How to Make a Homemade Sparkler – 2 Simple Recipes 2

It's easy to make a homemade sparkler. (Amanda Bowman)
It’s easy to make a homemade sparkler. (Amanda Bowman)

Sparklers are small fireworks you hold in your hand. They produce sparks, but they don’t explode. You can make a homemade sparkler using ingredients available in stores or online. Here are a couple of recipes:

Homemade Sparkler Recipe #1

This is the easiest sparkler recipe and requires the fewest ingredients. The resulting sparkler won’t have quite the same effect as the kind you buy in stores, but you can dress it up a bit, if you like. Oh… and did I mention the sparks are purple? Yes, that is cool.

  • 60 milliliters hot water
  • 36 grams potassium nitrate (KNO3) – I use stump remover
  • 24 grams sugar or sucrose – ordinary granulated table sugar is fine
  • cotton yarn (not yarn made from a synthetic fiber, like acrylic)
  • clothespins, alligator clips, or tongs to hold the sparkler (or you can dip the ends in wax)
  1. Mix together the water, potassium nitrate, and sugar to dissolve the dry chemicals.
  2. Soak around 3 meters of yarn in the mixture.
  3. Arrange the yarn on a cookie sheet to make lines. You’ll be drying the mixture and then cutting the yarn to make straight stick shapes, so don’t worry about curling.
  4. Now you have two choices. Either let the yarn dry on its own or use a relatively cool oven to dry the sparklers. If you have a bad habit of forgetting about frozen pizzas and turning them into cinders, just leave the cookie sheet in a dry place until the sticks are solid. If you are capable of attending an oven, dry the homemade sparklers in a cool 300 °F (150 °C) for about 20 minutes, pulling them away from the pan after 5-10 minutes so they don’t stick too badly. Don’t forget about sparklers in a hot oven because eventually they will smoke (a lot).
  5. Once the string is dry and cool, use scissors to cut it into straight pieces. These are your sparklers. You can hold them in a gloved hand to light or use a clip, clothespin, or other device to keep from burning your fingers.

This recipe is based on a simple smoke bomb. The sparkler produces a fair amount of smoke, but the sparks are decent in the dark. If you want more glowing sparks, you can add aluminum or titanium flakes to the recipe.

Homemade Sparkler Recipe #2

Handheld Sparkler (Adam, Flickr)
Handheld Sparkler (Adam, Flickr)

These homemade sparklers are like regular sparklers you buy. This recipe is distinctive in that it does not call for any potassium chlorate (an oxidizer which is hard to get shipped sometimes).  Most of these chemicals you’ll need to order online. The sparks are reddish from the strontium salt in the mixture.

  • 200 grams strontium nitrate
  • 120 grams steel powder
  • 32 grams aluminum flakes
  • 6 grams boric acid
  • 2 grams charcoal
  • ~100 milliliters rubbing alcohol or a mixture of 25% alcohol in water
  • 40 grams dextrin
  • wires or sticks
  1. Mix together all of the solid materials, except the dextrin.
  2. In a separate container, stir about 25 ml of alcohol solution into the dextrin to make a slurry or paste. Discard any lumps you can’t break up.
  3. Mix the dextrin paste in with your solid ingredients.
  4. Add between 50 and 75 milliliters of alcohol to make a smooth mixture.
  5. Now coat your sparkler sticks or wires with the mixture. You have a couple of ways to do this. Dip them into the mixture, leaving a few inches at the end of the stick to leave a place to hold the sparkler. Let the sparkler dry and then dip it again. Allow the sparkler to completely dry before use.
  6. Another method of coating the sticks is pouring the mixture into thin. Roll paper or plastic tube and seal the bottom. Insert the sticks into the mixture and remove them when dry (or not, if the tubes are paper).
  7. These sparklers take a bit to light. Use a small butane torch or another lit sparkler. Enjoy!

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2 thoughts on “How to Make a Homemade Sparkler – 2 Simple Recipes

  • Steve Zill

    I have loved receiving this Chemistry news letter!! I thnk it gets kids much more excited about science than what has been published in the last 30 years or so. I find get stuff from books that are pre-1970, and I get tired of baking soda and vinigar. I have had a blast with manythings from you with my students and look forward to sharing those with my grand kids as well. Thanks so much for the work you do!!