Giant bubbles for giant smiles

Giant bubbles re-define what is normal and possible. They are also cheap, fast to setup, and very fun for everyone big and small. Do this at the park on a Saturday morning with donuts, milk, and coffee… the cool calm and humid conditions are perfect for bubbles, and you will be amazed at all the smiles.    

Ingredients and equipment

  • 24-28 oz dishwashing liquid (Dawn Ultra is easy to find and works well)
  • 1 tablespoon of J-Lube (amazon link)
  • 3 gallons of tap water
  • 2 sticks about 4’ long
  • 12 feet of cotton rope (i.e. clothesline)
  • 5 gallon bucket with lid
  • 1 large steel nut
  • baseball hats for everyone — the kids will want to pop the bubbles and a baseball hat keeps most of the soap out of their eyes

The Recipe (order matters)

  • combine soap and J-Lube, mix with a stick until it turns into slime
  • tip the bucket and add the water along the side of the bucket to minimize bubbles
  • stir slowly until all the white residue on the bottom disappears
  • (ideally) let it sit for 30-60 min to let it settle

1. Building the bubble sticks

  • top piece of cotton rope is about 4 ft long, add the steel nut to the 6’ bottom rope, tie to the top piece of rope using clove hitches
  • tie the top piece of rope to the sticks using clove hitches

2. Top of the sticks together, and dip into the bubble juice

3. Have the kids test the wind direction by throwing some grass into the air, arrange yourself upwind of the bucket and have them clear a space downwind

4. Hold the top part of the sticks together and lift the bubble sticks up out of the bubble juice – on a windy day, just doing this will produce hundreds of small bubbles

5. Slowly spread the sticks apart and the bubble should grow away from you

6. Push the sticks back together or cross the sticks to free the bubble from the stick


Our experiments

  • (fun) – add cross pieces to the cotton bubble rope (more like a net than a hoop) — this will make many smaller bubbles at the same time
  • (little better) – removed core from cotton clothesline
  • (no change) – distilled water – no minerals?
  • (no change) – baking soda, rumored to make bubbles last longer if you start with acidic water, but our water in Boston has a pH (according to my aquarium test strip) of about 7-7.5 though
  • (no change) – bubble solution froze solid, no difference when it thawed
  • (little worse) – synthetic rope
    • todo: large-diameter (10.5mm) rope?
  • (worse): rope in the dirt or dirt in the bubble juice — dirt is not your friend here
  • (fail) antibacterial soap
  • (bad fail) Home Depot brand (HDX)
  • todo: add 1 oz. surgilube (http://waynesthisandthat.com/giant%20bubbles.htm)
  • todo: test with guar gum rather than j-lube (as I have +100 gallons of bubble mix worth of j-lube I keep using it for the moment) – watch this for a big bubble master using guar gum
  • todo: add glycerin (available at grocery stores or via amazon as vegetable glycerin in the baking section, but rumored to need 10oz which is too expensive for me to try) makes the bubbles last longer because the water does not evaporate as fast
  • todo: corn syrup recipe of 6 cups water, 1 cup light corn syrup, and 1 1/3 cups of ultra-concentrated soap

Variations

  • HUGE bubbles – build a bigger stick setup using offshore fishing rods like (link) — the problem is that my boys like to make the bubbles and can’t lift a big setup with heavier rope

Bubbles are best when…

  • high humidity
  • slight breeze but not completely calm or very windy
  • most early mornings work well, especially just before it is going to rain (great for breaking the good vs. bad weather description)

A bubble is soap-water-soap, so they will be 3- to 5-times larger and last twice as long on a cool humid morning compared to a hot dry afternoon.

Kid hints

My boys love chasing all the bubbles down and popping them. I did my very first ‘big bubbles’ about 2 years ago for my nephew — he looked up into a large bubble as he popped it… and then cried for half an hour. We understand the importance of making that first experience a good one, so make that first bubble attempt with hats on a cool morning with light breeze. The smaller bubble sticks also make the setup light enough that even my 3-year old can easily lift the setup and make his own bubbles.

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