Did your 9-year-old casually ask for a gallon jug of glue and a bottle of contact lens solution for her birthday? Has your leftover Easter food coloring mysteriously disappeared? Is your baking cupboard running light on baking soda and cornstarch?
Guess what, folks: You’ve been slimed. More accurately, you have a slimer on your hands.
But you already knew that. You’ve been dealing with the gloppy dishes and ubiquitous sticky handprints. You’ve spent hours corralling your young scientist’s creations away from the carpet, the furniture and your own body. You’re cursing whatever cultural forces have turned you into a disgruntled Ghostbuster in your own home.
You’re not alone. Slime is having a moment, its biggest one since Nickelodeon started marketing the green goop it spews on celebrities as Gak — a fun, gross product to torment your mom with — in the ’90s.
This time, the internet is driving the phenomenon. A search for slime videos on YouTube brings up over 60 million responses. On Instagram over 12 million posts are tagged slime, and on the makers marketplace Etsy you can browse over 60,000 slimes for sale, with refining categories like butter, clear, crunchy and fishbowl. The latter involves bubbly plastic vase filler beads mixed into colorful clear slime with the occasional faux aquatic creature suspended in the jelly.
“In the last couple years, tactile toys have become super, super popular,” says Robby Pettinato, brand director for Austin, Texas, indie toy emporium, Toy Joy. It’s a toy category that includes various putties, kinetic sand and even fidget spinners. “I’d say in the last two years is when slime — the really icky, gooey, drippy, weird texture kind of product — that’s when that became such a really big category for us.”
And he blames — er, credits — YouTube.
“So much of the toy industry is dictated now by YouTube, because there’s so many young kids that have their own channels, and that’s what other kids are getting all their media intake from,” he says. Slime was particularly well-primed for a YouTube explosion. “It’s this multifaceted toy. Not only is it a fun thing to play with for all ages, ultimately, but there’s the whole process of making it yourself, which is also a really cool thing. There’s a science aspect to it,” he says. “There’s a whole education aspect to it, where a lot of schools are making it in the science classes.”
While YouTube is the go-to spot for slime tutorials, reviews and general slime goofing, artsier slime videos ooze through Instagram. Manicured hands massage shimmering globules in hypnotic rhythms, creating oddly soothing crackling and popping noises. The photo- and video-based social media platform is where 15-year-old Jay Kang, owner of the successful slime business Snoop Slimes, slipped into the slime craze in its early days.
“During the summer of 2016, I started looking through Instagram because I was really bored and I had nothing to do during summer,” the Round Rock, Texas, high school student says. “I was just scrolling down on Instagram and I found this one post about this Gak-looking thing.”
Intrigued, she dug deeper and located a few accounts run by slime sellers. She direct messaged one of them, who explained that what she was seeing was slime and it was getting popular on Instagram. The young entrepreneur decided she wanted to create her own account and start selling slime, but her parents talked her out of it. She was only 12. They worried about safety. And what did she know about running a business anyway?
She spent the next year combing the internet, gathering information about online sales, packing and shipping and how to set up an Etsy account, and in 2017, as a seventh-grader, she convinced her parents she was ready.
It took her roughly a month to get her business off the ground. Unsure how fast her slime would move, she started with just a few bottles of glue, but after three weeks, a steady stream of orders was flowing in. She mixed plastic fruits and flowers into her slimes and added scents. She expanded her line from clear slimes to creamier butter slimes and floams (crunchy slimes that incorporate plastic microbeads to create different textures and sonic effects). Within a year, she was able to move her business from her family’s home to a nearby office park.
These days, Snoop Slimes has over 2 million followers on Instagram. Kang manages a staff of four. One room of her office has two industrial-size mixers and another is lined with stacks upon stacks of clear plastic bins filled with beads, tiny plastic animals and all other manner of whimsical curiosities that she orders wholesale to mix into her slimes.
Kang has a collection of slimes that are always available for purchase online, but like most successful slimers, she creates special limited-edition slimes that she sells in weekly restock events. Recent specialty slimes include a “Beauty and the Beast” clear slime with floating teapot, teacup and rose charms, a chocolate-scented Choco Mousse Butter Slime and a fluffy Magic Kingdom Cloud Slime that features mouse ear-shaped sprinkles and smells like rainbow sherbet. Every Friday at 8 p.m., she makes the custom slimes available, and many of them sell out rapidly.
