The practice of blowing bubbles goes back as far as the 17th century when children would blow bubbles out of clay pipes or use leftover dishwater to blow bubbles. Bubbles blown in this matter did not last very long in the air. This quickly changed with the addition of glycerin to modern-day recipes for bubble solution.
Glycerin, or C3H5(OH)3, is a natural byproduct of the soap-making process. Glycerin is produced as the saponification of the animal fats used to create soap. In fact, the American Dietetic Association classifies glycerin as a carbohydrate because of its transformation from animal fats. As a finished product, glycerin is thick, clear and orderless with a slightly sweet taste. Glycerin's ability to dissolve in water makes it particularly useful for making bubbles.
Bubbles burst because the outside layer of water evaporates into the surrounding environment. With no water to hold the spherical structure together, the bubbles pop. Glycerin works by delaying the dehydration process. Glycerin has the unique properties of being able to produce weak bonds with hydrogen. These bonds prevent the water from evaporating as quickly. Glycerine is also hygroscopic. This means that it has the ability to attract water out of the air, which may also contribute to its abilities to resist evaporation longer.