For a while, I have been intrigued by anecdotal reports (from credible sources) that baking soda and/or citric acid can be beneficial as ingredients in bubble juice. It hasn't been clear whether this is generally true or only in cases where there are certain water qualities. There have been enough of them that I have been curious. There have also been a number of suggestions that solutions work better in in a lower pH range than I typically get with my ph 9.0/9.1 tap water.

20110312 jakey citric 007

Citric-containing solution

Recently, Alan McKay (owner of the world record for the longest bubble) sent a message that made its way to SBF, the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo Group. A search in the SBF archives also turned up this message from Mr. McKay in which he mentions that the benefit might be from the sodium citrate that is created when the baking soda, water and citric acid interact. I have some Sodium Citrate. Once I can determine whether or not the baking soda/citric acid combination is making a difference, I can try sodium citrate directly.
20110312 jakey citric 001

Citric-containing solution

Anecdotal evidence from a couple of bubble sessions this week (in which I got to be the observer rather than the bubbler) has me intrigued. Yesterday and today, I went out with my 2 1/2 year-old son, a couple of pairs of Dip Stix (thanks Kal for the contribution that is proving so helpful in my ongoing testing), and two dipping containers. One container had bubble juice mixed using a baking soda/citric acid preparation and one without. On both occasions, I made a few bubbles with each solution. (The Dip Stix were kept with a particular container to avoid cross-contaminations). Then, I watched as Jakey made bubbles with one and then the other solution. While he was playing, another kid or kids came, and they were allowed to make bubbles. After the kids had made bubbles with both solutions, I asked the kids "did you prefer one of the wands?" (out of earshot of the other kids to avoid the possibility that they would influence each other inadvertently). All of the kids had the same assessment that I had: the mix with the baking soda/citric acid preparation seemed friendlier. The tubes seemed to be longer before breaking up into component bubbles and the film seemed less prone to premature popping. The difference was subtle but consistent (or at least it seemed to be).
20110312 jakey noncitric 013

Solution: the 'control' (no citric acid)

It is quite possible that the solutions were not behaving differently but that conditions as they changed lead to that illusion. It is premature to draw many conclusions from this ad hoc testing. But, I am intrigued and plan to follow up more seriously. The conditions were not ideal: windy, sunny, and humidity of about 50%. The air temp was about 65 F. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get any usable video footage.

The baking soda/citric acid solution was made as follows:

  • 2 grams baking soda added to 1 quart water in a bottle and thoroughly dissolved
  • 3 ounces (by weight) of Dawn Pro was added to the water. The bottle was turned end-over-end a few times gently to mix the solution.
  • 1 gram of citric acid (Rokeach brand Sour Salt that can be found in the kosher foods section of most large supermarkets) was added to the solution. The bottle was turned end over end to mix.
  • 7 grams of J-Lube solution was added (my J-Lube solutions are 1 gram J-Lube to 1 ounce--by weight--tap water) to 7.5 grams of a 1% HEC solution (Dow CelloSize QP100MH and tap water)

The other mix was identical except that it had no baking soda or citric acid.

Jakey Tests Bubble Solutions

Jakey Tests Bubble Solutions

I recommend watching this in HD. Unfortunately, the default is the lo-res version of the video.

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