Between the restock slimes and her standard collection, Kang estimates she sells about 1,500 slimes a week. Balancing school and marching band practice, she spends roughly two hours a night on her business, much of it making the aesthetically adventurous videos that cement her status as a slime influencer. She tries to post a video a day. Many of them don’t involve slimes she sells.
“I just want to try mixing new things in, and sometimes I just make videos out of random ideas,” she says.
She creates elaborate clay sculptures that she mixes into slimes. “I make (them) and then I smoosh them all together to make slimes. Those kind of break my heart a little,” she says with a laugh.
Kang has attended multiple slime conventions, where she sells her slimes, signs autographs and takes pictures with her young fans.
“I think slime conventions really made the slime community be able to bond with each other,” she says. When they interacted with each other only online, Kang says there was “drama” among young slime makers, “but now it’s like we’re all friends.”
A desire to help build that community drives SlimePop organizers Stephanie Bomely and Sharon Voorhees. They were toying with the idea of starting an Austin slime event when they took Voorhees’ daughter (and Bomely’s niece) Emmy to a San Antonio convention to sell slime last year. The experience was inspiring.
“It was so much (about) seeing the entrepreneurship that was happening among these mostly young girls,” Bomely says. There are some boys involved in the slime community and some older slime makers, but the majority of slimers are girls between the ages of 10 and 16. “Seeing that, and the kindness among all of them and how much they support each other — that’s what solidified it for me,” Bomely says.
Emmy, now 12, has been making slime for a few years. Working with a neighbor, she started her own slime company. They have an Etsy shop that posts modest sales, and they successfully sold slime at the San Antonio convention. While slime is unlikely to become a career path for her daughter the way it is for Kang, Voorhees sees the life skills it’s helping her develop.
“They’re running a small business,” she says.
“They have to figure out their revenue and how much they’re actually making, and (they) have to buy their supplies, to package their goods. Setting up their booth; they’re doing everything. And then they’re selling on Etsy and branding themselves. I think it’s really neat, it’s neat to see,” Bomely says.
Voorhees admits that it took some time to get past a mental block about the mess and surrender to her daughter’s slime obsession, but she came to realize that the benefits outweigh the negatives.
“They’re not playing video games, they’re not doing all these other things,” she says. Watching her daughter’s slime journey evolve, Voorhees and Bomely were both impressed.
“The creativity is huge,” Bomely says. “It started where it was just, like, slime she was making, and now you’re making glossy slime or cloud slime. There’s so many different types of slimes that these kiddos have come up with. And then it’s, like, coming up with a creative name for your slime, adding scents to it so that it smells like a favorite food or it smells like a vanilla candle.”
“It uses four of your five senses,” Voorhees says.
To survive your child’s slime obsession, Voorhees and Bomely recommend creating a designated area in your house for slime making, preferably a spot with tile floors and a nonporous surface to work on. Set clear expectations for your kids about cleanup responsibilities. A mixture of 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water will get slime out of carpet, and most slimers are perfectly capable of scrubbing it out themselves.
Beyond that, keep the STEM benefits in mind and remember that this, too, will pass. Voorhees has observed a pattern among young slimers. “You start playing with it, you evolve into it and you maybe fall out of it around your second year of middle school,” she says.
While Snoop Slimes’ sales continue to grow, Kang is aware that the slime trend might begin to cool. She plans to diversify her business by adding a custom merch line. And she’s not trying to retire at 18. She hopes to attend the University of Texas after high school.
Pettinato says slime sales have leveled off at Toy Joy, but he suspects the DIY slime craze has a lot to do with that. (Kang says the hand-mixed slimes sold on Etsy shops tend to be better quality than most commercially available products.)
Most of the slimes Toy Joy sells are products like Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty, a Silly Putty-like concoction that comes in specialized varieties like color changing, iridescent and magnetic. He also sees a market for uniquely packaged slime, The company behind Lava Lamps has a line of slimes that come in Lava Lamp-shaped containers. But even after the current craze dies down, Pettinato thinks some kind of slime market will remain.
“It’s such a classic toy,” he says. “Technically slime’s been around since the ’60s. I don’t think it’s ever going to go away. I think it’s very possible that maybe tomorrow there’s a new toy trend that sort of usurps it from that kind of conversation, but I think that slime in itself is relatively unique in that there’s so many different ways to make it and play with it and just enjoy it. I think Toy Joy will always have a slime or a putty section in the stores.”