GAK - Elmer’s Glue Borax Recipe
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!
- 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)
- Measuring cup
- Food coloring (the spice of life)
- Paper towel (hey, youve got to clean up!)
- Zipper-lock bag (dont you want to keep it when youre done?)
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.
- 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.
- Go ahead… add a drop or two of food coloring.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
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.
- Color it Review by Cynthia Baumann
Just add food coloring to the glue mixture first and then you get a prettier slime when it's all mixed together.
(Posted on September 8, 2010)
- Wonderful slime! Review by Rosanne Hewitt
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)
- Gloop Review by Anonymous S.W.
The glop is so cool! I really liked the texture of it!
(Posted on October 4, 2012)
- Do not use Washable Glue! Review by AZ Mom
My 4-year-old son loves this project. We have made Gak several times. We usually dye it green so it looks like the Ooblek in Dr. Seuss' story.
I do not recall seeing any info on using a washable white glue vs. non-washable, and so we decided to experiment today. The washable glue resulted in a much less pliable lump. It was also a little tacky on the hands. Fortunately, I bought a bottle of non-washable glue as a back up so we could make a new batch. Much better!
(Posted on April 19, 2012)
- Unexpected benefits Review by Kim
My kids and I were testing this recipe for my daughter's birthday party next week. It worked great. And then, to the kids' extremely pleasurable surprise, we discovered that when you press it into the shaker cup for storage, it makes...um..."colorful" sounds. They giggled and giggled. Furthermore, while loading and reloading the cup to make said noises, they discovered that if the GAK is spread across the cup and allowed to drop in under its own weight, it will push the air out of the cup and create a GAK bubble. And so naturally, they pierced the bubble with a pipette and blew. The GAK bubble got HUGE before it was so thin it popped. HOURS of fun and the party isn't even until next week.
(Posted on September 26, 2009)
- Clothing and hair nightmare Review by Carolyn
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.
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)
- Keyboard Cleaner Review by Jeff
When I was young my friend's mother would make this for us to play with. A few weeks ago I bought some blank CDs at a office supply store and I was given a free pack of something called Cyber Clean. The idea is to mash it into your keyboard and it collects the dust between the keys. As soon as I pulled it out of the pack I recognized the smell of elmers + borax. It works really well for cleaning dust off of keyboards and monitors. Thanks for the recipe.
(Posted on December 29, 2009)
- Carissa Walters Scouter Review by Carissa Walters
I've been using the gel Elmer's glue for a clearer slime. Using Steve's Atomic Glow makes it even more fun for Halloween.
(Posted on September 8, 2010)
- Make it Glow! Review by Mary Ferris
If you add a glowing paint called 'Glow Away' (you can find it at Michael's craft store) to the glue before you add the Borax solution, the GAK will glow in the dark! When you have finished making the GAK, simply hold it to the light for a minute and then turn off the lights. My students LOVED it!
(Posted on October 28, 2009)
- Question... Review by Essa
What if my Goo/Slime is very sticky? What can I do to not make it so "sticky"??
Try adjusting your mixture. Use more glue, or more borax. Whatever you do, keep experimenting!
- Steve Spangler Science Web Team
(Posted on November 22, 2012)