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Slime!

Welcome to the fascinating world of non-Newtonian fluids! They get their name from the fact that they do not fit Newton's laws of how true liquids behave (specifically, in how they react to shearing forces).

Quicksand, many pastes and glues, gelatin, and ketchup are all non-Newtonian fluids. There are two main types of non-Newtonian fluids, rheopectic and thixotropic. The slimes, oozes, globs etc. on this page are rheopectic, which means they show an increase in apparent viscosity (resistence to flow) with time under a constantly applied stress (they do not have a well defined viscocity). They resist flow dependent on the velocity of flow. If something acts on them with a small amount of force (if you stir them slowly, or let you fingers slowly sink into them) they won't offer as much resistance as they would if a greater force acted on them. If you punch a good stout ooze, it should resist about as much as a brick wall. They fight back. Thixotropic fluids, on the other hand, tend to have more apparent viscocity under low shear stress and less under higher shear stress. Paints typically are thixotropic fluids; they flow easily when being brushed on, and stay put once applied. ¹

If you are ever so inclined to study fluids a bit more seriously, you will soon realize that these are very simplified definitions, and that there are many more types of fluids. But these are a good start:

Viscocity
    resistance of fluid to a flow.

non-Newtonian fluid
    a fluid whose apparant viscocity changes with applied shear force (Newtonian fluids have constant viscocity)

rheopectic
    apparant velocity increases with duration of stress

thixotropic
    apparant velocity decreases with duration of stress


Elmer's Slime

One of the simplest of the slimes, and a favorite among schoolteachers. Not terribly toxic, but watch the kiddies so they don't eat it. It produces a lovely, white (unless you color it), opaque goo. It will dry out, so store it sealed and refrigerated (zip lock bags work well). It also has a limited shelf life, and may eventually develop mold (horrors!) It (usually) cleans up easily. If it dries on anything, try soaking in water. It is best not to set it on wood, fabric, or any other surface that does not clean up easily.

This is the quick and easy method.

Materials

  • Teaspoon (or metric measure)
  • Big jar or measuring cup (1 qt. or 1l)
  • Bowl - 2 quart (2l)
  • Measuring cup
  • Borax powder
  • 4 ounce (120 ml) bottle of white glue (not school glue!)
  • Water (pref. distilled)
  • Food coloring (opt.)

Pour the glue into the jar. Fill the empty glue bottle with water, and add to the jar. Stir. You can add food coloring here if you want to be festive - a few drops will do. Pour one cup (240 ml) of distilled water into the bowl and add 1 teaspoon (5ml) of borax powder. Muddle well.

Slowly add the glue mixture to the bowl, stirring as you do so. Place the thick slime that forms into your hand and knead until it feels dry. (There will be an excess of water remaining in the bowl.) It will be wet, stringy and messy at first, but the more you play with it, the better it mixes and the less sticky and firmer it becomes. Store your slime in a zip-lock in the fridge. That's it!


A slightly firmer variation

This makes a firmer, dryer slime that will even bounce if it is kneaded enough.

  1. Mix 4 tsp. (20 ml) water with 5 tsp. (25 ml) Elmer's or other white glue in a small bowl.
  2. Add 1 tsp. (5 ml) talcum powder and stir until thoroughly mixed.
  3. Add 1 or 2 tsp. (5 or 10 ml) saturated borax and water solution. Stir four a few minutes.
  4. Remove the glob from the bowl and stirrer. Knead it for a while and it will become drier. You will probably need to wipe off some of the excess moisture from your hands with a paper towel from time to time. Don't be tempted to wipe the glob with a paper towel as it will only stick. You can add a little talcum to the surface if you are having trouble getting it dry enough. Store in a zip lock in the fridge.

Artisan methods: design your slime

The thing that makes this particular slime work is the bonding of polyvinylacetate (PVAC) molecules by the Borax (sodium tetraborate). The molecules (polymers) are long to begin with, and they are tangled, which is why the glue is so viscous. Once the Borax links up some of the molecules, it becomes even more viscous. Not all of the molecules hook up, though. The more that do, the more viscous it becomes, until it reaches a point where it barely flows at all. The amount of attachment that occurs among the PVAC molecules depends in part on the concentration of Borax solution used. This is where we get the latitude for making different consistencies of slime.

All of these variations use the same simple ingredients: a solution of Elmer's glue, and a solution of Borax. The only variations are in the solution concentrations, and in the ratios that the solutions are mixed together.

