Monday, January 23, 2012

Using a Paper Towel Roll to Make Crystals

Round two of our experiment to grow crystals worked out much better.  This time instead of taking the time to cut out a cardboard tree, I decided to try re-purposing a paper towel roll for the "structure" needed to grow the crystals.  The benefit of this is that it's easier and everyone has at least one of these around!  You could also use a toilet paper roll.  I took two paper towel rolls, cut them in two, and let each girl paint them with liquid watercolors.  The crystals did take on some of the color of the paint and it makes the rolls themselves look prettier.  Plus it gave the girls more to do!

We used the same recipe as before, only doubled it, since we used three of the rolls in one container.  2 TBS water (I warmed it a little thinking it would help the salt dissolve), 2 TBS salt, 2 TBS liquid bluing. We mixed that all together before adding the ammonia so that we (Jo) could really stir and stir without me worrying about her breathing in ammonia.  Then we added 1 TBS ammonia and mixed a little more, poured it into an old plastic container, and placed the rolls down in it.

We did this in the evening, so there weren't any crystals when the girls went to bed, but I could see the solution climbing up the paper towel rolls and started to see a few crystals forming a few hours later.  The end result was pretty impressive, and the girls were really excited to see it this morning!  Josephine decided it looked like coral, and I think it does too.  We will be building a charcoal crystal garden next that we can hopefully get to make crystals for a few days.  This was a pretty fun use of two paper towel rolls!


  1. awesome! Do you mind posting the exact recipe? Also, what is liquid bluing?

  2. Hi! The exact recipe is 2 Tablespoons water dissolved into 2 Tablespoons of water (I warmed it a little to help the salt dissolve) and then mixed with 2 Tablespoons of liquid bluing. Mix that together really really well and then mix in 1 Tablespoon of ammonia (this helps speed evaporation). Then pour it into your container and put in paper towel rolls. You could even double the recipe if you wanted to perhaps saturate the towel rolls all the way to the top.

    The bluing is a liquid suspension of iron flecks in is used to make white clothing whiter. So it is found in the laundry soap section of the grocery store, or check out more about it online here:

    It is non-toxic, which was one of my concerns! It's pretty cool stuff, actually. Hope you enjoy making the crystals!

    Thanks for reading.