Easy Volcano Experiment

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We made the easiest, fastest, most fun volcano experiment in our kitchen today. It was so easy, we made many volcanoes, again and again.

Now by easy and fast, I am not referring to the volcano experiment we did earlier this week that resulted in broken glass, a brief roaring of flames on the stove burner, and melted wax as well as sand all over my stove. No, no, I am not referring to the experiment that my kids keep relaying to every non-homeschooling stranger we run into.  About how Mommy almost caught the kitchen on fire with the volcano experiment, thus reinforcing any thoughts they may be having about those darn homeschoolers not being qualified to teach.  More on that later.

Anyway, here is all you need:

  • Vinegar, 5 tablespoons
  • Water, 1/3 cup
  • Baking soda, 4 teaspoons
  • Dishwashing liquid, 2 teaspoons (more if you want extra foam)
  • Red food coloring (optional, if you want to make the lava look more authentic), 3 drops
  1. Add the baking soda and dishwashing liquid to the water. Don’t even need to stir.
  2.  In a separate container, add the vinegar and red food coloring.
  3. Pour the vinegar mixture into the baking soda mixture.  Instant lava.

  Cool, right?  Now here’s the one that wasn’t cool.  I kept seeing this “volcano in a teacup thing” made from a layer of wax, a layer of sand and then water, on Pinterest. Darn it, Pinterest.

Well, it started out all right.

Anyway, supposedly, you heat the glass tea cup or container and it melts the wax, builds pressure, then sends little surges of melted wax through the sand and up to the surface of the water, looking like lava erupting from a volcano.  I searched for more specific instructions on line, such as how much wax?  How much sand and water? I found a single YouTube video with some instructions typed in the comments. That was it.  It should have been my first clue.

Well, despite my efforts to not let the jar get to hot and break—it broke. Melted wax, sand and water gushed everywhere. I think I felt the way villagers must’ve felt when a volcano suddenly erupted without warning. The gas stove burner made a big flame for an instant.

And then things went horribly awry.

The kids saw fire and panicked, even though the fire went away as soon as I turned the burner off. Too late. One kid was already running upstairs to get his most prized posessions, ready to evacuate. Another kid was running around screaming, “Call 911!”  The little one started inquiring about, “When da firemans gonna get here?”

Followed by two days of, “We didn’t like that experiment, Momma!”  And describing it in detail to strangers, as I mentioned above.

So, um, yeah, do the first experiment, ok?  Not the second one. Definitely not the second one.


  1. Thank you for the warning. I had seen the second experiment on Pinterest and wondered about it. Don’t think I will try this now. The first is a firm favourite here and is repeated every few weeks or so. My 11 year old likes doing the bicarb and vinegar experiment to show visitors-means we rarely have any vinegar left!

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  2. Oh no! lol! I love the image of the kids scattering in emergency mode!

    Last year, my oldest made spaghetti and scorched it so badly that, despite his assurances to ADT, they notified the fire department without telling him. Naturally, when the firemen showed up, our big friendly sucky retrievers decided that that was the day they needed to fiercely defend the house. My son was talking to the firemen (who were parked out front with lights flashing, and neighbours were gathering), still in his pyjamas at 6pm, and trying to hold off two suddenly angry snapping snarling 60+lb dogs by the collar.

    Did I mention that he was at home alone at the time? When I called to say hi, I laughed so hard that my sister-and brother-in-law made me put him on speaker so they could hear the story too. He may never live it down. I bet your kids remember this experiment for life! Ah, homeschooling…..

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    • Oh, my. What a great story!

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  3. I love that you can laugh about the flop and your sense of humor. We’ll definitely be trying the top experiment. My preschooler will love it!

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      • Wow, well thank you for pinning it, Whitney. It has been a crazy day with Pinterest. I’ve had a record number of visitors today. Glad your son enjoyed the experiment. My kids did it over and over again the day I took those pictures. We made one without the food coloring so my three year old could delve into it and make a big mess without, you know, dyeing himself and the furniture pink. 🙂 Thanks again! ~Julie

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  4. Now that’s a story! Too funny – only because I could totally see it happening here…
    And you have really inspired me now to be doing more science experiments with my kids!

