Water Balloon


120' Water Balloon Experiment

If you only read one sentence, here's what you need to know: latex tubing makes great water balloons.

It started at my son's birthday party in May. We ran out of water balloons and needed alternatives. We had scrap latex surgical tubing from a sling shot project. We discovered the tubing makes excellent water balloons, about 3' long.

After the party we started thinking: what was the longest possible water balloon we could make?

Our local Lowe's had only short pieces of tubing.

We had better luck online. We found 50' rolls of latex tubing at Atlantic Rubber for under $20. We choose 1/4" ID, 1/16" wall amber natural latex tubing, model #250x062.

We wondered: could we really make a fifty foot water balloon? We had to try.

Video 1: The Plan

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Aiming for 50'

We scheduled our experiment for Father's Day, June 17. We opted to attempt two 50' balloons, laid out head to head, to accommodate a water fight.

We faced challenges. The back yard had sharp stones. The yard was sloped, increasing the pressure on the bottom of the balloon. We feared catastrophic failure during filling.

Video 2: The Concerns

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We knotted one end of the first tube and turned on the hose. The tube began to inflate.

We were suprised by how long it took the tube to fill: 15 minutes with the hose on full.

We were also suprised by how much the tubing expanded, both length and width. We thought the 50' tube would yield a 50' water balloon. Nope.

The tube expanded as it filled. We had to loop the ever-filling monster back and forth to keep it in the yard. The tubing also stretched radially, inflating from 3/8" exterior diameter to 3" diameter, a 700% expansion in width.

We expected the tube to explode at any moment. Happily, it didn't.

When the first tube was full, we closed off the open end with a binder clamp.

We then filled the second tube, but this time we kept tension on the tubing by pulling back as we filled it. By pulling while it filled, the 50' run of latex tubing stretched to over 120', a 140% increase. This is how our 50' experiment morphed into a 120' water balloon.

Video 3: The Fill

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The Failed Battle

Two boys stood ready, each backed by 120' of high-pressure water stuffed tubing behind them. They popped off the binder clips and the great water battle began.

And quickly fizzled.

As the tubes emptied, the "spout" of water moved further back from the end. Soon the two emptying tubes had retreated so that the boys were too far apart to squirt one another. The fun dwindled.

"Cut the tube!" someone shouted.

My wife found a scissors and sprung into action. Soon, the two too-long balloons were chopped into 10' and 20' writhing lengths, spurting water wildly from both sides.

And then the fun began.

Video 4: The Battle

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Our experiment shows that multiple 10' latex tubing balloons are more fun than a single 120' water balloon.

We recommend inflating three or more 10' lengths for each kid, using clamps to hold the balloons closed until the battle begins.

If you do not overfill the tubes, you can reuse them several times before they fatigue and burst.

© 2007