How to Make an Epsom Salt Crystal Ornament

How to Make an Epsom Salt Crystal Ornament

Astound your children by turning a pipe cleaner into a delicate crystalline decoration! 

This craft is easy to accomplish with minimal mess. Enjoy it as a simple handicraft project or take it a step further and learn some of the science behind the activity.

This particular tutorial uses a star shape, but of course, you can form the ornament into whatever shape you’d like for any holiday or just everyday crafting! 

  • Make letters and to spell out initials, names, or words.
  • Make leaf or pumpkin shapes from orange pipe cleaners for fall.
  • Make hearts out of red pipe cleaners for Valentine’s Day.

If your shape is large, you may need to create a double batch of epsom salt solution. For multiple children doing this craft, each child will need their own crystal forming solution. Or you could mix up a much larger batch and suspend multiple ornaments into it as long as they aren’t touching each other or the sides of your container. 

Supplies Needed Per Ornament

  • 1 cup water, hot but not boiling
  • 1 cup epsom salt
  • embroidery thread, string, bakers twine, or ribbon
  • scissors
  • 1 pipe cleaner 
  • 1 stick, straw, or pencil
  • jar or other container* 

*Make sure your container is wide and deep enough to submerge your pipe cleaner ornament in the epsom salt solution without touching any edges or the bottom of the jar. 

Epsom Salt Crystal Ornament Directions

Read through all the directions and watch the video first so you have the big picture of where this craft is heading. Then go back and follow the steps one by one.

Step 1

Step 1: Bend the pipe cleaner into your desired shape and twist the two ends together. (For more elaborate shapes, you can use two pipe cleaners. Just make sure they are securely connected.)

Step 2

Loosely tie a piece of thread or string through one tip of the pipe cleaner star, being sure to leave plenty of leftover length for tying to the pencil in step 5. This thread will eventually be discarded, so its appearance doesn’t really matter.

Step 3

Step 3: Add the epsom salts to the hot water and stir until fully dissolved. Pour the solution into your container. 


Step 4

Step 4: Using the thread you added in step 2, tie your ornament onto a stick or pencil so that the ornament can be easily suspended in the epsom salt solution without sinking to the bottom of the container or touching the sides. 

Step 5

Step 5: Holding the pencil, lower the star into the solution and balance the stick over the top of the container. (If your threads are long enough to fall into the solution, they will form crystals, too. So snip them off or pull them to the side.)

Set the container aside where it won’t be disturbed and allow it to cool to room temperature. How fast the crystals form depends on temperature. If you have a cool house and leave it on the counter, it can take 24 to 48 hours to form the crystals. A warmer house will result in slower crystal formation. However, you can speed up the process by chilling your project in the refrigerator for 10 or more hours.


Step 6

After the crystals have formed to your liking, carefully lift the star out of the mixture. Discard the water then lower the star back in a glass to fully dry.

The end results can vary greatly depending on how small your shape is and how long you leave it soaking. For example, in the photos here, the smaller, tighter star is more completely covered in crystals not only because it’s a more compact shape but also because it was left soaking in the epsom salt solution for a longer time. After 10 hours in the refrigerator or 24 hours at room temperature, check the progress of your ornament every few hours and remove it from the solution when you have the desired amount of crystals.

Step 7

When the crystals are fully dry, snip off the original thread for suspending it in the epsom salt solution. Then add your choice of decorative ribbon, thread, or string for hanging your ornament. The crystals are delicate, so be careful during this step.

Science Background

To take the activity farther, learn some of the science behind your activity. 

Read pages 66-67 from the Usborne Illustrated Elementary Science Dictionary, part of Science E Package. Discuss solutions, suspensions, and separating mixtures. Ask your children these questions about the activity:

Q. What is our solute? 

A. The epsom salts

Q. What is our solvent?

A. The hot water

Q. Did we create a solution or a suspension

A. Solution

Q. How did we partially separate our mixture?

A. By letting the epsom salts reform as crystals on the pipe cleaner, we removed much (but not all) of it from the liquid solution. 

Q. How could we remove all the epsom salts from the solution?

A. By boiling it or simply allowing it to evaporate naturally.


Then watch the video embedded below to see how crystals are formed.

Q. Look at the seven types of crystal shapes here.

  1. Cubic or Isometric
  2. Orthorhombic 
  3. Monoclinic 
  4. Triclinic 
  5. Trigonal
  6. Hexagonal
  7. Tetragonal

Q. What shape are our epsom salt crystals?

A. Monoclinic—cylindrical rods or spikes

Q. What is the chemical name of epsom salts?

A. Magnesium sulfate (MgSO₄)

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Want more hands-on projects? For science activities, shop BookShark’s Science Experiments + Science Kit combos (or opt for the complete science curriculum packages they are part of).

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