Lava tends to be slow-flowing and thick in the Overworld, so most players can escape in time. In peaceful mode, lava is one of the main causes of death to a player, along with fall damage. Lava deals 4 damage (2×) per half-second to any flammable mob caught in it. The mob will also be set on fire for a while afterward. Death from lava is one of the worst deaths a player can experience besides plummeting into the void, because their Inventory items will likely burn, and a player will not be able to retrieve them. The same can happen to the experience a player had gained before death. Even if a player or mob succeeds in escaping the lava, they will still be on fire, which will often kill them anyway.
All items that come in contact with lava will burn and be destroyed. Lava gives off a very large amount of light. Lava within a certain distance of combustible blocks, such as wool or any wood block, can ignite them starting a fire, unless fire spreds have been turned off.
In The Nether, lava flows as rapidly as water does in the overworld, and can reach seven blocks across a flat surface in whichever direction it is flowing. In the overworld, lava will only travel three blocks in any direction across a flat surface. Lava in the overworld flows much slower than water. Lava's texture is a mixture of orange, red, and yellow colors.
Lava appears underground in the form of lava pools. These pools may also appear on the surface, albeit uncommon for them to do so. In the nether, lava appears in vast oceans that are much more common than the water oceans of the overworld; lava also generates as single blocks encased in netherrack in the biome. For generated structures, lava can spawn in:
- Villages blacksmiths, yielding two blocks near the entrance.
- Stronghold portal rooms, yielding 15 blocks on the sides and beneath the portal.
- Nether Fortresses, yielding one block in the room connected the interior and exterior paths.
- Woodland Mansions, encasing a diamond block.
Lava and water, when directly exposed to each other, form either obsidian, stone or cobblestone. Standing lava source blocks turn to obsidian while flowing lava turns to cobblestone. Similarly, when water goes on top of lava, it will create obsidian, whereas when lava goes on top of water it will create stone.
Lava is a very useful fuel and can smelt up to one hundred items per bucket (or 1000 seconds). While this is a nice large number, only 64 items can be smelted at a time, making lava buckets slightly impractical for smelting items without the aid of hoppers or unless a player watches the furnace carefully. As of the Adventure Update, players can now retrieve the bucket that they used to hold the lava.
- Strangely, lava can be contained using ice as a border until the ice melts from the light emitted.
- If a player dies in lava, a public message is displayed, stating: "<player> tried to swim in lava."
- If an Enderman touches lava (or water or fire), it will teleport away until it stops burning (or gets out of the water, should that be what it fell into).
- Magma cubes are often found in nether lava. They don't spawn there, but they find it difficult to escape.
- After the 1.5 redstone update, the texture of lava was changed.
- If a Pig, Cow, or Chicken is killed by lava, they will drop cooked food instead of raw food (e.g. cow drops Steak instead of raw beef) if the item manages to avoid getting burnt.
- In Minecraft: Pocket Edition, there's a 0.5% chance that lava can spawn by pools.
- On Pocket Edition, the texture of lava changed after version 0.7.0.
- Zombie Pigmen, Blazes, Wither Skeletons, and Ghasts are invulnerable to damage caused by lava, so they will not catch on fire by swimming in it.
- As with water, if lava is above a solid block, droplets can be seen dripping from the bottom of the block. These droplets cannot harm a player and serve as a good indicator of the presence of lava above the player.
- Lava is one of the common causes of death in mining.
- Players can now place lava on cauldrons, but it will not deal the same damage unlike its uncontained counterpart and will only deal as much damage as if a player is standing on fire.