How to Make Crystals With Borax and Pipe Cleaners

Learn how to make crystals with 2 basic household ingredients. This simple crystal recipe makes rock crystals and is fun for kids of all ages with supervision. Crystal experiments work great in the classroom or at home as a science experiment.

How to make crystals with borax and pipe cleaners

Easiest Crystals to Make with Kids

When it comes to simple science projects for kids, making crystals with borax and pipe cleaners never fails to impress. It is a best results kinda situation!

How to Make Borax Crystals

Making borax crystals is such a cool science experiment that we’ve actually done it three times in the past two weeks! Using a pipe cleaner form as a foundation allows you to create different crystal shapes and formations. Today, we’re crystallizing our initials, which we’ve made using chenille pipe cleaners.

What is Borax?

Borax is a natural mineral with a chemical formula Na2B4O7 • 10H2O. Borax also is known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate. It is one of the most important boron compounds.

Thought Co, What is Borax and Where to Get it

We are using 20 Mule Team Borax which is a pure borax product that is readily available in grocery stores and discount stores. Even though it would take ingesting a large amount of Borax to be toxic, we still recommend adult supervision around any chemical compounds and use caution to not inhale the Borax powder.

This post includes affiliate links.

supplies used to make crystals with borax and pipe cleaners

Supplies Needed To Make This Borax Crystals Recipe

You’ll love how easy this process is to set up! All you need are a few common, household ingredients and supplies, and a little bit of patience.

How To Make Borax Crystals

purple O pipecleaner

Step 1: Prep Your Pipe Cleaners

The first simple step is to bend your pipe cleaners into whatever pipe cleaner shape you want. You can make a crystal snowflake, random shapes, crystal icicles, or like us, everyone can make their own initial.

My favorite has to be the crystal snowflakes fashioned out of white pipe cleaners that grow the most beautiful, almost translucent crystal structure.

Step 2: Mix Your Borax Solution

  1. To make your solution, dissolve 9 tablespoons of Borax in 3 cups of very hot water – you may be able to use hot tap water if your water gets really hot…if not:
  2. We boiled our water in the kettle first, and poured the boiling water into a 2 qt bowl with a spout.
  3. Then we added our borax and we stirred and we stirred!
  4. You need your solution to be perfectly clear with no visible traces of Borax, so you’ll need to stir the concentrated solution for a few minutes making sure there is not Borax powder accumulating at the bottom of the jar.

The temperature of the water will be hot! So be very careful with this step. Keep a paper towel handy for any necessary clean ups.

Step 3: Start Making Crystals

  1. When your pipe cleaners are bent into shape, tie a length of string to the top of each one.
  2. Now, pour the borax solution into your jars, and suspend a pipe cleaner in each one by tying the loose end of the string to the handle of a long wooden spoon (or a craft stick or pencil), and laying it across the top of the jar.
  3. Make sure the pipe cleaner doesn’t touch bottom or sides of the jar.
jars with pipe cleaners hanging in them

Step 4: Wait for Crystal Formation

Set the glass jar in a safe place, and leave it for a few hours as the solution cools.

When you check back in, you’ll be amazed to see how quickly the crystals start forming!

The next day, our pipe cleaners were gorgeous! The crystal coating was rock hard! When two initials tap into each other, they make a tinkling sound as if they were made of china.

pipe cleaner initial covered in borax crystals

I love how the original color of the pipe cleaners looks soft and muted underneath the coating of borax crystals.

You can see how this would make a really fun science project for kids at almost any age!

Re-Use Your Borax Solution to Make More Crystals

You’ll likely have lots of crystals that have formed on the sides and bottom of your mason jars. If you want to do the experiment all over again because there is enough dissolved Borax left to create more snow crystals.

Just place your jar of left-over solution in the microwave for a minute or two. Stir to dissolve any crystals that adhered to the sides of the container and you are good to go again!

pipe cleaner in a jar of borax and hot water

Why Do Borax Crystals Form On Pipe Cleaners?

