Inexpensive Snow Machine Fluid

If you have an artificial snow machine, you know how expensive fluid can be.  Despite all those dire warnings about voiding your warranty, the following recipe works great and won't damage your machine.

I personally think the warnings about using 'other than approved' fluids are bunk - simply there to make you purchase their outrageously priced fluids.  Buying a new printer is similar:  the price is LOW for a whole new printer simply because the company knows you are now on the hook to buy their expensive inks.  (My Samsung color laser printer is probably the worst.  The printer new cost $399.  4 replacement toner cartridges are $360 + shipping.) 

For another example, look to 'carpet cleaning machines'.  All of them warn that only their cleaning solution can be used, but a quick scan of all the cleaning solutions finds the phrase 'Works with ALL machines!'.  I have serious doubts that there is anything in a home made fluid that could 'damage' your snow machine.  I have several reasons for this. 

  1. Snow machines are NOT 'precision' instruments.  The fluid handling part of mine is a small table-top fountain pump, some plastic tubing, and a fabric 'sock'.
  2. Snow Fluids (including those you purchase) are mostly WATER.  I'll bet you do MORE damage to your snow machine if you use tap water instead of distilled.
  3. Everything in snow fluid has to be safe enough to be used around humans. 
  4. Machine makers say you can only use THEIR fluid.  Fluid makers say their solution is safe for ALL machines.  There is a disconnect there.

Typically the manufactures all claim that using other fluids will damage the delicate 'pump' in the machine.  Take a look at this picture of 3 pumps:

These pumps are all from around my house: One is from my tile wet saw, another from a garden fountain, and the 3'rd from my snow machine.  Can you tell which is which?  If you look closely, 2 pumps are identical.  Those 2 pumps are from the wet saw and the snow machine.  If you have ever worked with a tile saw, you know that the water becomes saturated with very abrasive tile dust.  If this slurry doesn't kill a pump, my snow fluid recipe has NO chance!

At one time, someone tried to tell me that the longer this home made fluid sat around, the more harmful it would become to the snow machine.  I don't believe this to be true either.  The following picture shows the fluid I made over 4 months ago is still as clear as the day it was made.

 


I have to confess that this isn't exactly my recipe.  I did find a few on the net and have modified them slightly.  I tested this exact solution with my Amazing Snowman for 20 minutes and had no problems.

Recipe:

  • 8 oz (1 cup) regular Mr. Bubble bubble bath
  • 8 oz (1 cup) rubbing alcohol
  • 1 to 3 gallons of distilled water

The amount of water is variable.  If you want bigger fluffier flakes, use LESS water and turn your machine DOWN (think flurries).  If you want a higher quantity of smaller flakes use more water and turn the machine UP (think ice storm).  I would not exceed 3 gallons of water.  I've had the solution over 4, but the flakes were not up-to-par.

Directions:
Pour 1 gallon of distilled water into a large clean bucket.  Add the Mr. Bubble and mix.  Add the rubbing alcohol and mix again.  Note:  Add the alcohol to the water and not the other way around since alcohol and water react creating heat.  At this point you can test the fluid in your machine and add more water as desired.  The distilled water jug is great for storing your fluid, but be careful when pouring the mix back into the jug.  Even using a funnel will introduce air into the mix and cause it to foam.  If you are not watching, you'll have bubble foam EVERYWHERE Innocent (I speak from experience on THAT one!)

Cost:

  • 1 Gallon of Distilled Water: $.89
  • Rubbing Alcohol: $1.19 (16 oz, so the per-batch cost is $.60)
  • Mr Bubble: $3.79 (40 oz, per batch cost of $.76)

The total cost is $2.25 for just over 1 gallon of solution.  Total cost will go down the more water you add to a batch.  I use 2 gallons of water in my solution, making each gallon $1.57.



Notes:

Recipes on the net all seemed to insist on wintergreen rubbing alcohol.   I tried with both regular and wintergreen and found no difference between the 2, other than the regular alcohol fluid smelled a bit better.  The scent of the wintergreen alcohol just doesn't go with the scent of Mr. Bubble.  In both cases once the fluid is turned into snow by the machine, there is no scent.

The 'snow' looks no different than the snow created by the expensive fluids, blows as high, sticks together as much, the whole 9 yards.  The only slight difference I could detect is that the snow is a little bit more 'wet'.  If yours seems too wet, you can try using less water the next time or increasing the amount of alcohol.

 



For you Aussies....

Steve from down under was nice enough to write me and let me know that the following will work:

"I used "Fun Time" "Space Bubbles" available from Coles and Woolwoths stores at $1.94 per litre, Distilled Water and 80% raw home brew Alcohol. The ratio per 5 litres of mix was 60ml of Bubble Bath, 90ml of Alcohol and 4850ml Distilled Water. PERFECT. Cost was $2.40 per 5 litres."

Thanks Steve!!!!