How to Make Borax Crystal Snowflakes | Holiday Science Project

homemade borax snowflake
You can grow your own snowflake ornaments using common household supplies. (Image credit: Dmitrij Skorobogatov | Shutterstock)

A crystal is a solid formed by a repeating 3D arrangement of atoms, ions or molecules. Nature’s snowflakes form when tiny droplets of water freeze in clouds at temperatures below 31 F (0 C). These beautiful, unique shapes would be great for holiday decorations if they were larger; and if they didn’t melt. In this science project, you will grow crystal shapes that you can use to decorate your Christmas tree indoors.

What you will need

  • Pipe cleaner
  • Strong scissors or wire snips
  • Borax powder (such as 20 Mule Team Borax found with the laundry soap aisle in the grocery store. Make sure it is the type that is NOT mixed with detergent.)
  • Mixing bowl
  • Measuring cup and spoons
  • Water
  • Disposable pie plate
  • Wide mouth jar big enough to hold the snowflake shape
  • Pencil or rod long enough to rest across the jar mouth without falling in
  • String

What to do

  1. Use the scissors or snips to cut the pipe cleaner into 3 equal pieces. Twist 2 pipe cleaners around each other at their middles to form a cross shape then add the other piece of pipe cleaner to form a six-pointed snowflake. Bend the top point into a loop for a hanger.
  2. In the mixing bowl dissolve 3 tablespoons of Borax into 1 cup of water
  3. Pour enough solution to cover the bottom of the pie plate.  Dip your pipe cleaner snowflake in the solution so that the pipe cleaners are completely dampened.
  4. Tie a short piece of string through the top loop and tie the other end of the string around the pencil. Suspend the snowflake inside the jar. Leave the jar undisturbed.
  5. You should start to see crystals forming on your snowflake after 1 to 3 hours and your crystal snowflake should be complete after 24 hours. DO NOT EAT THE SNOWFLAKE.

What else to try

  • Try using food coloring in the Borax solution
  • Try different snowflake shapes
  • Try painting the pipe cleaners with glow-in-the –dark paint before dipping them in the Borax solution. Make sure you allow the paint to completely dry before dipping.
  • Instead of using pipe cleaners, cut a Christmas tree shape out of a sponge and put the sponge in a pie plate with the Borax solution

Try making rock candy

  1. Make a saturated sugar solution by adding sugar to boiling water and stirring. Keep adding sugar until the sugar won’t dissolve any more but just falls to the bottom of the pot. (Young scientists need adult supervision for this — hot sugar water can burn your skin!)
  2. Pour enough liquid into a clean jar to cover the bottom to a depth of about half an inch
  3. Tie a piece of clean cotton string to the pencil and suspend it inside the jar so that the bottom of the string is below the surface of the liquid.
  4. Sugar crystals grow more slowly than Borax crystals. Be patient and leave the set up undisturbed for at least a week.
  5. After observation you may eat your sugar crystals.

You can also try making a saturated salt solution.

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