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GAK - Elmer’s Glue Borax Recipe

Elmer's Glue and Borax combine to make GAK or is it Flubber?

Rating: 54321

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Is it a solid? Is it a liquid? Just what is this slimy, stringy, rubbery stuff? This variation on slime will probably remind you of a similar substance found in many toy stores. This is the most popular version of "slime" among teachers because it's so easy to make and serves as a great visual tool for introducing students to the properties of polymers.

Find out how to make Halloween Slime!

Materials
  • Elmers Glue (8 oz bottle of Elmers Glue-All)
  • Borax (a powdered soap found in the grocery store)
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Plastic cup (8 oz size works well)
  • Spoon
  • Measuring cup
  • Food coloring (the spice of life)
  • Water
  • Paper towel (hey, youve got to clean up!)
  • Zipper-lock bag (dont you want to keep it when youre done?)
  • Water

Videos

  • Ultimate Gooey Slime - Halloween Sick Science! #003
Print Experiment

Experiment

Here’s the easiest way to make a big batch Elmer’s Slime. The measurements do not have to be exact but it’s a good idea to start with the proportions below for the first batch. Just vary the quantities of each ingredient to get a new and interesting batch of goo.

  1. This recipe is based on using a brand new 8 ounce bottle of Elmer’s Glue. Empty the entire bottle of glue into a mixing bowl. Fill the empty bottle with warm water and shake (okay, put the lid on first and then shake). Pour the glue-water mixture into the mixing bowl and use the spoon to mix well.
  2. Go ahead… add a drop or two of food coloring. 
  3. Measure 1/2 cup of warm water into the plastic cup and add a teaspoon of Borax powder to the water. Stir the solution – don’t worry if all of the powder dissolves. This Borax solution is the secret linking agent that causes the Elmer’s Glue molecules to turn into slime.
  4. While stirring the glue in the mixing bowl, slowly add a little of the Borax solution. Immediately you’ll feel the long strands of molecules starting to connect. It’s time to abandon the spoon and use your hands to do the serious mixing. Keep adding the Borax solution to the glue mixture (don’t stop mixing) until you get a perfect batch of Elmer’s slime. You might like your slime more stringy while others like firm slime. Hey, you’re the head slime mixologist – do it your way!
  5. When you’re finished playing with your Elmer’s slime, seal it up in a zipper-lock bag for safe keeping.

How Does It Work?

The mixture of Elmer’s Glue with Borax and water produces a putty-like material called a polymer. In simplest terms, a polymer is a long chain of molecules. You can use the example of cooking spaghetti to better understand why this polymer behaves in the way it does. When a pile of freshly cooked spaghetti comes out of the hot water and into the bowl, the strands flow like a liquid from the pan to the bowl. This is because the spaghetti strands are slippery and slide over one another. After awhile, the water drains off of the pasta and the strands start to stick together. The spaghetti takes on a rubbery texture. Wait a little while longer for all of the water to evaporate and the pile of spaghetti turns into a solid mass -- drop it on the floor and watch it bounce.

Many natural and synthetic polymers behave in a similar manner. Polymers are made out of long strands of molecules like spaghetti. If the long molecules slide past each other easily, then the substance acts like a liquid because the molecules flow. If the molecules stick together at a few places along the strand, then the substance behaves like a rubbery solid called an elastomer. Borax is the compound that is responsible for hooking the glue’s molecules together to form the putty-like material. There are several different methods for making this putty-like material. Some recipes call for liquid starch instead of Borax soap. Either way, when you make this homemade Silly Putty you are learning about some of the properties of polymers.

Elmer's Slime is very easy to make, but it's not exactly what you'll find at the toy store. So, what's the "real" slime secret? It's an ingredient called polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). The cross-linking agent is still Borax, but the resulting slime is longer lasting, more transparent... it's the real deal.

Additional Info

Jeff Harken contributed this "history" of Silly Putty.

The history of Silly Putty is quite amusing. In 1943 James Wright, an engineer, was attempting to create a synthetic rubber. He was unable to achieve the properties he was looking for and put his creation (later to be called Silly Putty) on the shelf as a failure. A few years later, a salesman for the Dow Corning Corporation was using the putty to entertain some customers. One of his customers became intrigued with the putty and saw that it had potential as a new toy. In 1957, after being endorsed on the "Howdy Doody Show", Silly Putty became a toy fad. Recently new uses such as a grip strengthener and as an art medium have been developed. Silly Putty even went into space on the Apollo 8 mission. The polymers in Silly Putty have covalent bonds within the molecules, but hydrogen bonds between the molecules. The hydrogen bonds are easily broken. When small amounts of stress are slowly applied to the putty, only a few bonds are broken and the putty "flows." When larger amounts of stress are applied quickly, there are many hydrogen bonds that break, causing the putty to break or tear.

