How to clean the inside of a lava light

Updated April 17, 2017

Lava lamps have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity since their heyday in the 1960s and 70s. The hypnotic effect of a lava lamp's molten swirling has entranced college students and others for decades. Shaking a lava lamp, however, turns the lamp's liquid cloudy and stops its bubbling effect. Also, sometimes the lava sticks to the lamp's glass vase, or globe. But a committed owner can bring his lava lamp back to life with a thorough cleaning and the patience to make his own replacement wax and solution. Be forewarned: dismantling your lava lamp to carry out this procedure will void its warranty.

Unscrew the globe from a lava lamp that has been allowed to cool down for several hours. Pour the tinted solution into a clean, empty milk carton. Repeat the process for the clumps of wax at the base of the unit. Do not pour the solution down your sink.

Spray the automotive contact cleaner around the inside of the globe, screw the base back on and place the unit in a well-ventilated area for up to 24 hours. Do not use the contact cleaner near an open flame.

Empty the contact cleaner residue into another empty milk carton. Do not pour the contact cleaner down the drain. Use a non-puncturing tool to clean any wax from the crevices of the base.

Wash the globe with warm water and a dishwashing liquid. Be careful not to use very hot water on the glass globe. Keep alternating the contact cleaner/washing process until you have used all the contact cleaner or the globe is clean. Allow the globe to air dry completely.

Refill the globe with replacement solution and wax and screw the base on. These replacement elements cannot be purchased. See the first reference below for information on how to make your own solution and wax. Please note that making your own solution and wax is not a simple task and opening your lava lamp voids its warranty.


Do not pour the used globe solution or the automotive contact cleaning solution down the drain. Do not use the automotive cleaning solution near an open flame. Do not operate your lava lamp for longer than 10 hours at a time. Do not leave your lava lamp in an area where it is exposed to direct sunlight. Do not store where the temperature drops below 32F.

Things You'll Need

  • Dishwash liquid
  • Automotive contact cleaner
  • Empty disposable containers such as milk cartons
  • Q-tip, match stick or other non-puncturing tool
  • Replacement solution
  • Replacement wax
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About the Author

Michigan resident Mary Simms began her journalism career in 1985 as a Foreign News Desk sub-editor at "The Japan Times," one of Tokyo's English-language daily newspapers. In the U.S., Simms has worked as a reporter, business magazine writer and copy editor. She was awarded a Master of Arts in area studies/Near East in 1983 at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.