Teach your kids how to make Borax crystals so they can transform pipe cleaners into icicle ornaments to hang on the Christmas tree. This is a fun science experiment for home or the classroom, for kids of all ages.
Borax Crystals – Simple Science for Kids
You probably remember making Borax crystals when you were a kid in school. You most likely made Borax snowflakes because it’s one of those classic science class experiments that kids have been doing for years.
Well, my daycare hooligans love a good science experiment, and they also love making Christmas ornaments, so recently we combined their two loves and tried the Borax crystal experiment here, but instead of making Borax snowflakes, we made Borax icicles.
2-Ingredients: Borax and Hot Water
Growing crystals from Borax is such a simple chemistry experiments to do with your kids.
All you need to make your crystals is Borax and hot water. You just dissolve the Borax in the hot water, and provide something for the crystals to form on (in our case, a pipe cleaner), and before you know it, you’ll have crystals growing right before your eyes.
Fast and Fascinating Transformation
My daycare kids were fascinated with this experiment, and I have to admit, I was too.
This was the first time any of us had done a crystal experiment, and it was pretty exciting. We were thrilled when the first crystals began to form on our pipe cleaners (success!!), and we checked on them frequently throughout the day, fascinated to see how quickly the crystals grow so quickly from one hour to the next.
You’ll also love our Crystallized Beach Rock Paper Weights!
If you have curious kids or crafty kids or a combination of both, you’ll love this experiment!
- it’s easy to do
- supplies are minimal
- you’ll see results quickly
- it’s inexpensive
- the results are fascinating
- you’ll produce beautiful ornaments that will last for years
Ready to make your own crystal icicle ornaments? Let me show you how it’s done.
Supplies for Borax Crystal Icicle Ornaments
- hot water
- glass jar
- coloured, metallic pipe cleaners
- string or thin cord
Prepare your Pipe Cleaner
Twirl your pipe cleaner around a pencil to form a spiral.
Tie a piece of string to the top of the pipe cleaner. Note: Use enough string that you can turn it into a hanging loop for your icicle ornament later.
Use coloured pipe cleaners for colourful crystal ornaments
To make coloured icicles, use coloured pipe cleaners. You can also use white pipe cleaners and food colouring, but I’ve heard the food colouring will eventually fade, and you’ll be left with white crystals.
Metallic or Chenille Pipe Cleaners?
Borax crystals will grow on both metallic and chenille pipe cleaners.
The Borax crystals we produced have a very distinct, cube shape, and I’m not sure if that’s due to the metallic pipe cleaners or how much Borax we used in our solution. I often see Borax snowflakes made with chenille pipe cleaners and the crystals aren’t quite as distinct as the ones that grew on our metallic pipe cleaners. Regardless, you can grow Borax crystals on both kinds of pipe cleaners.
How to Make Borax Crystal Icicle Ornaments
In a pot or a large spouted container, dissolve 9 tbsp of Borax in 3 cups of very hot water. We boiled our water in the kettle first so it would be hot enough to dissolve the Borax.
Dissolve Borax completely
Stir your solution for several minutes until the Borax has completely dissolved and your solution is crystal clear.
Pour this Borax and water solution into your glass jar.
Suspending your pipe cleaner
Now you need to suspend a pipe cleaner in the Borax solution. You can do this one of two ways.
You can tie your pipe cleaners to the handle of a spoon (or a pencil or craft stick) and lay that across the top of the jar.
You can tape the string to the side of the jar, ensuring the pipe cleaners aren’t touching each other or the sides of the jar (that’s what we did).
And now, the waiting begins…
Set your jar in a safe place where the solution can cool. We left ours on the kitchen counter out of direct sunlight.
We went off and played for a while, and within a couple of hours, our crystals were starting to form. They looked amazing! Just like teeny-tiny cubes of ice clinging to the metallic fibres of the pipe cleaners!
To maximize the crystallization process, we left our pipe cleaners resting in the Borax solution overnight. In the morning, they looked like this:
Aren’t they beautiful when the crystals shimmer in the sunlight?
Borax Crystals are strong and long-lasting!
