Backyard Bubbles

Sick Science! Summer Camp - Get Outside and Start Playing

Bubbles and summer go hand in hand. Take out a bottle of bubbles and the kids come running. They’ve blown bubbles before, but have they bounced a bubble? Squeezed a bubble? Made a square bubble?

The key to great bubbles is in the bubble solution. The best homemade bubble solution is made with glycerin and dish soap and allowed to age over night. For the best bubble recipe, visit our Bouncing Bubble experiment. Or you can purchase our Extreme Bubble Solution for the best bubbles around.

Experiment Materials

  • Large bucket or container
  • Distilled water
  • Bubble Blowers or pipettes
  • Enthusiastic kids and adults
  • Square Bubble Maker
  • Extreme Bubble Solution
  • 1 bottle of Extreme Bubble Solution, makes 4 Liters (1 Gallon) of Bubble Solution
  • 4 Magic Gloves to be able to touch and play with the bubble
  • 1 liter bottle
  • 5 Plastic cups, 118 mL (4 oz)
  • 20 Pipette Bubble Blowers

Experiment

Strong Bubbles

The lifespan of a bubble is measured in seconds. How do you extend the life of a bubble?

  • Ingredients – the secret to longer lasting bubbles is in the ingredients. Glycerin gives the bubble extra strength. You can also subsitute Karo syrup for glycerin.
  • Ingredients – the single most important part is the water. Good quality of water that doesn’t contain high levels of iron or minerals is the best. Distilled water is highly recommended.
  • Ingredients – Dawn® dish soap just seems to work the best for homemade bubble solutions.
  • Time – let the bubble solution sit open to the air and undisturbed for 24 hours in advance of your bubble party. The bonds in the bubble solution will strengthen.

Note: Perfectly good bubbles can be made without adding glycerin, but adding glycerin keeps the water from evaporating and makes the bubbles much stronger and longer lasting.

Blowing Bubbles

Use a small bubble wand. A pipette makes the perfect bubble blower. Cut the end off of a pipette, dip it into the bubble solution and blow through the other end.

Bouncing Bubbles

You now have the best bubble solution. But how do you make them bounce? Regular bubbles pop when they come in contact with almost anything. Why? A bubble’s worst enemies are oil and dirt. A super bubble will bounce off a clean surface free of oil and dirt or anything that won’t break down the soap. Bounce the bubble off your shirt or pants. Use a knit glove.

Bubble Colors

Similar to the way we perceive the colors in a rainbow or an oil slick, we see the colors in a bubble through the reflection and the refraction of light waves off the inner and outer surfaces of the bubble wall. You can’t color a bubble since its wall is only a few millionths of an inch thick. A bubble reflects color from its surroundings.

Square Bubbles

Square bubbles are not impossible if you know a little science. Start with building a cube. Our Square Bubble Maker assembles quickly and works nicely.

  • Find a container to hold about 7.5 liters (2 gallons) of water.
  • Add approximately 1/4 cup of liquid dish soap or Extreme Bubble Solution. You may need to tweak the amount of dish soap and water slightly. If you are using dish soap, avoid the antibacterial products.
  • Mix the bubble solution gently with your hand.  If the water is hard in your area, add extra dish soap or use distilled water.
  • Keep the surface free of foam.
  • Dip the square bubble contraption into the bubble solution. Always hold the model by a node. Dipping at an angle works best. Be sure that the model is immersed completely, so that all sides are covered. Gently lift the model out of the bubble solution. You should have an exciting geometric bubble!
  • Grab your pipette and blow a bubble over the cube model and drop it in the middle. You will see that the edges start to collapse and make a new shape inside the square bubble structure.
  • Gently put the larger end of the pipette up to the middle of your square bubble.
  • Very gently blow into the pipette… what starts to happen? You get a bubble inside of a bubble! So cool!

More Bubble Fun

  • Try bouncing bubbles between you and a friend. How many times can you bounce it before it pops?
  • Try blowing the strong, super bubbles onto surfaces you can find in the backyard. Will they pop in the grass? On a rock? On tree bark?
  • Use the Square Bubble Maker to blow bubbles. Dip it in the solution and blow a bubble through the bubble wall. Our bubbleologists made what they called “worm bubbles.”
  • Dip the Square Bubble Maker in the solution and run with it. Does it make a trail of bubbles?
  • What else can you use as a bubble blower?
  • What about Giant Bubbles? Fill a baby pool with bubble solution and using a hula-hoop as a bubble wand, try and make the biggest bubble you’ve ever seen.

ACTIVITY TIME:
This activity can take as long or as short as you’d like. It’s all about exploring and discovering. Blow bubbles for 10 minutes or spend all afternoon experimenting.

How Does It Work?

Why do you need soap to blow a bubble?

You can blow a bubble in plain water but it won’t last long. For starters, pure water bubbles will evaporate quickly. Second, soap decreases the pull of surface tension, allowing the bubble to last longer.

Soap molecules are made from longs chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms. One end of the chain is hydrophilic, meaning it likes being in water. The other end is hydrophobic, meaning “water fearing” – it doesn’t want to be in water but will attach to grease.

This is how soap cleans…the hydrophobic end attaches itself to the grease on your hand or your dinner plate, letting the water sneak in underneath it. The grease is loosened and surrounded by soap molecules and is carried off with the water during rinsing.

In soapy water, the hydrophobic end does not want to be in the water at all. They work their way to the surface and push out of the water.  With the hydrophobic end sticking out the water, the soap film is protected from evaporation. Grease does not evaporate.

Why are bubbles round?

The physicists will tell you that bubbles enclose the maximum volume of air in the minimum amount of bubble solution, so that’s why they are always round. In the Square Bubble activity, as you dip the Square Bubble Maker into the solution, the solution is stretched between the struts and the bubbles cling to the sides of the structure, causing the bubbles to be square.

Additional Info

Thank you to Exploritorium.edu for more information on the science of bubbles.