The base of many bubble juice recipes is store-bought liquid dishwashing liquid or other soap plus water and other additives. This section provides helpful information about the most common ingredients and classes of ingredients.
The three key elements of most bubble solutions are the surfactant (usually provided by diswashing liquid or some type of soap product), a polymer of some sort, and water. There are often additional ingredients, too.
Dish Detergents & SoapsEdit
There is a great deal of dispute as to whether a particular brand of dish detergent makes the "best" solutions. Given the number of people that report positive results from a number of different detergents (and quite a few disputing whether those detergents are worth using), it seems likely that some detergents may be better matched to the water of some localities than others. There seems to be consensus in the the bubbling community (or at least on SBF, the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo Group) that the Procter & Gamble dishwashing liquids (which go by different names in different countries) are the most reliable brands for mixing up DIY bubble solutions.
Some recipes make use of multiple detergents (such as Non-Concentrated Classic Dawn and Dawn Professional)
Some brands that are frequently used in the U.S. are:
- "Truly classic" Dawn also called "Old Dawn". (No longer available). Many bubblers indicate that Dawn dish soap prior to the mid-1990's was far more effective than later formulations. It was a non-concentrated detergent.
- Non-Concentrated Classic Dawn (available at Walmart Sept 2010). There are rumors that it is no longer being manufactured but this has not been confirmed. It has been suggested that this is essentially a watered down version of Non-Ultra Dawn that has only about 35% of the surfactants as Non-Ultra Dawn. Recipes that call for Non-Ultra Dawn should be adjusted accordingly by increasing the amount of NCCD used and decreasing the amount of water used to dilute it. 16 ounces of NCCD are equivalent to about 5.5 ounces non-ultra dawn plus 11.5 ounces water.
- Non-Concentrated Dawn. Sept. 2011. Something called Non-Concentrated Dawn (no mention of Classic on the label) has been appearing in place of Non-Ultra Dawn in those parts of the country where Non-Ultra Dawn was still available. It is not clear if this is the same as the Non-Concentrated Classic Dawn found in California (primarily/exclusively (?) at Walmart). Some reports indicate that this is not as dilute as Non-Concentrated Classic Dawn, but reports indicate that it is inferior to Non-Ultra Dawn.
- Non-Ultra Dawn. (Classic Dawn Non-Ultra). [Unavailable as of late 2011/early 2012] This version of Dawn is not as widely available on retailer shelves (Sept. 2010) as the other currently manufactured versions of Dawn. It is widely considered to be the best of currently available versions of Dawn (Sept. 2010) for use in bubble solutions. It can be identified by the words "Non-ultra" which appear (in fairly small print) on the back label of the bottle. On the front of the label the words "Classic Dawn" appear. As of June 2010, it was available on the shelves of Dollar General stores and Family Dollar store and some other discount retailers. (Sept. 2010) It is available online through Procter & Gamble's online store pgestore.com. Sept. 2011: For the last several months, there have been reports that Non-Ultra Dawn has been replaced on store shelves in many locales by Non-Concentrated Dawn (no Classic mentioned on the label). It is not clear if this is the same as the Non-Concentrated Classic Dawn found in California (primarily/exclusively (?) at Walmart). July 2012: For some months, the real non-ultra dawn seems to be unavailable, even at the Dollar Stores where it could be found earlier in the year.
- Ultra Dawn. As of 2010, this is the most widely available version of Dawn. You can make nice bubbles with it, but it is generally considered inferior to Dawn Pro (also called Dawn Professional or Dawn Manual Pot & Pan) and the (as of late 2011) no-longer-available Non-Ultra Dawn.
- **Dawn Professional (Dawn Pro Manual Pot and Pan). As of 2011, this seems to be the preferred version of Dawn for making bubbles. This formula has been quite stable and appears to have changed either very little or not at all in many years. since its customer base is professional and needs a consistent product. NOTE (JULY 2012): Comparisons with similar recipes creating giant bubbles indicate that Dawn Pro is superior to Dawn Ultra (significantly so) in almost all regards. Dawn Ultra will work if you cannot find a better detergent, but it seems less able than Dawn Pro or Dawn Power Clean.
- Dawn Direct Foam. This is a very different detergent from the other Dawn's. While containing a powerful surfactant, DDF (as it is called) does not work well on its own for large bubbles; however, a leading giant bubble maker (Brian Lawrence) is a fan of DDF as a performance booster when used with Dawn Pro as in this recipe.
- Dawn Complete
- Joy (non-ultra)
- Joy Ultra - there have been reports (untested) that Yellow Ultra Joy does not bubble quite as well as the Orange Anti-bacterial Ultra Joy. NOTE (JULY 2012): Comparisons of Joy Ultra and Dawn Ultra with a simple guar-based juice indicated that Joy was inferior for creating giant bubbles -- at least with that recipes.
- Joy Manual Pot & Pan - This is a "professional" line of Joy and is non-concentrated. It is available at Smart & Final as well as other retailers for the janitorial and restaurant business.
- Suave (shampoo) because of its density. (This entry is non-corroborated. If you have information about the use of Suave in bubble juice, please let us know.)
- **Gain. This is an inexpensive offering from Procter&Gamble that appears to be a U.S. only brand. It was mentioned by Keith Johnson in this SBF posting. This seems to work quite well based on some exploration done in early 2012. It reacts differently to PEO than the Dawns and may need a bit less PEO than Dawn-based formulas -- although this has not been confirmed by rigorous testing. What is clear, is that Gain seems to create a "filmier" film with moderate amounts of PEO.
