Lava Lamps Problems and How to Fix (and Avoid!) Them

Despite the popularity of the lava lamp during the Sixties and Seventies, homeowners have been harboring concerns regarding the safety of this decorative lighting device. However, it would be close to four decades before these fears are proven to be true in the worst possible way. We’ll delve into the problems that lava lamps may have.

Lava Lamps Problems


Phillip Quinn, a 24-year old resident of Kent, Washington, was killed when the lava lamp exploded while he was heating it up on his kitchen stove in 2004. Duplicating the circumstances of his death on the popular Discovery Channel Series “Mythbusters”, it was found that the heat from the stove caused considerable pressure build up inside the lamp, with the resulting explosion sending sharp glass shards – one of which pierced Quinn in the heart – and hot wax flying. According to the hosts of the series, the shards and/or the hot wax would be sufficient to kill, especially considering the fact that Quinn was observing only from a few feet away.




While Quinn’s death is an isolated one, this is but one of a few lava lamps problems that you should take care to avoid. Let us take a look at these problems one by one…

Possible Lava Lamps Problems To Be Aware Of

  1. Under heating - Lava lamps need to be sufficiently heated for the wax globs to rise and fall inside its glass cylinder. With insufficient heat, there is a tendency for the wax globs to just creep up along the sides or, worse, just sit at the bottom of the cylinder as a huge blob. Depending upon the size of the lamp, you will need to replace it with a 25 to 40 watt appliance bulb (or 100W for giant lava lamps).
  2. Overheating - Lava lamps were never designed for prolonged use. Aside from the dangers of overheating and explosions, too much heat can affect the physical integrity of the wax inside the lamp, so that it stays melted instead of forming globs. Do not use the lamp for more than 8 to 10 hours. Allow for a sufficient cooling period.
  3. Clouding of the lava lamp - This problem develops when you tip the lamp base over top or shake it excessively. This causes changes in the integrity of the wax. As a result, the wax remains in liquid form and mixes with the water, producing a cloudy appearance. When this occurs, you will need to buy a new lamp. Never attempt to repair the lamp or heat it over another heating source. Simply do not shake the lamp.
  4. Environmental factors - Since the lamp uses a heat source, it is best to put in a cool spot to prevent overheating. Keep it out of direct sunlight. This will prevent the wax from fading as well as keep the lamp itself in optimum working order.
  5. Replacing the light bulb - Never replace a burned out lava lamp bulb with one that is not specified in the instruction manual. The light bulb that is commonly used is a 25 to 40W appliance bulb (like the ones used in convection ovens). Do not remove the lamp’s “pop top” while replacing the bulb or fill it with water.
  6. Breakage and Other Accidents – Obviously, there is a real danger of your lamp breaking if you don’t put it in a safe spot. If the lamp does break or spillage occurs while in use, do not touch the water or the wax that spilled out because it is hot. Let the spilled material cool down first before cleaning up. Don’t worry. There are no hazardous materials in lava lamps. Never touch the lava lamp while in use to prevent burns.

Learn more about how you can avoid other lava lamps problems today!


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