How latex balloons are made

260's are hard to make. This is how the mechanical action of making the 260 affects the final product.

Making a 260 involves dipping a mold (the same shape as the inside of a 260) into liquid latex. Once they're dipped in liquid latex, they are not allowed to cool. The dipped forms go through a vulcanizing oven, the nozzles are rolled, the balloons are washed, and then they're allowed to return to room temperature and pulled off the mold.

How the latex runs on the mold as you pull it out of the liquid affects the eveness of the wall of the balloon. As you pull the mold out the viscous latex is going to run a little or a lot but it is going to run.

If the mold hangs straight down, the wall of the 260 is thinner at the top, thicker at the bottom. The nozzle will be weaker and fatter, the end of the balloon will be stronger and thinner. If the mold hangs straight down as it dries the balloon will blow up straight.

If the mold is turned over as the latex runs, the wall is more even from end to end but one side is a little thicker than the other. This 260 balloon will blow up with a curve. The drip that collected on the end of the mold as it came out of the latex runs down one side a little way.

When you blow up a 260 you can tell how it was made. I assume the older balloon making equipment let the mold hang straight down. Mechanically it is less expensive. To make balloons that are more even from top to bottom a manufacturer has to invest in fancy and expensive equipment. To make a really good 260 the mold would need to spin as it turned over. This would give the best chance at an even walled 260. Twisters are a niche market. No one has gone to the expense, yet.

The quality of the raw latex, how well it has been cleaned, the amount of vulcanization, the type of color and finish, the kind of powder, the changing temperature and humidity during manufacturing all combine to make every batch of balloons different. How well the manufacturer balances the elements with the tools he has determines his consistency.

How the rolled lip on balloons is formed

Each balloon mold is the shape and size of the uninflated balloon. For example, a balloon mold for a round balloon is shaped like an inverted light bulb. The molds are arranged into rows and dipped into liquid latex in assembly line fashion. The latex at the top (thin) end of the mold becomes the "lip" when it is rolled down (toward the wide end) by a device which looks like a small motorized brush. As the rows of molds progress down the line, they pass between rotating, cone shaped brushes that are positioned horizontally, one on each side of each row of molds, pointing at the approaching molds. The brushes turn in opposite directions and are positioned so they touch the molds on each side. The point of the brushes start rolling the lip, and the lips continues to form as the row of molds moves along the line from the point to the larger end of the brushes. This occurs while the latex is still uncured, just before it is vulcanized.

Color issues

Balloons are made one color at a time. After stripping off the molds, they are counted by weight with special precision scales (different colors have slightly different weights) then packaged. Most entertainer balloons are packed 144 to a polybag.

For assorted colors, a batch of equal quantities of the colors to be assorted are tumbled together, then counted (by weight) and packaged. Because of the tumbling process, there will not be an exact division of colors in each polybag. In fact, you may have received assortments which seem to have too few or too many of certain colors. If you need a specific color, it's best to buy a solid color bag. If every assortment included a hand counted precision mix, the handling cost would make the assortment too expensive.

I don't assume to speak for Qualatex. but this is how I've decided to think about the pricing.

It seems logical that not mixing colors would make for one less step in manufacturing but there is more to it than that. I understand the difference in price to be due in part to the price of the coloring agent. Some colors are more expensive than others. The Standard Colors of 260Q (White, Pink, and Light Blue) less expensive than the Jewel Tone Colors. Solid bags of White, Pink or Light Blue are the same price as a bag of assorted.

A product that you sell a lot of can be priced lower than one that you sell a little of. Consider assorted 260Q's and solid 260Q's separate products (Separate bags, separate storage, separate inventory) and look at volume and pricing. They can afford to lower the price of the Jewel Tone (a large part of the assortment) to the Standard Color price because of volume. You could look at getting such a large percentage of Jewel Tones in the assortment at the Standard Color price as a deal. Or not.

Pearl Tones.
Pearl tone latex is created by adding crushed mica to the latex. This process makes the latex more brittle, and less twistable. If you want to see proof of this, you have to look no further than at Tilly Pearl 130's. So, for now, there is no real chance of getting pearl 260's.
Gold/Silver/Metallic 260's
Metallic latex is made in the same way as pearl latex. See above.
Agate 260's.
Agate balloons are made by dipping the mold into latex twice. A double dipped balloon cannot be inflated very easily, much less twisted. Proof: A 321 is made by dipping just the tip of the balloon into the latex twice.

Making balloons at home

The man who invented and patented the Geo, Ron Prater from Indiana, made all his prototype balloons at home, and vulcanized them in his kitchen oven (of course, his dad was a chemist at Pioneer Balloon Co, so you could say that there was some balloon making knowledge in the family to start with...). I have a newspaper article (that was reprinted in a clown magazine) which discusses this.

Regarding making balloons at home - I've watched the hand dipping process and it's a snap One good person with a few hundred dollars invested could make a gross in about 12 to 16 hours. At that rate, the cost would be prohibitive. - Marvin

Printing on latex balloons

Printed latex balloons are inflated while the printing takes place, screen printed, then deflated, drummed in rotating industrial dryers to shrink them back to "like new," and packaged. This is why printed latex balloons are so much more expensive than unprinted balloons.

I just called Pioneer and they do not imprint on non-round balloons like the 260's and 350's because they are too small. Perhaps though, independent printers can do this for you.

How foil balloons are made

The concept and technology for the "metalization" of plastic sheeting that has given us foil balloons comes directly out of the NASA Space Mission. By the way, all of us sculptors should stop referring to foil balloons as Mylar (a trademarked name for a certain type of polyester film) balloons. The balloon industry refers to them as "foil" balloons, because they are made of nylon sheet, coated on one side with polyethylene and metallized on the other. It's evidently so much harder to make balloons out of aluminized Mylar (and probably so much more expensive) that nobody does it.

Balloon Terms

The Name Game

Balloon types: by number







Balloon types: by name


Animal Balloons

Bee Bodies

Custom Shaped Balloons

Foil Balloons

Foil Gift Wrapping

Flying Saucers

Geos (Donuts and Blossoms)

Giant (Latex) Balloons

Glow in the dark balloons


Hot Water Bottles

Inflatable Women/ Men

Jell-O Balloons


Latex Gloves

Mickey Balloons

Novelty-Shaped Latex Balloons

Pencil Balloons

Punch Balloons

Round Balloons

Self-inflating Balloons

Spaghetti Balloons

Spinners/ Spiral Balloons

Squiggly Worm Balloons

Talking Balloons

Twisty Balloons

Water Balloons

Weather Balloons

Whirly Balloons

Yo-yo Balloons