6 Nov
2014

Borax Crystal Snowflakes

This project was originally published in November 2013.

When you live somewhere it doesn’t snow, you have to take matters into your own hands.
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These two-ingredient crystal snowflakes will transform your house into a winter wonderland overnight.

What you’ll need:

–Borax laundry detergent booster (I found it in the laundry aisle at Target for $5)
–water
–pipe cleaners
–string
–pencil or chopstick

Step 1. Form your pipe cleaners into snowflake shapes. One long pipe cleaner can be cut into six pieces to make a simple star, or you can get fancier if you want. (Just remember that your snowflakes can’t be taller or wider than the container you’re going to pour your Borax solution into.)

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If you want to make long, straight icicles, that’s even easier. Just make sure you have a container tall enough that will hold the pipe cleaners without them touching the bottom.

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(When I found a pack of pipe cleaners in all those wintry blues and I swear I heard a choir of angels sing.)

Step 2. Use string to tie your snowflakes onto a pencil or chopstick–anything long enough to span the container you’re using.

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Step 3. Mix up a batch of Borax solution: 1/3 cup of Borax to 2 cups of boiling water. Stir the mixture until the Borax is dissolved, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Step 4. Submerge your pipe cleaner snowflakes in the Borax solution, making sure they don’t touch the sides or bottom of your container, or each other if you’re doing multiple snowflakes in one pot.

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Step 5. Now make like Ron Popiel and “Set it and forget it!” Carry on about your merry way, go to sleep, and when you wake up the next morning check out your awesome crystal snowflakes!

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These are a fun little science project, and kids will love that they’re not too fragile to touch and they’ll never melt away. If you’re doing an activity advent calendar, this is a perfect afterschool project. Older kids might want to experiment with different concentrations of Borax solution, leaving the pipe cleaners in the solution for different amounts of time, putting different materials in the solution and seeing what will crystallize (this is my current obsession), and seeing what happens if they try adding food coloring or glitter to the mix.

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When you’re done, these look brilliant on a Christmas tree or hanging along a window, and they also add an extra little something to gift wrapping.

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These are my favorite things right now. Well…these or the craft coming up for next week. I can’t wait to show you.

If you like this, you might also like my other winter/holiday/Christmas crafts. Click for the list!


85 Comments

  • Step 2 should use “you’re” instead of “your.”

    I’ve been thinking about this specific decorating idea since you first posted the instructions. I do like it but I’m not sure if I will ever actually do it.

    • Ha. It would probably be wise of me to proofread these before I repost them, but…eh, I’ll just let you do that for me. ;)

    • And you should TOTALLY make these. They’re super cool. (Don’t let Rosalind lick the bowl.)

    • She was actually right with the “your”. “You’re” is short for “you are” and if you use the words “you are” in place of her “your” it’s not correct.
      This is a very cute and looks to be easy craft. I will definitely be trying this with my girls.
      Thanks!

    • Lololol, I love it when people take it upon themselves to be the grammar police and are totally wrong. LOVE. IT.

      Making these today with the kiddos, thank you!

    • Making these tonight with silver pipes from the Dollar Tree! Thank you for posting. YOUR so awesome. I love YOU’RE fun blog. lol. Chill out with these snowflakes grammar police. Seriously…

  • I thought these were cute, but when you added them to presents at the bottom it solidified it – definitely making these.

    • Awesome! Think how cute they’d look hanging on a tree too. Or attached to napkin rings. :)

  • OOH. I want these. Will report as to whether they melt into horrible poisonous slime-flakes in tropical humidity. FOR SCIENCE.

    • Oh, definitely report back. I’ve had some out on a shelf since last year and they look great, but it will be interesting to see what’s left of the ones that have been in storage in our attic…

  • They’re very pretty but Borax should be kept away from children and pets. If you want to make these snowflakes with children it would be safer to use sugar instead of Borax.

    • I feel completely at ease letting my kids make these, especially after the little one DRANK some of the borax/water solution while I wasn’t looking and Poison Control was all “meh.” Anyway, I’m a fan of supervising kids and teaching them to be responsible in potentially dangerous situations rather than keeping them away from anything that *might* be unsafe, but to each her own.

  • did you hot glue the pipe cleaners together to make the snowflake?

    • Nope, you just twist them together at the joints and they stay together. Couldn’t be easier!

  • Awesome idea for kids who have a half day of school. Can’t wait to do these today! We are going to try adding some glitter and color!

  • Thanks for this – love your sense of humour too! Will be trying these with preschoolers this afternoon :)

  • Have you tried putting glitter or food color? Did it work out? Can’t wait to make these.

  • I am going to try this next weekend when my whole family is at the house for Thanksgiving. It will be fun to do with my sisters and all our children. I love the Thanksgivings that I have everyone for the whole weekend. I always look for fun things to do.

