What is up with this (ex) balloon?
October 19, 2021 4:30 PM   Subscribe

My daughter, Tiny Croft (five years old now, can you believe it??) went to the local farmer's market this Saturday, and was given a helium balloon. And now I have a question.

The balloon was a cheery light blue, with a bunny drawn on one side in black marker and a winged heart, I think, on the other side. It had a white ribbon and a clip for fastening it to things, and she LOVED it. She would take it from room to room wherever she went and clip it to different things. She bounced it back and forth on its ribbon. It was never far from her side, until this evening, when she managed to pop it.

Something had to happen to it eventually - it wasn't going to last forever. But here's the thing. It lasted a hell of a lot longer than it was supposed to, according to this page anyway. She got it around noon on Saturday and it died about 6:30 pm on Tuesday, showing little or no sign of deflation. If not for the unfortunate incident, I don't know how long they would have had together. Who does?

And the interior of the wreckage appears to be coated with a clingy white film of some kind. Photo here. Whatever that stuff is, it's very tough. It stretches when pulled, but it really doesn't want to pull apart. I can only guess that it was deposited into the balloon when the helium went in, sealing the latex and accounting for the balloon's unusual longevity.

Tiny Croft is absolutely devastated about this. She still hasn't stopped sobbing an hour later. "It was my only pretty balloon!" And boy, is it a powerless feeling to see her this inconsolably sad and not be able to make it better. I can't bring the balloon back or replace it. I certainly can't draw a cute bunny. But if we get her another balloon I'd kind of like to know what that stuff is that made it last so long. Any ideas, balloon experts of MeFi?
posted by Naberius to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I had never heard of such a thing, but "Hi-Float" seems to be a product along these lines.
posted by wreckingball at 4:41 PM on October 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you have a good party store nearby, I bet they know what it was. I think it's an additive that gets put in *with* the helium and, like you say, helps seal the balloon. Also, I have some very cute mylar balloons that I've re-used a couple times. I deflated them carefully and I occasionally have them refilled for special parties or events. One is a rainbow, the other is a sunshine. Anyway, they last AGES. Mylar is more tightly sealed is my understanding than latex. You can even order your favorite mylar balloon and get it inflated locally.
posted by amanda at 4:55 PM on October 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have no idea what the stuff is, but in my experience, three days for a balloon to float is really, really, REALLY underestimating it. They (the mylar kind, from the dollar store) stick around here for weeks, if the toddler or the cats don't manage to pop them, and my daughter (the 19yo auntie of toddler) doesn't get sick of the cats chasing it around.

I've definitely had freshly-made-when-purchased Valentine's balloons last a couple months, and by then, they were just hanging out on the high ceiling as we took bets on when they'd finally come down. It was ridiculous; they lasted longer than the relationship did. Once they started, though, they all sank within a span of a couple days.
posted by stormyteal at 5:19 PM on October 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

Episode 392 of No Such Thing as a Fish had a discussion of balloons that had remained inflated for... I want to say, over 20 years? I can't listen to it right now to find the exact bit, but it was a long segment and should be easy to find.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:58 PM on October 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

It's a bit of a crapshoot sometimes with the mylar balloons. I got my initials for my birthday (CF) a number of years back and the C had deflated a few days later (with no particular incident) but the F was still inflated for so long it became a running joke.
posted by urbanlenny at 7:11 PM on October 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't know why everyone is talking about mylar balloons above, the picture clearly shows a latex balloon. And yes, they have a short life if they are not coated on the inside. If you can find a party store or specialty balloon decoration place they might be able to help you get a new latex balloon, with the weird interior coating. But - see if you can steer your tiny sad girl towards a mylar balloon, they can easily last weeks, and there are so many cute designs!
posted by Vatnesine at 7:28 PM on October 19, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Here you go! Amazon sells it, too!
posted by dancinglamb at 7:32 PM on October 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It is indeed Hi-float! They pump it into the empty balloon, then add helium. Any party store will add it (and most will ask you if you want it, in my experience, as an upsell). You can bring her clip with you, too, and they can use it for the balloon weight
posted by assenav at 10:47 PM on October 19, 2021

On the inconsolable sobbing front, do you have a copy of Winnie-the-Pooh to hand? As per chapter 6, a popped balloon fits in a honey pot - or an interesting little box, if you have such a thing in the house, or the materials to make one.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:07 AM on October 20, 2021 [9 favorites]

Commiserations to Tiffany Croft by the way - children can sometimes treat a balloon like a spirit or a friend - so when it goes it can be felt as a real loss. Required viewing on the subject - and from long, long before the days of fancy coatings - is Le Ballon Rouge/The Red Balloon.
posted by rongorongo at 1:36 AM on October 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

I must share the first story that my daughter ever told. At age 1 yr 10 months she received a helium balloon at an event in the park. Shortly thereafter she fell onto the balloon with the expected result. And for the next year she told this story to us at unexpected moments showing that it was still very vivid in her memory:
Balloon. Popped.

We would respond: yes, it had indeed popped and wasn't that surprising.
I had never heard of Hi-float before, how interesting!
posted by Lookinguppy at 1:15 PM on October 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

I got a Hi-Float balloon at the party store years ago and it floated around my apartment for a month! And then descended so slowly that it spent a couple of days – and creepy nights! – at eye level.
posted by nicwolff at 10:28 AM on October 21, 2021

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