The base of many bubble juice recipes is store-bought liquid dishwashing liquid or other soap plus water and other additives. This section provides helpful information about the most common ingredients and classes of ingredients. The three key elements of most bubble solutions are the surfactant (usually provided by dishwashing liquid or some type of soap product), a polymer of some sort, and water. There are often additional ingredients.
To understand the role that these ingredients play, please see Bubble Juice Basics.
Dish Detergents & Soaps
Using the right detergent or soap is critical. Some detergents work far better than others. Some detergents barely work at all for making bubbles while others work great.
Detergent is a key ingredient in most do-it-yourself bubble juice recipes. The detergent is usually of the type called dishwashing liquid in the U.S. or washing-up liquid in the UK. These are the types of detergents used for hand washing dishes.
Strength (Surfactancy). Detergent strength varies considerably from detergent type to detergent type. 'Strength' is a funny word and while we and others often use it in comparing detergents/soaps, we are talking about the relative ability to thin a film. The higher the "strength", the smaller the amount of detergent that is needed to create a soap film of a particular thickness. Different versions of the same brand can be very different. For instance, Dawn Pro is more than twice as potent as Dawn Simply Clean (also called Non-concentrated Dawn). Even a particular brand's strength may vary considerably from country to country due to local regulations. Fairy in some countries has a 15-30% anionic surfactant concentration while in others the concentration is 5-15%.
Most recipes on the wiki assume a detergent whose strength and characteristics are similar to Dawn Pro. If your detergent's strength or characteristics are different, you may need to use more or less detergent than the recipes call for. Where the Dawn-equivalence is known, we have tried to note it.
See the Detergent article for more detailed information about detergents including a list of preferred detergents.
Water is a key ingredient. Some people insist that distilled water is needed for the best results while others indicate that tap water is superior. It is probably the case that some detergents are better matched to some water sources than others. Water that is very hard or very acidic or alkaline may not work well with some detergents.
There are open questions as to what the relevant factors are.
See also Water.
Glycerine is a commonly used and widely misunderstood ingredient. It has achieved an undeserved mythical status as a magic ingredient. Although it is the primary additive in many recipes found on the internet and elsewhere, it is not a particularly effective additive and has led to great disappointment among home brewers. It is quite useful for mixing polymers. There are some cases where it is beneficial.
See the main Glycerine article for more information.
Most bubble-juice makes use of one or more polymers to make it easy to close bubbles and to improve other bubble properties. Popular polymers include PEO (polyethylene oxide), HEC (hydroxyethyl cellulose), and guar gum.
Without a suitable polymer, it is generally challenging to blow bubbles with a simple water and soap solution. For reasons that are not clear, adding the right polymer to a water and soap (or detergent) solution makes it simple to blow a stream of bubbles or close giant bubbles with a tri-string wand. Read more about the role of polymers in Bubble Juice Basics.
What do they do? The precise role that polymers play is a bit of a mystery. It is not strictly because they change viscosity. While commercial mixes tend to be very viscous, many world-class bubblers use their own mixes whose viscosity is closer to water's than to the viscous commercial mixes with which most people are familiar. As far as we know, no one yet understands the role that the polymer plays well enough to look at a polymer's characteristics on paper and know whether it will be an effective bubble juice ingredient. Trial-and-error is currently used to determine which polymers work well and what properties they bring with them.
See the main Polymers article for much information about the polymers used for making bubble juice, including information about individual polymers.
pH Adjusters and Water Conditioners
Baking powder, baking soda+citric acid, distilled vinegar, citric acid and other ingredients are often used for making bubble juice because of the impact they have on pH. While it is possible to make good bubble juice without pH adjustment, experiments have consistently shown that baking powder or baking soda + citric acid or simply citric acid benefit most bubble juice. The benefits include: more efficient use of detergent, improved ease of closing bubbles, improved longevity.
Visit the main article for detailed information: PH Adjusters and Water Conditioners.
Other ingredients that are cited in bubble recipes include:
- Sodium Citrate (added Feb. 2012) - Some people claim that there is a benefit to using sodium citrate in bubble juice. Edward Spiegel claims that Summer 2013 experiments do not seem to support this claim. Sodium citrate (sometimes sold as sour salt) is a byproduct along with CO2 of the reaction between baking soda, citric acid and water. To substitute sodium citrate for baking soda/citric acid, use 1.17 times as much Sodium Citrate as you would baking soda (and eliminate the citric acid).
- Flax seeds (lin seeds). The slimy extract that results from boiling flax seeds is reputed to be an effective ingredient. The recipe on Bubble Town has been around for a while. Another recipe has been posted on SBF that also includes gelatin and Mr. Bubble. See also . I have had some success using Flax Seeds. I experimented a bit in 2013. It worked pretty well. The flax bubbles MIGHT have had a bit more longevity than the guar gum bubbles I tested against those days. But overall, I felt that the mix (adapted from my standard guar gum mix) performed a little less well. This ingredient is worth exploring.
- Beer - A few bubblers swear by this as an additive. I suspect that the carbonation is the key ingredient here and that using the beer supplies some pH adjustment.
