It's no secret that I LOVE balloons, in my opinion a balloon makes an instant party! I have blown up many in my time and thought I would share some hints and tips about how to best fill your party balloons. Please note these are not manufacturers guidelines just tips that I have discovered along the way.
You can choose between buying disposable canisters or hiring larger canisters. We sell a range of disposable helium canisters. Hired helium can come in numerous sizes and this is far better and cost effective for a big event. Disposable canisters come in two sizes, one to fill 30 9" Balloons and 1 to fill 50 9" balloons. For ease I will refer to them as cannister30 and canister50. Canister 30 has 8.9 cubic ft of helium and canister50 has 14.9 cubic ft of helium. Below is a table with suggests of helium capacity for different balloons and expected float times.
As a rough guide we have included the helium capacity of our balloons below to help you purchase the right helium cylinder. Note the capacity of the balloons before choosing the correct cylinder. Our list capacity and float times are a conservative average.
CYLINDER CAPACITYLarge Balloon Displays: Please note for larger quantities of balloons it may far more cost effective to rent a helium canister rather than buy a smaller disposable one (disposable canisters have a far smaller capacity than rented ones, rented canisters can hold up to 20x as much gas). Rented helium canisters are widely available on line (we do not currently supply this service)
DISPOSABLE CYLINDER CAPACITY
Helium Filled Latex Balloons
If you wish to fill balloons with helium one option is to take your balloons to a local party shop and ask if they will fill them for you (please note however that not all shops will fill balloons that you have bought elsewhere and some will not fill 36" balloons due to the amount of helium required). It can be more cost effective however to buy a disposable canister. Disposable canisters on the market fill either 30 (F30) or 50 (F50) 9" balloons and come fitted with a latex regulator as standard. I find that a canister F50 fills approx 30 x 11" balloons or 1 to 2 36" balloons (see notes on filling 36" balloons below). This is far from a science though and is dependent how much you fill them etc. If you are using large amounts of balloons you can rent larger helium cannisters I find that this is by far the most cost effective way of filling balloons in bigger quantities or if you are using a few 36" balloons. Please ensure you follow the manufacturers instructions very carefully when using helium and pay attention to the safety instructions.
Standard size latex filled helium balloons stay afloat for approx 16 - 24 hours, metallic helium filled balloons float for 2-5 days. I have found that a 36" latex helium filled balloon can stay afloat for a number of days due to the thickness of the balloon and the massive quantity of helium. If you want your latex balloons to float longer there is a useful product that you can buy Helium Hi-Float Treatment Kit which helps the balloons float up to 25 times longer (note this product cannot be used with confetti filled balloons).
Big 36" Balloons
Big 36" and our 24" balloons have a larger neck opening so can be a little more tricky to fill, you can get adapters to use with helium canisters but I find it works to simply hold the neck of the balloon tightly around the nozzle as you fill it, then tie as you would a standard balloon.
When 36" balloons are fully inflated with helium they can lift a weight of 340g. I find that fully inflated they have a serious amount of pull and can be quite difficult to control outside even in light winds. Children find them particularly difficult to handle and they need to be well tethered or could be lost very quickly. When I am using them with children, as a hand-held photo prop or to be held by a Bride I have discovered that if I half blow them up with air then inflate until fully inflated using helium they have a far gentler pull but still float upright beautifully (the downside is that they will not stay afloat for long perhaps just a few hours and they wont hold much wight like balloon tassels), the added advantage of filling them this way is that they cost around half the amount to fill.
Clear Balloons and Confetti Balloons
If filling 11" or 16" clear balloons with air not helium please note that once fully inflated they may seem a little dull or misty, they will clear in around 10 minutes. Helium creates an immediately clear balloon however the float time for Confetti filled helium balloons is less than standard balloons simply because of the extra weight of the paper inside them (approx 4 - 6 hours).
If you wish to get your confetti balloons inflated at your local party store please note that not all stores will agree to fill them, it is always best to check with them firstly.
If filling a confetti filled balloon with air, once the balloon is inflated you can create some static by rubbing the balloon on clothing or hair to help the confetti to stick to the inside. (how well the confetti sticks depends on the conditions like humidity, heat, etc). For more ideas on decorating with clear balloons please see this Blog Post.
16" Letter/Number Balloons
The 16" Letter and Number balloons are fantastic because there is no need for helium, simply inflate them with puff and they will stay inflated for months, what is more you can release the air from them by inserting a long straw right the way into the valve and pack them away ready to re-use in the future - brilliant! In fact all foil balloons can be reused in this way.
Tiny 5" Balloons
These balloons have a very small air capacity, this means that if you fill them with helium they will not float for long (1-2 hours), for this reason it is likely that party shops will not inflate your balloons for you. If you do use helium for these tiny balloons please do ensure you use a very light-weight string or cotton to tether them as even the weight of the string can make them sink (I use cotton thread).
These tiny balloons look particularly cute when made into a cake topper. Simply snip of the sharp end of a wooden pick, blow up your balloon, tie and insert the pick very carefully into the tied knot it should just stay in place. An alternative idea is to string the balloons into a cute alternative bunting.
Foil Balloons tend do be deigned to be filled with helium but our range of 16" letters, numbers and balloons on sticks are all air fill only and this is easily done following the instructions on their packaging. Our other foil balloons can all be helium filled using a disposable or hired helium canister. Foils are very sconomical on helium and shaped balloons like large number and letters are very light on helium due to their shapes. Foil balloons can also be air filled if you wish to attach to a wall or use as a prop on a table etc. To do this you will need to insert either a balloon pump with a long this end or you could insert a plastic/paper straw and blow through the straw to inflate your balloon.
Re-using Foil Balloons - Foil Balloons can be reused if they have a valve that self seals (all the balloons we sell have this sort of valve). To empty your balloon of air you will need ideally a long straw. Insert your straw into the opening of the neck of the balloon (it may need to go in a long way inside the valve of the balloon as some valves are very long such as our letter balloons), you will be able to tell when you have inserted the straw far enough as the air will start to be released. Fold your balloon carefully once it is emptied of air and store in a dry place.
Other ways of displaying balloons
There are plenty of ways of displaying your balloons beautifully without using Helium. I have previously blogged about ideas for displaying balloons without helium.
Please note inflating balloons is not an exact science, my suggestions here are purely from my own experiences and others may not get the same results as me. How well your balloon stays filled or in the air very much depends on a number of factors; how it has been tied, how much it has been filled, what the weather on the day is like (are they in direct sunlight?), and how the balloons have been stored (they do not like extreme temperatures or damp).
If you have any other hints and tips around filling balloons we would really love to hear about them.