So whats in the juice?
There are many bubble juice recipes out there. Ranging from the old-fashioned to the high-tech. Throughout the years the community's understanding of what makes good bubble juice has grown tremendously. You will hear many differing opinions out there. Most of which are based on old traditions and are inaccurate. Out of the gates we need to clear a few things up. Adding corn syrup, hair gel, sugar, etc. to dish soap is not how you make good bubble juice. You will hear people talk about glycerin, which has it's place in good bubble juice. But it is only one of a handful of good ingredients that make up world class bubble juice.
I'm sure by now you are itching to know the secrets of bubblemancy.. But before we get carried away lets discuss some of the basics.
"A soap bubble is an extremely thin film of soapy water enclosing air that forms a hollow sphere with an iridescent surface. Soap bubbles usually last for only a few seconds before bursting, either on their own or on contact with another object. They are often used for children's enjoyment, but they are also used in artistic performances. Assembling several bubbles results in foam." -Wikipedia
"Soap bubbles have very large surface areas with very little mass. Bubbles in pure water are unstable. The addition of surfactants, however, can have a stabilizing effect on the bubbles (see Marangoni effect). Note that surfactants actually reduce the surface tension of water by a factor of three or more." -Wikipedia
"Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension (or interfacial tension) between two liquids, between a gas and a liquid, or between a liquid and a solid. Surfactants may act as detergents, wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents, and dispersants." -Wikipedia
As you can see surfactants (in soap) lower the surface tension of water allowing for the formation of soap bubbles. However as I'm sure you know off the shelf soap and tap water aren't enough to cast soap bubbles much bigger than your hand let alone the size of a car or bigger. So how do we cast bubbles that are so ridiculously big? This is where polymers come in.
"A polymer (/ˈpɒlɪmər/; Greek poly-, "many" + -mer, "parts") is a large molecule, or macromolecule, composed of many repeated subunits. Because of their broad range of properties, both synthetic and natural polymers play essential and ubiquitous roles in everyday life. Polymers range from familiar synthetic plastics such as polystyrene to natural biopolymers such as DNA and proteins that are fundamental to biological structure and function. Polymers, both natural and synthetic, are created via polymerization of many small molecules, known as monomers. Their consequently large molecular mass relative to small molecule compounds produces unique physical properties, including toughness, viscoelasticity, and a tendency to form glasses and semicrystalline structures rather than crystals." -Wikipedia
"Polymers can be natural products like guar gum (which is simply a powder made by grinding up a particular kind of dried bean) or synthetic products such as Polyethylene Oxide (PEO)." -The Soap Bubble Wiki
Here we see that "polymer" simply means "many parts". Chains of subunits called "monomers". The properties of these polymers give your bubble juice viscoelasticity and increased resilience. This is the "Secret" of the fabled Bubblemancers.
There are two main schools of thought regarding which polymer is the best for bubble juice. Guar gum-based and Polyethylene Oxide (PEO) based bubble juice. There are other polymers that are used with bubble juice as well but guar gum and PEO are the most common.
Now that we are on the same page let's recap.
☑ Surfactant (in soap)
Good. Now we're getting somewhere!
Let's take a moment to talk about soap as it's one of the most important ingredients in bubble juice. There are so many types of soap out there.. But the ONLY soap you should use is Procter & Gamble (P&G) Dawn dish soap. There are a variety of Dawn dish soaps out there that will work but by far the best is Dawn Professional Manual Pot & Pan. Which can be purchased at Cash & Carry. It is by far the best soap for bubbling. For people outside of the United States I would look for whatever P&G soap you can find. Unfortunately soap products are not named the same in different countries.. But I'm sure you'll find something! For recommendations on soap outside the United States and for more detailed information regarding soap please review the detergent page on The Soap Bubble Wiki.
Now that you have an understanding of what makes up good bubble juice lets talk about recipes.
We encourage you to review The Soap Bubble Wiki's page on recipes for a better understand of the wide variety of good bubble juice recipes there are out there. These recipes range in a spectrum of complexity. From simple to advanced.
We make and use a PEO based bubble juice called Jumbo Juice. Which was created by our friend Dustin Skye who hails from the Oregon Coast. With our years of experience we find that this bubble juice yields the best results by far. It is truly a treat to work with. After much heartache with other bubble juice recipes we have fallen in love with this bubble juice.
Jumbo Juice definitely sits on the advanced side of the spectrum in terms of complexity and difficulty to make. It requires precise measurements of all ingredients and a well thought out procedure. You can find my simplified notes on Jumbo Juice here.
There are other recipes out there that are far simpler to make and yield similar results. However they can be less consistent. This is why we love Jumbo Juice so much. We know exactly what to expect. It takes away from the guess work. As you soon will find out the last thing you want to worry about is if your juice is working on not. If you're having problems casting bubbles and you know your juice is on point then you know something else is causing the problem. Over the years we have wasted many gallons of bubble juice because we thought our mix was off when really the problem was an environmental factor. I will get more into this topic in Troubleshooting.
Back in the day when we would go out bubbling we would use a recipe that we would make on the spot. The juice worked well enough but it could be unpredictable at times because we would loosely measure the ingredients. This is a great way to get started with the hobby. You will get a chance to get your hands dirty and learn what the different ingredients do at different concentrations. Then if you find the hobby attractive I'd consider looking into making Jumbo Juice.
I have built a quick and dirty bubble juice recipe for beginners to lower the bar of entry into Bubblemancy.