Marshmallow Sparklers – Easy Fireworks Project

You can use the sugar in marshmallows as a fuel to make sparklers. (Carlos Dominguez)
You can use the sugar in marshmallows as a fuel to make sparklers. (Carlos Dominguez)

Sparklers are simple handheld fireworks that produce sparks but don’t explode. They consist of a fuel, an oxidizer, metal powder for the sparks, and a binder to hold the ingredients together and hold it onto the stick. You can use a marshmallow as the fuel and binder to make marshmallow sparklers! This pyrotechnic project is easy enough for beginners, plus you get snacks.

Marshmallow Sparkler Materials

Basically, you can use any sparkler recipe for this project, except you substitute marshmallows for dextrin or sugar. So, I’ve got two recipes for you, which you can use as a basis for further experimentation. These are based on using large marshmallows, which weigh about 7 grams each.

Recipe #1

This first recipe is essentially the homemade smoke bomb recipe with metal powder to make the sparks. The advantages are that the materials are easy to obtain and the sparkler burns purple. Whether it produces smoke depends on the ratio between the potassium nitrate and the marshmallow.

  • 6 grams potassium nitrate (KNO3) or saltpeter (I use stump remover)
  • 1 large marshmallow
  • 4 grams metal powder or filings
  • Powdered charcoal
  • Bamboo barbecue skewers (or other thin sticks)

Recipe #2

The second marshmallow sparkler recipe is based on the traditional sparkler mixture. You’ll probably have to go online to order the strontium nitrate, but the advantage of this recipe is that the sparkler burns red because of the strontium salt (even though the boric acid burns green).

  • 40 grams strontium nitrate
  • 1 gram boric acid
  • 25 grams metal powder or filings
  • About half a gram of powdered charcoal
  • 2 large marshmallows
  • Wires or sticks

A Note About Metal

Sparkler sparks come from bits of metal in the mixture. You can use aluminum, magnesium, iron, or steel. Powdered metal gives many small sparks while metal flakes produce larger sparks. You can order powdered or granular metal. Alternatively, you can apply a bit of elbow grease and file the metal. If you choose to make the metal flakes yourself, please wear a mask to avoid inhaling the dust.

What You Do

  1. Stir the powdered ingredients together to mix them.
  2. Knead the marshmallow into the dry mixture. It’s probably a good idea to wear gloves to make clean-up easier. Powdered charcoal will turn your hands black (washes off with soap and water). The marshmallow will start out sticky, but as it picks up more and more of the mixture, it will become easier to work. You can dust your fingers with charcoal powder to help keep the marshmallow from sticking to them.
  3. Keep pressing the marshmallow into the powder until you have a substance like putty. The goal is to pick up as much of the powder as possible without getting a crumbly mess. So, you’re done either when the mixture seems like it won’t pick up more powder or when it’s all incorporated (whichever comes first).
  4. Pinch off a bit of the mixture and roll it into a ball with your hands. Press it onto the end of one of the sticks.
  5. Roll the ball and stick between your palms to coat the stick (like making a snake with clay). Again, if it’s too sticky, dust your hands with charcoal.

Lighting the Sparkler Safely

The sparkler is ready to light. Use the usual firework safety precautions, plus be aware the sparkler may produce more flame than a normal sparkler (which means you have too little marshmallow) or more smoke (too much marshmallow). It’s always a good idea to take notes about what you do so you can adjust the recipe to achieve the desired effect.