- Palmolive's Baby Bottle, Toy & Dish Wash. We haven't had any specific reports about this yet. It is mentioned by Keith Johnson in this SBF posting.
- **Dawn Power Clean. (Added summer 2012). This is a fairly new addition to the Dawn line. It is less viscous than Dawn Ultra but more viscous than Dawn Pro. In preliminary tests, it seems to be much more effective than Dawn Ultra. WIth a guar-based bubble juice, the Dawn Power Clean created longer tubes and created longer-lasting large bubbles than the same recipe brewed with Dawn Ultra. We don't have any information about comparative testing of Dawn Pro and/or Gain.
See also Dawn.
Outside the USAEdit
In the U.S., there seems to be a consensus (at least in 2010) that Dawn and/or Joy products work best as the base of bubble mix. In other countries, people generally seem to report that brands of dish detergent made by Procter & Gamble work best. The brand names vary from country to country. In some countries it is known as Dreft (this is not the same as the Dreft laundry detergent available in the U.S.) in others it is Fairy ( available through amazon.de ). On SBF, the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo Group a least one person has reported good results using Fairy Ultra (in Germany) in the Jumbo Juice recipe. In some European countries, there is a detergent called Yes (available in Sweden and Great Britain and possibly other countries) which seems to be a re-branded version of Fairy and is reported to work well. Some side-by-side testing of Dawn Pro and Fairy Ultra indicated similar performance but with Dawn Pro performing somewhat better.
Germany, Haka Neutralseife has been mentioned on SBF, the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo Group as being useful in conjunction with water, methyl cellulose-containing wallpaper paste and sugar for creating giant bubbles. Fairy is a popular detergent among European bubblers. In July 2012, Procter and Gamble replaced the "old Fairy" with re-formulated detergents. Interestingly, the different scents of the July 2012 re-formulations indicate different formulations as indicated here.
Sept. 2011: This SBF discussion  summarizes some valuable information about detergents available in Europe.
UK - Peter O'Boyle - I have tested many brands of dish washing liquid for making large bubbles and have found Fairy to be the best. Out of the many different types of fairy liquid I tried, I found Fairy Platinum (not Platinum lemon) to be the best of them.
Israel- Fairy classic yellow or green 24% active ingredient worked great. Palmolive also worked O.K however its only 18% strong and costs the same.
South Africa - The only detergent which we have had decent results with is Ajax ("Lemon" or "Lemon and Lime").
Japan- Charmy is favored by Mr. Hisao Oono. His recipe is here. He seems to favor the Orange and Apple scents. See also: http://www.lion.co.jp/en/press/html/2009018f.htm and Mr. Oono's recipe translated
PLEASE ADD THE NAMES OF ANY DETERGENTS IN YOUR COUNTRY THAT WORK WELL FOR MAKING SOAP BUBBLES.
Water is a key ingredient. Some people insist that distilled water is needed for the best results while others indicate that tap water is superior. It is probably the case that some detergents are better matched to some water sources than others. Water that is very hard or very acidic or alkaline may not work well with some detergents.
There are open questions as to what the relevant factors are.
See also Water
Glycerine is a common ingredient in bubble recipes and one of the most misunderstood. It is very useful for helping mix polymers (since most of the useful ones are insoluble in glycerine), and, in some cases, can extend bubble life. However, it has earned a place in the popular mind as a magic ingredient in bubble juice. And, while it is sometimes useful, it is an ingredient that often has no (or minimal) influence on bubble juice.
Somehow, it has taken a hold on the imagination of so many people that even serious bubbleheads include glycerine in their recipes even though their recipes seem not to suffer when it is removed.
It is my opinion (with no notable dissent from other people that have performed careful tests) that glycerine will not improve the longevity of giant outdoor bubbles in most cases. It is very useful for mixing ingredients and may also improve the shelf-life of some mixes since glycerine can preserve the viscosity of some polymers (EDITOR: find the reference from Dow about this).
Various (and quite different) claims are made about the actual role that glycerine plays. The amount of glycerine used varies widely in recipes found on the web. Some recipes use as little as 1/4 part glycerine (where 1 part is defined by the amount of detergent used) and some use as much as twice the amount of glycerine as dish detergent. One chemist has suggested that the amount of glycerine needed is relative to the pH of the detergent--with high pH detergents requiring relatively large amounts of glycerine. This claim has not been subtantiated.
One experiment indicates that small amounts of glycerine have little effect in at least some formulations and that high impact may require much larger amounts of glycerine than found in many common recipes. For large outdoor bubbles, it appears that under most conditions with the most commonly used dish detergents that glycerine has no measurable effect even in large quantities. (July 2012: There are currently no reliable reports or tests that contradict the belief that glycerine does not extend bubble life of outdoor big bubbles).
The information that I have found about the pH of glycerine is contradictory--if anyone knows the reason for the discrepancies, please update this section. The pH of Starwest Botanicals vegetable glycerine was measured with a Milwaukee ph600 pH tester to be 5.6 (the unit is accurate to plus/minus 0.1). Keith Johnson also found glycerine to be acidic. However, several web sites indicate that vegetable glycerine is pH neutral (7.0) (in which case the acidity of the purchased glycerine could be due to the water used in its preparation -- since distilled water tends to be slightly acidic due to dissolved carbon dioxide from the air) while others indicate that it is basic (10.0). [NOTE ADDED Sept. 2010: I just remeasured the bottle of Starwest Botanicals with a freshly calibrated pH meter. The pH was 7.2. It isn't clear whether the earlier 5.6 reading was due to a malfunctioning meter or if the pH has changed over time. Tonight, two other brands of gycerine were also tested with results ranging from 6.3 to 7.3].
