How to Fix Lava Lamp After Shaking

how to fix lava lamp after shaking
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Lamps were initially created to produce light at night. Of course, we now have electricity to do that for us. Now, the lamp is more of a decorative feature, so it has come full circle. One type has become increasingly popular, called a lava lamp.

Lava lamps are very fun to watch, but they shouldn’t be touched. If you have one and it got shaken, you may be wondering what to do. Learn how to fix lava lamp after shaking so that you can go back to watching the “lava” float up and down.

What Is a Lava Lamp?

The lava lamp is sometimes called an Astro lamp. It’s decorative in nature and was created by Edward Craven Walker in 1963. This British entrepreneur started the company Mathmos.

Lava lamps contain a ball-like mixture made of special-colored wax inside a glass container. A special mix of liquid is also present. To complete the look and turn it into a lamp, a light bulb is also placed inside.

In a sense, the heat from the light bulb warms the wax and causes it to flow slowly through the liquid. As it rises, it loses some of its warmth and buoyancy, so it falls back down to the bottom. This is a never-ending cycle that will continue until you shut off the lava lamp.

The History of the Lava Lamp

Edward Craven Walker got the idea for the lava lamp when he watched a homemade timer for eggs. This invention was made from a cocktail shaker that was filled with a variety of liquids at the local pub. He worked with David George Smith, a British inventor, to help develop a device and formula.

It took about two years, but then the original “display device” was patented and filed to Craven Walker’s company in 1965. The first “Astro lamp” was introduced to the market in 1968.

Hy Spector and Adolph Wertheimer were interested in the product when they saw it at a trade show in Germany. They chose to buy the rights and started manufacturing them at Lava Manufacturing Corporation. These two decided to call it the Lava Lite Lamp.

Then, in the 1970s, Larry Haggerty bought the US rights and created Haggerty Enterprises and Lava World International, which have been producing the lava lamps in America for more than 30 years. Now, the lava lamp brand is made by Schylling, Inc. in Massachusetts.

How Do They Work?

While we could get very technical about how a lava lamp works, we will keep it simple so that it will be much easier and more fun to learn about. Generally, lava lamps use oil-based and water-based substances. Since water and oil are immiscible with each other, they can’t mix.

Oil and water feature different densities. Therefore, the nature of the lava lamp is that you can apply heat to the bottom of it, and the oil inside will move up and down the water mixture. The heat comes directly from the light bulb at the bottom part of the lamp.

When the heavy liquid (wax) absorbs the heat, it will expand eventually. If that happens, it will get less dense and rise upward. This is a slow process because the dissipation of heat occurs more slowly.

As the heat dissipates out of the wax, it will slowly move back down to the base. There, it gets heated up again, and the cycle continues until the lamp is turned off.

Why You Shouldn’t Shake a Lava Lamp

Most lava lamps feature a silicone-based oil, which is considered to be highly fragile. When you turn the product upside down or shake it vigorously, the oil will start to spread out more and goes throughout the lamp.

While the oil and water can’t mix, the water gets very clouded. You then won’t be able to see what’s going on inside, which is the main attraction of this lamp.

Of course, the instructions that come with the lamp expressly state not to shake or turn it when it is warm. However, it might happen when you accidentally bump the light, or someone knowingly shakes it. Regardless, most people think the only thing to do is throw it away or buy a new one. There is a way to fix it, but it takes time and patience. 

how to fix lava lamp after shaking

How to Fix Lava Lamp After Shaking

If you’ve got the shaken lava lamp issue, it is a good idea to consider fixing it. However, if it’s under warranty, this might be covered. Plus, doing all the steps to fix your lava lamp will void any warranty you may still have, so keep that in mind.

If you plan on doing it yourself, the steps are pretty straightforward, and you don’t need a lot of tools. You may actually only need a knife or something to pry off the lid, as well as a drinking straw and distilled or tap water. Once you’ve got those, follow the steps below.

Step 1: Turn it off and on again.

Once you notice the lava lamp has been shaken, turn it off immediately. It’s ideal to do it right away to prevent the oil or wax from spreading too much. Let the lamp rest for at least two hours. In this way, the oil or wax mixture hardens again.

After two hours or more, turn it back on and wait. When you notice the liquid is clouding up again, turn it off and leave it to rest for another two hours.

This process is probably going to have to be repeated eight times or more. Sometimes, this will fix the issue, especially if you catch it early enough. If it doesn’t, then you can move to the next step and continue through them until it is fixed.

Step 2: Run it straight through.

When you have run it periodically and kept it off for a while, and it hasn’t helped, don’t lose hope just yet. Leave it on for about 10 full hours without shutting it off. This will generate enough heat to help the wax get back to its normal routine. However, that might not work, and it’s okay if it doesn’t. You can just move on to the next step.

Step 3: Unplug it and replace the contents.

