How To Make Game of Thrones Wildfire

Green Wildfire (though it won't melt stone or flesh)

While there isn't a (safe) formula for real Game of Thrones wildfire, you can make green flames that look the part.
While there isn't a (safe) formula for real Game of Thrones wildfire, you can make green flames that look the part. Gav Gregory / EyeEm, Getty Images

Wildfire is the fictional green green substance used in George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy world to immolate foes when dragon fire isn't handy and swords just aren't enough. According to the HBO Game of Thrones series, the liquid burns in the presence of urine and "burns so hot it melts woodstone... even steel... and, of course, flesh!" Oh, and it burns with an emerald green flame. In the television series and Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novel, the secret of wildfire was pyromancer magic, but we all know the best magic is simply science that isn't well-understood, right?

Martin's fictional goo resembles modern napalm (except for the green color) and "Greek fire", a real-life weapon used during the Byzantine era (also, probably not green).

Make (a Safer) Wildfire

This wildfire recipe won't be of much use if you want to melt stone, but it makes nice ambiance lighting when you're reading Martin's books or need to find your way back to the kitchen for a snack during Game of Thrones. I've got two versions for you. The first is a green liquid that burns bright, vivid green. The second is a green gel. It spreads out nicely, like pyromancer wildfire, but it doesn't burn as long or as a brightly.

Wildfire Materials

  • Borax (I used Roach killer because I live in The South and it's easy to find small amounts that way. Large containers of borax are sold as a laundry booster (20 Mule Team) and cleaning powder. Borax is also sold on Amazon.)
  • Green Food Coloring
  • Methanol (Methyl alcohol is available as Heet fuel treatment or as a lab chemical. Heet is also available on Amazon.)
  • Hand Sanitizer Gel (The alcohol based stuff is what you want. You only need this if you're making the gel.)
  • Heat-safe container. (I used borosilicate glass because I wanted to see the pretty green liquid, but metal or stoneware will work just fine.)

Yes, I know borax and methanol are hard to find in certain countries.

You can get a similar result using high proof grain alcohol or rubbing alcohol and copper(II) sulfate (usually sold as an algicide). It's not as good as the borax-methanol mixture, though, so don't substitute if you don't have to do so.

Let's Make Wildfire

  1. Pour a bit of methanol into your container. You don't need a lot. Don't taste it (you'll get a headache or go blind if you drink enough) and don't splash around in it (it's absorbed through your skin). There are warnings on the label you'd do well to read. Oh, and it's flammable, but that's kind of the whole point.
  2. Stir in a drop of green food coloring. Pretty right?
  3. Break up any clumps in your borax and stir a spoonful into the liquid. You don't need an exact measurement. It only takes a small amount to get green flames. If you add too much, you'll have white sediment in the bottom of your container.
  4. Light your creation and admire the pretty green fire. If you do this indoors, be advised your smoke alarm likely will sound (mine did). Blow out the flames when you're sufficiently amused.
  5. Now, if you want to make a gel out of this, you can stir in hand sanitizer until you get the consistency you want. Hand sanitizer is a mixture of water and ethyl alcohol. Because there is ethanol in it, you can mix it in with the methanol without too much trouble. Adding the water also means you have a chance to add powdered copper(II) sulfate, which dissolves in water, but not so well in alcohol. You don't need to add copper sulfate... I'm just throwing it out there as an option.
  1. Ignite the gel. Still green, but not quite as bright, right?
  2. If you want to try again, all you need to do is add more methanol. It is important you only add more fuel after the flames have been extinguished. Use common sense. You can blow out the flames. You can also extinguish the fire with water, but then you won't be able to re-light it.

Green Wildfire Napalm

I also tried making napalm burn with a green flame. Don't know how to make napalm? It's super easy. You can make Napalm B by adding polystyrene (e.g., Styrofoam) to either toluene or gasoline until you get a nice gelatinous flammable goo. Coloring napalm isn't difficult at all. I added green food coloring and got "wildfire" that looked like the stuff Tyrion used at the Battle of Blackwater Bay. It even burns nice and hot (about 1200°C or 2200°F).

The problem is, it's not easy to make it burn green because sodium and other impurities mask the color of the flame! I had some success sprinkling copper sulfate over the napalm, but it wasn't anything to write home about. One chemical you can add to napalm to get it to burn green might be barium (harvested from a green sparkler, if you have one handy). I haven't tried it, so you can conduct your own experiment.

Safety Considerations

Yes, this is real fire. Yes, it can burn you or ignite your hair or clothing if you spill it while it's lit, just like any other type of alcohol lamp. Responsible adult supervision is required. Responsible is the key word. Don't play pyromancer.

Wildfire, Greek Fire, and Burning on Water

Although it wasn't green, "Greek fire" or "sea fire" was a real incendiary weapon used in naval battles from around 672 onward into the 12th century. It's formulation is unknown, but may have included ingredients such as pine resin, calcium phosphide, naphtha, niter, quicklime, and sulfur. It was almost certainly a mixture based on bitumen, petroleum, or sulfur. While the mixture floated on water, it's unclear whether or not it could actually be ignited by water. An Italian recipe from the 16th century that supposedly burns under water is made from willow coal, sulfur, wool, camphor, incense, alcohol and some sort of burning salt and pegola (whatever that is).

You can try to decipher the Italian text, or just rely on modern chemistry to ignite a green flame with a drop of water.