Although they look delicate and fragile, these ornaments are tough! Our icicle ornaments have been handled by lots of little hands, and dropped on the floor a few times and the Borax crystals haven’t budged. Our icicles are still perfectly intact!
Edited to add: As long as the Borax crystals aren’t exposed to water or high humidity, your icicle ornaments should last for years. I’ve been hanging ours on the Christmas tree for over 10 years. The crystals have faded in colour and are more opaque than clear now, but they still look great.
Before you leave, be sure to check out:
Borax Crystal Rock Paper Weights
Realistic Plastic Icicle Ornaments
40 Hands-on learning activities for kids ages 3-8:
- art projects
- play ideas
- plus links to 80 activities not featured in the book!
Click Here to Download your copy today for just 9.99
Follow the Hooligans on Facebook
Jackie is a mom, wife, home daycare provider, and the creative spirit behind Happy Hooligans. She specializes in kids’ crafts and activities, easy recipes, and parenting. She began blogging in 2011, and today, Happy Hooligans inspires more than 2 million parents, caregivers and Early Years Professionals all over the globe.
As cool as this is – Just remember borax is highly poisonous/toxic. I use to use it down south to kill off mammoth cockroaches but had to be careful to not put it where my cats could get at it.
Make sure the kiddies don’t lick their fingers or they or the animals drink the solution or suck on the ornaments. Borax is toxic.
You might be confusing it with Boric Acid, Alicia. Boric Acid is highly toxic, while Borax is a mild irritant. Some folks actually take a small dose of it as a daily dietary supplement.
I tried these last night, I don’t know what I did wrong but instead of little ice crystals up and down the pipe cleaners the whole pipe cleaner was crystallized. It’s pretty but not what I was expecting. What did I do wrong?
Any guess what the main ingredient of borax is? Yep, boric acid. Alicia is correct, borax can be toxic in sufficient quantities and it’s probably not a good idea to have it within easy reach of children or pets.
Thank you for researching the topic, and commenting back after leaving your first comment, Kevin. Yes, Boric Acid is highly toxic. It is often confused with Borax, which is in fact a “mild irritant”. Some actually ingest a small amount daily as a dietary supplement. Strange, but true.
After a little more research, I think my previous comment was incorrect and overstates the dangers of borax. However, I still believe it is probably a bad idea to have it hanging where children or pets can get to it easily since there is no doubt that it is mildly toxic.
mildly toxic and a mild irritant are two completely different things
What is borax I’m in the uk?
You will have to buy it from the internet as they don’t stock it in hardware shops any more (just borax substitutes which doesn’t work as I found out!)
Does it have to be metallic Pipe cleaners?
borax is not toxic it is an all purpose cleaner dishes is one thing it is used for i use it on my dishes !
i have some in a jar now wish us luck!
So you leave the pipe cleaners in the solution and the crystals form? Then do you take them out and let them dry for a period of time before hanging them on your tree? Thanks
How long does the ornament last? weeks,months,years? I would be interested in making some of them. please e-mail me with your answer. thanks
Well, this is the first time I’ve made them, so I can’t say for sure, Martha. I’m hoping they’ll last for years.
I made these with my son more than 15 years & they are still in good condition. We hang them on our tree every year 🙂
how many hours do you wait
Well, I’m not sure technically, Maria, but like I said in the post, crystals started forming within a few hours, and I left ours overnight to max the effect.
Does it have to be metallic Pipe cleaners?
No, you can totally use the chenille ones. I’m just not sure if you’ll get the same ice-cube effect. They’ll still have a lovely crystallized coating on them though. Go for it! You’ll love it!
Where can I get borax in australia
I’ve heard folks say you can get it at Coles.
I got mine from Bunnings
One of my favourite articles about Borax. Thanks, Erik!
If anyone is still confused.. Read this article!! Thx for posting.. I was getting so sick of telling people that it is fine to use in projects with kids.. I’m not endangering my children!! Lol
Borax is found in the laundry detergent isle at the supermarket
I just made mine but instead of crystallizing on the pipe cleaners,all the crystals formed on the bottom of the jar! Nothing clung onto the pipe cleaners! Any ideas why? I dissolved 9tbsp of borax in 3 cups of hot water and let it sit. Thanks!
