Lava lamps have been around for decades, but in recent years there has been a surge in popularity due to their unique aesthetic and the fact that they can be programmed to come on at specific times of the day or night.
When you’re at home, there’s nothing more relaxing than playing with your kids or watching a lava lamp. But, when it comes to safety, do we really know what the long-term effects of leaving them on are? In this article, you’ll learn about the dangers of leaving lava lamps on all night and what to do if you have one in your home.
What Is a Lava Lamp?
If you’ve never heard of a lava lamp, you could ask someone who grew up in the 60s and 70s and hear about how stylish and trendy they were back in the day, but that may not satiate your desire to know more.
Lava lamps were invented in 1948 by Edward Craven Walker, a British entrepreneur who also founded the lighting company, Mathmos.
They make a fashionable addition to any hangout space or party room, and are known for making it look like there’s actual molten rock floating around inside the lamp itself.
How Do They Work?
Lava lamps feature a pretty simple design when it comes down to it. There’s a light bulb inside of the base, which shines bright light into a glass container resting on top of it.
The glass container is filled with either water, mineral oil (or a mixture of the two), and paraffin wax mixed with other chemicals to increase its density. Essentially, the light bulb heats the wax to the point of it appearing molten, allowing globules to form and float around inside.
Generally, once the lamp is turned on when completely cold, it can take up to six hours for the wax to soften and begin to float around like lava. This depends on the type of lava lamp, as well as the intensity of the light coming from the light bulb itself.
What Causes Lava Lamps to Get So Hot?
The lava lamp’s design is what causes it to get so hot. It’s constantly actively transferring heat from the incandescent bulb at the base, to the metal enclosure, to the surface area of the glass, and so on.
Lava lamps function on heat, so the longer they’re on, the more heat they will transfer into the surrounding environment. This might make you wonder if it’s safe to leave it on indefinitely.
The short answer is, yes, due to their design (which allows for heat to continually dissipate and keep the enclosure relatively cool), they’re generally safe to leave on for extended periods of time. However, there are other factors you need to consider before leaving your lava lamp on overnight.
Is It Safe to Leave a Lava Lamp on All Night?
This is a question that many people are wondering about, as it seems like an obvious answer. However, not everyone has a lava lamp to turn on every night. That being said, leaving your lava lamp on for more than eight hours at a time is not recommended. Doing so can lead to damage to the lamp, which can be expensive and inconvenient to fix.
Lava lamps aren’t exactly the most popular lamps in the world, so it can be difficult to find replacement parts if something breaks. So, while it might be safe for you to leave your lava lamp on overnight, it’s probably not good for the lava lamp.
What Happens if You Leave a Lava Lamp on Too Long?
Not all lava lamps are made the same, so it’s difficult to determine whether yours will cause damage if left on for extended periods of time.
Generally, lava lamps are designed to disperse heat continuously, which allows the wax globules to float to the surface as they heat, and then drop as they cool. That means that your lava lamp should be safe, but there’s never any guarantee. The best thing to do is read the instruction and safety manuals carefully, and follow them closely.
A poorly built lava lamp can cause serious damage to you or your home. If left unchecked, a cheap lava lamp may burst, explode, and catch fire if it overheats. This is why it’s crucial to carefully read and follow the instructions that came with it.
Can Lava Lamps Overheat and Catch on Fire?
It’s uncommon for lava lamps to overheat and catch on fire. With advancements in technology, newer lava lamps are generally very safe to use, and pose very little risk of catching fire. Even original lava lamps are safe to use.
The greatest danger comes when you allow it to overheat. Despite the clever design, it’s still possible for your lava lamp to overheat and cause trouble.
If you keep flammable materials next to or near your overheating lava lamp, it’s possible for these things to ignite and catch fire—as it is with any unregulated source of heat. Whether it’s a stack of books, a poster on the wall, or a napkin underneath your coffee mug, there’s a possibility of fire if you allow your lava lamp to overheat.
Can Lava Lamps Explode?
Although most people are aware of the dangers of leaving a lava lamp on all night, there is still debate about whether or not it can explode if left on all night. There are two major causes of a lava lamp to blow up, which happen when the lamp comes into contact with water and when it gets too hot.
In either case, the quality of the lava lamp is what will determine whether it explodes or not.
If a lava lamp is already hot, when it comes into contact with water, it will explode quickly, as the sudden change in temperature causes the glass to crack.
When a lava lamp gets too hot, it can cause the same result as well. This is because excess heat causes the lava to boil and expand rapidly, which leads to the lamp exploding.
However, this isn’t necessarily true for all lava lamps; some are made from high-quality, tempered glass that is made to withstand excessive heat.
Is It Okay to Touch a Lava Lamp?
As you can probably surmise, if a lava lamp can get hot enough to explode or catch on fire, it’s probably not a good idea to touch one.
If it’s not hot enough for the wax globules to begin moving around, it’s not likely to cause you any harm. However, a lava lamp that’s been left on for several hours is likely hot enough to cause a scalding burn to your hands or skin.
To avoid burns, you should never touch a lava lamp, especially if it’s been on. Make sure to turn it off, unplug it, and leave it to cool down for at least an hour before touching or picking it up.
Are Lava Lamps Toxic?
While lava lamps look very science-fiction, they’re most commonly made from completely nontoxic materials — even the liquid and wax.
So, if you’re in a situation with children or pets and a spilled lava lamp, you don’t need to worry about anyone getting poisoned.
Lava Lamp Safety Tips
Now that you know a little more about lava lamps, here are some tips to follow to ensure a safe and enjoyable lava lamp experience for everyone.
Don’t Allow It to Overheat
Whether you have an original lava lamp or a new one, making sure that it never overheats is important for your safety, as well as the life of the lava lamp.
Allowing it to overheat can cause it to explode or ignite nearby flammable materials, or simply cause it to stop working altogether.
You can spot an overheated lava lamp pretty easily, as the wax globules will all float to the top and stop returning to the bottom to reheat. If this happens, turn your lava lamp off immediately and allow it to cool back down to room temperature.
Don’t Place It on Your Stove
There’s no good reason to place your lava lamp on a hot stovetop, as it can easily cause the glass enclosure to crack and burst, spraying hot water and oil everywhere.
Don’t Shake a Heated Lava Lamp (or Touch One for That Matter)
You should absolutely never touch a hot lava lamp, but it may be tempting to try to shake the globules around. Always avoid this, as you can easily burn your hands, and even cause the glass to shatter.
See also: When to Know Your Lava Lamp Is Expired
If you’re wondering if it’s okay to leave your lava lamp on all night, the short answer is yes, but there are other things to consider. It’s also important to remember that leaving a lava lamp on all night is not the best thing for the lamp, and parts are difficult to replace. Lava lamps aren’t always built to exacting safety specifications, so they could malfunction and overheat if left on for too long, and that’s why it’s usually best to turn them off for the night.