The Best Lava Lamps of 2021

Add a splash of 70's style to your space with a classic and colorful lava lamp.

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The Best Lava Lamp

Photo: amazon.com

Lava lamps—also known as motion lamps—appeal to both kids and adults because they’re a fun combination of light and mesmerizing liquid motion.

Lava lamps create a wonderfully relaxing atmosphere that can soothe both adults and children. Their gentle movement and soft light make them especially useful household additions for those who have anxiety or sensory issues. These unique fixtures come in a variety of sizes to suit different spaces, with a variety of vibrant wax colors to choose from.

Keep reading for tips on choosing the best lava lamp for you, then explore the curated picks below:

  1. BEST OVERALL: Lava the Original Lamp Yellow Wax in Purple Liquid
  2. BEST BUDGET: Lava Lite 2124 Lava the Original 14.5-Inch
  3. BEST FOR SMALL SPACES: My Groovy Light 13.5 Inch Tabletop Lava Lamp
  4. BEST FOR KIDS: Lava the Original Colormax Lamp
  5. BEST WITH GLITTER: Lamp Lava 2131, Baseax, 14.5”, Rainbow Glitter
  6. MOST REALISTIC: Lamp Lava 2149 14.5-inch, Decal Colormax
The Best Lava Lamp

Photo: amazon.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Lava Lamp

While it’s easy to assume that all lava lamps offer similar performance, a number of factors affect their functionality. Keep reading to learn about several of the most important features to consider when choosing the best lava lamp for your home or dorm room.

Size and Shape

Lava lamps are generally designed to fit on a shelf or tabletop, with heights ranging from 11 to 27 inches. Lava lamp sizes may be measured in height in inches or by capacity in ounces. The most popular lava lamp size is 14 inches tall with a capacity of 20 ounces.

The classic lava lamp design features a tall, tapered shape that looks like a cone or bullet. While this shape is still used for the majority of lava lamps, there are some other unique shapes—like globes—available.

Material

There are two components to consider when comparing lava lamp materials: the housing and the cap and base. Lava lamp housing is typically made from either glass or translucent plastic. While plastic may be preferable for some users because it’s less likely to break if dropped, glass is a higher-quality material that will provide more longevity.

A lava lamp’s base and cap are typically made from metal such as steel. Avoid purchasing a lava lamp with a plastic base as it’s an indicator of a lower-quality build.

Brightness and Bulb Type

Most lava lamps include a light bulb that acts as a light source. The lamp’s bulb could be an incandescent, compact fluorescent (CFL), or light-emitting diode (LED). While incandescent bulbs are cheaper, LED lights last longer and are more eco-friendly.

Standard lava lamps use 25-watt incandescent bulbs, while larger models may require 100-watt bulbs. Make sure to verify the bulb type before replacing the bulb on a lava lamp.

Visual Effects

The liquid motion of a lava lamp is created by mixing together a water-based liquid and a wax compound—two ingredients with different densities. The liquid is typically clear with a colored tint to add to the visual effect. The wax comes in a rainbow of colors to create unique color schemes to suit your preferences and home decor style.

Some motion lamps use glitter rather than wax to create a soothing visual effect. Still others pair glitter with wax for an even more dynamic look.

Safety

Lava lamps are designed and tested for safe home use, but there are still some basic safety precautions to follow. First, it’s important to prevent the lamp from overheating. Do this by keeping the lamp out of direct sunlight and only using the lamp for a maximum of 8 hours at a time.

It’s important to ensure that the electrical cord is safely tucked away so that the lamp won’t be inadvertently pulled down or knocked over. Avoid touching any part of the lamp once it has heated up, and keep it out of reach of young children.

Our Top Picks

The best lava lamps infuse our modern world with retro relaxation—they’re today’s chill pills with on-off switches. The picks featured below are favorites in a variety of categories for kids and adults alike.

Best Overall

The Best Lava Lamp Option: Lava Lamp Original Brand 20 oz - Yellow Wax
Photo: amazon.com

This Lava Lamp design mimics the classic lamps of days gone by. Its glass housing contains 20 ounces of purple liquid and yellow wax, which melds into the yellow, orange, and red colors of flowing lava when heated.

The lamp comes with one 25-watt appliance bulb that heats a coil to warm up the wax, prompting a lava-style motion. Unlike many other lava lamps that use an incandescent light bulb, this one uses an energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulb.