Most basic recipes suggest a 4% Borax (in distilled water) solution for an average slime. This would be app. 1 teaspoon to half a cup (you've got it easy if you use metric!)

The glue to water ratio is almost always 1:1, though I have encountered 1:.75. This really won't effect the viscosity, however, the amount of water that the slime retains does effect its "stickiness".

The typical glue to Borax solution ratio is 1:1. Ratios of 2:1 and 3:1 are often cited. I have seen them as high as 7:1, but usually the Borax solution was more concentrated. If you want to experiment with making different consistencies of slime, I would suggest two things. First, measure everything metrically, if possible. This makes it much simpler to keep track of concentrations and ratios. Second, start with basic solutions of 50% glue and 4% Borax, mixing them 1:1.

Experiment with increasing and decreasing the concentration of Borax solution, all else being the same. The more concentrated the Borax, the more viscous the outcome. You can actually produce something like a hard rubber ball if the concentration is correct. The lower the concentration, and the closer you approach a wet, sticky liquid. Keep notes so you can repeat the results that you like. If you can't quite get the consistency you want, vary the amount of water that goes into the mix.


Boric acid and borax method

This formula uses both boric acid and borax to produce a slime that seems drier and stiffer. Mix a solution of 100ml water (preferably distilled), 10ml rubbing alcohol, and 1 to 2ml boric acid powder. Mix well 20 - 30ml of this solution with approximately 50ml of white glue. Make a borax solution of 1 - 2ml borax to 100ml water. Add the borax solution a teaspoon or so at a time to the glue mixture. Stir continuously, adding borax solution until the desired consistency is reached. As with the other white glue slimes, kneading will make the slime drier and more viscous. If the slime feels too wet or sticky after kneading, knead in a little more of the borax solution.


Gel type glues

Over the past few years several brands of gel type glues have been introduced. Most of these make excellent slimes, and are able to be stretched into large, clear membranes. These slimes can be made to be very elastic and have a nice color and consistency. I have personally experimented with Elmer's School Glue Gel, but there are several similar products available from other manufacturers. Use the quick and easy method or the boric acid and borax method, above. If they are a little sticky when they are stored, they will tend to be stickier after a while. If this happens, see the following paragraph.


Slime overly sticky or runny?

If your white glue or gel glue based slime is too sticky or thin (runny), first try kneading it for a while. Working it in your hands will help to mix things up better, as well as remove some of the moisture. If it is still not quite right, mix 1 part borax with 10 parts water. Dunk the slime into this solution, remove and knead. The more you do this, the more "stout" the slime becomes (to a point).


PVA Slime

This is often referred to as "institutional" or "commercial" slime. This is the type that is generally found in toy stores. It is a little trickier to make, not quite as safe, and more difficult to get the main ingredient for (polyvinyl alcohol) than is the Elmer's slime. But it produces a superior slime. Longer lasting, more transparent, and with a visual and tactile appeal that is more, well, "slimy".

Assuming you can get hold of PVA, it is a fairly simple process to make slime. First, mix a 4% solution of PVA and water. 4 % would be 40 grams of PVA to 960 ml of distilled water (of course you can adjust and make more or less). Wear a mask and have plenty of ventilation when doing this! It helps to have a heated magnetic laboratory stirrer (don't use one of your good kitchen saucepans - it's best to use Pyrex lab ware). Slowly, gradually, mix the PVA into the distilled water. Heat it slowly, stirring the whole while, until the PVA goes into solution. This will take 15 minutes or more. Do not let it boil. Once cool, the solution can be stored in a stoppered bottle.

The 4% Borax solution is made by dissolving 4 grams of borax into 100 ml of distilled water. It should go into solution without heating. This can also be stored in a stoppered bottle.

Mix the two solutions in a glass or ceramic bowl. Do not use plastic. Start with the PVA solution, and stir in the coloring, if used, and borax solution. The standard ratio is 5 parts PVA solution to 1 part Borax solution. This works well, but ratios have been quoted bother slime makers as 6:1, 20:3, and as high as 200:15 (app. 13:1). The best bet is to start with the basic 4% solutions at 5:1, adjusting the ratio as necessary to get the consistency you want. Store in a sealed container. No need to refrigerate. Keep it clean and it should last indefinitely.

I read recently (and I apologize to the author, because I cannot find the page again to reference it) that the consistency of PVA slime depends also on the molecular weight of the PVA used.

