Up your bubble-blowing game with unbreakable, giant bubbles. It’s still possible to pop these bubbles, but they are stronger than ordinary soap bubbles and huge. There are two reasons these homemade bubble are so big and strong. First, they use a special bubble recipe. Second, you blow them using a giant bubble wand. Here are a few different versions of the recipe, two ways to make a giant bubble wand, and a look at the science behind these special bubbles.
Giant Bubble Recipe
There are several giant bubble recipes you can try. In all recipes, the point is to stabilize a mixture of detergent and water. Choose a recipe that works with the materials you have on hand and experiment to see which mixture works best for you.
Detergent and Corn Syrup Bubble Recipe
This is a great two-ingredient giant bubble recipe. It works by making a sugar polymer that produces a sturdy, long-lasting bubble.
- 1 cup regular dishwashing liquid
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
Good choices for dishwashing liquid (for any recipe) include regular Dawn (the blue stuff) or Joy. You can use dark corn syrup in place of liquid corn syrup. The only difference is the appearance of the resulting bubble solution.
For unpoppable bubbles, use the detergent and corn syrup recipe as it is. To make the recipe last longer, mix in up to six cups of water.
Detergent, Sugar, and Glycerin Recipe
This giant bubble recipe is a combination of a regular glycerin bubble mixture with a sugar polymer mixture.
- 2 cups water
- 4 tablespoons liquid dishwashing detergent
- 2 tablespoons glycerin
- 2 teaspoons sugar
Mix the ingredients and store the mixture in a covered container for at least an hour before using it.
Other Bubble Recipe Ingredients
If you look around, you’ll see other giant bubble recipes. Here are some examples:
- 6 cups water
- 1/2 cup liquid dishwashing detergent
- 1/2 cup corn starch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon personal lubricant
- 1/2 gallon water
- 2 cups liquid dishwashing detergent
- 5 tablespoons glycerin
- 4 tablespoon corn starch
The personal lubricant in one recipe is basically a substitute for glycerin. Corn starch or baking powder thicken bubble solution and help to stabilize the bubble. You can experiment with your bubble recipe to determine what works best for you.
Personally, I like to mix dishwashing liquid (original Dawn) and corn syrup, add a splash of glycerin, and mix in water until I get the best bubbles. It’s not an exact recipe because the temperature and humidity can affect how well a mixture works!
If you are starting with bubble solution from a store, mix in a bit of corn syrup to blow giant bubbles. It already contains glycerin.
How to Make a Giant Bubble Wand
You need a special bubble wand to blow giant bubbles. There are two types of giant bubble wands you can buy. One has a large plastic ring at one end and is basically a bigger, sturdier version of the small bubble wand. The other type of giant bubble wand has two sticks that enclose a triangle of rope. This kind of bubble wand takes some practice to master, but can blow bubbles big enough to walk inside. It’s easy to make either version yourself.
Homemade Giant Bubble Wand – Method #1
Use pipe cleaners (chenille craft sticks) to make a large circle and attach it to a wooden spoon or other sturdy handle. Do this by twisting the ends of the pipe cleaners together to join them. The shape doesn’t actually have to be a circle, since the bubbles will be round even if the wand is a square or star. It’s just the easiest shape to make. The reason you want pipe cleaners is because they are (a) easy to bend, (b) sturdy enough to stay open, and (c) fuzzy enough to pick up a lot of bubble solution.
Homemade Giant Bubble Wand – Method #2
To make this type of bubble wand, you need:
- 2 wooden dowels (or similar sticks, about 5/8″ diameter)
- Long piece of cotton rope (1/2″ diameter, about 10 feet or 3 meters)
- 2 small eye bolts
- 1-2 metal washers
The rope needs to be a natural fiber, like cotton, wool, or silk. Cotton is the most practical fiber to find. Natural fibers are more absorbent than synthetic fibers, so you can saturate them with bubble solution. You can use rope made of cotton wrapped around a polyester core, but you need to pull this core out with pliers before using the rope for a bubble wand.
- Screw the eye bolts onto the ends of each dowel.