Some experiments by Edward Spiegel indicate that KY Jelly-type lubricants seem to react with the glycerine and detergent to form solutions that are significantly more bubble-friendly than solutions that contain only glycerine or only personal lubricants. However, this synergistic effect seems only to be apparent in very concentrated solutions with little water. In these tests, many more bubbles per dip were created when the recipe included both glycerine and a ky-jelly type lubricant than in those that had only one of those ingredients. Those tests were done with Ultra Dawn (2010 formulation) detergent and tap water. It may be that the glycerine enables the creation of long molecular chains. At standard dilutions, the glycerine does not seem to affect bubble-friendliness except that it does significantly extend bubble life and stabilize colors when there is enough glycerine. Ongoing experiments will be documented in Edward Spiegel's Bubble Blog
Some detergents, such as Dawn Direct Foam, seem to have increased bubble potential for small-wand-bubbles when glycerine and little are no water is added.
Brian Lawrence says that experiments done with the old Dawn formulation (which was changed in the 1990s) indicated that when relative humidity was high (over 92%) that glycerine could nearly double the lifetime of a bubble but that this effect dropped off rapidly below 92% humidity. In those tests, at 100% relative humidity, there was a linear correlation between bubble longevity and the amount of glycerine up to about 7 grams of glycerine per liter. More glycerine did not seemt to hurt the bubbles which were tested with amounts up to 21 grams/liter, but they did not benefit them either. It remains to be seen whether this effect is related to the detergent with which it is used. This is an area that needs to be explored more fully. Note that these tests were done indoors and don't appear to contradict, the conclusion that glycerine has little impact on giant outdoor bubbles.
It remains to be ascertained which factors influence how much effect glycerine will have on a mixture and which aspects of bubble-making are impacted. Bubble longevity is definitely impacted when there is enough glycerine even in humidity of 40% to 50% at least in some recipes. It is possible that the effectiveness may depend on the particular detergent being used and the other amendments.
Some bubblers notice little effect of glycerine in their solutions. This lack of impact can be for a number of reasons -- in many circumstances bubbles will be popped or broken before their natural lifespan has been exhausted. In such cases, the glycerine impact would not be noticed. Out in the environment a difference in lifespan of 30 or 40 seconds might not be noticed and a very large amount of glycerine is needed to extend the lifespan longer than that (except in the highest humidity). Few recipes call for the amount of glycerine that would be needed for such an extension as documented in these tests..
1 fl ounce of glycerine weighs about 37.3 grams. 1 ml of glycerine weighs about 1.26 grams.
- The idea that glycerin is a magic ingredient for bubbles pre-dates the era of Dawn as a central ingredient.
- To my knowledge, the superior qualities of Dawn over the other available
detergents was popularized when the Exploratorium's Ned Kahn and I separately
tested many many products in an effort to replicate the big bubbles of Eiffel
Plasterer for use in the new bubble exhibits that were being designed in 1983
for the first ever Bubble Festival at that San Francisco science museum. (All of
those Kid-In-A-Bubble exhibits and the large bubble wall exhibits at science
centers and children museums all date from those efforts we made then to add to
the hands-on aspect of the upcoming Bubble Festival that I talked them into at
- To my knowledge, no one was particularly interested in turning Dawn into a
useful mix for small bubbles back then ... Wonder Bubbles/Mr. Bubbles was
already good and very cheap and available. It was this pursuit of big bubbles
that led to the recognition that Dawn is the good stuff.
- CV Boys used glycerin and it is often referred to in the recipes offered by
scientists in their experiments with soap bubbles. I agree with you, Edward,
that its usefulness in the modern recipes is limited and I certainly agree that
it is the one thing that most people "know" about good bubble solutions. I tried
it, even in the early Dawn days, and didn't bother with it for long. It could be
that it was a much more useful product in overcoming disadvantages of soap,
rather than detergent.
- Tom Noddy
Bubble-juice relies on polymers . Polymers are simply large molecules that typically have a chain-like structure. They can be natural or synthetic. They are critical components of any bubble juice and can provide a number of important qualities. They are often used in dishwashing liquid and shampoos and food stuffs to provide viscosity. When making bubble juice, it is often convenient to use easily found household products (such as KY Jelly Personal Lubricant or even commercial bubble juice) as a polymer source.
See also: Mixing Polymers.
Personal lubricants and medical lubricants tend to be mixes of polymers (often cellulose-based), water and glycerine and/or propylene glycol. They are popular ingredients in homebrew bubble juice recipes.
KY Jelly Personal Lubricant, SurgiLube and Other Cellulose-Based LubricantsEdit
A number of commercial products -- many of them so-called personal lubricants -- are compounds made up of a number of ingredients that includes a cellulose compound such as Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose (HPMC) (which is found in SurgiLube) or Hydroxyethyl Cellulose (HEC)(found in KY Jelly Personal Lubricant and its generic knock-offs). Most of these products also include other compounds such as glycerine and propylene glycol that may contribute qualities to the bubble juice.
Surgilube which is currenty popular among bubblers contains Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose (HPMC) as well as propylene glycol, polypropylene glycol, acetic acid, sodium acetate, and propylene oxide and other ingredients. The acetic acid/sodium acetate combination is probably used to buffer the lube's pH. Some preliminary (very preliminary as of Feb. 2011) work done by Edward Spiegel indicates that Surgilube behaves almost as if it were the equivalent of a 10% to 12% K15M solution. While it certainly is not such a concentrated solution as that, it may give a starting point for adjusting Surgilube-based recipes to straight HPMC solutions and vice versa. More serious study needs to be given to this issue.