  • Hello!

    Love this idea! I can’t wait to try it! I just have one question, after the borax has dissolved in the water do you put the pipe cleaners in while the water is still warm or do you wait for it to cool?

    Thanks!

    • Nope, you can just pop them right in!

  • This may be a silly question but does the container need to be glass?

    • Nope, I made a bunch of them in a big metal cooking pot. (I haven’t tried with other materials.)

  • Does the container need to be glass?

  • Do you have them to the water while it’s still hot

    • It doesn’t seem to matter either way. Getting the water hot just helps the Borax dissolve.

  • This is super cute and I will totally do it with my younger siblings! You said you were seeing which other types of materials will crystallize so (being the overly curious person) I was wondering if you found out any other cool crystallizing materials

    • I did some fake leaves and some small sticks and pine branches from the yard, all with varying success. Nothing works as well as pipe cleaners (I think because there are so many small fibers for the crystals to hold onto), but it’s fun to try. :)

  • Absolutely love this idea. My daughter is getting married in January and “Snowflakes” is the theme for her wedding. How delicate are these after they are done and dried? I was wondering about making a bunch for decorations, favors…anything and everything.
    There will be a bunch of “Frozen” fanatical children involved in the wedding so I was really wondering if they will withstand…THEM….;)
    Thanks!!!

    • They’re really durable. You can break the crystals off if you pry them or bang them on something hard, but they’re totally fine to be touched and swung around and stroked lovingly. :) I LOOOOOVE this idea for a wedding. How fun!

      • Thank you so much for getting back to me. I will be working on these this week. I may do some for my Christmas tree while I’m at it too…;)
        I’ve got some clear spray adhesive that I will try on a couple and then sprinkle with Prisma glitters. Me thinks…..this will be drop dead gorgeous….;)
        Thank you for putting this out there for ME to find….;)

        Most sincerely,
        Sue

  • Do you put the glitter in the solution or on the pipe cleaners?

    • I haven’t tried glitter yet myself, but I would worry about it sinking to the bottom of the container, so I’d probably apply it after the snowflake was formed. Spray glitter would work really well.

  • Looking for an idea to show crystallization to my 9th graders. This is a perfect idea and it will make a cute keepsake for them!

  • I agree With admin. Borax is natural. I make my own laundry detergent using borax. My daughter helps me make it and helps with laundry. We’ve never had a problem.

    Anyway, i love The snowflake idea. I’m thinking of letting my daughter (7 yrs old) make one each day as an advent calendar. And add them to the tree every morning. Any other “Advent” type of ideas i can use with these snowflakes?

  • I can’t find any borax, what can I use instead?

    • You can look up ways to crystallize with sugar, salt, or other chemicals, but this is a post about making Borax snowflakes, so we’re using Borax. :)

  • I have pets that if they can get it they will chew it up, will it hurt them?

    • Dunno, but a lot of things are dangerous if pets chew on them (Christmas lights, chocolate bars), so if I were you I’d keep them away from pets just to be safe. Borax aside, I wouldn’t want my animals chewing on pipe cleaners.

  • do you leave them soaking in the mixture overnight, or do you dip them and leave them overnight to dry and for the crystals to form?

    • Leave them in overnight. When you wake up, the crystals will have formed and you can take them out. Magic!

  • If I make up your liquid measurement of 2 cups of water with the Borax, then proceed to pour it into mason jars for individual snowflakes, is it safe to assume it will all be distributed properly and still crystalize successfully? Doing this in my preschool co-op and want them to be able to individually take theirs home so they can wake up to it the next day.

    • Yep, that should work as long as you make sure the Borax is completely dissolved before you pour the solution into the individual containers. I also wouldn’t wait too long between mixing the solution and dividing it up (i.e., don’t make the solution at home in the morning and then drive it over to the preschool five hours later; it might work fine, but it also might not).

      • I have everyone meet at my home so it won’t be a problem. Thank you so much!

  • Have you tried them with colored pipe cleaners? I will be trying it but was wondering if you had already done so. :)

    • Yep, you can see them in the photos above. They’re the straight ones (i.e., not snowflakes) in different shades of blue. They’re really pretty!

  • What a great, fun idea! Thanks for all the tips and tricks! My boys and I are so cute excited to try it!

  • Hello again…;)
    I have all my pipe cleaners cut, twisted and ready to go. I bought the Borax which was easy…..;) Now….I didn’t read anything about clean up….;.) I am assuming the crystals don’t stick to the container that they soaked in but…..you may know the old saying about ass-uming makes an *&& out of you and me…;)
    I just figured I would ask the expert here before I go running willy nilly into using something I shouldn’t.
    I’m so excited to get these done for the wedding……

    Thanks and I will leave you be…for now…..;)

    Sue

    • You won’t have to worry about the containers at all. Just wash them out and you’re done. (Borax is most commonly used as a laundry booster, so it’s fine to send down the drain.) I can’t wait to see these; send pictures when they’re done!

