperature of the water is going to affect how much borax you can dissolve into the solution. What happens when you heat the solution? Does it reduce the slush on the bottom? When you pour it into your jar, don’t add the slush – it will only concentrate the growth in the wrong place. Just use the solution you mixed up – that should grow your crystals overnight. You want to dissolve as much of the borax into the water as possible, so bring your water to a boil when you add your borax to help you do this. Let me know how it goes.

  53. Lee Giles says:

    I guess I needed to write a question to get a response. We were not able to get our Borax to dissolve. We got a little bit of crystals in the end, mostly we got slush in the bottom. Why weren’t we able to dissolve two cups of borax in two cups of hot water? You used more than that. We stirred and stirred a long time and didn’t get it to work right.

  54. Aurora says:

    Yes, if you place the crystal in a glass of water, they will dissolve back into the solution. But no, they don’t just drip off the pipe cleaner! 🙂

  55. philip swords says:

    really liked the video, think that I am going to try it! Once you make the Borax Crystals, do they ever get out of the “crystal form” an go back to liquid?? That was so cool to watch!!!

  56. Lee Giles says:

    We’re working on this right now and having a hard time getting it dissolved. We put in 2 cups of water and 2 cups of borax and heated it almost boiling, but we still can’t get it all dissolved. In the video you added much more than 2 cups. We’ll see if it grows crystals.

  57. Aurora says:

    The sugar solution tends to be trickier, as the solution really must be really super-saturated. If you’re a little unsure about whether it will set up or not, dump in extra sugar and stir over the heat until it all dissolves. Continue to add sugar until you simply can’t get it to dissolve anymore. (Don’t stop here, though, or you’ll get a solution that will solidify in one huge chunk, and you’ll never get it out of the jar.) Add a bit of water (just enough to make those stubborn undissolved bits at the bottom disappear) and then you’ve got the perfect solution. Depending on how much you make, this cooling process could take an hour or more (get it down to the 120s deg F). Try not to shake the sugar solution too much after crystals start to form on the stick (send the kids home with the syrup in a sealed jar and stick in hand). You can help it along by adding a sugar-coated stick to the solution when first inserted.

  58. says:

    Yes, this was helpful. How far ahead of time can I make the sugar solution? Can that be done the night before? I’ve done the borax crystals with my own kids before so I know that is fairly easy but we have not had good luck with the sugar yet.

  59. Aurora says:

    This is a great one to do with a group of kids, as you can whip up a large batch and then send it home with them. You might want to test your solution out ahead of time to make sure it’s saturated enough. If you’re worried about the solution not setting up right, you can always make it ahead of time, and when you get there add a bit more water and solids to have them get the essence of what you’re doing (this might be a good idea for the rock candy solution, however you really can’t go wrong with the borax crystals).

    Once it’s cooled down A LOT, pour it into the jars (you don’t want kids sloshing around a lot of hot liquid). With the borax crystals, you can just keep adding fresh pipe cleaners to the room-temp liquid each day to get a fresh crystal growth – it doesn’t need to stay hot. Lids are fine for transport, but just be sure to demo what you want them to do when they get home. Does that help?

  60. says:

    I was planning on doing this project with a group of kids and I’m wondering if it is important to have the jars undisturbed once pouring in the hot saturated solution. Would the jars be okay to travel home with? Could we just put lids on until they got home? Will this work with the Rock candy crystals too?

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