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  5. Love the story! If it makes you feel any better, I understand Einstein was disaster in the lab, too 🙂

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  6. Ha ha ha ha, my cousin burned down her kitchen trying to make candles…………

    And my husband loves to bring up my mishaps with fire. And that is plural.

    Thanks for linking up to Science Sunday!

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  7. We just did this experiment tonight and it went wonderful! My son used playdough to build a volcano around the container before setting it off. Thanks!!

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  8. Love the simple lava experiment! Simple chemical reactions are so much fun….but don’t completely write off the other experiment. As a person who has successfully achieved the volcano in a teacup, it is very important you have tempered fireproof glass. Very very important. Maybe try again when your kids are a little older, because it really does show the mechanics of an actual volcano. My 3rd grader insisted we take this one to show her class and it was a total hit! 🙂

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    • I wonder if a canning jar would hold up to the heat. I noticed that you had an ordinary jar.

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  9. Oh, wow … you win some, you lose some, right? : ) Have you done the baking soda/vinegar bombs. Well, ours bombed, for sure! One worked, the others didn’t but it was super fun to try.

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  10. love this! I am going to feature this on this week’s co-op post. can’t wait to try it tomorrow. thanks!

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  11. Wow! What a story! You made me laugh with the part about the kids scurrying around like there was an emergency 🙂
    The first experiment does look like lots of fun!
    Thanks for linking with Look What We Did.

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  12. I saw the one on Pinterest and was thinking on trying on a double pan with water at slow temperature. Anyway will be very difficult to see for all. and now seems dangerous.
    The one that works I did it using one of those clays that harden with time. So first each did a Volcano, then water colored it and last add the baking soda and the vinegar with red color. I will add this year the soap!!
    Teacher Laura Oreamuno.
    San Jose Costa Rica
    Central America.

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  13. i found your experiment on pinterest. my 4 year old and i just did and what fun! he is totally into volcanos and lava right now – we kept adding different colors too just because we could 🙂 thanks for sharing!!

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    • Yay, Kelly! So glad you all had fun with it. Thanks so much for coming back to comment. It’s great to get feedback. 🙂 Julie

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  14. Hilarious! I will stick with the easy volcano. Isn’t it funny how kids remember things. Thankfully, no serious damage or injury. Way to go for the kids knowing who to call in an emergency.

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  15. Love it! A lesson in volcanos AND a life lesson all in one.. thanks!

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    • Thank you, Zoe! Glad the experiment went well for you. I take it you did the first one, not the one that sets the kitchen on fire. 😉

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  16. Setting the kitchen on fire now that sounds like something I’m capable of accomplishing. Thanks for the experiment.

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  17. Thanks for the warning about the 2nd experiment. I have found that if there is anything on Pinterest that I’d like to do, etc., I actually go to the original site to see if it has any issues or if it’s a legit site. Posting pictures can be very deceiving at times.

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  18. Thanks so much for the heads up. I just saw that and was thinking of trying it with my grandkids. It will definitely be tabled permanently in my house! But this sounds great. We did the play-doh version last week but it’s pouring today and we can’t go outside. This looks like it will work well in the sink – fun for my grandson while educational as well. Definitely two of my favorites. Thanks again!

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  19. What a great post! I loved the way that you wrote it – full of so much humour and honesty. We’ve certainly had our share of “failed-experiments” like the time we tried to make an ant farm and ended up collecting the smelliest, laziest ants in the world! It was a total flop in regards to the goal of the experiment but we ended up learning along the way.

    What I really admire is the fact that you did write about the experiment that didn’t go to plan. So often, blogs/websites are full of glowing reports of how everything works perfectly. So thank you for sharing!

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  20. lol I can’t help but laugh at what happened with the experiment there at the end as I can so see that happening over here too if I had tried it. Thanks for the warning. lol 🙂

    Also, thanks for the much easier and safer volcano project. I am sooo going to do that with my kids. I think they would love it. 😀

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    • Yes, definitely do the easy one. 😉

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