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How To Grow a Big Alum Crystal

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Alum crystals are probably the easiest crystals to grow.

Alum crystals are probably the easiest crystals to grow. The chemical is non-toxic and the crystals grow quickly and reliably.

Anne Helmenstine

Alum is found in the 'spices' section of the grocery store. That little jar contains small white crystals that, with a bit of time and effort, you can grow a big alum crystal.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: Days to Weeks

Here's How:

  1. Pour 1/2 cup of hot tap water into a clean jar.
  2. Slowly stir in alum, a little at a time, until it stops dissolving. Don't add the whole amount - just enough to saturate the water.
  3. Loosely cover the jar with a coffee filter or paper towel (to keep dust out) and allow the jar to sit undisturbed overnight.
  4. The next day, pour the alum solution from the first jar into the clean jar. You will see small alum crystals at the bottom of the jar. These are 'seed' crystals that you will use to grow a big crystal.
  5. Tie nylon fishing line around the largest, best-shaped crystal. Tie the other end to a flat object (e.g., popsicle stick, ruler, pencil, butter knife). You will hang the seed crystal by this flat object into the jar far enough so that it will be covered in liquid, but won't touch the bottom or sides of the jar. It may take a few tries to get the length just right.
  6. When you have the right string length, hang the seed crystal in the jar with the alum solution. Cover it with the coffee filter and grow a crystal!
  7. Grow your crystal until you are satisfied with it. If you see crystals starting to grow on the sides or bottom of your jar, carefully remove your crystal, pour the liquid into the clean jar, and put the crystal in the new jar. Other crystals in the jar will compete with your crystal for alum, so it won't be able to get as big if you let these crystals grow.

Tips:

  1. You can use sewing thread or other string instead of nylon fishing line, but crystals will grow on the entire length of the submerged string. Crystals don't adhere to nylon, so if you use it, you can get bigger, better crystals.
  2. Alum is an ingredient used to make pickles. It makes them crispy.

What You Need:

  • 1/2 c hot tap water
  • 2-1/2 T alum
  • nylon fishing line
  • pencil, ruler, or knife
  • 2 clean jars
  • spoon
  • coffee filter/paper towel

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