When I was a kid, you could make giant, long-lasting soap bubbles with nothing but Dawn dish detergent and water. Trying this with my daughter last spring, I was disappointed by the results. According to bubble enthusiasts on the Internet, Dawn changed their formula in 1996, and there is no commercial detergent that produces as good a bubble solution as “Old Dawn” did. Modern Dawn is still considered better than any commercial alternatives, but it needs to be supplemented to get near the results we used to get by just adding water.

There are a confusing number of ways people suggest to do this. All the recipes I read involve specialized ingredients and multi-step procedures. The theories backing various recipes lack clear evidence, in part because the precise ingredients of the commercial detergents themselves are a trade secret and change over time. There does not seem to be any consensus on which approach works the best, and it’s difficult for anyone to systematically test because results may depend on many variables, including weather.

This is one of the simpler recipes—in terms of ingredients and process—and it gives me results about as good as I remember from my childhood with Old Dawn. The source, which is more detailed, is linked below. It is credited to Edward Spiegel.


  • 0.5 grams (~14 teaspoon) J-Lube powder
  • 0.5 grams (~18 teaspoon) Citric acid powder
  • 6 tablespoons Dawn Pro or 4 tablespoons Dawn Ultra
  • 7.5 cups water
  • 0.5 cups warm water

Note: The polymers in J-Lube break down over time into smaller chains, diminishing its effect. Store it in the freezer to slow this process. The recipe I am basing this suggests that up to four times as much J-Lube should be used if it is “degraded”.


  1. Put J-Lube and citric acid in a rocks glass. Err on the low side with the citric acid because too much will completely ruin the result.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon Dawn and stir it with a fork into a lumpless slurry.
  3. Add another tablespoon and stir.
  4. Add the remainder of the Dawn (2 more tablespoons Ultra or 4 more Pro) and stir.
  5. Add 0.5 cups warm water and stir for several minutes.
  6. Add the soapy polymer mixture to 7.5 cups water and mix.
  7. For best results, let it sit overnight.


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