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Party Balloons & Helium

One of the best ways to decorate parties and functions is with balloons and one of the easiest ways to do that is to fill them with helium.  It can be a very simple, no-fuss and easy to clean up method of decorating.  But what is helium?  How does it work?  Is it dangerous?  Why do balloons only last a short while?

Helium Properties

Helium is a naturally occuring gas most of which is found in gas reserves in the USA.  It is a non-flammable, non-explosive gas that is lighter than air, and is mainly used in Cryogenics and for use with MRI scanners.  Only a very small portion of helium is actually used in the party industry to fill latex, foil and bubble balloons.  We all know of the party trick of talking like a 'chipmunk' when someone sucks in helium.  While it does sound funny it can be dangerous.  Helium can cause asphyxiation as the helium being breathed in is actually replacing the oxygen that your lungs need.  It can cause brain damage or death if too much is inhaled - so  it is best not to let your guests breath it in at all just to be safe.

Filling Helium Balloons

Latex balloons are quite porous by nature and once inflated with helium will usually only last around 10-12 hours.  This is because that is how long it takes for the helium to 'escape' from the balloon.  There is a product available called Hifloat that is a glue-like substance that coats the inside of a latex balloon and blocks the pores of the latex, preventing the helium from escaping as quickly.  Usually hifloat is only made available to businesses that work with balloons as it come in large containers.  While it would seem that if you filled a latex balloon as full as possible, it would last longer - the opposite is actually true.  Latex balloons need to be filled to the correct shape and size - too small and the weight of the balloon compared to the amount of helium in the balloon will cause it to come down sooner than it should.  Too much helium will stretch the balloon further than it is supposed to be stretched, the pores of the balloon will be larger, allowing the helium to escape much faster. 

Foil Balloons have self-sealing valves and do not need to be tied up like latex balloons.  Foils balloons are much less porous than latex balloons and tend to float much longer, usually around 2-3 days.  Care is needed when filling foil ballons with helium as unlike latex balloons, foils have very little 'give' - over-inflate a foil and they go POP!  Because helium is affected by temperature changes (it expands with heat and contracts in the cold), foil balloons actually need to be slightly under-inflated to allow the helium room to expand and contract with the temparature changes.  It is helpful to note that when you tie your ribbon on to a foil, the ribbon knot needs to go underneath the valve so as to not to allow the valve to be squashed.

Bubble balloons are a relatively new balloon to Shindigs.  They are very cool balloons that are made from plastic - perfect for anyone with latex allergies!  They are more pop-resistant than any other balloon, they can withstand outside pressure and temperature changes and do not oxidise.  Bubble balloons also have self-sealing valves and last a very long time - around 2-4weeks!  Bubble balloons have special inflating instructions that differ significantly to other balloons.  If you are filling a Bubble balloon make sure you carefully read the instruction before opening the pack - one of the main points to note is that Bubble balloons need to be stretched fully so that there are no wrinkles along the seam...very different to foil balloons!

So there you have it - a mini lowdown on one our most used party decorating materials!  Shindigs has a great range of balloons and balloon accessories - check us out here.
Shindigs supply DIY helium tanks and can also fill balloons with helium and create arrangements for you if you are in the Newcastle region - call 4950 9561.
For balloon decorating ideas and inspiration, check out our Facebook Photo Albums.