Can You Use An Air Compressor To Blow Up Balloons?

The party is in a few hours and there still are a lot of balloons to be filled. It’s too many to blow up by mouth, but there is an air compressor handy. Can you blow up balloons using an air compressor?

An air compressor can blow up balloons, but there are a few considerations to think about before using this tool on balloons. Too much pressure can pop the balloons, and the right air nozzle is essential. With a few steps, an air compressor can make blowing up balloons easy and efficient. 

The Versatile Air Compressor

Air compressors can be used for many different tasks. They can blow up tires, run pneumatic tools, and much more. They can even be used to blow up sports balls, pool floats, and balloons. 

Balloons inflated by air compressors won’t float though because they use atmospheric air. To get your balloons to float, you need a helium tank. Any tire inflator will do but our favorite is the slime compressor.

Considerations Before Blowing Up Balloons With an Air Compressor

Unless the air compressor has an air dryer hooked up to it, the air inside the balloons will contain some level of humidity, depending on how humid the environment where the compressor is located. For most balloons, this isn’t a problem. Balloons that have confetti inside them may be affected by the humidity. 

If the air compressor is located outside, and the ambient air is very humid, then the confetti inside the balloons may end up sticking together. In this case, a compressed air tank or helium tank may be warranted. If the balloons are empty inside, then the humidity won’t be a problem.  

Oil Can Break Down Latex Balloons

Any moving machine needs some kind of lubricant to reduce the wear and tear and heat buildup resulting from friction. Air compressors are no different. The problem with air compressors and the lubricants they use is the air exiting the machine usually has a minute amount of oil in it.

Petroleum products like oil often degrade latex. Typical “stretchy” Balloons are made of rubber and latex to give them their expanding properties. 

This small amount of oil typically won’t have your balloons popping very soon. If the balloons are used the day of, then there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. Of course, there are a few options to help eliminate any oil from being blown into the balloons.

While some compressors already have an oil separator installed in them, smaller home units often don’t have them installed. To stop the compressor from adding a minute amount of oil to the balloons, you can add an in-line oil separator. These also tend to reduce the moisture content in the air, which is a plus.

There are also oil-free compressors on the market that use self-lubricating pistons, as well as materials such as Teflon, and other technology to provide oil-free air. With that out of the way, let’s get into blowing up the balloons.

How to Blow Up Balloons With an Air Compressor

First, make sure you have the proper nozzle. An adjustable pressure air blower gun is essential for blowing up balloons. It would be helpful to have a rubber or plastic tip as well. 

Now, the pressure needs to be adjusted. Nail guns and other tools require a lot of pressure for them to work efficiently, but blowing up balloons is another matter. When compressors are used for larger pneumatic tools, the pressure could be set high.  

Smaller compressors, such as a pancake compressor, are usually factory set around 90psi. To blow up balloons, this pressure doesn’t need to be any higher. If a larger compressor is being used, and it’s set at 150psi, then that pressure needs to be reduced or most of the balloons will probably overinflate and pop.

Once the pressure is scaled back a little, let the compressor fill up and come to rest. Make sure the air hose and nozzle are installed properly and there are no leaks. 

Now place the balloon over the air blower nozzle and hold it tight. Very slowly and very carefully depress the trigger to blow up the balloon. This may take some practice if you haven’t done this before, so be patient. 

Once the balloon is filled to the desired size, tie it off and proceed to the next one. With a little practice, you’ll have all the balloons filled shortly and won’t think about blowing them up with your mouth again. 

Foil or Mylar Balloons

Foil balloons have a thin layer of aluminum in them to make them shiny, whereas Mylar balloons don’t use aluminum, and are a brand name. Often the two names are often used interchangeably. 

They last much stronger than latex versions and are much harder to pop. These can be blown up by air compressors too, though they require much less pressure to inflate them.

These balloons are usually filled with helium to make them float, but they can be filled with air. The small foil balloons that are attached to sticks or straws are always filled with air. They are too heavy and small to float with helium. 

Mylar balloons
Mylar balloons

How to Fill Foil or Mylar Balloons With an Air Compressor

Compared to filling latex rubber balloons, filling foil or Mylar balloons is very similar. The main differences include the filling nozzle and the air pressure. To fill a foil or Mylar balloon, follow the above steps up to get the compressor ready. 

Foil balloons have a self-sealing neck that does not stretch like latex balloons. The air blower nozzle used to fill latex balloons won’t work to fill foil balloons. 

Some airflow nozzles have replaceable tips. To fill a foil or Mylar balloon, an air nozzle extension is needed to get through the narrow neck of the balloon and past the seal.

Now that the airflow extension is installed, insert the nozzle into the balloon, and slowly fill it up. These balloons do not stretch, instead, they will fill with air and become tight. Too much pressure will make these balloons pop. 

Once the balloon is filled with enough air, pull the nozzle out, and tightly press the neck to seal the air inside. 

Using an Air Pump for Balloons

There are many air pumps that will blow up balloons. There are manual pumps, which can be broken down further into single or double-action pumps, and there are electric pumps. All of which have their uses. 

Manual air pumps are great if only a few balloons need to be filled up at a time, and are great for long balloons used for balloon animals. These balloons require a lot of practice to fill by mouth and lung power.

If hundreds of balloons need to be blown up, a manual pump will be exhausting. An electric air pump to blow up balloons is much more efficient and requires very little manual labor.

Air Pump VS Compressor

Electric air pumps only provide a low-pressure, steady stream of air. They run continuously but don’t make as much noise as air compressors. Air compressors can build up much more pressure and hold it steady in a tank. They will cycle on and off as the pressure in the tank is depleted. 

Air pumps and compressors use the outside air to fill the balloons, but air pumps can be brought inside easier than air compressors. Air compressors can be very loud, whereas air pumps are much quieter and easier to use indoors where the air can be dryer than outside.

A manual air pump is no match whatsoever for an air compressor or an electric air pump. They all will do the job, but an electric air pump or air compressor is not going to tire out after inflating 20 balloons. 

If only a small handful of balloons need to be filled up, then it is definitely easier to fill them with a manual air pump. It doesn’t create nearly as much noise as an air compressor and doesn’t require the lengthy setup of the other two. 

One benefit of using an air pump, especially an electric air pump is there will be no oil vapor getting blown into the balloons.

Theoretically, they will last longer because there is no oil in the air that can start to break down the latex. On the same hand, if the air compressor is oilless or has an oil separator, you won’t have to worry about oil with the compressor either.

In Conclusion

When a lot of balloons need to be blown up in a short amount of time, an air compressor will do the trick easily and efficiently. There are a few steps to follow, and considerations to think about.

Air compressors are powerful and there may be a learning curve to blowing up balloons. Also, is humidity or oil in the balloons going to be a factor? Humidity can affect things like confetti inside the balloons, and oil can degrade them quickly.  Once these issues have been addressed, an air compressor will make quick work of any balloons that need to be inflated

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