Lava Lamp Not Flowing:  Wax Hardened or Stuck at Top as One Big Blob

Lava lamps are mesmerizing to sit and watch. Each time you turn it on, it’s a unique display of amazement with the wax slowly moving about in big blobs that seemly have nowhere to go. But what if those blobs stop moving? Don’t fret, this can be a common problem with these lamps.

Below we’ll discuss possible solutions to the following issues:

  • Lava lamp not flowing
  • Lava lamp wax hardened into one big blob
  • Lava lamp wax stuck at top

While it’s no fun to have your lava lamp acting up, the good news is that there are things we can try to fix just these issues. So if you’re facing any of these symptoms, read on for some ideas.

Lava Lamp Not Flowing

This is a fairly common problem with lava lamps. The wax simply stops moving and appears to be frozen in place.

In some cases, this can happen if the lamp has been turned off for an extended period of time (weeks or months). In other situations, it’s not unusual for this to occur after a short period of use (days or minutes). There can be various causes for this issue including some that are easy fixes and others that may require replacement parts.

lava lamp with silver base and orange-red lava on shelf but lava is not flowing, just stuck in one big blob

Troubleshooting Tips for Lava Lamp Not Flowing Issue…

Here are some of the reasons the lava in your lamp might not be flowing freely as it should.  Below, we’ll discuss how you can try to remedy this based on what the cause might be.

Room temperature too cold

If your room temperature is not at least 68-degrees Fahrenheit then it’s possible that your lava lamp does not have enough heat energy present to cause the wax inside to melt and flow. To fix this simply move the lava lamp to a warmer location in your house or turn up the heat (if it’s safe to do so) where you are currently located.

Bulb needs replacing

If the bulb inside is broken or burned out then it will not be providing enough heat energy for the wax to melt and flow. In that case, you’ll need to replace your lava lamp light bulb with a new one. Luckily these bulbs are usually very common incandescent E17 candelabra type bulbs rated for 25 watts of power usage which can be found just about anywhere including online retailers such as Amazon. Double-check your bulb size of course. Some also use the E27, which is a bit less common.

Not on for long enough

If the lamp hasn’t been on long enough to melt the wax, then turn it on for a longer period of time and be patient. Most lava lamps need at least an hour or two to show their magic, but some can take as many as six hours to get working if the area is on the cooler end of the temperature range mentioned above. This is especially true if it’s the first time you’ve used the lamp in some time. So be patient and give it a chance to warm up.

Metal coil not seated properly

There’s a round metal coil that is supposed to lay flat on the bottom of the lamp.  If this coil isn’t lay completely flat or has moved, it can cause problems.  This helps the wax breakup and melt into the blobs we like to see. 

pink lava lamp with metal coil not seated properly at bottom, causing it to not flow properly

Off for too long

If your lamp has been off for a while, then there’s a possibility that the wax inside may have hardened into one big blob. In this case, you’ll need to heat the lava lamp up some to get it flowing again. The best way to do this is to just be patient.  The lamp is made to warm up the wax and get it flowing, but if it’s hardened, it might just take longer than normal.  Give it some time.  More on hardened wax below.

Lava Lamp Liquid Evaporated

If all or most of the clear liquid has evaporated from inside the glass globe then this could cause problems with flow since wax needs enough heat energy from surrounding liquid for it to melt and move about properly. In this case, you can easily add new lava lamp liquid by removing the plastic cap at top of the globe and pouring in the new liquid. Be sure to only use a specially formulated lava lamp replacement fluid that is designed for these lamps… don’t be tempted to use any other types of liquids as this could damage your lava lamp and/or cause it not to work properly in the future.

How to Fix Lava Lamp Not Flowing

There are a few things we can try in order to fix the issue of wax not flowing. Before we get started, keep in mind that during some of these steps, the lamp may be very hot. Consider wearing work gloves to keep your hands protected at all times. If your lamp isn't flowing, try the following steps.

1. Make sure your lava lamp is operating in an area that meets its requirements. The wax in a lava lamp requires a certain amount of heat energy to help it melt and flow optimally. Most lava lamps require the ambient temperature to be somewhere in a range between 68-74 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s not, move it to an area that is and test it there.

2. Check to see if the metal coil in the lava lamp is laying flat and at the very bottom of the lamp. If the wax is melted, but still not moving around, it could be that the metal coil needs to be moved to the bottom. DO NOT shake the lava lamp to get it there.

3. If the lamp has been on for awhile, it may just be overheated. (Note: no lava lamp should ever be operated for more than 10 hours straight.) Go ahead and turn the lamp off for a few hours, let it cool, and see if that fixes the issue.

4. If all else fails, consider trying to twirl the lamp around a bit when fully melted (after warming up for a couple hours). Make sure you wear heat-resistant gloves as the heat will be hot and could burn you. You don’t want to shake the lamp, but this is the last resort before replacement anyway.

If none of these things seem like they would be causing your lava lamp not flowing issue, you may just consider replacing the lamp. Luckily, they aren’t that expensive, and the average lava lamp can be purchased for between $20-$35.

purple and orange lava lamp on wood desk next to pencil case and notebook

Product Recommendation!

Lava Lamp, 14.5″ w/ Yellow/Purple Wax

Add some personality to any room with a Lava Lamp, the timeless retro icon. These mesmerizing motion lamps are a perfect match for your space. Includes a 25-watt bulb.

Lava Lamp Wax Hardened into One Big Blob

There are a couple reasons why the wax might have hardened into one big blob. In our experience, this usually happens when you haven’t allowed the lamp to warm up adequately or turned it off prematurely. Turn the lamp on and try to leave it on for at least 4 hours to see if that alleviates the problem.

The other common reason this might happen is one that was mentioned above. If the environment the lava lamp is in isn’t at a room temperature between 68-74 degrees Fahrenheit, it won’t work properly. Check this and move it to an area that will help melt the blob.

Lava Lamp Wax Stuck at Top

kay, to explain what’s happening, let’s go back to basics first.  How does a lava lamp work?  When the heat energy from the bulb warms and melts the wax, gets it moving up and pushes to the top of the lamp.  As the wax gets to the top, it begins to cool, and becomes more dense.  This usually causes it to fall due to gravity and viola, you have a functioning lava lamp.  

So how does lava lamp wax get stuck at the top sometimes?  Well, as the wax cools down at the top (further from the warm bulb) and starts to solidify, it just so happens to have wedged itself in the smaller cone-shaped area towards the top of the glass bottle.  This happens more frequently if the room the lamp is in is cooler.  This will add to the rate of temperature change in the wax.  Since it’s now harder, it can’t release itself to fall down.  

So how do we fix this?  Like most lava lamp issues, if you just let it run for a few hours, it can often fix itself.  If that doesn’t work, a few cycles of on and off, a couple hours at a time can do the trick.

Another thing that will likely do the trick is to warm the wax at the top up so it melts away, pulling itself away from the glass.  Many recommendations I’ve seen suggest the usage of a higher wattage bulb.  This will provide more heat energy, hopefully enough to melt the wax and get it unstuck.  

Don’t just assume this can be done though. Check the lamp’s base or contact the manufacturer to identify if a larger bulb can be used safely and not cause a fire hazard.

orange, blue, and red lava lamps flowing correctly

Final Thoughts

Lava lamps are super-cool and they make great decorations for people of all ages, but they can be finicky. We hope our tips above help you with troubleshooting your lamp if it’s not flowing correctly. Don’t forget to be patient with your lamp. Nothing happens quickly with these devices.

If none of these solved your problem, there are two options left. One, contact the manufacturer and see if they have any further advice., or two, get a new lava lamp and start over.

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