Friday, November 21, 2008

Crystallized Pretties

I'd say Snowflakes, but they're not all snowflakes!
We are making and collecting lots of different shapes.

Here's a really good recipe - some of them call for a cup or more of borax for one snowflake -- that much is totally unnecessary! Three tablespoons Borax to one cup water does the job.
You'll also need pipe cleaners and a glass jar (or two or four).
Helpful hint: If (when!) you spill the solution on the table, no need to panic, but it will be much easier to clean if you get it mopped up and rinsed very soon. Otherwise, it will crystallize on the table -within a few minutes- and you'll have to scrub it or scratch it off with your fingernails. If it does set, hot water on the rag will help to break it up again.)

After determining how many snowflakes (or hearts, or stars, or spirals) you'd like to make, get an idea of how much water you'll need by putting water in your jars, then into a measuring cup and into a bit pot to heat it up.We used 12 cups of water for this one, so that meant 2 cups and 4 Tablespoons of Borax (16 Tablespoons = 1 cup).

Let the water get hot on the stove, and pour your Borax in.
(note: While Borax is considered by most to be an earth-friendly cleanser, it is still mildly toxic, so don't let the babes or pets eat it or breathe it excessively. Pouring it into the pot should be fine, I would think, but you decide.)

Make your shapes! Make sure that they'll fit into the mouth of your jar - you can tilt it to get it out if you must, but remember that it's going to be slightly bigger with the crystals formed on it.

Pour your solution into your jar.
Now set it somewhere it won't be disturbed. (But where you can watch it.) In about twenty-four hours, your creation will be finished.
The greatest thing about this is that unlike sugar and salt crystal formations (at least for us), you can see this one actually happening! Within a couple of hours the formations are already beginning, and you can see the borax starting to bond and collect with itself. Fabulous.

When it's done, either trim off the extra stem, or use it for hanging. Consider tying beading line or ribbon to the top for hanging during the winter season.

The Science:
Borax is an example of crystal - "a solid with flat sides and a symmetrical shape because its molecules are arranged in a unique, repeating pattern."
Every crystal has a repeating pattern based on its individual shape. They make might be large or small, but they all have the same "shape". Salts and sugars are examples of crystals. Salt crystals are cube shaped while borax crystals form a six-sided structure.
How does it work?
Hot water holds more borax crystals that cold water. Heated water molecules move farther apart, and there is room for more of the borax crystals to dissolve. When no more of the crystals can be dissolved, it is called "saturation".
As the solution cools, the water molecules move closer together again. Now there's less room for the solution to hold onto the dissolved borax. Crystals begin to form and buyild on one another as the water lets go of the excess, and evaporates.
This also applies to snowflakes - As water cools the molecules move closer together. Since all water molecules are shaped the same, they align in a six sided crystal.


  1. We are on this! Thanks for this post. How cool...-k

  2. Ha! At least you guys had success with your salt crystals (was it sugar? I forget now) a few months ago!
    Ours were total duds!!

  3. I was so hoping you'd post this one! ;)

  4. So how do I get the borax crystals out of the bottom of the jar?

  5. M -
    Just put hot water in your jars, and let it sit for a few minutes.
    After a bit, take a spoon or something to it, and the crystals will break up pretty easily. :)

  6. Thanks! Worked easily. :) I was so worried about cracking the mason jars but it was no biggie. :)

  7. this is cool. I put a link to it on my blog (

  8. An awesome case of right time, right place :) I just bought a box of borax for 1/2 teaspoon so my daughter, nephews and I could make some Gak. Now I don't have to wonder what else I can do with it!


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!