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Ingredients

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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 dishwashing 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.

See also: Detergent Category , Detergent Ingredients

U.S. BrandsEdit

Some brands that are frequently used in the U.S. are:

  • Dawn Family - The Dawn family of detergents is generally considered to be the best performing U.S. line of detergents for making bubbles. Not all members of the family perform equally. Dawn Pro (also called Dawn Manual Pot & Pan) and Dawn PowerClean are generally preferred. For more information see the the main article page
  • 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.

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, Denmark, 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.

Fairy/Dreft/Yes. These detergents from Procter & Gamble are similar to Dawn and some have compared them side-by-side and felt that they were close to Dawn Pro. The formulations seem to in flux during 2013 with some countries seeing an influx of versions with lower surfactant concentrations than before. In the U.K., there seems to be a budget version that has half the surfactants of the 'classic version'. There are some interesting discussions a about this on SBF [1] .

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 [2] summarizes some valuable information about detergents available in Europe.

UK, Denmark - 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 "Power of Suds" 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

Hungary, Slovenia -It seems the best working brand is Jar by Procter & Gamble. Jar is listed (reference needed) as having approximately half the surfactant (5%-15%)(see thread) of Dawn and Fairy which both list 10%-30% anionic surfactants.

Italy - While someone posed a recommendation here for "dark green" Svelto, several Italian bubblers have expressed the opinion that it is not nearly as effective as Procter & Gamble products (such as Fairy). On SBF, the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo Group, the opinion has been expressed that it is worth tracking down Fairy or Dreft which can be found on Amazon. Search in the SBF archives for Svelto.

PLEASE ADD THE NAMES OF ANY DETERGENTS IN YOUR COUNTRY THAT WORK WELL FOR MAKING SOAP BUBBLES.

WaterEdit

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

GlycerineEdit

Glycerine is a commonly used and widely misunderstood ingredient. It has achieved an undeserved mythical status as a magic ingredient. Although, it is the primary additive in many recipes found on the internet and elsewhere, it is not a particularly effective additive and has led to great disappointment among home brewers. It is quite useful for mixing polymers. There are some cases where it is beneficial. Find out more in the main Glycerine article.

See the main Glycerine article for more information.

PolymersEdit

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.

Polymer-containing LubricantsEdit

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-LubeEdit

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% PEO, polyethylene oxide, which is the active ingredient and 75% sucrose which 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.

  1. Put 2 grams of the powder in a beaker or glass
  2. 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
  3. Put 52 grams of water in another beaker or glass
  4. 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
minutes minutes

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.

See also: Recipes and Category: J-Lube

Pure PolymersEdit

[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).

PEOEdit

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.

HPMCEdit

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.

HECEdit

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 GumEdit

20120715 snapseed IMG 1707 crop
Giant bubble made with a guar-only bubble juice
Espiegel123Added by Espiegel123
Guar 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. 

Find out more about it and where to get it, in the main guar gum article (which has links to recipes and videos of giant bubbles made with guar gum-based bubble juice).

 

CMCEdit

[THIS SECTION NEEDS EXPANSION]

CMC is a cellulose gum sometimes used in bubble juice, either on its own or as part of a polymer mix. 

Visit the CMC (polymer) page.

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.

pH Adjusters and Water ConditionersEdit

Detergents and surfactants often have optimal pH ranges. The optimal pH range for a particular bubble juice may depend on both the surfactants and the other ingredients. The exact reasons for this sensitivity is not currently known. The effectiveness of detergents can also be influenced by metallic ions and salts present in tap water and by calcium and some other minerals.

Charmy Adjustment illustration
Adjusting the pH can have a dramatic impact on bubble juice. in this image, the film thickness (and resulting colors) are dramatically different after adding some baking powder to lower the pH to 7.4.
Espiegel123Added by Espiegel123
Charmy Adjustment Tube illustration
Charmy at 33:1 with and without pH adjustment. The difference in size also represents relative size potential of the two mixes with the single-strand twine 32" top-string wand.
Espiegel123Added by Espiegel123
 

pH adjusters and water conditioners can be very useful. Experiments have consistently shown that baking powder or baking soda + citric acid or simply citric acid benefit most bubble juice. The benefits include: more efficient use of detergent, improved ease of closing bubbles, improved longevity.