Some archival art glues are actually a 5% PVA solution. It is almost certainly more expensive to purchase the glue than it would be to purchase the PVA, but, if you do happen to have a bottle around the house that you probably wouldn't use otherwise, it should work (check the ingredients!) PVA is also sold as a mold release agent for fiberglass molding, etc. Check with supply houses for molding, boat repair, or auto painting. Also, some soluble bags used in hospitals are made of PVA. If anyone knows how to make slime from these, I would like to hear about it.


Guar gum

This produces a good slime, but is tricky to make, and guar gum must be purchased from a chemical supplier.

The guar solution is made by adding a measure of guar gum to distilled water and stirring to dissolve. It will thicken more if you bring it to a simmer for a few minutes. Skim off the scum that forms on top and allow to cool.

The Borax solution should be 4% , as with the above slimes. Of all the slime recipes I have collected over the years, none vary so widely in concentrations and proportions as those involving guar gum. Typically, the guar is in 1% to 6% solution (though I have seen it up to 12%), and the ratios of guar to Borax solutions range from 10:1 up to 35:1. Start with a Borax solution of 4%, a guar gum solution of 5% and a mix ratio of 20:1 (guar to Borax). Experiment with the guar solution concentration as well as the ratio that the two concentrations are mixed together until you get the consistency you want.

To mix, pour the guar gum solution in a bowl (preferably glass; not plastic), add coloring if you so desire (a few of drops of food coloring works,) and then add the Borax solution. Stir. Guar gum slime improves with age, so let it sit a couple of days for it to be at its peak sliminess. If some happens to get in the carpet, try cleaning with a little vinegar, followed by water.


Cornstarch

Cornstarch makes a classic, sticky, messy slime. It is insanely simple to make. There are only 2 ingredients, dry cornstarch and water (food coloring optional). The lines are very thin between dry cornstarch, slime, and cloudy white starch water, so mix slowly and add the water only a little at a time. This stuff will make a mess, no matter how careful you are. Start with 2 parts cornstarch in a bowl (now is the time to add the food coloring). Slowly, add 1 part water, mixing with your hands (there really is no other way) to get all of the powder wet. Have another measure of water handy, and drop in a little at a time, mixing as you go. It will take much less water than you might think to change the consistency much, so add only a few drops at a time. You will know when it is the right amount, as the wet powder will stick together and suddenly start behaving very oddly. This slime has some of the weirdest properties. It will flow fairly quickly into the bottom of the bowl, and your fingers will sink into it readily, but just try and punch it...

A strange variation I have not yet attempted is 1 part cornstarch to 1 part Elmer's glue.


Electro-active cornstarch slime

Mix 3/4 cup (175ml) of cornstarch with 2 cups (475ml) of vegetable oil. Put it into a tumbler in the refrigerator until it is chilled. Remove from the refrigerator, stir to mix (it will have separated), and let warm just enough so that it will flow. Find a block of Styrofoam, about 1by 6 by 6 inches (25x150x150mm - not at all critical), and rub it on your hair (or a wool sweater, or a cat, etc.) to build up a static charge. Tip the container of slime. It should flow slowly. Place the charged Styrofoam just in front of it (an inch or so), in the path of the flow. The slime should stop flowing and seem to solidify. Wiggle the Styrofoam, and the slime will follow it somewhat, and pieces of it may even break off. Remove the Styrofoam, and the flow will resume.


Metamucil "Flubber"

You can create homemade "flubber" by using Metamucil. Place a teaspoon of the product into a shaker jar with 8-10 ounces of water. Shake vigorously for about 60 seconds, then pour the contents into a standard size cereal bowl. (Here's where it gets fun) Place the bowl into the Microwave. Run at full power for 4-5 minutes....until the goo starts to "rise". It will look like bread-dough rising in a bowl, but much faster. When the bubbles are just about to overflow the bowl, turn off the microwave. Let it cool slightly and repeat the. The more times you repeat this process, the more "rubbery" the flubber gets.

After 5 or 6 runs, pour the goo onto a plate or cookie pan. With a spoon, stir the goo while it's cooling. (Be very careful, as this concoction will burn your fingers right down to the bone in a nanosecond, until some cooling has taken place.)

Once it's cooled, you have a "non-stick" Flubber. Take a knife and cut it into different-size pieces. You can shape it into all kinds of neat things... use our imagination.

If your first batch is "sticky" to the touch, you've used too much water. If prepared properly, it should feel cold and clammy to the touch, but should not stick to your fingers or anything else. If it does, try another batch with less water.

Flubber will keep for months if you store it in a baggy...it will last even longer if you refrigerate it.

