5 Ways To Make a Volcano

Vinegar and Baking Soda Volcano
The vinegar and baking soda volcano is the classic science fair model volcano. (Anne Helmenstine)

There is more than one way to make a chemical volcano. Actually, there are several methods. Here are some of the best, from the tried-and-true baking soda and vinegar volcano to the most exotic dry ice volcano.

Make the Volcano Cone

You can use a bottle or can or really any container for your volcanic eruption, but it’s easy to make the volcano shape by coating your container with clay or papier mache. Here is a simple recipe for a homemade clay volcano:

  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 cups salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 cups water
  1. Mix the ingredients together in a large bowl. It’s easiest if you stir the flour, salt, and oil together first and then mix in the water. You can add more water if needed. You want a firm, smooth dough.
  2. Stand an empty soda bottle or can in a pie tin or baking pan (so your ‘lava’ won’t make a mess) and mold the dough into a volcano shape. Be sure you don’t drop dough into the bottle or cover the opening.
  3. If you want to paint the volcano, wait until the dough is dry.

Now for the recipes! Most use common ingredients that you have at home.

Baking Soda and Vinegar Volcano

This is the classic science fair project volcano. The baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) reacts with the vinegar (weak acetic acid) to produce carbon dioxide gas. The detergent traps the gas, which is heavier than air, so it flows down the side of the volcano.

  • warm water
  • liquid dishwashing detergent
  • red or orange food coloring
  • baking soda
  • vinegar
  1. Pour warm water into the volcano until it is 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full.
  2. Add several drops of food coloring.
  3. Add a squirt of detergent. This helps the ‘lava’ foam up and flow.
  4. Add a couple of spoonfuls of baking soda.
  5. When you are ready to start the eruption, pour vinegar into your volcano.
  6. You can recharge the volcano with more baking soda and vinegar.

Note: If you don’t have vinegar, you can use another acidic liquid, like lemon juice or orange juice.

Yeast and Peroxide Volcano

  • packet of quick-rise yeast
  • hydrogen peroxide (3% sold in stores or can use 6% from beauty supply stores)
  • food coloring
  1. Pour the hydrogen peroxide solution into the volcano until it is nearly full. The 3% household peroxide is safe to handle, but wear gloves and use extreme caution if you use the 6% peroxide, which can give you chemical burns!
  2. Add several drops of food coloring for your lava.
  3. When you are ready for the eruption, add the packet of yeast to the volcano.

Ketchup and Vinegar Volcano

Ketchup Volcano
The ketchup volcano erupts with a thick red lava. (Anne Helmenstine)

This volcano bubbles and oozes lava. The eruption is not so dramatic, but is interesting and long-lasting. The acidity of the vinegar and tomatoes in the ketchup reacts with the baking soda to produce carbon dioxide gas, which gets trapped as bubbles by the detergent.

  • ketchup
  • warm water
  • dishwashing liquid
  • baking soda
  1. Mix together ketchup, warm water, and a squirt of detergent to make lava.
  2. Pour the mixture into the volcano so it is nearly full.
  3. When you are ready for the eruption, add baking soda.

Mentos and Diet Soda Volcano

Mentos and Tonic Water
The quinine in tonic water causes it to glow blue under black light. (Anne Helmenstine)

This volcano erupts instantly and spectacularly. For a truly memorable volcano, use diet tonic water instead of diet cola and shine a black light on the volcano. This produces a vivid blue glowing eruption!

  • diet soda (regular soda works too, but produces a sticky mess)
  • Mentos candies
  1. Fill the volcano full of soda (or you could have molded the volcano around a full soda bottle.
  2. When you are ready for the eruption, drop all of the Mentos candies into the mouth of the bottle at once. One easy way to do this is to roll a sheet of paper around the candies, put your finger beneath them to hold them in place, and release the candies over the hole. Be prepared for a major splash!

Dry Ice Volcano

This volcano appears to smoke, releasing a cascade of bubble lava.

  • warm water
  • dishwashing liquid
  • dry ice
  1. Fill the volcano with warm water.
  2. Add a bit of dishwashing liquid.
  3. When you are ready to start the eruption, use gloves or tongs to drop a piece of dry ice into the volcano.

Do you need more ways to make a volcano? You can bake a souffle to model the geological processes or make a realistic wax volcano.