Baking powder or baking soda+citric acid are the favored tools for adjusting the pH as they do so gently -- making it hard to overdose a mix. By contrast, citric acid is much more efficient for adjusting pH, but citric acid is so potent that it is easy to render bubble juice useless by over-acidiying it. A tiny amount of citric acid goes a long way.

Baking Powder. Baking powder is perhaps the most effective and easiest to use pH adjuster. It is premixed to have the acidic and basic components in balance and is hard to overdose. It really should be added as the last ingredient when all you bubble juice's water is present. Baking powder has corn starch in it (often specially treated to be even more insoluble than it normally is) that does not dissolve in the water. Do not waste time trying to get it to fully-dissolve. It will not. The precipitate causes no problems. This is a key ingredient in Mike's Gooey Mix and the recipe provide with The Bubble Thing. Because it acidifies gently, careful measurement is not required. Recommended amount: about 1/2 teaspoon (approximately 2 grams) per liter of water seems to be the right amount for most tap water. Using more will generally be fine. 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. IMPORTANT NOTE: Not all baking powder is the same. We have found (Dec. 2013) that some brands of baking powder are less fast-acting than others and may need to sit for a considerable amount of time to take full effect. You may want to try a few different types in your mixes. Ideally, you want a baking powder that bubbles immediately when added to water. Weight/Volume Equivalence: 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of Rumford baking powder packed is about 2 grams.

Baking soda. Baking soda plus citric acid is a popular combination for adjusting pH. There is no precipitate when it is used. So, some people favor baking soda+citric acid because it creates a nice clear juice. There will be a slight amount of cloudiness when Dawn and other Procter&Gamble dishwashing liquids are acidified. Baking soda+citric acid (plus water) also creates some sodium citrate which has been purported to have beneficial properties though Edward Spiegel performed experiments in Summer 2013 that seem to indicate that the benefit is almost solely the result of the pH adjustment since bubble juice treated with citric acid alone performed the same as juice made with baking soda+citric acid with the amounts adjusted so that the resulting juice had the same pH. Baking soda+citric acid is beneficial even when distilled water is used. This would not be the case if chelation or water softening (sodium citrates main benefit) were factors. Weight/Volume Equivalence: approx 0.95 grams per packed 1/4 teaspoon. Recommended Amount: .5 to 2 grams per liter of water used with half that amount of citric acid. 1 gram baking soda and 0.5 grams citric acid per liter of water seems to work well for most tap water.

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]. Weight/Volume Equivalence.: approx. 1.1 grams per packed 1/4 teaspoon. Recommended Amount: see Baking Soda above.

The importance of when you add baking powder or baking soda+citric acidEdit

Getting any benefit from baking powder or baking soda+citric acid depends on when you add these ingredients. Most of the benefit is due to the pH shift caused by the carbon dioxide they give off when they react with water. Some of the carbon dioxide dissolves in the water and forms carbonic acid. Because carbon dioxide is not very soluble in water, only a small amount of carbonic acid is created. The result is very gentle acidification (which counteracts the detergent's alkalinity).

If all of the water is not present when the reaction occurs, the primary benefit of the reaction is missed. While the benefit is subtle in some cases, it is also quite distinct especially once one has experience.

If you add these ingredients to a concentrate and then dilute the concentrate, you do not get the pH-adjusting benefit which is their primary benefit. The ingredients must be added when all of the water is present. For this reason, it can be useful to add the baking soda when making the concentrate and then add the citric acid to the water used for the dilution. Baking powder has the advantage of not requiring careful measurement. So, it is often convenient to simply use baking powder after dilution.

Note that if you use baking soda+citric acid for fizz mixing your polymers, you need to add some more once your mix is at full dilution.

This is easy to test with a pH meter.