- Xanthan Gum. Like HPMC and HEC, Xanthan Gum is a cellulose gum that (among other things) increases viscosity. Xanthan increases viscosity dynamically such that when the fluid is exposed to shear it loses viscosity. It regains is viscosity when the shear forces are removed. A leading giant bubble maker suggests that Xanthan may prevent the rapid migration of the bubble film towards the bottom and thus extend the life of giant bubbles. It is used at a quantity of up to .9 gram per gallon of bubble juice.. This post from SBF indicates some interesting synergies between Xanthan Gum and HEC and/or PEO  Equivalence: 1/4 tsp Xanthan weighs about .40 grams. Another SBF posting with interesting information from Alan McKay. Xanthan gum seems not to be as bubble friendly as guar gum, but some people substitute xanthan for guar gum when they cannot find guar gum -- though the bubbles tend to be more 'brittle'. Some people have found that xanthan gum does not improve multi-polymer mixes and have dropped it without detriment or have substituted guar gum.
- Gelatin (polymer) - Search the wiki index. Some people claim that it can be useful for making a juice that does well in low humidity.
- Gum Arabic (polymer)
- Propylene Glycol - often used with or instead of glycerine in commercial bubble solutions. While its toxicity is low, it is listed as a possible skin irritant and is not as environmentally friendly as glycerine.
SEE ALSO: Two postings of interest on SBF:  . Summary of those postings: adding .75% (by volume) of of Propyene Glycol to Jumbo Juice (which is about 11 parts water per 1 part detergent) improved colors and increased bubble lifetime. At 9% (by volume), the colors were stronger and the bubbles made an audible pop. At 17% (by volume) behavior was similar to 9% but, possibly with a louder pop. At 23%, the number of bubbles with a small wand decreased. Another post of interest mentions that PG is good for keeping cellulose gums in solution (it is a solubilizer) . In the same thread it is recommended not to go about 0.5% -- which seems at odds with the findings mentione above. Investigation is needed. AkJay reports using up to 1.5 cups PG per gallon of his bubble juice.
- Polyethylene Glycol - Sold as a laxative. Makes bubbles more colorful when added. Polyethylene Glycol is a synonym for Polyethylene Oxide (usually referred to as PEO on this site). See the section Polymers above for more information.
- Polyvinyl Alchohol (PVA) (polymer)- (apparently this is an ingredient in some Japanese laundry starch and some people use a small amount of PVA-based starch as an additive). PVA is also an ingredient in some slime kits such as this one. There is mention of some promising results with it in the post from the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo group . An article called Chemistry in the Toy Store by David Katz mentions the use of 2%-6% polyvinyl alcohol solutions to prolong the life of tabletop bubbles. The article mentions that solutions over 8% can be very thick. According to Wikipedia, it is nontoxic and biodegrades easily. SEE ALSO: See Japanese PVA Laundry Starch and also PVA (PolyVinyl Alcohol) as an additive. (UPDATE March 2016) An Italian bubbler is claiming that using 15 ml of this 10% PVA solution in 10 liters of bubble juice makes a big difference in the strength of his bubbles. I hope to test this claim. Articles in the PVA Category.
- Wallpaper Paste (polymer)- one site recommends 3 grams of methylcellulose-containing wallpaper paste in 1.3 liters of bubble solution.
- Methyl Cellulose (polymer) - similar to HPMC. It is often mentioned as a useful additive (although sometimes it is in the mistaken belief that MethoCel means methyl cellulose when in fact it is a Dow Chemical product family that includes both methyl cellulose and HPMC-based products).
- Chlorhexidine Gluconate - is an anti-microbial that may be useful for increasing the shelf-life of polymer solutions. It is an ingredient in KY Jelly-type lubes and SurgiLube. This might be especially useful for preventing contamination of J-Lube/water concentrates. It has been suggested (but there has been no verification of this claim) that a few drops in 500 ml of solution should be sufficient. This claim needs verification but seems reasonable.
- Calcium Chloride - AkJay has been finding that Calcium Chloride is a big help for bubbling in freezing temperatures. It lowers the freezing point to keep bubbles from freezing quickly and also seems to extend their lifetimes.
- Sodium Alginate (polymer)- On SBF, there was a discussion of this algae-derived polymer as a useful additive for bubble juice. 1 level teaspoon was hydrated overnight in 1 liter of distilled water and used in a 15:1 mix. Note that sodium alginate has interesting interactions with calcium which can cause it to gel (which makes it useful in molecular gastronomy). There is another mention of it in thisSBF discussion.
- Konnyaku (Konjac) (Jelly) Powder (Polymer) - Faris reports that a juice which substituted 0.7 grams Konnyaku powder for 2.3 grams of Natrosol 250HHR performed as well as the juice with Natrosol. The Natrosol-based recipe is blogged here . Faris writes: "Both have been capable of making 30ft tubes quite easily, closing bubbles has been no problem and both have quite the same length of bubble lifespan. The only differences are, using the Konnyaku recipe, bubbles in bubble is hard to make and there's more amount of 'ghost'...'The downside of preparing a Konnyaku recipe is you have to boil the water to hydrate the powder..."
- Sago Flour (Polymer)- (Feb. 2013) - We have received reports from a few people in Asia that Sago Flour has been effective for them. We hope to have details soon.
For a list of known bubble ingredient sources see: Sources (Ingredients).
Things that don't work
This section describes additives that people have tried and reported as being unhelpful.
- Shaving cream. Adding shaving cream (at least Edge Gel) to a detergent water mix results in something that works less well than water and detergent.
- Sugar(any type). The addition of sugar is much less effective than corn syrup or glycerin. Also it attracts insects that pop bubbles.
- Silicone. There are many reports by people on SBF that indicate that products that contain silicone are bubble killers. In fact, it is reported that buckets and wands become useless and hard to restore once they have come in contact with some silicone containing ingredients. Search SBF, the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo Group for more information.