How to Make a Borax Snowflake

A borax snowflake is an artificially grown snow flake used for decoration, which will sparkle like the real thing but won’t melt.  Just like with a real snow flake, the borax powder, which is made from a natural mineral called sodium borate and is usually used as a cleaning agent to remove stains.  Borax is a naturally occurring crystal, and when it is added to boiling water, these crystals will grow, which is how borax powder can be used to produce artificial snow flakes.

A snow flake shape won’t just occur when borax powder is added to boiling water, so a little construction work is required before involving the borax powder.  This doesn’t involve anything difficult however, as to make a template to which the borax crystals will adhere, all that is required are some pipe cleaners.  You will also need some string, a fairly wide mouthed jar wider than the size of the snowflake which you intend to make, and a pencil. 

As pipe cleaners have wire through the middle, they are perfect for being shaped and then staying rigid in that shape.  They also have a fluffy coating which make them ideal for the borax to adhere or grip to the template.  All that is required are three equal lengths of pipe cleaner of whatever size depending on how big a snow flake you wish to make, which can be overlaid with a single vertical and two diagonally placed pipe cleaners  twisted together at the centre to form the star shape familiar with snowflakes.  This should create a six pronged star shape.  It may be necessary to cut some of the end pieces off the ends of the pipe cleaners so that the template for your snow flake looks even.

In order to make a crystal which can be hung somewhere for decoration, you will need to tie your length of string to the vertical shaft of the snowflake template by twisting a hoop from the end of the pipe cleaner to which the string can be attached.  Your string might be long in order to allow the crystal to hang somewhere high up, but the next step involves hanging the snowflake template from the string, into a jar in order for the borax crystals to form on the pipe cleaner template.  As such, depending on the size of the jar you have chosen, place the pipe cleaner snowflake in the jar so that the string suspends it in the middle or near to the bottom of the jar.  By tying a pencil into the string where the string needs to sit in line with the top of the jar, the snowflake can be left suspended in the jar overnight.

In order for the borax to form crystals on the pipe cleaner template, the borax will need to be mixed with boiling water.  As such, put enough boiling water in the jar to allow the snowflake template to be fully submerged when hung in the jar.  All kettles say how many cups worth of water have been boiled, so make a note of how many cups worth of water is needed to fully cover the snowflake template.  For every cup full, you will need to add three table spoons of borax powder, stirring each spoonful until the borax powder has dissolved. 

In order to create coloured crystals, it is also possible to add food colouring to the jar of whichever colour you want your snowflakes to be.  Once the correct amount of borax has been dissolved, simply leave the snowflake template suspended in the jar overnight, and in the morning you’ll have yourself a borax snowflake.

The science behind this is very simple.  As water is heated, the water molecules move apart which leaves space for other molecules to move between them.  In this case, those other molecules are the borax powder which is being added to the water.  As long as the water is hot, borax crystals can be dissolved until the water is saturated with borax crystals.  This point shows itself when no more of the borax will dissolve in the water.  As hot water also evaporates, this adds to the shrinking space between the water molecules which is further caused as the remaining water molecules shrink together again as the water cools.  This leads to the borax crystals dissolved in the water solidifying, and as the snowflake template is hung in this solution, the crystals will form on the snowflake during this process.

The only thing to be noted with this is that you want borax powder and not soap in order for the borax to dissolve in the water.  Also, depending on the colour of the crystals you want to make, make sure that the pipe cleaners are the same colour as the crystals you try to make for the template to be more or less invisible.  Also, borax is an irritant so avoid ingesting any or getting any in the eyes.  Also make sure to wash it off any skin touched whilst making the crystals.