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Lava Lamp Problems

Lava lamps still make a hip addition to any room.
lava lamp closeup isolated on white image by Robert Young from Fotolia.com

The lava lamp was introduced in the dawn of the psychedelic era and has remained a groovy, fun, decorative piece. It's more than just a mode of illumination - it's entertainment. Keep in mind that lava lamps have their own personality and no two act the same, but the rules of care are generally the same. With a few precautions, the lamp can provide long lasting enjoyment.


Edward Craven Walker was inspired to invent the lava lamp after seeing a similar contraption in a pub in post World War II England. Fifteen years later he launched what was then known as the Astro Lamp, a gelatinous glob of wax oozing in a special liquid illuminated in a glass tube. It was perfect for the 1960s and the craze spread worldwide. Each decade since has witnessed as the popularity of this fad remarkably sustains itself.

Do Not Shake

The lava lamp is pretty low maintenance, but this is rule number one. Excessive shaking can result in a cloudy appearance or worse: the lamp's laying a "goose egg." That is where the wax lays at the bottom of the lamp in a big, boring glob. Prevention is key here. Do not shake the lamp and do not allow others, especially children, to shake it either. Also take special precautions so that the lamp does not tip over for any reason.

Do Not Overheat

Do not operate the lamp for more than eight to ten hours at a time. It is simply not manufactured to run all of the time, periods of rest is when the ingredients in the lamp are allowed to harden and retain the integrity of the material. To allow for this cooling off period, either use timers for the lamps or buy more than one if you need the lamps to be on continuously.

Environment Safety

Keep the lamp in a cool spot. Just a few hours in an overly warm environment (toward mid 80s Fahrenheit) can ruin the lamp. For best results keep the unit away from any source of heat or cold. Also keep the lamp out of direct sunlight. Lamps exposed to direct sunlight tend to fade and move slower over time. Since the unit itself is prone to get hot while in operation, keep the base away from any flammable material. Always place the lamp on a non-flammable surface.


Do not open the "pop top" of the lava lamp itself. Any air bubble in the lamp is purposely there to help it operate. Do not fill or "top off" the liquid portion of the lamp, as old globes are not refillable. To replace the bulb that illuminates the lamp, use a 40 watt appliance bulb, similar to what is found in a conventional oven. Do not attempt to use a higher wattage bulb or one that was not made for appliances.


In the event of any breakage or spillage, note that most lava lamp material is nonhazardous. Use simple precaution such as gloves, and clean up the spilled material as soon as possible and it should not pose any health hazard. If the lava lamp is a glitter lamp, there may be a strong odor as well. Simply ventilate the area and use care in picking up any broken glass.

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