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Borax Crystal Snowflake

An easy and amazing way to grow crystals overnight

Rating: 54321

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Bringing real snowflakes inside individually is next to impossible. So, to work around this conundrum, we've come up with the Magic Crystal Snowflake. This special snowflake is just a beautiful and unique as a snowflake from the sky, but it won't melt! The Magic Crystal Snowflake uses some fun hands-on chemistry and makes a perfect holiday experiment.

Materials
  • Pipe cleaners (white, if possible)
  • String
  • Wide-mouthed jar
  • Borax (check your local grocer's laundry section)
  • A pencil
  • Boiling water
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Adult supervision

Videos

  • Borax Crystal Star - Sick Science! #069
Print Experiment

Experiment

  1. Using a pair of scissors, cut a pipe cleaner into three equal sections.
  2. Twist the three pipe cleaner sections together at their centers to form a six-sided snowflake. Don't stress if the sides aren't perfectly even, little imperfections make it beautiful. 
  3. Make sure that the shape can fit through the mouth of the wide-mouthed jar without having to squeeze through. If it can't, trim the sides down.
  4. Cut a 4" length of string to one side of the snowflake. Tie the other end of the string to a pencil. You want the length of your string to be enough that the snowflake hangs into the jar but doesn't touch the bottom. Once you have your length set, remove the apparatus from the jar.
  5. Bring a pot of water to a boil and pour into the jar. Add 3 tablespoons of borax per each cup of water a stir. It's alright if some borax settles to the bottom of the jar.
  6. If you want a colored snowflake, stir in some food coloring.
  7. Hang the pipe cleaner snowflake into the jar with the pencil resting on top of the jar. Make sure that you've added enough water to completely submerge the snowflake.
  8. Put the jar somewhere where it is safe from being disturbed. Seriously! You don't even want it to be bumped! Let it stay there overnight.
  9. The next day, check out the gorgeous crystals! Untie the string from the pencil and you've got yourself a great holiday decoration.

How Does It Work?

So, you put a bunch of pipe cleaners that had been twisted into a snowflake shape into a solution of borax and water. How in the world did it turn into this beautiful crystal snowflake?
 
When you mixed the borax in with the water, you created a suspension. A suspension is a mixture that contains solid particles large enough to settle out. By mixing the borax into hot water, instead of room temperature or cold water, the borax stays suspended longer within the water.
 
As the borax begins to settle out, or sediment, it begins to crystallize. You'll see this crystallization on both the bottom of the jar and, you got it, on your snowflake. The borax continues to sediment on top of the snowflake and on top of other borax crystals until you pull it out of the water the next morning.
 

Additional Info

Check out other projects you can do with borax: 

Customer Reviews

Great Project! Review by Stefanie Biondo
43211

I did this as a camp activity, we made all sorts of shapes since it was summer. Kids made hearts, stars, spiders, anything they could imagine using only 2 pipecleaners. My only disagreement was that it took much longer than over night. We did the project on a Thursday, but on Friday there were only a few crystals. So we had to let it sit all weekend. They came out beautiful, just a little longer than we anticipated.

(Posted on December 14, 2011)

Awesome science project!!! Review by Carrie
54321

I made 25 borax star ornaments for Christmas presents this year. It worked great! It took about 24 hours for the crystals to grow. I did see some variations in how big the crystals got. Not sure if the temperature in the room had anything to do with it or not. My first star I had in a room that is always cooler than the rest of the house and the crystals that grew were rather large. The rest of the stars I had in a more central location that stays warmer. Those stars had just as many crystals but they were smaller in size. Might be a good additional experiment for someone to try sometime.....

(Posted on November 29, 2012)

Amazing and so quick! Review by June
54321

I had to show this to fellow science-geek teachers as a lot of us have tried to grow crystals in the past, with disappointment.
I made this with Grade 4s for Valentines,[heart shapes] and the squeaks of excitement when crystals had already grown by the afternoon were a delight to hear.
This is definitely a repeat performance!!

(Posted on February 14, 2013)

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