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The lava lamp was invented in 1963 by a British man named Edward Craven-Walker, and discovered in 1965 by a couple of American entrepreneurs. The rest is history, at least if you lived in America in the 1960s. No matter how lovingly they are kept, lava lamps can be obscured by clouds. Whether you’re looking for a flea market or restoring a beloved personal treasure, you can clear those murky waters. But, before you start, you should make sure that the lava lamp is completely cool and that all the wax has settled.
How To Fix A Cloudy Lava Lamp
Emmy-nominated screenwriter Brynne Chandler is a single mother of three who divides her time between professional research and a variety of cooking, fitness, home and gardening endeavors. A running enthusiast who regularly participates in San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers Run, Chandler works as a freelance caterer preparing healthy, nutritious meals for residents of the Phoenix area.
Edier Lava Lamp
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Most American lava lamps can be repaired by running the lamp. The light can be put on a timer to turn on the light for you. Set the timer to run the lamp for 6 hours (or as long as it can run without overheating) and turn off at 6 hours. Continue this cycle until the cloud disappears. You should notice a ring of white residue starting to build up near the wax at the bottom of the lamp. This residue should disappear when the lamp cools. This residue clouds the lamp.
If the cloudiness does not clear after a month, there may be a more serious problem with the lamp. Some will clear up better if you leave them in a cool place for a while. It depends on the reason why the lamp is cloudy and the age of the lamp. If you own a used lamp, it is difficult to determine which program is best.
If the lamp is made of porcelain, it may never go out. The same methods can be used if the lamp is American made, but your results may not be as good. Newer Chinese made lamps have responded well to filtering after being run enough times, but filtering seems to alter the wax flow badly.
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If clouding occurs after the lamp has been run at least 60 times, you may want to consider filtering the lamp. To properly filter a lava lamp, you need a ceramic filter like the MSR MiniWorks. Don’t get an EX filter because it has a carbon core. Any non-ceramic filter will not work as it will not filter down to about .2 microns. This means that you cannot use a charcoal filter or a coffee filter. Note that the MSR MiniWorks filter pump comes with an optional carbon filter attachment. Don’t use it! This will remove some chemicals from the liquid that should not be removed. Also do not use other filters such as coffee filters as they do not filter the small particles suspended in the liquid which cause turbidity and can introduce fabric fibers into the liquid. The reasons for using a ceramic filter are explained below.
Filtration of a lava lamp is simple, but there are a few very important steps to follow in order to obtain a crystal clear liquid. Clouding of the light is caused by the release of chemicals from the wax into the liquid or by shaking. Usually, running the lamp too often can reintroduce these chemicals into the wax, but if that doesn’t work, the only way to remove them is to use a ceramic filter.
Make sure you use the lamp for at least two weeks – preferably 4 weeks or more. If there is a white powder under the wax, be careful not to mix the powder into the liquid, it is cloud powder. Allow the lamp to cool to room temperature before filtering.
Prepare a container to receive all the liquid from the lamp, glass is ideal as some plastic containers can be dissolved by the liquid formula. Remove the lid from the lamp and slowly pour the liquid into the container, making sure that no white powder remains under the wax in the container. You will lose some liquid in the process, but it is necessary for clear results.
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Place the filter tube in a glass container. Place the filter on the globe from which you originally drained the liquid. Pump all the liquid back into the globe, if too many bubbles form you may need to pause for a while. Bubbles are surfactants in the liquid and are important for proper flow, so make sure you get them all out of the filter!
After the bubbles have settled, run the lamp through a full cycle. If the lamp has little liquid, you can top it up with distilled water up to 1/2″. If you have liquid from another lamp of the same brand (example: USA-USA, China-China) you can use more. Lamp . Filtration should not remove more than 1 /2″ of fluid, so if you’re missing more fluid, it’s in your filter. Once you are sure that your lamp is draining properly and has the correct fluid level, you can reseal the lamp.
When shopping for used lava lamps, it is common to find lamps that have died and then been left sitting for years, sometimes decades. Sometimes these lights respond well to what is known as an ulcer. Waste means removing the liquid from the lamp and heating the wax above normal temperature. Believe it or not, they eventually drain and after a run or two the emulsion created by shaking the lamp comes out of the main fluid and settles to the bottom. The chemicals released from the wax are reabsorbed into the wax when the lamp is lit. Unfortunately, they do not mix properly with wax at normal operating temperatures. This causes a host of problems. The wax may appear thick, full of bubbles and flow only in one column as in the image below.
I don’t know if I recommend this process considering that lamps from this period use perchlorethylene to thicken the wax. Boiling the wax evaporates the perchlorethylene and leaves the wax formula. This can prevent the normal flow of the lamp. You will inhale perchlorethylene. Proceed at your own risk and wear a respirator rated for organic solvents such as 3M 6001.
Lava Lamp Grande
Pour the liquid into another clean container to start when the lamp is cold, but be sure to leave a small amount of liquid to prevent the wax from sticking to the ball. There should only be an ounce or two left. You can store the liquid in jars that are new or have been cleaned with acetone followed by distilled water and allowed to air dry.
Place a small plate in the bottom of the pan to prevent the ball from cracking due to the extreme heat from the bottom of the pan. Don’t skip this step! Some people do this and I’ve seen posts here where they broke their globe because they didn’t hear this warning. Fill the container so that the water level is equal to the level of the wax in the ball. Bring the liquid to a full boil until all the wax has dissolved. Let the lamp heat up
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