If your lava lamp has run continuously for 10 hours and isn’t fixed, unplug it. Let it cool off for about two hours, though you may need to wait longer. The only thing left to do is to replace the water inside. We’ll explain how to do this, but please note that it could void your warranty.

How to Replace the Contents of a Lava Lamp

Before you start, unscrew the lid on the lava lamp and pour out the liquid. Since you let it cool down, the “wax lava” is going to be solid and won’t pour out with the water. Leave it as is and then follow the steps below.

Step 1: Prepare the ingredients.

Buy a gallon of distilled water. While tap water can work, you may find that this turns brown or cloudy because there are minerals and other things lurking in it. Therefore, it’s best to use distilled water.

The water should be cool, but it doesn’t have to be cold. When you pour it into the globe, make sure it doesn’t hit the fragile wax inside directly. This will cause the wax to spread more and get all over the inside of the glass container.

Once the water is in there, don’t stir or shake it. Just pour it out and repeat the process. You may want to do this two or three times to ensure that no wax is on the inside of the glass.

Step 2: Fill it.

Now that you’ve “cleaned” the inside of the lava lamp, fill it with distilled water. Just make sure that you leave a two-inch gap near the top.

This is an air gap, but you’ll also be adding some saline solution. Plus, the wax has to have enough room to expand so that it gets tough and moves through the liquid effortlessly.

While the cap is still off the lava lamp, plug it in very carefully and turn it on. It needs to run for about an hour so that the water gets slightly heated, and the wax can stay soft and pliable.

Step 3: Make a saline solution.

You can go to the store and buy a saline solution. Companies manufacture it to apply to wounds, prevent dry eyes, and clean contact lenses and keep them moist. You’ll find large and small bottles of the stuff.

Alternatively, you can make your own saline solution to help save money. All you need is distilled water and salt. You can use regular tap water, but you should boil it to make it sterile and then wait until it is cooled before adding the salt.

Next, you’ll need one cup of distilled or boiled/cooled water. If using distilled water, make sure to microwave it for up to 20 seconds to heat it a bit. To that, add ½ teaspoon of Epsom salt, pickling salt, or un-iodized table salt and ½ teaspoon of baking soda. 

Consider putting the mixture in a small bottle and shake it up. It’s also possible to keep it in a container with an air-tight lid. Just make sure that you shake it vigorously so that the ingredients are mixed well.

Step 4: Add the solution.

The next step will require a straw or syringe, and you’ll need about an inch of liquid in the straw. To do this, dip the straw into the saline solution to about an inch (you can mark the straw to make it easier). Take the finger holding the straw and put it over the top so that it catches the liquid, and transfer it carefully to your lava lamp bottle.

Do not shake the lamp or water inside. Wait for about 10 minutes and then repeat the process. As you may have already guessed, you’ll have to do this multiple times. Your goal is for the wax to float to the top of your lamp. When that happens, you are done with the saline solution.

Now, you can add one drop of any dishwashing soap to help the wax separate from the rising bits at the bottom. If you’d like, you can add a few drops of food coloring to change the color of the water.

Lastly, you just have to put the cap back on to the lava lamp. After all that work, you should have a clean, new-like lava lamp that’s ready for you to enjoy!

Lava Lamp Safety and Maintenance Tips

You’ve spent a great deal of time and money to find the right lava lamp for your home; the last thing you want to do is shake it and ruin it. While you can fix the problem, it’s time-consuming, so it’s best to avoid shaking it at all.

1. Know where to put it.

The first thing you should consider is the placement of the lava lamp. Yes, you want to enjoy it, but you need to ensure that it won’t get bumped or shaken. Therefore, you may want to avoid putting it on a headboard, nightstand, or any unsteady surface.

It’s also important to keep the colors from fading. To do that, simply keep the lava lamp out of direct sunlight.

It’s also best to keep it away from vibrations. For example, if you put it on your office desk in the corner and have a fan, the fan might cause the desk to vibrate. With time, the lava lamp could shift and end up falling.

2. Learn how to replace the bulb safely.

You are probably going to have to replace the light bulb during ownership. Make sure you do not tear off the cap or remove the “globs.”

It’s possible to access the bulb easily from inside using the bulb hatch. However, it is ideal to replace the bulb only when it has burned out, or the lava stops circulating.

You should ensure that the bulb you have bought is compatible with the lava lamp and is the right wattage, as well.


The thought of shaking a lava lamp may never have occurred to you, but it can happen. Whether it’s a child who didn’t know better or some other accident, you want to try to correct the problem. Luckily, that’s quite easy to do, but it can be quite time-consuming.

Today, you learned how to fix lava lamp after shaking, which means you won’t have to throw it away and buy a new one. Plus, we also talked about tips to avoid having it shaken once more in the future. That way, you don’t have to go through the process again so soon.

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