How Do Glow Sticks Work? Everything You Wanted To Know!

Glow sticks are a simple and safe way to add a truly cool light and color to any event. However, there are some basics facts about them that not everyone knows.

In this article, you’ll discover what is inside glow sticks, how they work, which colors last the longest, and a lot more!

The history of cool glow: who was the original inventor of the glow stick?

who was the original inventor of the glow stick

Did you know the first glow sticks were made by accident? In 1934, Swiss chemist Dr. Erwin Gerschau mixed two existing chemical substances together (phenyl oxalate with hydrogen peroxide) to create a glow stick. He tried the mixture on his fingers and was surprised when they glowed in the dark! The glow sticks were born.

I’m sure he never imagined them being used at glow parties, raves, indoor stadium special events, and concerts!

Modern day glow stick history

The original mass-marketed brand under the name Glow Stick was originally created & sold for emergency use where you don’t want an open flame or to have to rely on batteries that might die. This extremely reliable light source provided decent lighting for first responders to respond to emergency situations.

Now that decades have passed and they’ve become easier to buy and a lot more affordable, we see similar sticks being worn to concert shows and worn by costumed elementary schoolers. Even the present inventor of the modern (mass-produced) glowstick Dr. Edwin Chandross was surprised by the popularity for recreational use.

You can buy them today in all sorts of cool versions like bracelets, necklaces, and there were even some action figures during the 1980s that used a miniature version to make the figure illuminate from within. How cool is that?

When were they first used for fun and recreation?

The first known non-practical or emergency glow stick use instance was at a 1971 Grateful Dead concert in New Haven, Connecticut. Once that happened, the soft, cool glow made history and became a favorite of people everywhere.

How do glow sticks or light sticks work?

how do glow sticks or light sticks work

Glow sticks work by creating a chemical reaction that emits visible light. This is known as chemiluminescence which is the production of light with chemical reactions. This reaction emits visible light by exciting electrons within the core chemicals which then release energy in the form of photons through fluorescence.

The more complex molecules are used, the longer its light output lasts.

Once activated, they produce a beautiful and colorful glow in a dark environment like parties and dance nights for several hours. These glow products give an amazing look to your surroundings. They’re also used for safety, military, and other general use purposes, especially when the power fails or outdoors at night.

How long is the shelf life of glow sticks?

how long is the shelf life of glow sticks

The shelf life of glow sticks varies from brand to brand and the type/color glow stick it is. There are no definitive answers for expiration dates because they can range anywhere between 12 months up to 36+ months depending on what kind of glow stick you’re using (the higher end usually being long-lasting glowsticks that produce brighter colors).

One thing that definitely can make a difference in the long run is the storage temperature. Keeping them at room temperature – or even better, a cool place – will prolong their storage life. Hot temps are bad for their shelf life.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

frequently asked questions

Which color light stick glows the longest?

The glow sticks that last the longest are those which produce bright, vibrant colors such as blue and green. These tend to be slightly more expensive than other glowstick types but they’ll glow for longer periods of time so it might be worth your money in the long run.

The non-bright colored glow sticks glow for only about half the amount of time as brightly colored glowsticks.

Red and orange glow stick lights are somewhere in between green and blue when it comes to the length of glowing time. Of course, some factors like how cold or hot the environment affects how long a color glows.

How long do glow sticks last?

Glow stick light lasts anywhere between six and twelve hours depending on their colors. The amount of time each color lasts depends on how much dye there is inside of it but all colors will continue to glow for about 12 hours.

The glow stick will continue to glow until all of the dye has been used up which is why it’s important to make sure you pick a color that lasts as long as you want (blue and green last longer than pink or orange).

It’s important to remember that they’re also affected by temperature. In cold temperatures, they’ll glow less but last a bit longer while at room temperature or warm climates they’ll work great but have a bit less life expectancy.

Why do glow sticks crack when you bend them?

As you know, they produce light because of a chemical reaction that takes place between two solutions. The glow stick itself has the solutions that mix together separated by vials on both ends. These are usually made from glass or plastic.

When you bend it enough to break the hard seals and release the chemicals (their areas are often marked with a line on the outside of the stick), you’ll hear a crack. At that point, the chemicals mix and glow until they wear out.

In case you didn’t know, glow sticks work even in water, because the chemicals are encased within a plastic tube. In fact, underwater glow sticks can last for HOURS of swimming fun!

What color glowstick is best?

The glow stick industry offers a number of different colors, but the best glowstick color is blue because it has a long glow time. If you’re looking for something that will stand out at night, look for glow sticks in red and green.

Honestly, though, which fits your style best? Think about what you want first and secondly what will last the longest. If you’re needing them to last a long time for practical purposes, then by all means go for blue.

Why can the light in glow sticks be only used once?

That’s because once the energy from the chemical reactions has been spent as being converted to light output, it’s all gone. As you might recall from chemistry class, a chemical reaction can create a certain amount of released energy that does work by creating heat, light, or some other purpose.

That’s exactly what’s happening in this case.

Do dead glow sticks glow under black light?

No, used-up sticks don’t glow under black light. That’s because they are no longer producing the chemical reaction that makes them glow and able to glow under ultraviolet (UV) lights.

What can you do to activate a dead glow stick?

Any activated glow stick should glow if it is fresh and has not reached its expiration date yet, but once a glow stick expires or reaches beyond its shelf life there’s nothing you can do to make it work again. This could be due to the glow stick being exposed to heat or cold, but regardless of the reason, it won’t glow after that.

What glow stick color lasts the longest?

The glow sticks that last the longest are those which produce bright, vibrant colors such as blue and green. These tend to be slightly more expensive than other glowstick types but they’ll glow for longer periods of time so it might be worth your money in the long run. The non-bright colored glow sticks glow for only about half the amount of time as brightly colored glowsticks.

If you put a glow stick in the freezer what happens?

If you stick a glow stick in the freezer before using it, it will glow brighter than normal because when frozen they glow better. The solution is less viscous so more of the light-producing chemicals are able to mix together and react with one another. This causes a stronger glow that lasts longer inside cold environments. Don’t put glow sticks in the freezer for too long though because it can cause them to break/crack.

My advice is to let it reach room temperature before activating it and use it like you normally would. There’s not any real reason to use it in a freezer – you can’t magically make it last longer that way (although keeping it cool can help lengthen its life at the expense of having a dimmer glow).

Can glow sticks be taken apart?

Glow sticks are packaged under high pressure and sealed with a hard plastic cover so you won’t want to try taking them apart or cracking them open. It’s possible that the glow stick would survive but it wouldn’t be safe to use after being tampered with.