What are Latex Balloons?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Latex balloons are made from latex rubber, a naturally elastic material used to make everything from latex house paint to latex gloves. In the case of balloons, the rubber is molded into various shapes and ordinary air, or other gases such as helium, can be forced into them for expansion purposes.

The powdery coating on latex balloons is usually cornstarch.
The powdery coating on latex balloons is usually cornstarch.

Latex balloons begin life as special metal molds and a vat of liquefied latex rubber. The bulb-shaped molds are lined up in single file along a conveyor belt system. At the lowest end of the conveyor belt, the molds dip into the vat of latex and emerge with a thin coating of rubber. As the series of molds moves through the air, the latex dries and cures. A machine rolls one end of the balloon just before a controlled puff of air blows it off the mold. This rolled end allows users to inflate the balloon more easily.

Latex balloons are often seen at birthday parties.
Latex balloons are often seen at birthday parties.

After opening a package of these balloons, a user can either inflate an individual balloon by blowing air into it with his or her lungs, or by attaching it to a special canister filled with compressed air or helium. It may be helpful to stretch the uninflated balloon several times in order to reduce the amount of pressure necessary to blow it up. Latex balloons can be inflated to many times their original size, but over-inflation often leads to an explosive burst.

Latex balloons can be inflated many times their original size.
Latex balloons can be inflated many times their original size.

Unlike the Mylar or foil balloons often seen at parties, latex balloons can be stretched and manipulated into various shapes by skilled balloon artists. Long, thin latex-based balloons are usually twisted into animal shapes, flowers or even party hats by professional clowns hired for birthday parties. Traditional round balloons filled with helium may be used to form colorful bouquets or given out as treats for party guests.

Those with a sensitivity to latex or neoprene may not want to handle latex balloons directly, since the contact may trigger a reaction. Sometimes the interior of a balloon will have a powdery coating, but the powder is actually cornstarch or other non-toxic substance used as a mold releasing agent at the manufacturing plant.

Latex balloons filled with helium are often released into the air during festive occasions, but this practice is not always friendly to the environment. Once the balloons reach a certain altitude, their internal pressure becomes greater than the external atmosphere and they will eventually pop. The latex remnants can cause problems for waterfowl and other animals which may ingest them, which is why many cities now restrict or regulate any large-scale latex balloon launches.

Latex may also be used to make gloves that are often present in a medical setting.
Latex may also be used to make gloves that are often present in a medical setting.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


@adam: swirl balloons are made by placing the freshly made balloons while still on the moulds into a water bath with latex ink floated on top. that's how you get the swirl effect.

You can manufacture either on a batch system which allows you to manufacture a bunch of different moulds or on a chain drag dip machine which allows you to have lower costs.

Why are you so interested in this topic?

It's a dying industry, with several plants having been closed in the past decades. Good luck.


My name is Adam I live in England.

I want to know about the balloon industry, including wholesale, retail, the accessories and decoration aspects.

What is is your opinion of what's happening with the balloon industry now and what will happen in the future? Will balloons be more in demand or less in 5-10-20 years from now?

What do you think will cause the demise or end of the latex/helium filled balloon industry, if anything?

If you were to build a latex balloon manufacturing/printing factory, what questions would you ask yourself and others before you began? What do you think the answers to those questions would be?

If you could build a balloon factory anywhere in the world, where would you choose to locate it? Why in that location? In what way could you make it unique? Is there anything you would like to add that might be done to help ensure a healthy future for the balloon industry?

If you answer any of my questions I will be very grateful. I want to learn everything there is to know about manufacturing latex balloons also.

I have seen the online video on how to make balloons and I understand the general idea. I want to know the specifics, like exactly how to make the latex usable for balloon making, and how complicated multi shaped molds like geo are designed and made and how the swirl colored balloons are made?

What are the best most economical, environmentally friendly machinery works, in detail?

I also want to know detailed information about the balloon printing, packaging and shipping. Any information or references to learning material and videos, patent names/numbers or inventor names or anything you would like to add, would be greatly appreciated!

If you would like to forward this message to anyone you think can assist in my learning more about manufacturing latex balloons please do! Thank you sincerely. Adam H.

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