  • I am totally doing this with my 3rd grade class!! So freakin’ awesome!! Can I prepare the Borax/water solution ahead of time at home and then give each kid a container (a plastic solo cup) to hang their snowflake overnight?

    • A few things worry me about this: (1) I don’t know how well the Borax solution will work if it’s prepared many hours ahead of time, (2) I’ve heard plastic containers don’t work as well as glass or metal containers, and (3) I’m not sure regular Solo cups will be the right shape for doing this, since they narrow toward the bottom (right?).

      If you can’t get mason jars or make the solution at school, I’d recommend trying all this out beforehand just so you’re sure it’ll work. Make the solution a day ahead, see if the Solo cups work, and then come back and tell the rest of us how it turned out so we know if these are options. :)

      Good luck!

  • So .. in the morning when the crystals are done, and removed, does one need to dump the solution that is left, or can it be reused? Seem to me *some* borax would be left in the solution? Would it work to warm it up and add some more borax? Any testers out there who have tried it?

    • I’ve reused the solution with pretty good success, although if you reuse it a bunch, it would probably help to add more Borax (not sure how much), since that’s what’s actually making the crystals.

      • If you reuse the solution after its sat out all night forming a snowflake, wouldn’t that be the same as making the solution the night before you use it? Does it work as well the next time you use it?

        • IME, the second batch doesn’t work as well, but I’m not sure whether that’s because most of the Borax has been used up to make the crystals in the first batch or whether, without having something to cling to, all the suspended Borax sinks to the bottom.

          It’s totally possible that mixing the solution the night before will work just fine, but my advice was for you to try it out to make sure it works first, instead of showing up to class with pre-made solution and then having the whole thing fail.

          If you try it that way, it would be great if you can report back here so we can all see.

  • Love this idea…I didn’t see this question above, but sorry if its been repeated. I just picked up some metallic looking pipe cleaners, will those work or do they need to be the traditional/regular pipe cleaners?
    Thanks…

    • IME, metallic doesn’t work as well. (I guess the Borax has a hard time sticking to the shiny surface?)

  • How long do these have to dry?

    • They don’t really have to dry. When you take them out, you can pat them with a towel to get the drips off, but otherwise they’re good to go. So easy!

  • When done making them can you spray with varnish or spray glue to seal them so that they last forever? Maybe.

    • It’s worth trying! The only problem I can imagine would be some chemical in the varnish that reacts with the Borax and makes it disintegrate. FWIW, the ones I made last year were stored in an uninsulated attic in a Ziploc bag and they look as good as new. That’s not exactly “forever,” but it bodes well for these lasting at least a few years.

  • I made several of these years ago with my daughter when she was still in school. (She gave one to her science teacher as a holiday gift and the teacher absolutely went crazy for it!) They have kept well over the years! I wrap them up in tissue paper after the holidays and store them in a drawer in my dining room hutch. They still look beautiful! I hang them from the ceiling light over my kitchen table every winter! I tied fishing line around the top of one of the snowflake tips and hug it into the borax solution using that instead of string. This way it doesn’t show and really looks like snow falling! If anyone is having trouble getting this to work, my recommendation is to add more borax than the recipe might say – I had to do that and they came out beautifully!

  • Hmm. You’ve tripped my creativity button! Now, I’m thinking about crystal initials in their favorite color pipecleaners, many colored flowers for Spring, red hearts for Valentine’s Day, green clovers &/or multi-colored rainbows for St Paddy’s Day…

    • Yes! Last year I did it with pipe cleaners forming the word MOM, and it looks really pretty.

  • I’m planning to make snowflakes and love this idea! Then I saw your candy canes and wanted to make those. When you hook them on the rim, does the entire cane become coated with crystals or just the part in the mixture. I didn’t see a picture of a whole candy cane. Thanks so much!

    • Yeah, the crystals only form on the parts that are in the solution (i.e., the crystals don’t crawl up the rest of the pipe cleaner). If you wanted to make something in a candy cane shape, you’ll need to tie a string to it and then submerge the whole thing.

      • Thank you so much! I’m making these tonight, the snowflakes. Still thinking about the candy canes.

  • Hi! I’m using this idea to make teachers gifts. Can you use the solution more than once? And what happens when you put food coloring or glitter in the solution? :) . Thanks!

    • I’ve used the same solution over again the next day, but it might help to add more Borax, since a lot of it will have crystallized onto your first batch of pipe cleaners. I haven’t tried food coloring or glitter myself, so maybe you can and then report back to the rest of us? I’m a little dubious about the glitter, since I’m guessing it will just settle to the bottom of the container, but who knows. (For sparkly snowflakes, I’d go with spray glitter instead.)