The base and cap’s sleek silver shade matches most decor styles but does not detract from the lava inside the glass canister. Its stable base and standard size are suitable for many indoor spaces, like tabletops or bookshelves. Note that the wax and fluid inside this lamp may get cloudy, but running it for an extended time typically returns its consistency to normal.

Product Specs

  • Size: 20 ounce
  • Light Source Type: 25-watt CFL bulb
  • Color: Yellow wax and purple liquid

Pros

  • Energy-efficient bulb
  • Glass housing
  • Bulb included

Cons

  • Wax may break if jostled


Best Budget

The Best Lava Lamp Option: Lava Lite 2124 Lava the Original 14.5-Inch
Photo: amazon.com

This lava lamp by the Lamp Store is a corded electric option that’s both easy to use and looks great in many spaces. Its cone-shaped design is smaller than other models, providing flexibility to fit in a space where conventional lamps might not.

Its exterior is designed with a silver hand-spun aluminum base and cap on either end of its glass globe. Inside is a yellow wax suspended in a blue liquid, creating green tones of moving color. The lamp is powered by a 25-watt incandescent light bulb (included) that emits a soft glow of light.

The lamp’s movement starts once the bulb heats the wax. Safety certified and Underwriter Laboratory (UL) tested, this lava lamp is a safe and relaxing addition to a bedroom, a living room, or an office.

Product Specs

  • Size: 14.5 inches tall
  • Light Source Type: 25-watt incandescent bulb
  • Color: Yellow wax and blue liquid

Pros

  • Safety tested
  • Glass housing
  • Compact size
  • Bulb included

Cons

  • Takes 8 hours to work after initial plug-in
  • Incandescent bulb


Best for Small Spaces

The Best Lava Lamp Option: My Groovy Light 13.5 Inch Tabletop Lava Lamp
Photo: amazon.com

When space is tight, this compact lava lamp from My Groovy Light is a terrific option. This lava lamp is almost half the diameter of average-size lava lamps and just a tiny bit shorter. Made from glass, metal, and plastic, the My Groovy Light lamp offers good value and classic lava lamp appeal.

The wax that’s suspended in clear fluid perfectly matches the lamp’s plastic base and cap. With less liquid to heat, the wax warms up and starts moving faster than it does in other lava lamps. Because this lava lamp is more lightweight than others, be sure to place it in a spot where it won’t be knocked or shaken. This lamp comes with a 25-watt bulb.

Product Specs

  • Size: 13.5 inches tall
  • Light Source Type: 25-watt incandescent bulb
  • Color: Choice of green, blue, or purple with clear liquid

Pros

  • Slim, compact design
  • Multiple color options
  • Light bulb included

Cons

  • Incandescent bulb


Best for Kids

The Best Lava Lamp Option: Lava the Original Colormax Lamp
Photo: amazon.com

Many kids appreciate the colorful appearance of this lava lamp from the Lamp Store, even when it’s not plugged in. This lava lamp offers an abundance of color: Its aluminum base and cap are covered in rainbow decals, and the lamp’s glass is tricolored. The lamp heats up white wax suspended in a clear liquid, but it looks as though the wax changes color from green to blue to red because of the tinted glass.

This lava lamp uses a standard 25-watt light bulb (included), and though it is UL-certified, younger children should be supervised while around the lamp. Older kids may enjoy watching the soothing motion of the wax as they wind down for bed or relax. This standard-size lava lamp fits on most night tables or desks in kids’ rooms.

Product Specs

  • Size: 14.5 inches tall
  • Light Source Type: 25-watt incandescent bulb
  • Color: White wax with clear liquid and multicolor housing

Pros

  • Unique rainbow design
  • Glass housing
  • Light bulb included
  • Safety tested

Cons

  • Incandescent bulb


Best with Glitter

The Best Lava Lamp Option: Lamp Lava 2131, Baseax, 14.5”, Rainbow Glitter
Photo: amazon.com

The Lamp Store’s modern take on the lava lamp maintains the lamp’s timeless shape, but substitutes the traditional floating wax for multicolor glitter. As the bulb heats up, the glitter swishes around in its clear solution. The movement is just as mesmerizing as that of wax in the original lava lamp, but with the shine and flair of glitter.

