Helium, Helium-Filled Balloons and Weights

Helium is a colorless, non-toxic, non-flammable gas that is lighter than air. When balloons are filled with helium, they will float. Helium can be obtained from a local industrial gas supplier. 

Many different sized cylinders are available. In addition to the cost of the helium itself, some suppliers charge a monthly fee for the cylinder and require a security deposit. Ask about delivery charges and whether or not a regulator is included with the cylinder. Regulators are discussed in detail in another section.

Helium Safety & Precautions

  • DO NOT inhale helium. While helium is a relatively safe gas, direct inhalation can cause dizziness, fainting, suffocation, and possibly death.
  • DO NOT leave cylinders unattended in a public area.
  • DO NOT open the cylinder valve before attaching an inflator to it.
  • Store cylinders in a secured, upright position where they will not accidentally fall. Cylinders should be chained to a wall or placed on a safety stand at all times.
  • Close the cylinder valve after each use and when the cylinder is empty.
  • When transporting cylinders, always close the cylinder valve, remove the regulator, and replace the valve cap.
  • Open cylinder valves slowly and stand to one side of the cylinder when opening cylinder valves. Never stand directly in front of the cylinder valve.
  • Never use a damaged cylinder or regulator.

Helpful Hints

Also, keep in mind that balloon weights and ribbons attached to balloons can affect the floating ability in high-altitude areas.

Temperature can also have an effect on foil or latex balloons. Warm air expands. If you fill a balloon with helium to its maximum capacity, then take that balloon outdoors on a very hot day or place it in a hot car, the helium inside of the balloon can expand and burst the balloon. The same principle can work in reverse. Bring a hot balloon inside to a very cool, air-conditioned room, and the air in the balloon will condense and get heavier, causing the balloon to "shrink" and "sag" (not float as well). Always keep extreme temperatures in mind when dealing with balloons, whether air filled or helium filled.

Handle with Care

Helium is stored in highly pressurized cylinders ranging from 1800–2400 pounds per square inch. A ruptured helium cylinder can be compared to a missile or the equivalent of two pounds of TNT.

Helium-filled Foil Balloons 

Self-sealing Valves

The majority of 18" and larger sized foil balloons manufactured today have self-sealing valves. As soon as a balloon is filled with helium and removed from the regulator, the self-sealing valve automatically closes. Be sure to tie the ribbon below the self-sealing valve. Curling ribbon tied above the self-sealing valve could cause helium to escape quickly and would prevent proper re-inflation if the balloons should need "refreshing." Balloons that do not have a self- sealing valve must be sealed using a heat sealer.

Packaged Foil Balloons

Many 18" balloon designs are individually pre-packaged. Packaged balloons can be displayed on a spinner or wall rack. Your customer can choose the balloons directly from the rack and bring them to the counter for inflation.

Inflating Special Shapes

Special shaped balloons need extra care when inflating. Inflate slowly and do not overfill. These balloons are not as strong as round balloons. 


Every helium-filled balloon should have a balloon weight attached. If a cluster of balloons is sold, each individual balloon should have a weight. Balloon weights can be purchased or made from any item heavy enough to weigh down a balloon–baskets, mugs, and gift totes make excellent weights.

Inflation In High Altitudes

Some foil balloons will not float in high altitudes. If you are located in a high-altitude area, please consider the following when ordering foil balloons:

  • Balloons that are 21" or larger are more likely than 18" to float in high altitudes.
  • 18" balloons that have detailed designs use more ink, which may cause the balloon to be heavier and less likely to float in a high altitude. This is also true for all two-sided, 18" balloons.
  • 18" round-shaped balloons generally float better than heart, star, or other shaped balloons.
  • Also, keep in mind that balloon weights and ribbons attached to balloons can affect the floating ability in high-altitude areas.


Float Times

Below are the average float times with helium and approximate amount of helium needed according to balloon size. These float times are estimates only. Float times will vary due to balloon shape and environmental conditions such as temperature, weather conditions, and altitude. 

18" Foil Balloons: 3–4 weeks float time. Uses approximately .50 cubic feet of helium per balloon.

26" Foil Balloons: 3–4 weeks float time. Uses approximately .72 cubic feet of helium per balloon.

36" Foil Balloons: Several months float time. Uses approximately 4.00 cubic feet of helium per balloon.

Ribbon on Helium Filled Balloons

The following are a few ways in which to attach ribbon to the foil balloon before and after inflation:

  • Before inflating a self-sealing foil, tie a balloon weight to one end of a ribbon and attach the other end of the ribbon to the foil following inflation.
  • It is important that the ribbon be tied below the self-sealing valve of the foil balloon. Attaching ribbon above the valve can cause a slow leak.
  • Once the balloon is inflated, cut the ribbon to the appropriate length and place it against the bottom of the balloon tail. Slowly wrap the ribbon up the balloon stem all the way to the base of the balloon. This is going to create a manicured look that will set your balloon arrangement apart. Next, tie the ribbon in a knot to secure.

By attaching the ribbon and weight, time is saved and balloons will not escape if accidentally released after inflation.

Caution: Never use metallic ribbon on helium-filled foil or latex balloons. If accidentally released into the environment, the ribbon could cause electrical failure if caught in power lines.

Self-Sealing Helium Balloons

Never use a heat sealer on a self-sealing balloon. It could cause damage to the self-sealing valve.

To release helium from a self-sealing balloon, place a long straw up inside balloon through the valve. Gently press down on balloon to release helium. 


Proper Disposal of Foil Balloons

Encourage customers to properly dispose of foil balloons by cutting them open to release helium and then discarding them in a trash container. Unlike latex balloons, foil balloons are not biodegradable. They are, however, recyclable with plastic. Never release foil balloons into the atmosphere.