KY jelly personal lubricant and its knockoffs (which seem to work just as well in making bubble solutions) are based on Hydroxyethyl Cellulose. It also includes glycerine and other compounds in its ingredients. These may also play a role. 1 tablespoon of KY and its knock-offs weighs about 15 grams. These lubes are very viscous and water soluble.
USAGE HINTS: Because of the viscosity, lubes can require a bit of work to dissolve/integrate into solution. It is best to use very warm to hot water to aid in fully dissolving lube especially when adding a lot of lube in relation to the amount of water. If left long enough (if the solution is not oversaturated with lube) undissolved clumps often dissolve themselves. Make sure that it is fully dissolved before adding the detergent. If it is not fully dissolved, you will often get a layer of undissolved lube at the bottom of your container. Undissolved clumps of lube may hamper successful bubbling. Some lubes will not fully dissolve when there is a large concentration of lube in relation to water. In these cases, it is best to add a little very warm to hot water and stir -- adding a little extra water as needed to dissolve. When adding smaller concentrations, room temperature water will work to eventually dissolve the lube although very warm water works better. If the lube does not completely dissolve with stirring, it will be easy to dissolve after being left to hydrate for a few hours (as long as it doesn't get below about 70 degrees Fahrenheit) at which point stirring will complete the mixing.
Both Surgilube and the KY-style lubricants contain Chlorhexidine Gluconate which is a chemical antiseptic.
[NK DEC 2012 Edit: Some lubes such as Walrgreens brand personal lubricating jelly uses Chlorhexidine Digluconate, I found it to work slighty less well then KY or Quality Choice brand.]
In homebrew recipes, one finds a fairly wide range of suggestions as to how much of these compounds should be added. See the Recipes section for some examples.
THIS ARTICLE SHOULD BE IMPROVED WITH MORE SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS AND NOTES ABOUT HOW THE CHARACTERISTICS THAT IT CONTRIBUTES.
[NK DEC 2012 Edit: Tested with just detergent and water mixes, I found that it contributes characteristics of wobblyness and it comes off the wand easier. With the wobble, wind will not pop it as easy.]
J-Lube may be the most important polymer for creating giant bubbles. Less than a gram of this powder can turn a gallon of water and twelve ounces (or less) of dishwashing liquid into a potent giant bubble juice. A 10 oz. bottle of J-Lube powder costs less than $20 (including shipping) and can make hundreds of gallons of bubble juice.
J-Lube is a powder made up of 25% Polyethylene Glycol (often called PEO since it is also known as polyethylene oxide) which is the active ingredient and 75% sucrose which essentially acts as a dispersant. Its primary commercial use is for aiding veterinarians in the birthing of livestock. It adds valuable self-healing qualities to bubble solutions which enables bubbles to complete themselves and enables bubble-in-bubbles. It also reduces the likelihood that a bubble will tear coming off of the wand. In large quantities, it can make bubbles so self healing that any disturbance of the air will break up a large bubble into smaller bubbles. It is thought to work very well with the cellulose-based compounds like Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose (HPMC) (see above -- it is found in Surgilube) and' 'Hydroxyethyl Cellulose (HEC) (see above -- it is found in KY-Jelly and its knockoffs). Many bubblers report synergies betwen these compounds so that solutions that include J-Lube and either HPMC or HEC have properties that exceed those of solutions with only of these ingredients.
J-Lube has a big impact even at very low concentrations. As little as one gram per gallon of bubble juice can have a noticeable impact especially when used with an HPMC or HEC containing compound such as one of the personal lubricants mentioned above. Because it is active at such low concentrations, it is generally useful to mix J-Lube with water and then add small amounts of the premixed J-Lube. J-Lube and water creates a viscous goo that is quite "stringy" at high concentrations.
USAGE TIPS: J-Lube is water soluble but can be a little tricky to dissolve since the powder tends to clump when added to water. If you are patient, you can add the J-Lube to water and leave it over night and then shake the mixture until the lube is dissolved. It can take a couple of days doing this once per day to fully incorporate the J-Lube. A quicker method is to add J-Lube powder to hot water and then microwave and letting the mixture boil for several minutes in a large container stopping as needed to prevent boilovers (which are very messy to clean-up). When using the microwave method, you must carefully watch the boiling solution to make sure that it does not spillover as the solution will bubble and expand vigorously during boiling. You must use a container that is at least 4 times larger than the volume being mixed when using the microwave method. One advantage of the microwave method (you could do it on the stovetop, too) is that it will pasteurize the mixture and reduce the likelihood that the sucrose will ferment.
1/4 tsp of J-Lube powder weighs about 0.6 grams. [NOTE: this needs to be double-checked]
One bottle of J-Lube powder costs $10 to $16 including shipping (as of June 2010) and contains 284 grams of J-Lube which is enough to make more than 200 gallons of bubble solution.
You can use PolyOx in J-Lube's place if you find it easier to come by. PolyOx contains just the active ingredient from J-Lube (which is just PEO and sucrose). PolyOx comes in different molecular weights. So, the amount of PolyOx needs to be adjusted. See the PEO section below for more information.