Customer Reviews

Help! Something's wrong! Review by Kris
43211

Tonight we made 3 batches of gak, one for each of my daughters & one for me! ;)
Two of the batches came out perfect & pliable, but one was weird. It stayed very wet to the touch & instead of stretching it just tore. I tried mixing it with more borax solution, but nothing changed...
Any ideas about what went wrong? We made all 3 batches exactly the same, but just one turned out strange....

Kris - 
That does sound weird! In fact, it's so weird that we don't really know what happened either. As a scientist, you'll want to attempt to replicate the phenomenon and try to figure it out from there. Good luck, and keep experimenting!
- Steve Spangler Science Web Team

(Posted on October 8, 2012)

A word of caution Review by David Hibberd
54321

White glue slime is fun for everyone. Be aware that kids will try all things with it and that slime on hair is not a good combination. If that should happen, a product like Goo Gone helps seperate the slime from the kid.

(Posted on August 3, 2009)

GAK Review by Julie Mace
54321

This is great! My kids played with this all saturday afternoon! Each of my four children had their own color and container and were doing "infomercials" for GAK! I love it!

(Posted on October 23, 2010)

Excellent Recipe! Review by Erin Maday
54321

This is great fun! I love the fact that you can easily get the ingredients locally, and the whole process is about 10 min. It's sooo easy. My 2 boys were crazy about this project! They LOVED the fact that it all starts out as a liquid and ends up as slime! My 7 yr old was in awe how quickly it changed from liquid to not quite a solid but not quite a liquid. highly recommended! Love this website, too, Steve! YOU ROCK!!!

 

(Posted on October 13, 2010)

glue and starch Review by Mary
54321

It really is simple. I do it as a teacher, at home with the kids, and my neice is using it as a science exp. at school..

(Posted on February 23, 2010)

Clothing and hair nightmare Review by Carolyn
21321

This may be a fantastic experiment. In fact, my 7-year-old, who is very into science, would probably love it.

But when my daughter's preschool decided to mix colored paint with GAK and have 2- and 3-year-olds use it, it was a clothing and hair nightmare. One day,she came home with yellow clumps of it in her hair. Two other times, she got the green goo so embedded in her clothes, we cannot figure out how to get it off. (Any suggestions on how to clean it off her clothing Please?!!!!! It ruined a lovely, brand new outfit.)

After reading the recipe, I am also wondering whether it is save for 2- and 3-year-olds to be using it at all! It doesn't sound safe for children who touch their eyes and put their fingers in their mouths constantly.

Carolyn-
None of our experiments are intended for children's use without adult supervision. However, both of the ingredients are considered non-hazardous under normal circumstances. As far as getting the GAK out of your daughter's hair and clothes, try Goo Gone. A previous reviewer suggested it works quite well.
-Steve Spangler Science Web Team

(Posted on April 3, 2011)

HS Sunday School Lesson Review by S Dooley
54321

To teach High Schoolers on Sunday morning you need to first get their attention. They love playing with Gak and it makes a great object lesson.

(Posted on February 26, 2011)

Wonderful slime! Review by Rosanne Hewitt
54321

We recently had a science birthday party for my 7 year-old son and we performed a few experiments. This was one of the best for the kids. They loved mixing everything themselves and then adding food coloring to get some very unique shades. They had dirty hands, but everyone went home talking about it. And they got to take their experiments (and directions) with them for a later time. Great, easy and fun project for the kids!

(Posted on September 8, 2010)

Slime Bubbles Review by Kelley
54321

If you cover the tip of a bendy straw with the slime, you can blow bubbles.

...It's fun!

(Posted on June 21, 2011)

excellant when he was 5.... Review by Katherine
54321

and are still making at now that he is 8. Literally, we made some tonight. My son loves to make and play with this stuff and since we always have the ingredients on hand, it is an easy project for him to do.

Have fun playing with the colors you can put in it, divide the mixture to make several colors and use plain white. We have often made figurines with them also leaving them out to completely dry out and then play with those.

(Posted on February 17, 2011)

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