How Did the Lava Lamp Come to Be, And How Does It Work?

Edward Craven Walker founder of Mathmos lava lamp founder

A lava lamp is just one of those things that makes people want to ask, “How did the lava lamp come to be, and how does it work?” Lava lamps are a quirky and fun way to decorate your space.

Let’s discover the history of the wonderful lava lamp invention! 

In 1948, The lava lamp was invented by Edward Craven Walker, an English accountant with the help and expertise of a British inventor, David George Smith.


Edward Craven Walker, the inventor of the Lava Lamp pictured with his wife, 1963


A homemade egg timer was the object that sparked Edward Walker’s interest and motivated him to embark on the invention of the lava lamp.

With this idea in mind, Edward Craven Walker set his sight on putting a mark in the world of inventions by developing a prototype of the world’s fast lava lamp.

The choice of material he settled for was a custom glass bottle, and he added carbon tetrachloride to the colored wax material to make it more floatable when heated.

Edward Craven Walker spent many years modifying and improving the prototype of his lava lamp until 1963, when he got the perfect, final design. His frequent tinkering and adjustments led him to his first model, which was the Astro model.

After that, little adjustments resulted in a subsequent model called the Astro Mini and later, the Astro Coach. Edward Craven’s lava lamp has provided the standard design against which modern-day lava lamps are made.

Other notable contributors who made the lava lamp invention a successful idea were Hy Spector and Adolph Wertheimer.

These two businessmen, who were the proprietors of the Lava Manufacturing Corporation, launched the Lava Lite Lamp in 1965 that was received with positive acclaim globally.

Larry Haggerty further helped to add to the appeal of the lava lamp by manufacturing improved versions of the lava lamp through his firm, Lava World International that operated for over an impressive thirty years.

How Did the Lava Lamp Come to Be, And How Does It Work?Edward Craven Walker, an English accountant with the help and expertise of a British inventor, David George Smith. 

The first step involves transforming a custom glass bottle into the shape you wish your lava lamp to take. If you want a lava lamp with an hourglass shape, you blow air through the mouth of your custom glass bottle into an hourglass shape.

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If you prefer a cone or think a globe shape is more appealing, you will blow air into your custom glass bottle into a cone or globe shape. In addition, a thin metal sheet should be spun around the lava lamp to enhance the desired shape of your lava lamp.

There are a variety of materials that you can use to make your lava lamp. Plastic and glass are appropriate for your lamp housing. Plastic is less brittle and will ensure that your lava lamp does not break easily. 

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Once you have gotten the desired shape for your lava lamp, you are now required to fill it with the fluids that will be used in lighting it. Pour colored wax and water (or mineral oil) into your lava lamp. Adding a small metallic spring into this mixture is also required as it will significantly assist in the even distribution of heat throughout the mixture. The final step requires attaching lids onto the lava lamp to seal it. 

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How does the lava lamp work?

The second part of our question, “How did the lava lamp come to be and how does it work?” in this section. The first step is to apply heat to the mixture of mineral oil and colored wax.

Switching on the light bulb at the bottom of your lava lamp will provide the heat that will heat this mixture. Once heated, the colored wax will become less dense, rise, and settle on top of the mineral oil.

When the colored wax cools down, it becomes denser than the mineral oil and moves to the bottom. The mineral oil now floats on top of the colored.

FAQ’s About the Lava Lamp

Lava lights are some of the most beautiful lamps on earth, and many people have questions about their functionality, care, and maintenance. In this section of our post, “How did the lava lamp come to be and how does it work?” we shall answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the lava lamp. 

How long should I wait before my new lava lump starts working?

At the start of setting up your new lava lamp, you need to patiently wait up to 6 hours for the lava to begin flowing.

Turn ON the lamp and place it aside for this duration. After this first time, the future startup times will be much faster.

What are the recommended steps to follow to fix a cloudy lava lamp?

If your lava lamp is cloudy, the first step to take is to let it sit at room temperature. Place your lava lamp at the corner of the room to allow the wax to settle for about eight hours. Soon after, you should turn ON the lamp and leave it until you begin to see the wax softening by becoming more fluid. 

When this happens, turn OFF the lava lamp and let it cool for some time. The process does not stop here. After your lava lamp has cooled down, switch it back ON and let it run for approximately eight to ten hours. Preferably, allowing it to run for eight hours is more advisable. However, be careful not to let your lava lamp overheat during the process of fixing the cloudy lava lamp. 

After this point, you should see the wax becomes a clear liquid, and the “cloudiness” in your lava lamp will have disappeared.

What is the best way to take care of your lava lamp effectively?

Here are some safety tips that will guarantee that your lava lamp serves you for the foreseeable future. These include:

  • Your lava lamp should be in a room temperature environment and not in extreme heat and extreme cold conditions. Extreme temperatures will interfere with the normal functioning of your lava lamp. For example, it may make the mixture less fluid and reduce its smooth flow. The best room temperature is 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Do not loosen or remove the top cap of the globe because it will damage the lava lamp
  • Do not shake or move the lava lamp when it is hot. When you shake, move or drop your lava lamp may, it not only makes it cloudy but can also cause the lava to ‘break apart.’ 
  • You should not place your lava lamp in direct sunlight because this will cause the colors of the wax to fade. 
  • Always unplug a lava lamp first before taking it apart.

What is the metal spring coil that floats in my lava lamp?

The metal spring coil is essential in the distribution of the heat throughout the mixture. It is normally found in the bottom of the lava lamp. In a situation where you see the metal spring floating in the mixture, turn ON the lava lamp and allow it to run for some hours. Eventually, the metal spring coil will settle into its normal position in the lava lamp.

How long do Lava Lamps Last?

Lava lamps can generally last 8-10 hours before needing a recharge. However, do not keep it ON for longer than 8-10 hours. 

What is the average size of a lava lamp?

Lava lamps come in different sizes to suit all needs. There are small size lamps at 11.5,” and they can be as big as 27”. 

Why is there some airspace at the top of the globe?

The airspace is essential to allow for the expansion of the liquid as it heats up. There may be around a 2” gap from the top because this dimension helps with cooling and preventing injury!

Do lava lamps use a lot of electricity to operate?

This largely depends on the type of bulb used. The incandescent bulbs can be costly to operate, but they will not be used for longer than 10 hours in the lamp. The cost of electricity will also depend on your location and its electricity rates. 

Are Lava Lamps Safe to Touch?

Lava lamps are easy to handle. However, when they get very hot, you will need to be careful because they get very hot and cause burns. It is advisable to keep them away from the reach of children when turned on. 


The lava lamp is a psychedelic toy that has been around since the 1960s and is now a popular piece of furniture found in many homes. It’s not just for decoration, though. It actually serves to inspire creativity when working and also help to relax and relieve stress.

It was invented by Edward Craven Walker, an English inventor, and artist who wanted to create something beautiful out of his day job as a printer. He began experimenting with different liquids in glass containers until he settled on using wax mixed with mineral oil to make the liquid flow more slowly.

If you want one, we have them available here right now at our store. You won’t regret adding this beautiful classic item to your home decor collection.

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