- Thread or tie the metal washer onto the rope. It is a weight that opens the bottom of the bubble wand to form a triangle shape when you pick it up.
- Thread the rope through the eye bolts and tie the ends together. Now, when you pick up wooden dowels, the bubble wand forms a triangle. A variation is to cut the rope into two pieces, with one piece about twice as long as the other. Put a washer on the longer piece. Some people also put a washer on the shorter piece, too.
- To use the wand, immerse the rope in bubble solution. Pick up a dowel in each hand and either wave the wand to release the bubble or else turn it so the wind forms the bubble.
How Giant Bubbles Work
Giant bubbles are different from ordinary soap bubbles. First, they don’t involve soap! Bubble solution uses detergent instead of soap molecules contain a carboxylate group that binds to calcium and magnesium ions in hard water. Detergent lacks this group, so it forms bubbles (and cleans) under a wider variety of water conditions. Homemade bubble solution usually contains glycerin (C3H5(OH)3). Glycerin helps bubbles last longer by forming hydrogen bonds with water and slowing its evaporation. Corn syrup or sugar strengthen bubbles by hydrogen bonding. Sugar molecules contain -OH groups that basically form a polymer in water. Glycerin, sugar, and corn syrup all make bubble solution more viscous. Increasing the viscosity of bubble solution produces thicker bubbles that are stronger and evaporate more slowly so they last longer.
Colored and Glowing Bubbles
You can make colored bubbles, color-change bubbles, and glowing bubbles. However, adding dye to color bubbles or phenolphthalein or another pH indicator to make color-change bubbles weakens the bubble structure. If you’re planning to dye the bubbles, it’s best to save those projects for smaller, more stable bubbles.
That being said, it’s easy to make giant bubbles glow under a black light. Simply replace the water in the recipe with tonic water. The tonic water needs to be the kind that contains quinine (it will say on the label), because that’s the chemical that fluoresces blue under black light. It’s best to use regular tonic water instead of diet tonic water, because sugar helps stabilize bubbles. Be sure to let the bubble solution rest overnight to allow time for all the carbonation to escape. Then, blow giant glowing blue bubbles to your heart’s content!
While you can’t directly dye giant bubbles, they are strong enough to fill with color. One method is to dampen the end of a straw with bubble solution so you can insert it into the bubble. Then, you can blow smoke into the bubble. A healthier (and more colorful) option is to capture colored smoke from a smoke bomb. The giant bubble recipe also works great to capture “smoke” from dry ice sublimation. To do this, just drop a small piece of dry ice into the bubble mixture.
Tips for Success
- Bubble solution works best if you let it rest at least an hour before using it. This gives time for air bubbles to escape. Dissolved air weakens bubbles.
- Avoid touching the rim of the bubble wand. Oils from skin get on the surface and prevent bubble solution from wetting the wand.
- Wet your fingers with bubble solution if you want to capture bubbles without popping them.
- If you’re having problems with a recipe that uses water as an ingredient, consider changing the type of water. Distilled water often works better than tap water because tap water often contains dissolved minerals that can weaken bubbles.
- Take bubble clean-up into consideration. Giant bubbles tend to be stickier than normal bubbles. Blow them outdoors or in a kitchen or bathroom. All of the giant bubble recipes wash out of clothing and upholstery, but no one wants to steam clean their carpet to un-stick it!
References and Further Reading
- Arscott, Steve (2013). “Wetting of soap bubbles on hydrophilic, hydrophobic, and superhydrophobic surfaces.” Applied Physics Letters. 102 (25): 254103. doi:10.1063/1.4812710
- Boys, C. V. (1890). Soap-Bubbles and the Forces that Mould Them. Dover. ISBN 0-486-20542-8.
- Isenberg, Cyril (1992). The Science of Soap Films and Soap Bubbles. Dover. ISBN 0-486-26960-4.
- Noddy, Tom (1988) Tom Noddy’s Bubble Magic. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Running Press. ISBN 978-0894716614.
- Stein, David (2005) How to Make Monstrous, Huge, Unbelievably Big Bubbles. Klutz. ISBN 978-1-57054-257-2.