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How To Make Floam

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Floam can be scultped into shapes or used to coat other objects.

Floam can be scultped into shapes or used to coat other objects.

Anne Helmenstine

Floam™ is like slime with polystyrene beads in it, that kids can mold into shapes. You can sculpt with it or use it to coat other objects. You can store it to reuse it or allow it to dry, if you want permanent creations. It's a lot of fun, but not always easy to locate. I've seen it in some stores and online, but you can make a type of 'Floam' yourself. As with slime, it's very safe, though anything containing food coloring can stain surfaces. Don't eat 'Floam'. Polystyrene beads simply aren't food.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: quick project -- only takes minutes

Here's How:

  1. Dissolve 2 tsp. borax completely in 1/2 cup (4 oz.) water. (2 tsp. of borax will produce a stiff product. If you want slimier, more flexible 'Floam', then try 1 tsp. borax instead.)
  2. In a separate container, mix 1/4 cup (2 oz.) white glue and 1/4 cup (2 oz.) water. Stir in food coloring.
  3. Pour the glue solution and the polystyrene beads into a plastic bag. Add borax solution and knead it until it's well mixed. Use 1 T. of the borax solution for a very fluid Floam, 3 T. for average Floam, and the entire amount for stiff Floam.
  4. To keep your Floam, store it in a sealed bag in the refrigerator (discourages mold). Otherwise, you can allow it to dry into whatever shape you have chosen.

Tips:

  1. How it works: borax reacts to crosslink the polyvinyl acetate molecules in the glue. This forms a flexible polymer.
  2. If you use a 4% solution of polyvinyl alcohol instead of glue, you will get a more transparent product that will hold shapes better.
  3. Polystyrene beads can be found at craft stores (e.g., JoAnn Fabrics), usually as fillers for bean bags or dolls. You can grind Styrofoam™ cups using a cheese grater, if you like.

What You Need:

  • 2 tsp. borax
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white glue (e.g., Elmer's)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • food coloring
  • resealable plastic bag
  • 1 1/3 c. polystyrene beads

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