Sparklers are by far the most readily-available type of fireworks on Earth. They are even found at gas stations and grocery stores during certain parts of the year. For most people, there is always a place nearby to buy sparklers year-round. However, there are still a variety of reasons that someone may be interested in making homemade sparklers. For instance, this could be cool for a school Science teacher looking for a fun chemistry experiment. Fortunately, the basic recipe is not very complicated and you can make them mainly from items that are easily found and relatively safe with proper handling.
However, it is very important to understand the risks involved with making your own sparklers. Personally, I do not condone working with pyrotechnic compounds without proper training and certification. Moreover, our company is certainly not in favor of this practice either. Frankly, certain compounds and processes used to make sparklers commercially are completely prohibited for civilian use. In this post, I will cover how they are made, what is restricted, and why it is best left to the professionals.
DIY Homemade Sparkler Recipes
There are two common recipes for making homemade sparklers that are regarded as the “standard”. We did not create these recipes; they are readily available across the internet. The first one is the simplest list of ingredients while the second requires special compounds and more sophisticated methods to put together. Again, I do not encourage anyone to make these recipes at home; but I feel like the information should be at your disposal. Here they each are in full detail.
*PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MAKE SPARKLERS AT HOME. If you decide to try either of these recipes, YOU DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK. These recipes are for informational purposes only, and are publicly available on many websites. We are not responsible for any use or misuse of this information, and strongly urge you to leave this to the professionals.
Recipe #1: Simple Homemade Sparklers
This simple recipe doesn’t require any special knowledge whatsoever. They can be made using ordinary items found in many homes across the country. Unfortunately, they will not perform the same as commercially made sparklers because they are chemically different. However, they will create sparks in the color purple; and that can be enticing to many DIY scientists and chemists. Here is the recipe.
- 60mL of Hot Water (Purified water will make the highest quality finished product)
- 36g of Potassium Nitrate (Found in many household products including stump remover)
- 24g of Sugar (I prefer to use regular white granulated sugar.)
- Cotton Yarn (NOT yarn made from synthetic compounds like polyester; it MUST be cotton!)
- Hot Wax (Paraffin wax is best, but you can use the wax from any type of candle if necessary)
- In a large container, combine the potassium nitrate and sugar and then add the hot water. The goal is to completely dissolve the dry chemicals together in the water. I prefer to use a 2 quart water pitcher.
- Cut a section of yarn around 3 meters in length. Completely soak the yarn in the mixture and try to achieve uniform coverage on all of the surfaces.
- Using a cookie sheet, lay out the yarn sections. Spacing the yarn is the most important factor; don’t waste your time trying to make straight lines. You will be able to make them straight in a later step.
- Preheat your oven to 300 °F and place the cookie sheet in the oven. In around 20 minutes, the water will have evaporated and your homemade sparklers are done drying. However, DO NOT FORGET ABOUT THEM IN THE OVEN! If they are left in the oven for over an hour, they may begin to smoke or even catch fire. Optionally, you can let them dry overnight on the counter.
- Once removed from the oven, allow them to cool completely; about 1 hour. Using scissors, cut each section of yarn into straight pieces around 12 inches in length.
- Melt your wax, and dip about 3 inches of each piece of yarn into the wax. This will be your “handle”. The wax will prevent that section from executing and will prevent an injury to your hand. Optionally, you can use an external item such as pliers, tongs, or a clothespin to hold the yarn as it burns. However, the wax is the most elegant and “finished” choice.
Recipe #2: Advanced DIY Sparklers
This recipe for DIY sparklers is much more advanced than the first. It requires a lot more experience and less common materials. This method should only be done by qualified people such as school Science teachers as a teaching aide. However, the result will be much more akin to the products you find on store shelves. The end result will be a sparkler that is chemically similar to the real ones. Please do not attempt to make these if you are not familiar with chemistry and certified to handle all of the necessary compounds. Here is the recipe.
- 200g of Strontium Nitrate
- 120g of Steel Powder
- 32g of Aluminum Flakes
- 6g of Boric Acid
- 2g of Charcoal (Not the Kingsford charcoal you have in your garage)
- 100mL of 25% Rubbing Alcohol (A concentration of 25% alcohol and 75% water)
- 40g of Dextrin
- Pieces of Wire or Wooden Sticks (Bamboo skewers or craft wire are good options)
- Clothespins and String (For easily drying your DIY sparklers)
- In a large bowl, combine the strontium nitrate, steel powder, aluminum powder, and charcoal.
- In a separate bowl, combine approximately ¼ of your alcohol solution (roughly 25mL) and the dextrin. It should be the consistency of loose paste. Try to break up any clumps of dextrin as best you can, then carefully remove and discard any clumps or chunks that remain. Taking your time here will pay off in the end result.
- Combine the dextrin paste with the dry ingredients from step 1. Mix them together thoroughly.
- Slowly add more of the alcohol solution. You want to create a smooth mixture that resembles thin pancake batter in consistency. It can take between an additional 50mL to 75mL depending on how detailed you were creating the dextrin slurry.
- Hang a piece of string between two places and attach some clothespins. Lay some plastic or drop clothes under the string; this is where you will be hanging your sparklers as they dry and they may produce drips.
- Prepare your wire or sticks in a pile next to your bowl of slurry compound; these will become your handles. Carefully dip each handle into the slurry leaving a few inches at the end for a place to hold your homemade sparklers. Hang each one from a clothespin to dry. I suggest repeating the process at least twice for each sparkler; ideally dipping them 3 times each for the best results.
- Allow them to dry completely before using them. Generally, I suggest at least 24 hours; but the longer the better. These can be more difficult to light than the ones you get at the store, so I suggest a butane torch with a large, hot, and concentrated flame.
Benefits of Making Your Own Sparklers
If you are interested in making your own sparklers as a way to save money, it’s a bad investment. Overall, the cost of all the materials and equipment will be much greater than the retail price of traditional sparklers; and that doesn’t even factor in your time! Honestly, the only practical benefit from these recipes is for educational and informational purposes. Combining materials to create useful compounds is captivating, and it can draw in your students to learning. Furthermore, they can be a fun project anyone with the qualifications to do so. Personally, I’ll just choose the ones off the shelf.
Risks and Legal Concerns Regarding Homemade Sparklers
Unfortunately, there are a lot of recipes out there that encourage restricted compounds or manufacturing processes. If you look hard enough, you can find anything on the internet. However, I’m proud to say that these two recipes use completely legal methods and materials; though should still only be considered by qualified people. After researching many concepts, these are the two that I felt most comfortable with sharing.
That fact of the matter is that there is a fine line between a cool science experiment and a dangerous situation. Sadly, some of the homemade sparkler recipes out there encourage the use of very caustic items without even describing the proper way to handle them. Proper education and experience are vital when engaging in any science project. If you aren’t 100% confident that you know what you’re doing, please do not attempt to make them.