March 2011 update. J-Lube and WSR301 are both high molecular weight PEO. J-Lube appears to have a slightly heavier molecular weight but only very slightly and as long as they are mixed correctly they can be used interchangably. J-Lube solutions that are intended to be stored can benefit from some added KY-Jelly or Surgilube which have preservatives. [See BLM recipe.] . However, both chemicals are sensitive to how they are mixed. J-Lube is a bit less picky about how it is mixed. (I.e. you can microwave it to mix it up but you can't do that with WSR301). In Jan. 2011, several people mentioned that they had "old" J-Lube which behaved differently from "new" J-Lube. After quite a bit of testing and research, it now appears that under some conditions that J-Lube (and WSR301) powder can actually break down into a lighter molecular weight PEO. When this happens, the J-Lube is much weaker. When it is mixed up it isn't string or very viscous and large amounts can be added to bubble mix without hurting the mix. It is important to know whether your J-Lube or WSR301 has started to deteriorate.
OUTDATED NOTE!! (Jan. 2011). [THIS PARAGRAPH IS OUT OF DATE AND INCLUDED FOR HISTORICAL PURPOSES. IT SHOULD PROBABLY BE REMOVED. ]It appears that there are two formulations (one of which is quite old) of J-Lube. Both are 25% PEO and 75% Sucrose (table sugar), but the current J-Lube seems to use a much higher molecular weight PEO molecule than is found in at least some very old J-Lube bottles. It has not yet been ascertained whether "old" J-Lube was intentionally formulated differently or if there was a quality control glitch. Whatever the reason, the two are both potent ingredients but the potency is quite different. The very old J-Lube is much less viscous than the newer J-Lube at the same concentration and the very old J-Lube does not exhibit the stringy, self-siphoning characteristics of the current J-Lube. It appears that most people have been using 'new' J-Lube and some long-time bubblers seem not to have encountered the very old J-Lube (which indicates the possibility that there was simply a single manufacturing run that used a different PEO source than normally). This would explain the conflicting results being reported for the proper equivalence between J-Lube and WSR301. Current J-Lube bottles are 7.25 inches (18.4 cm) tall and yield a goo that is considerably more viscous than the J-Lube found in bottles that are 7-7/8 inches tall. The taller bottles seem to be several years (or more) older. There are a few discussions of this in the SBF forum that are of interest Nov. 2010 discussion about WSR301/J-Lube equivalence , Nov. 2010 discussion about different J-Lubes and May 2007 discussion
Which J-Lube do I have? To determine whether you have fresh J-Lube (or WSR301), do the following test.
- Put 2 grams of the powder in a beaker or glass
- Optional: add 5 grams of dry alcohol (i.e. 91% isopropyl or methanol or
ethanol) or 5 grams of glycerine. Stir it to make a slurry
- Put 52 grams of water in another beaker or glass
- Pour the water rapidly into the beaker containing the JLube slurry
Pour the mix back and forth between the two beakers/glasses for 4 or 5
Fresh JLube will quickly become self-siphoning and very non-newtonian (its texture will change when it is in motion and under stress). It has been described as looking like liquid rubber in motion. Within a minute or two, it will be obviously unusual in its behavior. The 'very old' JLube doesn't develop that way at all -- it is slippery but has a texture somewhat like vegetable oil and is only the slightest bit stringy if at all. This technique is actually a great way to mix up either J-Lube or WSR301 (PolyOx).
If you have "old" JLube, you need 4 to 16 times as much of it as "fresh" JLube.
[THIS SECTION NEEDS TO BE EXPANDED. WHAT FOLLOWS ARE NOTES THAT WHILE MINIMAL MAY BE USEFUL]
The lubricants mentioned above are useful in bubble juice because they contain polymers which help in the creation of long chains that make it easier to form complete bubbles and may add additional qualities such as strength or the ability to self-heal. In home-brewed bubble solutions, commonly-used polymers are the same as those that are used in the lubricants mentioned above. The most-commonly used polymers are:
- PEO (polyethylene oxide). An polymer available in a wide range of viscosities (molecular weights). It is considered by some to be the most effective polymer for making giant bubbles. (See below ).
- HEC '(Hydroxyethyl Cellulose). The Dow Chemical company has a family of HEC products called Cellosize that have varied molecular weights and properties.This is the polymer found in KY-Jelly type lubes. In recipes, it can be used as the sole additive or in combination with other polymers. It is also used in some commercial bubble mixes.
- Guar Gum (also called Guaran or guarkernmehl). This is a naturally derived polymer that is widely available and quite effective. (See more below ).
- HPMC (Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose). The Dow Chemical company has a family of HPMC products called MethoCel that have varied molecular weights and properties. This is the polymer used in SurgiLube. It is similar in characteristics to HEC. It is effective but not as effective as PEO. In recipes, it can be used as the sole additive or in combination with other polymers.
- CMC (Sodium CarboxyMethylCellulose). Like HEC, HPMC and MethylCellulose, this is a cellulose gum. It has been suggested on SBF, the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo Group, that this may be the most effective cellulose gum for bubble making although no specific recipes have been offered as of the date of writing (July 2011). Like the other cellulose gums, this comes in a variety of molecular weights/viscosities. It has been suggested that only so-called high viscosity types are worth exploring. Although, this claim has not been tested. There are two main brands of CMC, Ashland's Aqualon line and Dow's Walocel line. Doubling the concentration results in an eight to tenfold increase in viscosity. [QUESTION: does HEC have a similar relationship?] Walocel CRT 40000 has a viscosity of approximately 6,000 mPas at 1% an 35,000 to 50,000 at 2%. Aqualon 7H has a range of 1,500 to 3,000 mPas at 1%. 7H4 has a range of 2,500 to 5,000 at 1%. These viscosity ranges are similar to high viscosity type HEC (see below).