  • How long can you leave the pipe cleaners in the solution. We just did these in class today and will not be back to school until Monday. What do you think will happen?

    • My guess is they’ll be big fat beautiful snowflakes, since they’ll have extra time to bulk up. I did notice when I did the straight pipe cleaners, though, that they hit a point where the crystallization just stopped and they wouldn’t get any thicker, but I don’t know if that had to do with atmospheric temperature or how much Borax was in the solution or the shape of the pipe cleaners or something else. I’d love to hear how yours turn out, though, so come back on Monday and leave a comment if you think of it!

  • I just did these last night, and they came out great! I only had colored pipe cleaners, but the crystals still showed up wonderfully on dark blue, yellow and light blue. The longer you leave them in, the thicker the crystal layer will be.

    For those that have asked – you CAN reuse the solution. I did mine in a plastic disposable rubbermaid container, and the sides were also coated with hard crystals in the morning. you can just pop it in the microwave for a few minutes to heat it up, and then scrape it off with a skewer or whatever, then stir until dissolved, and do it again. This means for teachers – you can certainly make the solution the night before class if you have some way to heat it up in school. If you are going to use the solution several times, I would add a bit more Borax since the original will get used up in the crystals.

    One more note – I spilled some on my kitchen windowsill and never got around to cleaning it, and this morning it has a nice bit of “frost” on it!

    • Thanks so much for this, Nella! One hundred gold stars for you!

  • […] over from making Halloween GAK.  Several weeks ago, I found a Borax crystal snowflake recipe here. It seemed simple, the results looked stunning, and who doesn’t like making their own […]

  • […] (though ours didn’t come out as crystally as the ones in the directions I followed, which are here).  We started by making pipecleaner snowflakes then mixed together Borax and boiling water until […]

  • Sorry if I’m repeating a question (I didn’t see one), 1) Does the water have to actually boil for 2-3 minutes or do you just turn off the burner and stir it that long. 2) Does the solution have to cool any before you pour it into a container? Seems like if it were boiling hot, it might crack a mason jar or other jar.

  • Thank you for posting this site. I am making my “next season” Snowflakes now, to be put away until next Christmas. I did decide to make a big batch or 62 cups of water to 10 1/3 cups of Borax. I used a large deep commercial stainless steel rectangle pan as I thought it would be deep enough to settle in the snowflakes with room to spare….Hahahaha that did not work. Not enough water and mix to make it deep enough and my snowflakes were dragging the bottom and sticking out the top. So I found another container that worked fine, poured in the mixture and started hanging the Snowflakes. I only got 12 in the mixture without touching. Those little puppies seem to migrate toward each other. They gave me a fit. I did this outside on the covered patio and it was quite cool with rain. Mine were setting up in 3 hours. I almost think they are nearly done. Will check on them before I go to bed and if they all look quite poofy I will take them out to dry overnight. I also am trying some wire garland tree limbs to see if the Borax solution will adhere. No sign of that yet. I did stir the mix up from the bottom as it does settle, and have stirred it 3 times at least to re disperse it. I did boil the water and the Borax was dissolved before I started. It still settles down to the bottom. The snowflakes seem to be doing fine even tho I have been stirring the bottom every hour or so. I will re-use the mix tomorrow and make more snowflakes and see how that goes. Again thanks to everyone for the tips and Reviews.

  • Has anyone tried food coloring the solution yet… I am thinking about making these in heart shapes for my kiddo’s valentines for his preschool class this year and am wondering how they would do colored reds and pinks.

  • Hi there I tried making the snowflakes per your instructions but they did not crystallize overnight did I do something wrong

  • […] loving boys. You can find the recipe here (just water, Borax, and pipe cleaners!), or another great tutorial here.  They are surprisingly durable and so pretty on the tree…just don’t let your kids eat […]

  • I have a 5 hr program and then the kids go home, but I would love to do this! Do you think they would crystallize in 5 hrs?

    • They would a little, but to get them nice and chunky you’ll want to leave them in overnight. You could sen them home with the kids still in the solution, though.

  • these are so awesome! i want to do them with kids at a summer camp but tomorrow is friday, if we make them at around 10am will they be ready by 4?

    • The longer you leave them in the more they’ll bulk up, so although you might have a thin layer of crystals after 6 hours, they won’t be like what you’d see if you left them for 12 hours or more. If the kids are coming back to camp on Monday and you can leave the snowflakes at camp, just let them sit over the weekend. Otherwise, you could send each kid home with his or her own project so they can let them sit overnight at home. Good luck!

  • These are so adorable. My son and I plan on making these as gift charms with different shapes and colors. How long after they’re taken out of the solution does it take for them to dry?

  • I plan on making these with my students bit I am only at each school 2 days per week. If we do these on Monday, will they be okay until Wednesday?

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