In this experiment, kids can learn how to make super fast borax snowflakes!
In this borax crystal recipe, you learn how to make borax crystals fast, eliminating some of the frustrating wait time that often accompanies crystal science fair projects.
Follow along with our directions to learn how to make your own borax snowflakes in just a few minutes!
And if you like this experiment, don’t forget to check out our complete list of winter STEM activities for kids.
How to Make Borax Snowflakes
A crystal is a solid found in nature that naturally forms when molecules bind to create repeating patterns.
Crystals can form when a warm gas cools quickly (like in snowflakes), when molten material cools slowly (gemstones), or when a liquid containing dissolved minerals cools slowly (salt, Borax, Epsom salt, or baking soda crystals).
Making borax snowflakes isn’t difficult or dangerous, and borax snowflakes are beautiful and teach a variety of scientific concepts.
At STEAMsational, we believe that STEM activities for kids should be both comprehensive and fun. That’s why we often do seasonal versions of classic science experiments like these winter science experiments.
The Science Behind Borax Crystals
Borax crystals form due to several scientific principles. First, borax is a mineral powder that forms in a repeating bonded pattern when it is dissolved in liquid. This means that crystals will form in repeating patterns if the borax solution has something to stick to (like the pipe cleaners).
Second, the crystals are able to form because the borax powder is added to create a supersaturated solution. There is too much borax in the liquid for the borax to completely dissolve.
As the liquid cools, the remaining borax molecules cling to the pipe cleaner in the jar, forming large crystals.
How to Dispose of the Crystal Growing Solution
When we first made the borax crystal science project, we were a little afraid of the liquid that remained once the crystals formed around the pipe cleaners.
What if we poured it down the drain and crystals formed inside the pipes?
However, it turns out that there isn’t much risk of this happening. Most of the borax is pulled from the liquid and adheres to the pipe cleaner (that is why the crystals get so large!).
Once the liquid is no longer supersaturated, borax crystals won’t form.
If you’re still worried about your pipes, you can either dispose of your crystal growing solution outdoors on a grassy spot, or you can run hot water while you are pouring the crystal solution down the drain.
One thing you should NEVER do is pour fresh supersaturated borax solution down in your plumbing. This definitely could ruin your pipes.
How Long Do Borax Crystals Last?
Borax crystals aren’t like Epsom crystals or baking soda crystals that melt right away. Borax crystals are quite strong, and they can last months as long as they don’t get wet.
Borax crystals have a rock-like appearance when complete, and they can be used successfully as decorations, Christmas ornaments, and knick-nacks.
Don’t allow children to play with borax crystals, however, as ingesting the crystals or borax residue may cause damage.
Supplies to Make Crystal Snowflakes with Borax
You’ll need these supplies to make Borax crystal snowflakes:
- Borax powder
- Pipe cleaners
- Food coloring (we used blue)
- 3-4 jars (use plastic disposable cups if you don’t want to have to fuss with cleaning the jars after the experiment is over)
If you’re in a rush, these are our favorite weather science kits.
How to Do the Borax Snowflakes Experiment
Follow along with these directions to make your own borax crystal snowflakes in just a few hours.
Boil 8 cups of water in a pot on the stove.
Add 3 cups of borax powder to the boiling water and boil until the water turns clear.
There may be a few borax grains still at the bottom of the pot, but that’s perfectly OK, and in fact, better for forming fast borax crystals.
Pour the liquid into jars and let it cool a little before allowing kids to handle the solution. If you want, dye the liquid with food coloring at this stage.
While the borax solution is cooling, form pipe cleaners into snowflake shapes. Snowflakes have six points. Make sure the snowflake is small enough to fit easily through the mouth of the jar.
Leave a longer tail on one snowflake to allow the snowflake to adhere to the top of the jar.
Attach the long piece of pipe cleaner around the middle of a pencil. Lower the snowflake into the jar.
Adjust the height of the jar so that the crystal snowflake doesn’t touch the bottom of the jar at all.
Set the jars aside and wait a couple of hours.
Within about 2 hours, your crystal snowflakes are ready!
Pull them out of the liquid and let them dry on a paper towel before handling the crystals.
Winter STEM Activities by Grade Level
Try these winter STEM activities for each grade level!