PEO, or polyethylene oxide is a long-chain polymer also known as Polyethylene Glycol. As with many polymers, the molecule can be created with varying numbers of molecules. The number of molecules (which determines the molecular weight) determines the polymer's properties. For making bubbles, high molecular weight versions are desirable, and low molecular weight versions (often called PEG) are either ineffective or not very effective as primary polymers. While PEO and PEG molecules are the same molecule, PEG, by convention, refers to low molecular versions and PEO is reserved to describe high molecular weight molecules.
The most popular versions of PEO for use in bubble juice are PolyOx WSR-301 and JLube (which is actually a mix of high molecular weight PEO and sucrose which acts as a dispersant).
PEO has remarkable characteristics. It radically improves the elasticity and self-healingness of a soap bubble skin's which enables the creation of large to giant bubbles. It turns a dilute dish detergent/water combination into a big bubble-making powerhouse. Of the polymers documented here, it has the most profound impact and is only needed in very small quantities. In recipes, it can be used as the sole additive or in combination with other polymers.
Visit the main PEO page for much more information.
It is used by many bubblers in conjunction with PEO as a secondary polymer in giant bubble solution. It can be used on its own for making very effective small/medium wand solutions without PEO.
Some claim that it improves the flow of a PEO-containing solution and others that it seems to improve the bubble strength. A lot of bubblers user solutions that contain PEO and HPMC succesfully. There are many videos of such solutions found in this wiki. However, there are some people that claim that a PEO solution will perform better without HPMC. This is a somewhat controversial claim and testing needs to be done to find out whether this is true or whether this is true in some particular conditions. About 1 gram of this ingredient per gallon of bubble juice seems to be about the average dosage when used along with PEO to make bubble juice for creating big bubbles. Quite a bit more needs to be used if HPMC is the sole additive -- typically for making bubble juice for use with small/medium type wands.
Testing needs to be done to determine how that dosage maps to SurgiLube dosage (since no data is available as to how much HPMC/ounce is used in surgilube). HPMC is available in various formulations and molecular weights. Some versions have been treated to be cold-water dispersable and may need special treatment to counteract the pH changes these versions may cause. Dow's K15M HPMC has been mentioned by a number of bubblers on SBF. Dow K100M has also been mentioned and is reportedly a more powerful viscosity builder.
There has been some suggestion that Non-Ultra Dawn is more sensitive to the addition of HPMC than Dawn Pro and that Jumbo Juice levels of HPMC will not work with Non-Ultra Dawn -- this may be true of other viscous detergents and may be the result of conflicts between the polymers used in those detergents as viscosity builders.
K15M (non-cold-water-dispersible version). 1/2 tsp. weighs about 0.72 grams.
Usage notes: The amount used can vary from 0.25 grams to 4 grams per gallon of bubble juice. The amount used depends on what the purpose of the bubble juice is and whether other polymers (such as PEO) are being used. On its own (added to detergent and water), it is quite effective for making bubble juice that works well with small and medium wands of any type. For giant bubbles, it is not as effective as PEO and is often used along with PEO. The J-Lube/Surgilube combination mentioned in recipes is essentially a PEO/HPMC slurry that also has other ingredients since SurgiLube contains many ingredients besides HPMC. Like PEO, HPMC is soluble in water but not easily soluble. Some versions of HPMC have been treated to be more easily soluble in cold water.
It has been found that machine mixing of HPMC while convenient (because it quickly yields a uniform non-lumpy solution) does not result in a better HPMC solution than solutions in which the HPMC is hand-mixed and allowed to become uniform naturally (with the aid of occasional shaking or stirring) over a period of 24 to 48 hours.
This is a useful polymer that can be used as the sole or primary polymer in a mix or as a secondary polymer in a mix. It is often used in conjunction with PEO. It improves bubble-friendliness, elasticity, and self-healing qualities. Some believe that it also enhances the colors.
See the main article.
Guar GumEditGuar gum, also called Guaran or Guarkernmehl, is a widely available polymer (usually sold as a powder) that can turn dishwashing liquid and water into an excellent bubble juice for bubbles of all sizes.
See the main guar gum article(which has links to recipes and videos of giant bubbles made with guar gum-based bubble juice).
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The application notes for Aqualon indicates that room temperature water is fine. High-shear mixing is recommended for full viscosity development -- unlike PEO for which high-shear mixing is problematic. CMC is highly shear-thinning in concentrated solutions. So, Aqualon recommends that the water be moving vigorously when the CMC is added in order to minimize viscosity build-up.
They recommend 4 types of dispersion for obtaining lump-free solutions.
- Add the CMC to a vigorously (machine) stirred water. They say "the addition must be slow enough to permit the particles to separate .... but it should be fast enough to minimize viscosity buildup".
- Slurry with a water-miscible liquid (in which CMC is not soluble) such as dry alcohol, glycol or glycerol.
- Mix the CMC with a non-polymer such that the CMC is less than 20% of the powdered material.
- Use of a water eductor.
Corn Syrup, SugarEdit
Corn syrup and sugar work to make the bubble solution more viscous and to a limited degree, act as humectants similar to glycerin or propylene glycol. The biggest problem with sugar based thickeners is that they attract insects, especially bees and wasps, and they don't work as well as glycerin or propylene glycol. For this reason, you may want to find glycerin at the drug store or big box store and use it instead. If you still want to use corn syrup or sugar, make sure it is the clear type, not the brown and use it at a rate about double what you would for glycerin.
