Lava lamps appeal to both kids and adults because they’re a fun combination of light and mesmerizing motion. These engaging light sources are created by mixing together a water-based liquid and a wax compound—two ingredients with different densities. Lava lamps are a wonderful way to help people of all ages relax. Their gentle movement and soft light make them especially useful household additions for those with anxiety or sensory issues.
When selecting the best lava lamps, there are a few factors to consider. First, figure out where you’re going to put it—doing so will help you determine how big of a lamp you should buy. It’s best to situate a lava lamp in an area of your house that does not get direct sunlight and where it won’t be bumped or picked up by children. If lava lamps are agitated from shaking, the separate fluids may intermingle and make the lamp permanently cloudy.
The best lava lamps come with a bulb that’s easy to replace if it burns out. When replacing the bulb, find one that matches the wattage indicated by the lamp’s manufacturer. This will ensure that the wax floats freely. If the bulb is too hot, all the wax will float to the top of the glass canister. If it’s too cold, the wax won’t melt and it will all clump at the bottom of the lamp.
Our Top Picks
The best lava lamps infuse our modern world with retro relaxation—they’re today’s chill pills with on-off switches. Though the top picks nod to groovy days past, the selection criteria includes product quality, visual appeal, safety, and manufacturers’ reputation.
Looking for a lava lamp with the classic capsule shape? Look no further. The glass housing of this retro favorite 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 silver tone matches most decors but does not distract from the lava inside the glass canister. A sturdy base and a 14.5-inch height is a suitable size for many indoor spaces, like tabletops or bookshelves. The wax and fluid inside this lamp may get cloudy, but running it for an extended time typically returns its consistency to normal.
This lava lamp is a corded electric option that’s both easy to use and looks great in many spaces. Its cone-shaped design measures 4 inches by 4 inches by 14.5 inches, giving this lava lamp the 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.
When space is tight, this compact lava lamp from My Groovy Light is a terrific option. Weighing only 1.66 pounds and measuring 2.25 inches by 2.2.5 inches by 13 inches, 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.
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 in four radiant color options to suit your preferences. In each version, the wax that’s suspended in clear fluid perfectly matches the lamp’s plastic base and cap. This lamp comes with a 25-watt bulb.
For those with room to spare who want to make a statement with an oversize lava lamp, this one from Lava the Original is a terrific option. This lava lamp’s traditional capsule silhouette and silver base and cap are throwbacks to the 70s. It’s large enough to appreciate from across the room, too: It measures 10.5 inches by 10.5 inches by 27 inches and weighs a sturdy 15 pounds.
Encased in the glass globe, yellow wax in purple liquid comes alive once the lamp heats up, causing the wax to flow up and down. A bigger lamp like this one requires more heat to melt the wax, which is why this safety-certified light is powered by a 100-watt, rather than a 25-watt, incandescent bulb.
Many kids appreciate the colorful appearance of this lava lamp from Lava the Original, 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 tri-colored. 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 and though it is UL-certified, younger children should be supervised when they are around the lamp. Older kids may enjoy watching the soothing motion of the wax as they wind down for bed or relax. Measuring 4 inches by 4 inches by 14.5 inches, this lava lamp fits on most night tables or desks in kids’ rooms.
This 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. The 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.
Like most lava lamps, this lamp requires a 25-watt light bulb (included) and measures 4 inches by 4 inches by 14.5 inches. A UL-certification makes this glittery light a safe and fun addition to many spaces around the home.