Fireworks Guide: Indoor Fireworks

Yes there really are options for small-scale indoor fireworks!

Key information

  • Only use fireworks indoors that have been specifically designed for that purpose!
  • Types include traditional indoor effects (such as seen in the old days), cake fountains and indoor sparklers.
  • Guides to other types of fireworks can be found in the Firework Guides main menu.

"Traditional" indoor firework packs

Younger readers might not appreciate that in years gone by, smaller fireworks were available in packs or boxes and often used at Christmas. These were taken off the market for a while from the late 20th century due to safety concerns when consumer products had to pass increasingly strict safety tests. However in recent years they’ve made a comeback, albeit in slightly muted forms but without those deadly chemicals like arsenic and asbestos!

A selection of indoor fireworks.

These packs contain a variety of small effects which you would ignite on an old plate or tin lid and gather around to watch.

The favourite is usually the growing snake effect (to a younger mind, it looks like a poo!) and there’s also a selection of various coloured flames. This video will show you a complete pack in all its glory:

Indoor firework packs can be found online and in specialist firework shops. Some toy shops also stock them. Expect to pay £8 to £12 per pack.

At the time of writing (2022), availability of these packs has become limited. A reduction in the number of companies importing this product and shipping problems from China have resulted in most stockists selling out – they were a popular item during lockdown! Stock levels should recover from mid-2022 onwards.

You can read a lot of background information about indoor fireworks and the problems making them in my interview with an importer: Indoor Fireworks – Harder than it looks

Cake and ice fountains

The best effects for cakes (and by cakes I mean the edible variety, not the firework variety) are the small tubular fireworks called ice fountains. The term “ice” here is a reference to the fact these have cold fallout (i.e. no hot materials coming down onto your cake). These will be marketed as either cake fountains or ice fountains.

Widely available online and from firework shops, expect to pay around £3 to £5 for a pack of three or four ice fountains if buying in small quantities. Quite considerable discounts are available for bulk purchasers such as restaurants. You can also get plastic clips to attach them to a bottle neck too, making them popular in night clubs.

Ice fountains push into a cake and give off a plume of sparks.

In addition to standard fountains, you can also buy a wide variety of novelty variations. These include ice fountains with numbers on them (for birthdays and anniversaries), larger or smaller versions, and even ones that play tunes when lit.

I have a separate guide to these, and how to use them, which you can read here: Ice fountains for cakes.

Musical birthday candles

My favourite indoor firework for birthdays without a doubt is the fold-out musical flower. Largely because it’s so naff it comes out the other side and creates so much hilarity by being so awful.

These combine an ice fountain, birthday cake candles and tuneful (or tuneless depending on the state of the batteries) musical rendition of “Happy Birthday”.

Honestly, you haven’t lived until you’ve lit one of these:

Fold-out musical candle (shown after the inner ice fountain has finished).

Indoor sparklers and cake sparklers

There’s a large selection of indoor sparklers available. The smallest are around 4″ long and silver but various larger sizes are available right up to 18″. However for cakes stick to the smaller sparklers marketed for this purpose as the bigger ones aren’t really suitable for use on food.

Sparklers shaped as numbers and even hearts are also widely available online.

Although pretty, cake sparklers are not as spectacular as ice fountains, so consider using the latter instead (see above).

Selection of indoor sparklers from indoor specialist Trafalgar Fireworks.

Fun snaps / throw-down bangers

A popular practical joke item in days gone by, fun snaps are small amounts of an explosive material wrapped in tissue paper. These are detonated on contact with the ground although they can also be placed under doormats and similar for much fun! These are still widely available online and in some joke shops.

Bigger versions have been seen in recent years which are a tiny tube rather than a tissue paper wrap. These can be quite loud and in our experience should only be used outdoors. There’s an extensive discussion thread about these in my Forum: Fun Snaps.

Traditional throw-down snaps.

Novelty fire/flame effects

Not a standalone effect as such, but if you have a woodburner or open fire, these sachets (various brands are available, for example “Mystical Fire”) burn with pretty coloured blue and green flames. You can also use them outside on bonfires.

Flash paper

If you’ve ever wondered how magicians and other performers create sudden balls of flame from their hands, it’s by using flash paper or flash wool. Widely available online (from specialist sellers or from Ebay), this is a wonderful novelty effect that creates a surprisingly big and bright – and harmless – ball of yellow flame. You can take things even further with devices intended to ignite the paper which conceal in your hand and other magician orientated tricks. If you’re entertaining people indoors with indoor firework packs this is a great addition to them.

Indoor fireworks FAQ

Only those specifically designed for indoor use. Firing any other outdoor firework indoors is highly dangerous.

Yes - traditional indoor firework packs have made a comeback. The market leader is Trafalagar Fireworks' "Indoor Fireworks" pack with 20+ items.

Very much so, which is part of the charm. To be fair they're not bad, but rather the effects are predictably small-scale to enable use indoors. Health and safety and all that.

Some indoor effects (especially the pellet effects) can give off a little smoke; I have set off my smoke alarm on a few occasions. 

By far the best firework to use on cakes is an ice fountain which is designed for indoor use and quite spectacular for the size. It gives off very little smoke too.

Not any more. Strict safety and testing standards have resulted in them being as safe as they can be. They are highly regulated to ensure they don't contain dangerous chemicals. Unlike packs from the old days which contained asbestos and other jollies! (Remember the asbestos snow storm anyone? What could possibly go wrong?).

By far the most popular and enduring indoor effect, the expanding black foam pellet - resembling a dog poo - is indeed still available in the indoor firework variety packs such as "Indoor Fireworks Pack" by Trafalgar Fireworks. I still laugh at these even as a grown man. Sad but true.

Stock issues post-lockdown aside, traditional indoor firework packs are widely available from firework shops, toy shops and similar, plus by mail order including on Amazon and Ebay.

The old fashioned indoor firework effect of a snow storm has long been outlawed due to the dangers of the chemicals used (which included asbestos) and the dispersal of residue into the air. How my grandparents survived inhaling these is anyone's guess.

Manufacturing and storing fireworks of any kind has become so complex and expensive that many traditional products such as crackers that included fireworks have become impractical to make. 

Technically even traditional indoor packs are classed as fireworks so should not be sent through the normal postal system. Anyone selling indoor firework packs should be shipping them via a courier, though many don't. 

For items such as those in traditional indoor firework packs, light them on an old plate or something equally hard and nonflammable that you can throw away afterwards. Never light them directly on a table - they will burn it. Use a lighter with a good, strong flame like a chef's torch.

Further information and next steps

If you are following the Beginner’s Guides then you can click here to return to that page. Alternatively you can click here to see the main menu of each firework type in this section if you want to read more (or click on the menu at the top of this page to access all of my guides).

If you’re ready to buy fireworks for your display then the Buying Fireworks section will guide you further.