12 Groovy Things We Bet You Don’t Know About Lava Lamps


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Lava lamps were invented in 1963 by British entrepreneur Edward Craven Walker. While he sadly passed away in 2000, the lamps initially known as “Astro Lamps” live on to this day, and not just because there will always be cannabis enthusiasts out there to buy them.


People of all ages, young and old alike, have always been fascinated by them, and if you’re sitting there watching one do its thing, it’s very easy to see why. Here’s a list of groovy facts about lava lamps that you might not have known.

Image Credit: Kakes Studio/ istock.

1. Paraffin Wax

The wax in lava lamps is most often paraffin wax. This soft and colorless substance is sometimes known as petroleum wax, derived from petroleum, coal, or oil shale. It melts at temperatures above 99 degrees Fahrenheit and is typically used in electrical insulation, candles, and crayons.

Image Credit: Iurii Maksymiv/ istock.

2. A Translucent Solution

The liquid in lava lamps is usually a mixture of water and a translucent solution, such as mineral oil. The interaction of the wax and the surrounding liquid causes the hypnotic effect of the lava lamp. The lava lamp heats the wax until it becomes less dense than the liquid it’s in, which causes it to rise to the top of the lamp, and then when it cools, it becomes more dense and sinks to the bottom.

Image Credit: hroe/ istock.

3. Trendy, Then Retro Trendy

Lava lamps are most often associated with the psychedelic hippie culture of the 1960s, but they were popular throughout the 1970s as well. They were significantly less popular during the 1980s, and one must admit that the lava lamp didn’t suit the sensibilities of that decade. However, once that decade faded away, lava lamps had a resurgence in popularity during the 1990s and 2000s, and you can even get one for free if you win enough tickets at Dave & Buster’s.

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

4. It Ain’t Just Wax

While the most popular type of lava lamp is the classic wax-and-translucent-liquid configuration, you have options if you want one with something extra. Some lava lamps contain glitter or metal flakes in the translucent liquid, making the lamp a little less hippie and a little more glam rock.

Image Credit: Glitter lava lamp by slworking2 (CC BY-NC-SA).

5. Rockets and Teardrops

The shape of a lava lamp most often has a bulbous top and a tapered base, commonly known as a “rocket” or “teardrop” shape. Those are not the only shapes that prospective lava lamp buyers have to choose from, but when you go to the head shop, dispensary, or other hippie-adjacent establishments that sell them, the classic shape is the one you’re most likely to see.

Image Credit: Lava lamps by Dean Hochman (CC BY).

6. If You’re Watching ‘Quincy’ and See a Lava Lamp, It’s an Anti-Drug Episode

If you’re watching an episode of some retro television show such as “Dragnet” and you spy a lava lamp in someone’s home, the character who owns it is the killer. If you see it on “Quincy,” it’s a drug-addicted killer. The presence of a lava lamp in popular culture has generally been shorthand for, “This guy’s apartment is a haven for narcotics and wayward teenage runaways.”

Image Credit: Pexels.

7. Go Big or Go Home

The average lava lamp is usually something like a foot tall or thereabouts, but that doesn’t mean you’re limited to just that size. Should you wish to go lava lamp crazy, consider buying a Saturn giant lava lamp, whose website claims that it’s the most enormous lava lamp ever made at five feet high and will only set you back £2,500, or approximately $3,150 in U.S. dollars.

Image Credit: Mathmos.

8. There Is No Actual Lava

If you were wondering, the “lava” in lava lamps is not molten rock from an active volcano. There’s just the heated wax, as mentioned previously. Still, play it safe, and don’t smash it with a hammer and reach in to grab the not-lave with your bare hands because it’s still pretty hot.

Image Credit: Ken McCurdy / iStock.

9. Good for Creating an Atmosphere

Do you need help with your workplace’s ambiance? Is it lit by obnoxious fluorescent lights? Would a Feng Shui consultant have a panic attack upon seeing it? Well, you can tame such an environment with a lava lamp, whose light creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere even in a dentist’s office, a county jail, or the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Image Credit: Lava lamp in an office by Donald Clark (CC BY-NC).

10. You Should Neither Shake It Nor Break It

If your lava lamp fails to bubble and percolate at a rapid pace, you may feel tempted to pick it up and give it a good shake to make it act more lively. In fact, you should greatly endeavor not to even move it if you can help it. This will disrupt the flow of the wax and can even make it slow down or stop altogether. Having a lava lamp in which the lava just sits there long after you’ve turned it on is simply not groovy.

Image Credit: Lava lamp by A National Acrobat (CC BY-NC-SA).

11. Calm Down!

The hypnotic motion of a lava lamp is conducive to lying on the couch and chilling, but what if you’re the sort of person who’s chronically anxious and has difficulty relaxing? The answer is the same – get a lava lamp. Mathmos, the company that manufactures the Saturn giant lava lamp, surveyed 5,000 people, 93% of whom said that the company’s lava lamp helped them calm themselves and reduce stress.

Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

12. Get Your Fix on YouTube

Lava lamps are so effective at relieving stress that the hour or two that one stays active are all you need to change your outlook. If that’s not enough, you can always fire up YouTube, where numerous kind souls have posted videos with a lava lamp effect, sometimes lasting as long as ten hours.

Image Credit: MBommeli/ YouTube.

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Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.