Low humidity, especially when accompanied by high temperatures, presents a huge challenge to making bubbles. Under such conditions, it can even be a challenge to make small bubbles with dime store wands and larger bubbles might seem impossible.
Some general information about conditions is found in Ideal Conditions.
As of this writing (May 2013), there is still a great deal of experimentation being done by people to find solutions that work well in low humidity. Even at 30%-40% humidity, it may be impossible to create truly giant bubbles. And, generally, the bubble lifetime is dramatically shorter than when humidity is higher than that.
The problem is exacerbated by heat. High temperatures even with good humidity are a challenge for most bubble solutions. As temperatures rise above about 78F or 25C, it becomes much more difficult to make lasting bubbles with most solutions.
There have been reports on SBF, the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo Group that Sodium Alginate-based solutions can improve behavior under these conditions; however, the results that were reported have so far not been replicated. It merits further investigation. See Sodium Alginate on the Ingredients page. A search of SBF, the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo Group may be worthwhile in case there is new information there. Gelatin is another ingredient reported to be a worthwhile addition as suggested here. Some preliminary tests indicated that gelatin may help longevity with some mixes. Further exploration is merited.
Please help! If you come upon ingredients or techniques or recipes that improve behavior under low humidity, PLEASE REPORT THEM -- either by adding to this article or by adding a comment.
When humidity is below 40% (especially when it is warm), you need to adjust your expectations. Things get dramatically worse below 30%.
Some people have reported good results with Uncle Bubble Ultra Concentrate under low humidity compared to other solutions in low humidity. We have not verified these claims, but the claims come from credible sources.
Wand/Bubble Size. In dry conditions, the soap film is especially vulnerable. The larger the wand opening, the more vulnerable the bubble. For tri-strings, using smaller tri-strings often has great benefit. You might even be able to create better bubbles with a 48" top-string than a 72" top-string.
Dilution. High dilution and very low dilution solutions seem to work better than typical solutions. If you adjust your polymer amounts (usually by increasing them) and have a good detergent like Dawn Pro, you can go as high as 50:1 water:detergent ratio. While that dilution is size-limiting under ideal conditions, the extra thick soap film that high dilutions create also translate to longer-lasting bubbles when there is high temperature and low humidity.
Guar-based mixes are often reported to perform better than PEO-based mixes in warm-to-hot low humidity situations. Guar-based mixes can be pretty friendly even at 30:1 to 35:1 (water:detergent ratio). Higher dilution often seems to help, but you should not expect bubbles to get as big or last as long as under better conditions.
HEC-based solutions are sometimes reported to be more effective than PEO under these conditions, but I don't believe these claims to be definitive.
Glycerine. Despite glycerine's reputation as an effective humectant, a number of experiments with solutions that have up to 25% glycerine have not shown noticeable improvement under these conditions with outdoor medium to giant bubbles.
Grass & Meadows. Bubbling over grass often works dramatically better than bubbling over pavement or dirt in low humidity -- even if you are just a few hundred feet from a place where bubbles did not work at all. In July 2013, Edward Spiegel reported that a meadow in the Oregon high desert where the temperature was in the mid-90s and the humidity at 20% that he was able to make some nice bubbles with a 48" top-string wand in a meadow but not at all in the adjacent shaded grove. His conjecture was that the grove had more dust and pollen than the meadow.
Juice temperature. A number of people have mentioned that keeping your juice cool on a hot day can improve performance significantly. Try putting some "blue ice" in your dipping container and keeping it in an insulated cooler.
There has been a claim made on SBF, the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo Group that multipolymer solutions (at least those that mix PEO with polymers such as HEC and HMC) work especially poorly under these conditons. However, a number of trials in Summer/Autumn 2012 under very hot/low humidity conditions seemed to indicate that some multipolymers performed marginally (but noticeably) better than PEO-only solutions. There will be a blog article detailing the trials.
Suggestions From Around the WorldEdit
This section contains suggestions that have been made from bubblers around the world but which have not been tested sufficiently for us to have an opinion as to whether these methods are effective. If you try any of these and find them to be either effective or ineffective, please add a comment.
- Watering the bubbling area. Quite a few experienced professionals recommend watering the ground in the bubbling area. This may both increase the humidity and remove some of the large dry floating particles from the air that are bubbles' nemeses.
This section has videos of bubbles under various low humidity conditions and may give you an idea of what to expect. If your bubbles are doing better than the ones shown under these conditions, please post your videos!