a peek inside the fishbowl

04 Jan, 2012

What happens when you blow bubbles in the dead of an Ottawa winter?

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy

Well, we decided to find out.

Yesterday I fashioned a wand out of a wire twist tie and mixed up a batch of bubble juice using water, Ivory dish soap, and a spoonful of glycerin (this is available at the pharmacy and makes the bubbles a little stronger). It’s recommended you let the mixture sit for 24 hours before using.

This is what happened. We discovered that you had to blow fast or it froze:

blow fast or...

And the bubbles popped differently than we expected:

winter bubbles

burst bubble

burst bubble

See this crumpled stuff that looks like cellophane? That was the bubble. (!)

That crumpled stuff that looks like cellophane? That was the bubble.

bubble wand

If we were lucky we saw them freeze up in mid-air:

frozen bubble

We observed a few interesting things:

  • It might have been our bubble mixture, but only one out of every 10 or so attempts turned into a bubble. It pays to be patient. Making bubbles in the winter is not the same as in the summer.
  • The bubbles seemed to move a little slower than they would in the summer
  • They popped slower too
  • They needed some time in the air in order to freeze
  • When they popped it was more of a collapse, and they left behind a cellophane type substance (as shown above). Methinks it’s dehydrated dish soap and glycerin.
  • Also, we should have worn mittens. :)

Tip: the bubble solution seemed to work better when it was really cold. I really recommend you try this!

Our second experiment was something I saw Dr. Yoni Freedhoff from Weighty Matters do last year.

Have you ever wondered what happens to boiling water when you throw it up in the air? We did! And here’s the answer:

Cool eh?

7 Responses to "What happens when you blow bubbles in the dead of an Ottawa winter?"

1 | Lorrie Douthwright

January 4th, 2012 at 11:06 am


Honestly Andrea! Get out of my head!

These are actually 2 things I wondered about and was going to attempt with the kids.

When people come in for a purely relaxation massage this is the sort of stuff my mind wanders too. :)

2 | Ginger

January 4th, 2012 at 11:40 am


That is so cool! I am guessing it won’t work where I live. We get below freezing at night in the winter…but not as far below freezing as you do! However…if we get another really cold snap this winter (which seems pretty iffy since we are having a very mild winter) I might try and see what happens though! And the snow thing! So awesome!

3 | Fadra

January 4th, 2012 at 1:06 pm


This must be the winter equivalent of when southern Americans try to literally fry an egg in the middle of summer (sometimes it works!)

Thanks for appealing to the former science teacher in me!

4 | Amber

January 4th, 2012 at 1:10 pm


Cool experiments! Also, I appreciate the documentation, because I don’t think I could pull these things off in the dead of a Vancouver winter. Or, more accurately, a Vancouver rainy season. I have to live vicariously!

5 | Brenda A

January 4th, 2012 at 1:47 pm


Super shots! That looks like a lot of fun!

6 | Sally

January 16th, 2012 at 8:17 am


My inner child wants to run outside and try this. Alas no bubbles in the house! Thanks for this and for showing the video – definitely have to try that!

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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