When you say you let it sit, so you mean you let it sit and cool before adding the pipe cleaners? Your pipe cleaners need to go into the piping hot liquid.
to Hc Sinclair…i think you would have to put the pipe cleaners in while the solution is still warm.
Oh sorry I didn’t make it clear, yes I set the pipe cleaners as soon as I am done stirring and dissolving the borax. Water is still very hot.
The only reason I can think of is that the borax wasn’t dissolved enough. If there are still particles in the water, they’ll fall to the bottom of the jar. If they’re well dissolved, they’ll cling to the pipe cleaner because they’re suspended in the liquid. Did you stir it until it was absolutely crystal clear. It must be perfectly clear. No cloudiness at all.
Can you use the solution over and over or only once? Would I just reheat it
Yes, just reheat it and stir until the crystals completely dissolve again, Sherra.
We use the soft pipe cleaners and we get more crystals on them vs. the metal sparkly ones in the picture with this post.
Yes, our chenille pipe cleaners produced a solid coating of crystals as well, Elly.
You lucky guys, it is not possible to buy Borax in Denmark, “we migth use it to make bombs”.
A UK blogging friend orders it from this website, Kitt: https://www.soapkitchenonline.co.uk/acatalog/Solids_and_Powders.html. You could see if they’ll ship to you?
Give the US time. We will outlaw it here too. Lol I use it in my laundry and love it!
Thanks, it worked! I just ordered it!
Yay! Have fun!
Love how ours look! After they are taken out of the solution and dry will they stop crumbling when handled? how long do they take to dry? Hoping they are good when nappers awake!
Mine didn’t crumble at all, Rose. I don’t know how long they took to dry. I just set the on the counter for a while, and when I came back they were good to go.
Would it work the same way with boric acid?
Boric acid is completely different, and highly toxic. I would not recommend using it for any craft activity.
I’m the science lab instructor at a school and last year I made about 500 snowflakes with the kids. You have to make sure the borax and water solution is really really hot and let your ornament hang in the solution overnight. It will completely crystallize. Borax is found in your grocery store in the laundry detergent aisle. It’s a laundry booster. As with any experiment you have to make sure to supervise and help the little ones. These make adorable ornaments.
Thanks for the help! Did you use pipe cleaners for snowflakes?
We haven’t done snowflakes this way but I know lots of people who have. Go for it!
Borax Is extremely toxic to leviathans in supernatural lol
I love these…plan to try it.
I made these when I was about 8 years old, 20 years later, my mom still puts them on her tree! They last for a long time, mine have never crumbled or fallen apart in any way. I’m getting ready to make them with my nieces now. Good luck everyone!
If you want to keep them looking like they do, I would suggest spraying them with some kind of clear coat. We made these last year, and now instead of looking like ice crystals, the borax looks more like snow, and we can no longer see the pipe cleaners. Still look interesting, but definitely not the same.
On that note, I wonder how it would look if you sprayed just a touch of fake snow on them when they dry.
Give it a try, Brandy! I’ll bet they’d look great!
Hi i’m a secondary school science teacher and just wanted to let you know the use of borax is band within the uk in schools. This due to the risk of infertility in both boys and girls even in small quantities, not to mention the other possible health related issues outlined by CLEPPAS. I would definitely not risk exposure to myself and especially not my daughter no matter how pretty they look; the risk is exponentially worse.
We made our today and I see one tiny crystal on the top of the jar of each jar, we made 20. We boiled our water 3*3=9 cups and 9*27…and stirred (till I think clear) then poured over pipe cleaners and in jar. Leaving them overnight. But 2 touch bottom will this interfere?
I put the pipe cleaner into the hot solution and nothing happened what did i do wrong. It set for almost 8 hours
Was the pipe cleaner touching the side or bottom of the jar, Sheila? Was your borax completely dissolved and the solution absolutely clear? If the answer is “no” to either of those questions, that might be why it didn’t work for you. Did any crystals form anywhere? There should have been some on the side/bottom of the jar as well.
