Homemade Bubble Recipes - Part 1

My son loves playing with bubbles. I do too, so this is an activity that we enjoy almost any time of the year.

Over a decade ago I worked as the arts and crafts director at a Girl Scout Camp. I would make a couple gallons of bubble solution to have on hand as an activity to do after tie-dying. The soap got the dye off of the girls’ fingers really well. I followed a recipe that had been passed on to me years earlier that I had committed to memory. Now that I’m a parent, I have tried making that same recipe a couple of times but haven’t been able to get the same large, stretchy bubbles that we got years earlier.

I decided to look for as many bubble recipes as I could find to see which one would work best for us, both at home in Utah and at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in the San Francisco Bay Area. Below are the recipes we followed, and the results we got, while playing with the bubbles in our backyard in Utah. I’ll share the results from Grandma and Grandpa’s house in another post.

I used filtered water for all of the recipes. We have pretty hard water in Utah, so I’m sure that would make a difference. For the dish-washing soap, I used the blue bottle of regular scented Dawn, the one they use to wash birds during an oil spill. We played on a relatively clear, warm day in May that only had a little breeze and the humidity was at about 27%.

#1 - The Recipe I Learned Years Ago and Used at Camp:

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 cup of dish-washing soap
  • 2 tablespoons of liquid glycerin (can be found in drug stores)

Gently mix the ingredients together by hand and let the solution sit overnight, uncovered. The “sitting overnight” part is really important.

Results in Utah: Not great. The solution did produce some bubbles, but they often popped very quickly. They rarely got a chance to float away from the wand where a toddler would want to chase after them. I’m curious if I cut back the water a bit, that they might work better. But, I honestly don’t think I’ll make this one again. I wonder if they were just as bad when I made them at Girl Scout Camp and my memory has just exaggerated how fun they were to play with.

#2 - A Recipe They Used on Sesame Street Episode #4259 “The Bubble Fest”:

  • 1 1/2 quarts of water
  • 1 cup dish-washing soap
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup

Gently mix together by hand, but don’t mix so vigorously that you produce foam.

Results in Utah: This one did better than I expected. It produced a decent amount of bubbles, and they stuck around long enough to actually float away. I’m curious if I increase the amount of water a little bit, if I will get better results. The ratio of water to soap in this recipe is a lot of soap for just one and a half quarts of water. If I were filling small bottles of bubble solution for a birthday party, though, this is the recipe I would use.

#3 - Recipe I Borrowed From the Book: “How to Make Monstrous, Huge, Unbelievably Big Bubbles” by David Stein:

  • 12 cups of water
  • 1 cup of dish-washing soap (the book recommended original Ivory, blue Dawn or yellow Joy)
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons of baking powder

Gently mix the solution together and let it sit, uncovered, for one hour. Stir occasionally to help dissolve the cornstarch.

Results in Utah: The author of the book that I borrowed this recipe from claims it produces really large bubbles - the kind you can make with a hula hoop. The book also states that relative humidity plays a large role; higher humidity helps to make larger bubbles that last longer.  Perhaps in Utah, there just wasn’t enough humidity in the air. Not all of the cornstarch dissolved in the solution despite stirring it like I was told, so there was a gloppy layer of goo at the bottom of my bowl. The bubbles were just as disappointing as they were in Recipe #1. Very few survived long enough to fly beyond the bubble wand, and the few that did popped very quickly.
#4 - Another Version of Recipe #3:

  • 12 cups of water
  • 1 cup of dish-washing soap
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons of baking powder
  • one 2.5 to 3oz tube of personal lubricant (like KY Jelly)
  • 1 cup of very warm water

Gently mix the first four ingredients together and let it sit, uncovered, for one hour. Stir occasionally to help dissolve the cornstarch. Mix the personal lubricant and the warm water in a separate cup. Once the lubricant has dissolved, add it to the bubble mix. This last added step is supposed to help the bubbles have better staying power and be stretchier.

Results in Utah: Of the four recipes, this one worked the best. The personal lubricant must have really done the trick! Like Recipe #3, I still had a layer of cornstarch at the bottom of the bowl, but it was totally worth it. The bubbles produced were stretchy and fun to chase after. I really want to buy a kiddie pool and a hula hoop so we can try making some giant bubbles!

Conclusion for Utah: 

Recipe #4 is the winner with its odd mix of ingredients. My husband thought I must have looked a little crazy at the store when I bought these ingredients all at the same time. So far, none of the recipes have produced as many bubbles as the store-bought solutions, though. When I look at the store-bought ones, they are much thicker than any of the recipes above, so I’m curious what ingredients they are using to get such stretchy, long-lasting bubbles. I’m pretty sure it’s a trade secret, though.

Soon I’ll post the results of these same recipes made at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in the San Francisco Bay Area. The humidity is higher there, so I’m hoping we will get some better results.


14 Responses to Homemade Bubble Recipes - Part 1

  1. Fantastic ideas for some fun in the sun!!!

  2. What a cool idea… we can have extreme humidity here (Michigan) in July so maybe we’ll test your theory :)

  3. Love it! I was also looking up bubble recipes last night and pinned this - http://rhondas3boys.blogspot.com/2010/07/bubbles-bubbles-everywhere.html

    The recipe is similar to your #1, but the detergent/water ratio is much higher than yours. I wonder if that makes it better? Her pictures show really great large bubbles.

    LOL@ your last recipe. I’m gonna have to give these a try and will let you know too! We just bought a bubble blowing machine and the solution sucks!

  4. cant wait to try this out!

  5. Great idea! Can’t wait to try this out this summer!

  6. We love homemade bubbles! With three kiddos making our own is a must.

  7. Awesome ideas!! I will have to try these out with my nephew!

  8. Fun! We love bubbles and can’t wait to try.

  9. who would have thought bubbles were that easy? :) thanks!

  10. Stephanie Brooks Isaacson Reply

    My Kid is a bubble FREAK!!! Thank you so much for this recipe!!

  11. Where’s the link to part 2? I can’t find it

  12. Hi Emily, I haven’t written it yet! I’ll be writing it sometime this June when I visit my family in northern California. Stay tuned!

  13. Pingback: Lily & Frog Friday 5: 5 Outdoor Toddler Activities | Lily & Frog

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