Aug 20, 2023
Best lava lamps 2023: mood lighting for any room
Lava lamps have been around since the 1960s, and they definitely have the period, swinging vibe about them. Fire them up and the decorative lamps are dreamily hypnotic, casting a warm, psychedelic
Lava lamps have been around since the 1960s, and they definitely have the period, swinging vibe about them. Fire them up and the decorative lamps are dreamily hypnotic, casting a warm, psychedelic glow over the room.
The operating principle is pretty straightforward. A small bulb sits in the base of the lamp, and then heats the glass bottle above. In the glass bottle is wax – often coloured – suspended in translucent liquid. Once the wax warms up (thanks to the bulb) it rises, reaches the top of the bottle, cools and then sinks back down. This creates a molten look, with lots of interesting shapes to the wax – hence the term lava lamp.
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Lava lamps come in a multitude of shapes and sizes. The physically larger the lamp, the more heat it’s going to need from the bulb to warm the wax. This is why lava lamps generally don’t tend to be huge – they’re normally table rather than floor lamps. But there are still lots of different shaped variations, from modern, sleek tubular beauties to the conical lamps made famous in the 60s.
In addition to wax, some lamps also have glitter inside them. These types sparkle as the glitter moves and give off a dappled light, rather than creating the blobs of light that come from wax bubbling away.
Generally speaking, yes. They do get hot, though, so they’re best kept away from children. However, they’re just like any other lamp – unlikely to burn furniture or set anything on fire, so long as you’re careful. Lava lamps are also fragile. The bottles are made from glass, so although they’re pretty tough, they can break. And if you shake a lava lamp hard enough it will stop working properly and become cloudy. So don’t do that.
Not to sound trite, but you must always read the instructions on your individual lamp. Generally, manufacturers recommend leaving them on for a maximum of eight hours. After that, they should be allowed to completely cool and resettle. Aside from anything else, this will undoubtedly prolong the life of your lamp.
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Price: £25 | Buy from Glow
Rather than wax, this lamp moves silver glitter around the bottle. The lamp’s glass has three bands of colour: blue, red and yellow. When switched off, the bottle doesn’t look amazing, but then show us a lava lamp that does. The glitter sticks to the sides of the glass and, as soon as you switch the lamp on, it starts moving.
And it’s quick: this, by a long shot, is the fastest lamp to get moving. That’s because it’s not heating wax, just the liquid in which the glitter is suspended. Once it gets going, the sight of the glitter moving about is quite festive, creating a dappled, disco-ball-type light effect on the wall behind. And the light itself is warm and subtle – no more than mood lighting. We think this lamp would be fantastic in a teenager’s room.
Key specs – Size: 36.8cm; Base colour: Matt black; Lava colour: Silver glitter
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Price: £50 | Buy from Wayfair
With its straight, cylindrical profile, this lava lamp feels more contemporary than the rest of the models in this roundup. The whole design is pleasingly minimalist, too, which is great if you’re after something that doesn’t stand out too much. It will neatly tuck into a corner or on a shelf without taking up too much space. Once on, the lamp casts a cool, blue light. While this might appeal to many – especially, perhaps, teenage boys – it probably won’t help you sleep if it’s located in your bedroom.
But potential sleep woes aside, this is a great lava lamp, particularly if you’re after some speedy action. It warmed up faster than some of the other lamps, with the wax starting to get moving after just a few hours. True, there isn’t a vast quantity of wax in the lamp compared to some others, but that’s also why it gets moving so (relatively) quickly. It also creates attractive little pockets of “lava” that glide up and down the bottle. We were certainly entranced by it.
Key specs – Size: 38cm; Base colour: Dark blue; Lava colour: Light blue
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Price: £21 | Buy from Robert Dyas
The volcanic theme employed here has truly informed the whole design of this lamp. The base is a hot red and metallic yellow, creating a vibrant clash that feels very retro. The overall shape is a traditional cone on a triangular base.
We found the light from this lamp gave the warmest, cosiest feeling. Complementing the colour of the base, it’s a yellow light that fades out to red. Thanks to the gentle tones, it would work well in the bedroom as a sleep-enhancing light.
We found the wax in this lamp moved around nicely, taking about four hours to get going properly. This is a great option if you’re after a no-frills, standard lava lamp at a very reasonable price.
Key specs – Size: 36cm; Base colour: Red and yellow; Lava colour: Red
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Price: £35 | Buy from Glow
When it comes to both height and looks, this is by far and away the most eye-catching lava lamp we tested. This gently curved, tall lamp has a shape that actually resembles a long thread of lava moving upwards. Owing to the height, this lamp was the slowest to get going – well over four hours, in fact. And even then the wax didn’t “glob” around (for want of a better expression) quite as much as we expected, struggling to get warm enough to rise to the top of the bottle.
The movement was slower, too. The overall effect, though, felt more sophisticated than the others we tried. You don’t stare at it, so much as see it out of the corner of your eye. And thanks to the subtle yellow tones, it cast a lovely warm glow over our living room.
Key specs – Size: 40cm; Base colour: Gold; Lava colour: Yellow
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Price: £28 | Buy from Glow
If you’re looking for a hardcore, “take no prisoners” retro look, then this is the lava lamp for you. The combination of a black-and-white striped base and cap provide a seriously trippy, bold look. It’s not going to suit everyone’s décor, we concede. But we were surprised how much we, er, warmed to its very “in-your-face” style.
While the liquid in the bottle is clear, the lava is red. Once switched on, it takes about three to four hours to get the lava flowing nicely. But when it does it casts a lovely red glow. Even better, once that lava is moving about, it creates beautifully iconic 60s lava shapes.
The wax in this one flows really quickly, thanks to the shorter overall height, and this draws the eye to the lava lamp when it’s in a room. If you’re looking for a real focal point in your living space, this relatively small lava lamp certainly delivers when it comes to the wow factor.
Key specs – Size: 36cm; Base colour: White and black; Lava colour: Red
Buy now from GlowREAD NEXT: The best LED strip lights for ambient lightingBest glitter lava lamp: Vintage Blob Lamp Matt Black Sunset Glitter LampBest modern lava lamp: Addcore 38cm Blue Lava LampBest lava lamp under £30: Robert Dyas Volcano Lava LampBest high-impact lava lamp: Big Blob Metallic Gold Lava LampBest retro-look lava lamp: Blob Lamps Bulls Eye Lava LampREAD NEXT: The best SAD lamps you can buyPrice:Buy from Glow Key specs – Size:Base colour:Lava colour:Buy now from GlowPrice:Buy from Wayfair Key specs – Size:Base colour:Lava colour:Buy now from WayfairPrice:Buy from Robert Dyas Key specs – Size:Base colour:Lava colour:Buy now from Robert DyasPrice:Buy from Glow Key specs – Size:Base colour:Lava colour:Buy now from GlowPrice:Buy from Glow Key specs – Size:Base colour:Lava colour:Buy now from Glow