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    Best Bubble Recipes

    Kids, how often have you felt like blowing bubbles but couldn’t find a bottle of them around the house?  And are you tired of bubbles that pop as soon as you blow them?  A soap bubble consists of a thin layer of water trapped between two layers of soap molecules.  The tricks to longer-lasting, hardier bubbles are to add stability and to slow down evaporation. Here you will learn about secret ingredients that impart these properties.  All bubble solutions use a surfactant (soap), of course.  Soap is a simple, safe, inexpensive, and easy-to-find chemical.  One secret ingredient has these properties too, which is glucose or sucrose, simple sugars.  Sugar adds some stability to the bubbles.  Another commonly used ingredient is glycerin.  The glycerin acts like a thin layer of oil around the bubble’s surface, and slows down evaporation. 

    Please note:  All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision.

    Compare these bubble recipes to see which work best for you, and then ask yourselves why.  Simply stir these ingredients together in large containers. 

    • Basic Bubble recipe: 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons of liquid dish detergent (Joy or Dawn are good choices).
    • Deluxe Bubble recipe: 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons liquid dish detergent, and 2 tablespoons sugar.
    • Crazy Deluxe Bubble recipe: 1 cup warm water, 2 tablespoons liquid dish detergent, 1 tablespoon glycerin, and 1 teaspoon sugar.
    • Hardiest Bubble recipe: 3 cups of water, 1 cup of dish detergent, and ½ cup white (or light) corn syrup. This recipe makes large batches, so invite your friends and get ready to make some observations of your experiments!

    Light corn syrup is glucose, and sugar is sucrose.  Both are simple sugars.  But compare how they perform in your bubble sizes and lifetimes to see if there are differences.

    NOTES:

    • The bubble solutions made with any kind of sugar or syrup are sticky. They will clean up with warm water, but it's best to blow bubbles outdoors or in a bathroom or kitchen so you won't have to un-stick your carpet or upholstery. The bubbles wash out of clothing.
    • If you don’t have a wand handy, you can fashion one from a pipe cleaner.  Close off a small circle and leave yourself a handle. 

    Glycerin can be found in the cake decorating area of most craft stores.

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    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    kcarrado@anl.gov
    June 2013

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    References:

    See ChemShorts November 1995 on the Science of Soap Bubbles for more info.

    Marybeth Hamilton at http://www.babysavers.com/how-to-make-bubbles-for-kids-7-of-the-best-homemade-bubble-recipes/

    Anne Marie Helmenstine at About.com Chemistry:
    http://chemistry.about.com/od/bubbles/a/Bubbles-That-Dont-Pop.htm?nl=1