If your kids are curious to know HOW the crystals from on your pipe cleaner, we like this simple video explanation from Steve Spangler:

  1. Hot water can hold more molecules (the borax) and the molecules move very fast.
  2. When the water cools the molecules then slow and begin to settle (on the pipe cleaner.) 
  3. As it cools it begins bonding with other borax and begin forming crystals.

How Long Does It Take To Grow Borax Crystals?

Borax crystals take a little while to form. It generally takes 12-24 hours for the borax crystals to begin forming. The longer you leave them submerged, the bigger the crystals will grow!

We loved growing bigger crystals! Big crystals seemed to have different angles almost like you were looking at them with a magnifying glass.

How To Make Colored Crystals At Home?

Want your crystals to be more unique? Add color! It’s easy, all you have to do is add a few drops of your favorite colored food coloring to the water. Add a different color to each jar and you’ll have different colored borax crystals.

What is the Difference Between Salt Crystals, Snow Crystals and Borax Crystals?

You can also grow salt crystals with table salt, Epsom salt or even sugar! Salt crystals look different because they are cube shaped. In fact, most minerals occur as crystals which appear in a pattern that repeats over and over.

“The shape of the resulting crystal-such as a cube (like salt) or a six-sided form (like a snowflake)-mirrors the internal arrangement of the atoms.”

Smithsonian Education, The form of Crystals and the Building Blocks of Minerals

The shape of Borax crystals are more intricate:

“a solid with flat sides and a symmetrical shape because its molecules are arranged in a unique, repeating pattern.”

-Unknown, but often quoted on the internet and I never found original source – if you know, please mention it in the comments so I can give credit

How to Make Crystals With Borax and Pipe Cleaners

How to Make Crystals With Borax and Pipe Cleaners

Learn how to make crystals with this speedy borax and pipe cleaner experiment. It's simple, but fascinating science for for kids of all ages!

Materials

  • borax
  • very hot water
  • jar
  • spoon
  • chenille pipe cleaners
  • string
  • pencil or craft stick (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bend your pipe cleaners into whatever shapes you want. You can make snowflakes, random shapes, crystal icicles, or like us, everyone can make their own initial.
  2. When your pipe cleaners are bent into shape, tie a length of string to the top of each one.
  3. To make your solution, dissolve 9 tbsp of Borax in 3 cups of very hot water. We boiled our water in the kettle first, and poured it into a 2 qt bowl with a spout. Then we added our borax and we stirred and we stirred!
  4. Now, pour the solution into your jars, and suspend a pipe cleaner in each one. You can do this by tying the loose end of the string to the handle of the spoon (or a craft stick or pencil), and laying it across the top of the jar.
  5. Make sure the pipe cleaner doesn’t touch bottom or sides of the jar.
  6. Set the jar in a safe place, and leave it for a few hours.
  7. When you check back in, you’ll be amazed to see how quickly the crystals start forming! I’m not sure what the actual recommended time is to leave your pipe cleaners in the borax-water, but we let ours sit over-night.

Notes

You need your solution to be perfectly clear with no visible traces of Borax, so you’ll need to stir for a few minutes.

Crystal Growing Kits for Kids

You can easily grow Borax crystals with the STEM activity outlined above, but sometimes you want something easier or a way to give this science experiment as a gift. Here are some crystal growing kits we love.

Exploding Baggies

More Fun Science Experiments For Kids

Looking for more science experiments and science fun for kids? We got you covered!

How was your experience making homemade crystals? Did you have fun learning how to make crystals with Borax?

6 Comments

  1. Great experiment! I think they would make cute ornaments for the christmas tree, can you add color or glitter to the water? Or it may prevent the crystals from forming?

  2. Kristen Yard says:

    You could definitely experiment with it! Different variables will lead to different results.

  3. Would these melt if you make ornaments and they are stored away in the attic?

  4. Kristen Yard says:

    Hi, Jenni! I’m not sure if the attic would be the best storage place (in case it gets too warm up there, etc.). You could always test it with one of them this year, though, and store the others at room temperature…

  5. A very informative article to let kids develop love for science.
    Max

  6. hi I am going to try putting beads in as well homing for smaller crystal formations

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