Bubble-ology part 1

Everyone enjoys playing with soap bubbles. We have turned this enjoyment into a series of activities that not only gives people the opportunity to once again experience this enjoyment but to also learn about soap bubbles. We have taken the Bubble-ology presentation to places like North Carolina’s Museum of Life & Science in Durham and the Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh. We have staged some part of bubble-ology, if not all, at numerous other venues in the area.

The activities range from simply making bubbles by blowing through a straw that is inserted in a tray of soap solution to burning bubbles filled with propane. In Part 1, we will describe some of our successful bubble activities. The next article, Part 2, will incorporate dry ice into our demonstrations and have reflections on the activities. These demonstrations could be incorporated into the classroom as an activity, or perhaps if your school has a science club, it could be a great event for your students to host.



All activities use a soap solution, which is easy to make — mix
1 part dishwashing detergent (we use Dawn®), 1 part glycerin (available at grocery stores and pharmacies) and 6 parts water, by volume. The mixture should be left sit open to the air — the longer the better. This allows volatile substances to evaporate, which would interfere with the formation of good, strong soap bubbles. Although the mixture is easy to make, we recommend you try this recipe first as a good soap solution is critical to the overall success of the activities.


Density, structure of soap molecules, structure of soap films, surface tension, why hands must be wet to hold a bubble.

General safety

  • Be careful not to get the soap solution in your eyes.
  • Do not share the straw or bubble blowers.
  • We use a tarp to avoid soap solution on the floor. Clean up any soap solution immediately as it is a slipping hazard.

General cleanup

  • Pour soap solution back into the bottle or discard in drain.
  • Throw used straws and paper into the trash.
  • Rinse and dry materials — trays, tubs, ring, etc.
  • Remove tarp from the floor and fold. The tarp will need to be soaked in water several times and then be hung up to dry before storing it for future use.

Activity 1: Blowing bubbles in a tray of soap solution

  • Pour enough soap solution to cover the bottom of a cafeteria tray.
  • Using a straw, blow bubbles by placing one end of the straw under the soap solution and blowing gently.
  • Try to blow as many bubbles as you can. Try to blow the largest single bubble.

Activity 2: Giant bubble blowers

Directions to create cone (see photos):

  • Place two sheets of copy paper one on top of the other.
  • Lengthwise, roll the two sheets together into a cone. This is easily done if you find the middle of the longer side of the paper. Place your finger on the edge at the middle point and roll the paper around that point.
  • Tape the cone with a piece of tape so it stays together.
  • Cut the narrow part of the cone so that the opening is approximately 1 cm in diameter.
  • Cut the larger part of the cone straight across so it is even and will stand vertically if placed on the counter.
  • Pour soap solution into the plastic tub to a depth of about 1 cm.
  • Gently stand the cone in the soap solution with the larger opening in the soap. Be sure not to push down on the cone. Let it stand for about a minute.
  • Remove the cone keeping the large opening pointed downward. Gently blow into the cone to make the bubble. After the excess solution has dripped off and the bubble has begun to form, slowly raise the cone to horizontal position and then point upwards. To release the bubble, gently “flick” the cone upward. It will become easier to increase bubble size with practice. Dip the cone back in the soap solution for 3 – 4 seconds and then generate another bubble as before.

Activity 3: Standing inside a soap bubble

We used a commercially available setup called Mega Bubble Maker which is basically a ring with plastic circle. It is a product from the Science Museum, London, UK and is available from Amazon for about CAN$40. The reviews of this product are mixed. We have had success with this product, most likely due to preparing a good soap solution. Having a solution that creates good strong bubbles is critical when doing this activity. A hula hoop inside a kiddy pool can be used as a cheaper alternative. We purchased the bubble maker because it is easier to transport and we plan to use it at repeated events.


The student standing inside the bubble should be wearing goggles.


  • Fill the ring with air. This should be done beforehand because initially the ring may be misshaped. The instructions recommend that weights such as heavy books be placed on the ring to get into proper shape.
  • Place the ring on the secured tarp and fill it with soap solution. This requires more than 2 liters.
  • Put the plastic hoop together and place in the soap solution.
  • Have the person who is standing inside the bubble wear goggles and stand in the middle of the apparatus with their arms straight down and next to their body.

Two people are needed to lift the plastic hoop. Make sure the entire hoop is saturated with soap; quickly raise the hoop upward keeping it horizontal. This requires practice so make sure to try it before the public demonstration.

Activity 4: Bubble frames

For this activity there was no need for the glycerin-added soap solution so water with dish-washing soap was used. Chenille stems — soft fuzzy pipe cleaners — were made into bubble frames; commercial frames are available but the chenille stems allow the audience members to create their own shapes.


  • Fill plastic tub with water, deep enough to be able to completely submerge the bubble frame. We used a large plastic tub to hold enough water so that frames can be fully submersed in the water and soap.
  • Add 2 – 4 good squirts of dishwashing liquid and mix.
  • Form different 3D shapes with the chenille stems such as a square box or a pyramid. We had a variety of shapes.
  • Allow the participants to make their own shapes and test to see the resulting shapes of bubbles in the frame.

Girl blowing bubbles in soap dish with straw.

Activity 1. Bubbles on a cafeteria tray.

Two girls blowing single soap bubble with paper cones.

Activity 2. Giant bubbles blowers.


Boy standing inside cylindrical bubble made by two women.

Activity 3. Standing inside a soap bubble.

Boy held by one woman reaching out to cubic bubble structure held by another.

Activity 4. Bubbles frames.