-submitted by Randy Krumland

Various slimes


Methylcellulose

Methylcellulose is what "movie" slime is made of. It is an organic thickener used in many of the foods we eat. Mixed with a little water and coloring and allowed to "set up", it makes one of the most beautiful of all the slimes (see "Ghostbusters"). Unfortunately, it is organically based and tends to stink/dry out fairly quickly. Not really recommended for home use. However, if you really feel compelled to make a batch, try some of the motion picture supply houses listed on the web.


Baking soda and cornstarch

A variation on the cornstarch recipe. Uses 1:1 baking soda to cornstarch instead of just the cornstarch. Supposedly makes a less sticky slime.


Laundry starch

Mix 1 part white glue (regular Elmer's; not school glue) with 1 part liquid laundry starch (these ratios vary; some sources suggest 1 part starch to two parts glue). Stir quite a bit, and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Knead the daylights out of it. It will take a while, but it will transform into a very nice ooze. If it is too sticky add a few drops more starch. Store covered.

Another variation: mix 1 part white glue with 1.5 parts starch. Proponents of this method prefer to let the solution sit for several hours, then pouring off the excess starch before kneading.


Green jelly ooze

This makes a nice jelly like ooze. First, you need to make some iron acetate. Do this by placing some steel wool in a jar, and adding enough white vinegar to cover it. Let this stand for five days to a week. Pour off some of the mixture into another. In yet another glass receptacle, add equal parts (a tablespoon or so) of this mixture and household ammonia. Use plain ammonia, not sudsy, and not scented. Instant weird green jelly ooze. Note: I haven't gotten this one to work correctly. If you know this slime, and I am leaving something out, please let me know.


Silly Putty™

You can't really make this at home (unless you have the resources of Dow Corning) but a lot of folks are curious as to what Silly Putty™ is made of.

Ingredients for Silly Putty™ (Dow Corning 3179 Dilatant Compound)

Percentages by weight.

65% Dimethyl Siloxane, hydroxy-terminated polymers with boric acid
17% Silica, quartz crystalline
 9% Thixotrol ST
 4% Polydimethylsiloxane
 1% Decamethyl cyclopentasiloxane
 1% Glycerine
 1% Titanium Dioxide


Play dough

Not technically a slime, but it somehow seems to belong here all the same.


Non-hardening variety

Mix well

  • 1 cup (250 ml) flour
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) salt
  • 2 tsp. (10 ml) cream of tartar
  • 1 cup (250 ml) water
  • Few drops of food coloring

In a pan heat 2-tbsp. (10 ml) vegetable oil. Add the other ingredients, and cook 3 minutes. Stir constantly. Let the dough cool. Store in plastic wrap in the refrigerator.


Hardening variety


Mix well

  • 1 cup (250 ml) flour
  • 1/3 cup (83 ml) salt
  • 6-8 tbsp. (30-40 ml) water
  • Food coloring, if desired

Add the water gradually, using only enough to produce a workable consistency. To set, bake at 300° F until hard.


More recipes!

Here are a few other recipes that have been sent to me. I haven't tried them yet, so no guarantees!

"Just a quick FYI for your interest: many years ago I found out that one can make a substance somewhat like Silly Putty by simply mixing sodium silicate (which used to be available in drugstores (no longer, alas!) and which was also used to coat eggs - it sometimes was carried as 'egg preserver'!) with everyday rubbing alcohol. The two combine to form a jell-like substance that exhibits flow somewhat like putty. The ratios are not terribly critical."

- Submitted by Bert Koehler

"One of my students went home and tried to duplicate the slime, but didn't have borax so he used Chlorox (liquid laundry bleach) instead. The result, which he brought in, was not slimy and much more like "Silly Putty". You might want to give it a try."

- Submitted by Cassandra L Whitsett



Slime rules and safety
  • Slimes can wreak havoc with plumbing, so don't throw them down the drain.
  • Always wear a mask when mixing PVA.
  • Use distilled water for all solutions for best results.
  • Keep slimes away from anything they could damage. They can dry into fabric, and any dyes they may have can stain. All slimes can potentially harm surfaces, especially wood.
  • Supervise small children when playing with slimes so they do not ingest any.
  • Some people are allergic to Borax powder. Wearing rubber gloves when mixing should help.
  • Slimes using Borax solutions work best if you pour the Borax solution into the other solution, rather than the other way around. Coloring should be added before the Borax.
  • Use metric measurements whenever possible. This will make it simpler to experiment with different concentrations and ratios.


¹Thanks to Professor Bruce Knaur of SUNY at Oneonta for these definitions!
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