Other ingredients that are cited in bubble recipes include:
- Baking soda - Baking soda plus citric acid seem to have an important effect on bubble juice probably through the creation of sodium citrate which may help bond detergent solution to minerals in the water. These additives started being widely used by SBF members in Feb. 2011 following and many claim that it has significantly improved their solutions (with no notable dissent). The exact mechanism is not entirely certain. The benefits may be releated to chelation while others have suggested that it is due to the influence of sodium citrate on the detergent's viscosity. Investigations of Alan McKay's claims [editor: add citation] about the benefits of baking soda + citric acid as beneficial to bubble solutions have led quite a few people (with no notable dissent) to feel that the combination is of great benefit to giant bubble solutions. The optimal concentrations of each has not been determined and seems likely to be somewhat related to the water that is used. For some people (possibly people with acidic tap water), the baking soda must be added early in the mixing process (before polymers and soap) and citric acid must be added only after the solution is stable and hydrated. Others find that they can add both together with the polymers. .8 to 2 grams of baking soda per liter of bubble juice plus about 1/2 that amount of citric acid per liter of bubble juice seems to be a beneficial range for most people that have reported on their use of these additives. Some people use a ratio of 2 to 1 (baking soda to citric acid) while other use 1.3 to 1 (based on the theory that the benefit is solely from the creation of sodium citrate that occurs when baking soda and citric acid are mixed with water). Others seem to find that some additional amount of baking soda is helpful although that may be particular to the pH of their water. There have not been any detailed experiments documented, yet. Also, see Recipes and search the blog section for entries related to baking soda/citric acid. [EDITOR: make sure those entries are tagged appropriately and add a link to the appropriate tag]. wt./vol. approx 0.95 grams per packed 1/4 teaspoon.
- Citric acid - [Added Oct. 2011] see Baking Soda (above). Growing consensus indicates that baking soda and citric acid when used together are very beneficial to giant soap bubble solutions. The exact proportions for maximum benefit have not been determined. See Baking Soda above. Also, see Recipes and search the blog section for entries related to baking soda/citric acid. Citric acid is available in many grocery stores (often sold as sour salt -- although sour salt is sometimes sodium citrate). It is sometimes available from bakeries or stores that sell baking ingredients. In some countries, it is sold for the purpose of de-scaling coffee machines. [EDITOR: make sure those entries are tagged appropriately and add a link to the appropriate tag]. wt./vol.: approx. 1.1 grams per packed 1/4 teaspoon.
- Sodium Citrate (added Feb. 2012) - Baking soda, citric acid and water, create sodium citrate, water and CO2. Sodium citrate can be used instead of baking soda and citric acid. To substitute sodium citrate for baking soda/citric acid, use 1.17 times as much Sodium Citrate as you would baking soda (and eliminate the citric acid).
- Flax seeds (lin seed, linseed oil). The extract that results from boiling flax seeds is reputed to be an effective ingredient. The recipe on Bubble Town has been around for a while. Another recipe has been posted on SBF that also includes gelatin and Mr. Bubble. See also 
- Xanthan Gum. Like HPMC and HEC, Xanthan Gum is a cellulose gum that (among other things) increases viscosity. Xanthan increases viscosity dynamically such that when the fluid is exposed to shear it loses viscosity. It regains is viscosity when the shear forces are removed. A leading giant bubble maker suggests that Xanthan may prevent the rapid migration of the bubble film towards the bottom and thus extend the life of giant bubbles. It is used at a quantity of up to .9 gram per gallon of bubble juice.. This post from SBF indicates some interesting synergies between Xanthan Gum and HEC and/or PEO  Equivalence: 1/4 tsp Xanthan weighs about .40 grams. Another SBF posting with interesting information from Alan McKay.
- Gum Arabic
- Propylene Glycol - often used with or instead of glycerine in commercial bubble solutions. While its toxicity is low, it is listed as a possible skin irritant and is not as environmentally friendly as glycerine.
SEE ALSO: Two postings of interest on SBF:  . Summary of those postings: adding .75% (by volume) of of Propyene Glycol to Jumbo Juice (which is about 11 parts water per 1 part detergent) improved colors and increased bubble lifetime. At 9% (by volume), the colors were stronger and the bubbles made an audible pop. At 17% (by volume) behavior was similar to 9% but possibly with a louder pop. At 23%, the number of bubbles with a small wand decreased. Another post of interest mentions that PG is good for keeping cellulose gums in solution (it is a solubilizer) . In the same thread it is recommended not to go about 0.5% -- which seems at odds with the findings mentione above. Investigation is needed. AkJay reports using up to 1.5 cups PG per gallon of his bubble juice.
- Polyethylene Glycol - Sold as a laxative. Makes bubbles more colorful when added. Polyethylene Glycol is a synonym for Polyethylene Oxide (usually referred to as PEO on this site). See the section Polymers above for more information.
- Polyvinyl Alchool (PVA) - (apparently this is an ingredient in some Japanese laundry starch and some people use a small amount of PVA-based starch as an additive). PVA is also an ingredient in some slime kits such as this one. There is mention of some promising results with it in the post from the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo group . An article called Chemistry in the Toy Store by David Katz mentions the use of 2%-6% polyvinyl alcohol solutions to prolong the life of tabletop bubbles. The article mentions that solutions over 8% can be very thick. According to Wikipedia, it is nontoxic and biodegrades easily. SEE ALSO: PVA (PolyVinyl Alcohol) as an additive
- Wallpaper Paste - one site recommends 3 grams of methylcellulose-containing wallpaper paste in 1.3 liters of bubble solution.
- Methyl Cellulose - similar to HPMC. It is often mentioned as a useful additive (although sometimes it is in the mistaken belief that MethoCel means methyl cellulose when in fact it is a Dow Chemical product family that includes both methyl cellulose and HPMC-based products).
