What Happens When You Shake a Lava Lamp (And How to Fix It)

Lava lamps are amazing and cathartic to look at. I could spend hours gawking at mine. It never seems to create the same design more than once. You may be tempted to shake it up and see what happens, but I caution you to not do this! It will cause the wax to separate, and you’ll regret it… at least temporarily.

If you shake it up, what happens is the wax separates into tiny bubbles, mixing itself about the liquid. It doesn’t look pretty, and you may wonder what went wrong with it! In fact, it’s common to think you may have ruined your lava lamp forever. You haven’t, but there’s no quick fix either.

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

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Lava Lamp Wax Separated

Shaking it up or turning it upside down caused the wax in the lava lamp to separate and suspend in the liquid. This forces the water to become cloudy as the wax and oil spread throughout the lamp.

There are lots of stories online asking “why is my lava lamp cloudy?”. This is almost always caused by someone shaking it up or turning it upside down, but it can also be caused by moving it or setting it in front of direct sunlight for some time.

What Does a Cloudy Lava Lamp Look Like

Depending on the specific wax/oil formulation, not every cloudy lava lamp will look the same. Here’s an example though of a lava lamp that was shaken up a few minutes prior.

purple lava lamp turned cloudy after someone shakes it

As you can see, there are still “bubbles” of wax, but there are many more of them, and they’re much larger than before and now they just don’t want to combine with each to make the big blobs we’re used to seeing float around.

Fortunately, there’s no permanent damage done if you shake a lava lamp. All that needs to happen is for its temperature inside to equalize again. This can take about 24 hours, so as you can see, it’s better to just follow the advice we’ve all heard before… DON’T SHAKE YOUR LAVA LAMP!

How to Fix a Cloudy Lava Lamp After Shaking It

Okay, so you didn't heed my advice or were just too curious. There are a few ways to try and get the bubbles to dissolve and return to their original form, making the large blobs we want to see.

Don't remove the cap, even if you saw such a request somewhere on the internet. This is not needed, it causes the warranty to be voided, and it can make a HUGE mess, if not actually ruin your lava lamp for good (depending on what you do with it).

1.  Common recommendations are to turn the lamp on and off repeatedly. Doing this in about 2 hour increments (2 hours on, 2 hours off, 2 hours on, 2 off, etc.) will promote the wax and oil to combine over time. While this may work, it’s a very tedious process and we believe there are better (and easier) ways to go about fixing the shaken lamp.

2.  Just run the lava lamp for 8-10 hours straight, leaving it alone and not moving it. Make sure not to run your lamp for more than 10 hours (you should never run any lava lamp for more than 10 hours. It could overheat.). By just running the lamp, the cloudiness should eventually dissipate and the combination of the heat and the metal coil in the bottom of the lamp will cause the wax to eventually clump back up into blobs.

3.  After running it for up to 10 hours, turn it off and let it cool down and again settle for several hours before turning it back on again and letting the little metal coil do its magic and build the blobs again.

These are generic instructions found online that appear to be working for people trying it. Here’s a video that shows you a similar process, so you can see it for yourself.

YouTube video

Another Way to Fix a Lava Lamp After Shaking

Of course, if all that fails, maybe you should just follow the instructions. These instructions were grabbed straight from the source, lavalamp.com. The LAVA company recommends the following for anyone who has one of their lava lamps and finds that it’s cloudy.

  1. If your LAVA® lamp appears cloudy, allow it to sit at room temperature and let the wax settle for about eight hours.
  2. Turn the lamp on until the wax begins to soften, then shut it off again and allow it to cool.
  3. After it cools, turn the lamp on again and let it run for eight to 10 hours. This should result in clear liquid.

Simple enough, right? I hope that one of these methods helps you out if your lava lamp has been shaken and now looks cloudy.

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