Experiments in 2013 demonstrated that contrary to popular belief, the pH change induced by the dissolved carbon dioxide is permanent and does not quickly dissipate.

Historical Note and AnalysisEdit

While a few people were using these additives prior to 2011, they were not in wide use. They 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).

While the exact mechanism is not entirely certain, it seems increasingly certain (per Edward Spiegel's 2013 explorations) that the benefit is due to the pH sensitivity of the detergents used for bubble juice. There may be additional benefits related to chelation though there seems little evidence for this -- since the same benefit is found even with distilled water where chelation would be irrelevant.

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.

Other IngredientsEdit

Other ingredients that are cited in bubble recipes include:

  • Sodium Citrate (added Feb. 2012) - Some people claim that there is a benefit to using sodium citrate in bubble juice. Edward Spiegel claims that Summer 2013 experiments do not seem to support this claim. Sodium citrate (sometimes sold as sour salt) is a byproduct along with CO2 of the reaction between baking soda, citric acid and water. 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 [3]
  • Salt
  • Beer
  • 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.[4]. This post from SBF indicates some interesting synergies between Xanthan Gum and HEC and/or PEO [5] Equivalence: 1/4 tsp Xanthan weighs about .40 grams. Another SBF posting with interesting information from Alan McKay[6]. Xanthan gum seems not to be as bubble friendly as guar gum, but some people substitute xanthan for guar gum when they cannot find guar gum -- though the bubbles tend to be more 'brittle'. Some people have found that xanthan gum does not improve multi-polymer mixes and have dropped it without detriment or have substituted guar gum.
  • Gelatin
  • 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: [7] [8]. 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) [9]. 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 [10]. 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: See Japanese PVA Laundry Starch  and 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.
  • 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 (Konjac) (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.

SourcesEdit

Most of the ingredients you need can be found locally or by doing a web-search.

US Ingredient Sources
Ingredient Online Sources Local Stores Notes
PolyOx Teacher's Source $10.95/0.2lb (1/5lb) of PolyOx WSR301 + shipping (July 2013) This PEO (or an equivalent version) is the active ingredient in J-lube; PolyOx is more cost effective because J-lube contains filler ingredient. 1/5 pound of PolyOx WSR301 will make approximately 180 gallons of juice
J-Lube

Jorgensen Labs $11.70/10oz  + shipping (July 2013), Amazon

Farm/Ranch or Vet supply stores Most easily purchased online; used for livestock OB/GYN procedures
Gravi_Goo Steve Spangler Science $9.95/150g + shipping (July 2013) (April 2012) it appears that contrary to earlier reports, Gravi-Goo is not PolyOx WSR301 (and may not even be a PEO); it can be quite effective, but it is an unknown polymer.
Glycerine Health Food Stores, Walmart, Whole Foods Typically cheaper to purchase online
Sources by Website
Website Ingredients/Notes
Teacher's Source PEO (PolyOx WSR301) and lots of other cool stuff
Burman Industries HPMC
essentialwholesale.com Ingredients for cosmetics products: Vegetable glycerine for about $15/gallon; Propylene Glycol for about $33/gallon
Ingredients To Die For Ingredients for cosmetics products:Citric acidSodium CitrateGuar GumXanthan Gum; and other ingredients that may be of interest
lotioncrafter.com Natrosol 250 HHR CS, a high molecular weight type of HEC, approximately $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
makingcosmetics.com HEC (as of April 2011) is Natrosol 250 HR CS; other ingredients that may be of interest
Roger George Rentals Special effects supplies shop that has some ingredients: glycerine for $35/gallon; HPMC (labeled as MethoCellulose on their site); Propylene Glycol It has been reported that their "MethoCellulose" is Dow K15M Premium grade HPMC.
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).
European Ingredient Sources
Website Ingredients/Notes
Ebay J-Lube; KY Jelly; possibly other polymers
https://boutique.socli.fr/la-boutique/adjuvants/methylcellulose It is not clear whether this is a version of MethylCellulose useful for bubbling.

This link could not be verified.

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.

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