We have used pickling salt (different then regular table salt) with the same results. It forms the crystals and is hard as rock when it is dried.
What’s the ratio of pickling salt to water if I choose to do this instead!
I’ve never used salt for this experiment, Rachel. You could try googling it though.
My boys and I really want to make these. But I only have liquid starch on hand (used it to make gak). Do you know, does liquid starch work just as well as the brand name borax? Thanks!
I don’t believe liquid starch will use for this experiment, Christine.
Instead of a glass jar I used the big dish from my crock pot. The ornaments turned out so pretty but now I also have crystals stuck to my pot like cement rocks. Not sure how to remove. Perhaps reheat the whole thing to dissolve?
Yes, just run very hot water over them. I cleaned my jars out in the sink this way. They lifted right off with a knife after soaking.
Does it have to be a glass jar? I didn’t read that at first and I have no large glass jars, bit I saved a really big plastic one to use for this!
oops that was supposed to say but not ‘bit’!
My husband (the PhD chemist) and I (the educator) have used borax in making slime with children for years. If you are interested, I can give you his whole talk on polymers, also called slime or plastics depending on the ingredients used. At the start of each session we did, he told them, “Chemistry is like cooking – only you can’t lick the spoon.” Then he would show them a picture of the mad scientist’s helper, “Igor” who had licked the spoon to emphasize his point.
Many natural substances, such as those found in shrubs and flowers, are toxic. Hemlock is a good example. Some, like foxglove, can be used in medicine to treat or misused to harm. All materials should be properly handled and children need to learn this. Chlorine is a good example of something that is toxic, but is put in pools, laundry, and our drinking water. Hope this helps. I’m just a Grandma educator now.
Fantastic info, Sheryl. Thank you for sharing!
Can you tell me the science behind this experiment so I can explain what is happening and why this works to my kids?
Here you go, Carla. I just googled “What is the science behind Borax crystals”. What would we do without Google?! https://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/magic-crystal-snowflake/
Any ideas on how I can do this with a class of 30 students all at once? I don’t have 30 large jars. Do you think I could dissolve the Borax in a metal bowl first, then transfer the solution to a plastic container? Or would the plastic not hold the heat that is needed?
Hi, I am wondering about using an alternative to glass jars as well. Would deep bowls work? I am guessing that it depends on the size of the object that you are making.
I used Red Solo cups. They work great. I didn’t want to bring jars to school so I tried a Red Solo Cup at home and they came out great. I made two to show my students what the final product will look like. They are so pretty. I also added some food coloring to give it a blueish crystallized look.
Thank you for posting this. I was thinking of getting clear SOLO cups to use so my students could see the progression.
You need a container that can stand high heat because your water has to be hot enough to dissolve the borax. We used freshly boiled kettle water to start our experiment.
For wvwryone worried about the borax being toxic, from my research i got to find out that you can use sugar or salt instead and you get the same effect as you would get by using borax, but sugar and salt is more safe for kids (you’d only have to look out with the sugar so that they don’t eat lots of it lol).
I made something a similar craft like this last year with my daughter. We shaped ours into snowflakes and used a borax solution as well. So pretty. But I remember at the end of the season when we were putting ours away, they the crystals had for the most part turned white. And I think some were crumbling off.
Have you had anything similar happen with yours from last year?
do all the pipe cleaners have to be done at once, or can you reheat the solution? or can you put the pipe cleaners in the cold solution? thanks.
I’ve heard you can reheat the solution and use it again, Sue. It does need to be hot though.
You can substitute borax with Alum!! Same gorgeous effect and a lot safer to have around!
Does this have to be done in a glass jar or would a plastic cup be ok. I’d like to do this in my first grade classroom.
See my answer to your other question, Stacey.
Hi, could you tell me if you know of an alternative to borax? I have tried to get it but it’s a banned substance in the U.K. now due to health risks.
I’ve heard you can order it from here, Vicky: http://www.thesoapkitchen.co.uk
Awesome Idea, Thanks will try it.
Wow amazing! Very impressive! Will definitely give this a go!