- Chlorhexidine Gluconate - is an anti-microbial that may be useful for increasing the shelf-life of polymer solutions. It is an ingredient in KY Jelly-type lubes and SurgiLube. This might be especially useful for preventing contamination of J-Lube/water concentrates. It has been suggested (but there has been no verification of this claim) that a few drops in 500 ml of solution should be sufficient. This claim needs verification but seems reasonable.
- Baking Powder - This is a key ingredient in Mike's Gooey Mix and the recipe provide with The Bubble Thing. There have been reports that 3.5 to 8 grams per gallon of baking powder can be beneficial. I have received a report that Dr. Oetker's works nicely. 1/2 teaspoon packed Rumford baking powder is about 2 grams. The first use of baking powder as a bubble juice ingredient seems to be in David Stein's bubble juice recipe that is included with Bubble Thing.
- Calcium Chloride - AkJay has been finding that Calcium Chloride is a big help for bubbling in freezing temperatures. It lowers the freezing point to keep bubbles from freezing quickly and also seems to extend their lifetimes.
- Sodium Alginate - On SBF, there was a discussion of this algae-derived polymer as a useful additive for bubble juice. 1 level teaspoon was hydrated overnight in 1 liter of distilled water and used in a 15:1 mix. Note that sodium alginate has interesting interactions with calcium which can cause it to gel (which makes it useful in molecular gastronomy). There is another mention of it in thisSBF discussion.
- Konnyaku (Jelly) Powder - Faris reports that a juice which substituted 0.7 grams Konnyaku powder for 2.3 grams of Natrosol 250HHR performed as well as the juice with Natrosol. The Natrosol-based recipe is blogged here . Faris writes: "Both have been capable of making 30ft tubes quite easily, closing bubbles has been no problem and both have quite the same length of bubble lifespan. The only differences are, using the Konnyaku recipe, bubbles in bubble is hard to make and there's more amount of 'ghost'...'The downside of preparing a Konnyaku recipe is you have to boil the water to hydrate the powder..."
- Sago Flour - (Feb. 2013) - We have received reports from a few people in Asia that Sago Flour has been effective for them. We hope to have details soon.
Most of the ingredients you need can be found locally or by doing a web-search.
Glycerine is available at Whole Foods and Walmart and often at health food stores, but it is generally much less expensive purchased on the web than in a store.
J-Lube is most easily purchased on the web although if you live in an area where there are farms and ranches, you may find it carried in stores that carry supplies for livestock veterinarians as it is used in birthing cows and horses. You can also use PolyOx -- which is a particular brand of PEO (see above) the active ingredient in J-Lube PolyOx is available from Teacher's Source. Using pure PEO is somewhat more cost effective than J-Lube. 1/5 lb. of PolyOx is available from Teacher's Source for about $11 (June 2010) plus shipping. That is enough to make about 180 gallons of bubble juice. The PolyOx available from Teacher's Source is PolyOx WSR301. Gravi-Goo Note (April 2012) it appears that contrary to earlier reports, Gravi-Goo is not PolyOx WSR301. It can be quite effective, but it is an unknown polymer.
Gravi-Goo. This polymer has been used by several bubblers as a substitute for PolyOx WSR301, but it is not PolyOx and may not be PEO at all. It is available from Steve Spangler Science for $9.95 plus shipping from Steve Spangler Science for 5.25 oz.
The Herbarie carries both HPMC and HEC. 8 oz. (227 grams) can be purchased for less than $10 (plus shipping) (as of June 2010) and is enough to make over 200 galons of bubble juice. There may be a $30 minimum order from this site. While the Herbarie will not say which versions of HPMC and HEC they carry, the HEC seems to be Dow Cellosize QP-4400H or an equivalent (viscosity approximately 5000 mPa*s at 25C for a 2% solution).
HPMC is also available from Burman Industries
Roger George Rentals is a special effects supplies shop that has some ingredients (glycerine for $35/gallon) and HPMC (which is labeled as MethoCellulose on their site) and Propylene Glycol of interest to bubble makers. It has been reported that their "MethoCellulose" is Dow K15M Premium grade HPMC.
makingcosmetics.com sells HEC and other ingredients that may be of interest. Their HEC (as of April 2011) is Natrosol 250 HR CS.
lotioncrafter.com - sells Natrosol 250 HHR CS which is a high molecular weight type of HEC. Cost roughly $20/lb + $10 shipping. They also sell HPMC - Hercules Benecel MP 824, which is a K35M type. Viscosity 14,000-21,000 mPas at 2%. This is somewhat more viscous than Dow MethoCel K15M which is rated at 15,000 for mPas for a 2% solutions
essentialwholesale.com - They have ingredients for cosmetics making. Vegetable glycerine for about $15/gallon and Propylene Glycol for about $33/gallon.
European bubblers report that J-Lube and KY Jelly and possibly other polymers can be found on Ebay.
A European source of MethylCellulose is found here. It is not clear whether this is a version of MethylCellulose useful for bubbling.
Things that don't workEdit
This section describes additives that people have tried and reported as being unhelpful.
- Shaving cream. Adding shaving cream (at least Edge Gel) to a detergent water mix results in something that works less well than water and detergent.
- Sugar. The addition of sugar is much less effective than corn syrup or glycerin. Also it attracts insects that pop bubbles.
- Silicone. There are many reports by folks on SBF that indicate that products that contain silicone are bubble killers. In fact, it is reported that buckets and wands become useless and hard to restore once they have come in contact with some silicone containing ingredients. Search SBF, the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo Group for more information.