Old Lava Lamps – Complete Overview And FAQ

A lava lamp is a charming type of lamp that should adorn the home of any collector. With time, they get older and tend to expire and break. Their life expectancy is around 2000 hours.

With that said, old lava lamps always bring a bunch of questions regarding their life expectancy, such as – “can they expire”, “how to revive them”, “is there a way to fix them”, etc.

In this article, we’ll go through the most common FAQ about old lava lamps, but first, let’s go through the main definitions on this subject.

Brief history and overview of lava lamps

The lava lamp is a well-known type of lamp designed by British entrepreneur Edward Craven Walker, the founder of Mathmos

The first prototype of a lava lamp was made in the 1960s, but the idea was not taken up by manufacturers at the time. Walker then created Mathmos and developed a new manufacturing technique, which would allow him to mass-produce the lamps.

The first lava lamp was sold commercially in 1975. In 1978, he received a patent for the lamp design.

The lamp is characterized by the fact that it consists of a (recognizable to all) mixture of colored wax and liquid inside a glass vessel of longitudinal shape. The unique wax-moving effect we see happens due to the box that is under the glass vessel itself. Inside is a light bulb whose heat causes a magical change in the texture of the wax.

We’ve also made a detailed post on how the lava lamps work.

Old Lava Lamps FAQ

Since there are quite a lot of questions regarding the age and functionality of old lava lamps, we decided to group them up here and answer them in a single FAQ. Here it goes!

Which lava lamp is the oldest?

The oldest (…or the first) lava lamp ever was made in 1963! As we already stated, it’s created by the company Mathmos.

The first two lava lamp models were called ‘Astro‘ and ‘Astro Baby‘. They are still selling!

Can lava lamps expire?

The answer to this question is yes, even though their lifespan varies from brand to brand.

Mathmos lava lamps have a life expectancy of 2000 hours. The lightbulbs/batteries must be changed regularly too.

You should take care of it properly if you’re going to use it as a decorative fixture.

Can you fix the cloudy lava lamp?

If your lava lamp has become cloudy, it means its lifespan is practically over and it would be best if you buy the new one.

In case you want to try to repair it by yourself, follow these steps:

1. Unplug the lava lamp (make sure it’s turned off)
2. Open the top of the lava lamp by unscrewing its cap
3. Slowly pour out the water and make sure the wax is moving as little as possible
4. Gently pour the same amount of new, cold water inside of the lava lamp while it’s at a 45-90 degree angle (do not disturb the wax)
5. Easily stir/shake the water and pour it out again
6. Repeat this process until the glass is clean (most likely 3-4 times)
7. When you’re done with cleaning repeat step 4 for the last time
8. Make sure the lamp is dry
9. Turn the lamp on
10. Add 2 drops of dish soap to a lamp
11. Add approx. 4 tablespoons of Epsom salts in a cup of warm water and stir it up so it melts
12. Take a straw and patiently start adding drops of saltwater to the lava lamp 
13. When the wax starts breaking up in smaller segments, put the cap back on.

How long can a lava lamp stay on?

According to Mathmos, lava lamps should not be used for more than six hours per day. That extends the lifespan and makes sure your lava lamp is in the best form.

Are lava lamps banned?

Lava lamps are not banned.

Some people mistake this with the fact that carbon tetrachloride – an organic compound used in lava lamps, was banned in1970 due to its toxicity.

It was banned for consumer products overall. 

Are old lava lamps dangerous?

Old lava lamps can be dangerous if they are not used properly – safety always comes first.

Some of the general safety guidelines are:

1. Make sure your lava lamp comes from a reputable source/brand
2. Unplug before cleaning
3. Lamp should be in a room with a temperature from 20-40

Lava lamps, just like ordinary lighting, can affect mood and productivity.

Are old lava lamps worth anything?

As with all things, there are also collectors of old lava lamps.

There are no general guidelines for the price, though. We recommend you check out the prices of old lava lamps yourself, be it online or in your local antique store, and ask a professional to measure the price.


In conclusion, if you have an old lava lamp, it does not necessarily mean that it will soon break down and become cloudy. Even if it becomes, you can clean and repair it.

The most important thing about old lava lamps is to keep using them properly (according to instructions).

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