When you turn this lamp on, you’ll notice that the glitter begins moving right away—it’s quite different from wax inside traditional lava lamps, because wax has to be heated up before it will move around. Tiny pieces of glitter inside this lamp cast a sparkly glow to the walls of a room.

The glass globe sits in a gold hand-spun aluminum base and has a matching gold cap, another departure from the original lamp’s silver trim. This standard-size lamp requires a 25-watt light bulb (included). The UL testing and certification ensure this glittery light is a safe and fun addition to many spaces around the home.

Product Specs

  • Size: 14.5 inches tall
  • Light Source Type: 25-watt incandescent bulb
  • Color: Rainbow glitter with clear liquid

Pros

  • Instant startup
  • Glass housing
  • Light bulb included
  • Safety tested

Cons

  • Incandescent bulb


Most Realistic

The Best Lava Lamp Option: Lamp Lava 2149 14.5-inch, Decal Colormax
Photo: amazon.com

Whereas other lava lamps are melanges of day-glo pink and hippie purple, this novelty light from the Lamp Store draws inspiration from volcanoes, creating a lamp that truly resembles lava. The aluminum base and cap come with volcanic graphics to match the color and movement inside the globe.

The tricolored globe gives the white wax an appearance of red, orange, and yellow hues, recreating the color palette of lava. This lava lamp is the same size as many competitors’ lamps. It will look at home in a rec room or a bar just as it will in an office or a bedroom.

Thanks to UL testing and certification, you can rest assured that this lava lamp meets safety standards. This lamp includes a 25-watt bulb. To get the lava started, plug the lamp into a standard power outlet, wait for the wax to heat up, and watch it move and glow.

Product Specs

  • Size: 14.5 inches tall
  • Light Source Type: 25-watt incandescent bulb
  • Color: White wax with clear liquid and tricolored glass

Pros

  • Volcanic graphics
  • Glass housing
  • Light bulb included
  • Safety tested

Cons

  • Incandescent bulb


Our Verdict

While the perfect lava lamp varies based on your stylistic preferences, the Lava Lamp Original is our top pick because of its high-quality construction and classic design. Those on a budget may appreciate the Lava Lite, which is comparable to our top pick but available at a lower price point.

How We Chose the Best Lava Lamps

These recommendations for the best lava lamp cover a variety of sizes and styles to best suit your needs. Our curated selection was developed based on extensive product research. While choosing a lava lamp is largely a choice based on style and aesthetics, we still weighed a number of practical considerations when making our recommendations.

We narrowed our selection to lava lamps and motion lamps that came with a light bulb included, and we considered options with incandescent, CFL, or LED bulbs. In order to make a fair comparison, we only included classic bullet-shaped lava lamps in the guide, but we considered both wax-filled lamps and glitter lamps.

FAQs

Though you now know more about lava lamps, you might still have some questions. The following are answers to some of the most common questions about selecting and using a lava lamp in your home.

Q. What is a lava lamp used for?

Lava lamps are vintage-style decorative pieces that can keep you mesmerized for hours with liquid motion. They also emit a subtle glow, making them suitable as night lights for children or adults.

Q. Are lava lamps dangerous?

While lava lamps are safe if used properly, there are some safety precautions to consider. To avoid overheating and prevent a fire hazard, use your lava lamp for less than 8 hours at a time, and keep it away from young children to avoid burns.

Q. Can you leave a lava lamp on all the time?

Lava lamps shouldn’t be left on for more than 8 hours at a time.

Q. What should I look for in a lava lamp?

Look for a lava lamp with a color scheme you like in a size that fits your available space. Consider how its vintage style would complement its surrounding decor.

Q. Do lava lamps expire?

Lava lamps don’t expire, but they do have an expected shelf life of approximately 2,000 hours.

Q. Why is my lava lamp cloudy?

Lava lamps tend to become cloudy if they’re shaken or jostled while the liquid is still hot.

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Kat Hodgins is a freelance writer for home repair, DIY home building projects, and green living. She previously worked at OP Media Group for three of their magazines, including Cottage (a former division of OP), writing DIY articles, such as building an outhouse and insulation installation. In her tenure as a content and copywriter, Kat has written for many companies, including Perk Canada, Nest Designs, Run Wild My Child, and This Is LD. Outside of her work as a writer, Kat is an insurance benefits professional, nature enthusiast, recreational climber, and chocolate connoisseur enjoying life in the Pacific Northwest.