Can You Use an Air Compressor to Blow Up Balloons?

Air compressors have a wide variety of uses and applications for professionals and DIY warriors alike. One of the most common uses for a typical garage compressor is filling up things like tires and sports balls. But what about balloons? Everyone knows inflating balloons by mouth can be time-consuming, exhausting, and downright painful – especially if you need more than just a few. So it’s only natural to look for an easier way, and if you have a compressor laying around, it may seem like the perfect solution. But will a compressor get the job done?

You can use a regular air compressor to blow up balloons – indeed, it’s one of the more convenient and efficient ways to do so. Of course, there are a few things to consider to avoid difficulties and ensure your compressor is up to the task. You’ll also need the right hose attachments for the job.

Before we get into the how-to, let’s look at a few key considerations.

Pressure Output

Unlike car tires, balloons don’t require very much pressure to be fully inflated. This means that even a very small air compressor will provide more than enough PSI to blow up balloons. Most smaller compressors offer a maximum operating pressure of at least 90 PSI, which is enough to fill even a large balloon in a matter of seconds.

So the main concern regarding pressure is that it will be easy to overinflate and explode your balloons if you’re not careful. Fortunately, the air tool you’ll be using will give you plenty of control over airflow (more on that later). But still, if your compressor has a pressure regulator, you probably won’t want to set it any higher than 90 PSI.

Duty Cycle & Tank Capacity

Every air compressor has a duty cycle rating, which dictates how long the pump should be allowed to run in a given usage cycle. This is usually expressed as a percentage – if the compressor has a 50% duty cycle rating, the pump should only run 50% of the time the compressor is in use. In other words, if you’re using the compressor for two minutes, there should be one minute of pump rest time for every one minute of pump run time.

Exceeding the duty cycle rating can lead to overheating and undue wear on the pump. This typically only comes into play if you’re depleting the storage tank too rapidly, causing the pump to run more frequently than it should to refill the tank. 

So if you need to inflate hundreds of balloons in a hurry, you’ll want to make sure you aren’t overtaxing your compressor to do so. Naturally, a larger storage tank will take longer to deplete, allowing more time for the pump to cool – but it still pays to know your compressor’s duty cycle rating and stick to it as best you can.

Moisture

Another factor to consider is moisture. Most of the water vapor in atmospheric air is condensed into liquid as the air is compressed, but some may still make it into the air supply, especially if you’re in a more humid climate. 

A little bit of moisture won’t be a big deal for most balloons, but if you’re using confetti-filled balloons, any moisture inside the balloon can make the confetti pieces clump to one another and interfere with the static electricity that would otherwise make them buoyant and lively.

If you need moisture-free balloons, you can simply install a moisture trap in your air line to capture any water that makes it past the storage tank.

Oil

Similarly, if you’re using an oil-lubricated compressor, there’s a good chance that a small amount of oil vapor will get into the compression chamber and, in turn, the compressed air supply. 

Most oil compressors have oil separators built-in to capture this oil content, but you may want to add an in-line oil separator for extra protection. In most cases, a moisture trap and oil separator will serve the same function, so it’s up to you which one you use.

Oil will have a similar effect on confetti inside a balloon, but even worse, oil and oil-based lubricants tend to break down latex. The last thing you want is to spend all that time blowing up countless balloons only to have them pop later due to a little bit of oil!

Noise

One final thing to consider is the noise level of an air compressor. Most compressors are fairly loud, so if you plan to spend a lot of time filling up balloons in close proximity to the compressor itself, make sure you protect your ears against the damaging effects of noise exposure.

How To Blow Up Balloons Using an Air Compressor

Now that we have all that out of the way, let’s look at how it’s done. Don’t worry – it’s super easy!

What You’ll Need

Step-By-Step

  1. Turn on your compressor and let the tank fill.
  2. Adjust the pressure regulator until the gauge reads 90 PSI (or lower).
  3. Place the tapered rubber nozzle of the blow gun inside the balloon nozzle and hold it there tightly with your fingers.
  4. Slowly depress the trigger on the blow gun to release air into the balloon. You can hold the trigger down further to speed up the process, but be careful not to overinflate the balloon.
  5. Once the balloon is filled to the desired level, pinch the balloon nozzle closed with your fingers and withdraw it from the tip of the blow gun.
  6. Tie the balloon (that’s the hard part!).

As you can see, blowing up a balloon with an air compressor is quick, easy, and painless. As long as you’re careful not to overheat or overwork your compressor, and you protect against the few minor caveats that come with it, you may never want to go back to inflating balloons by mouth! Thanks for reading!

Justin

Justin is a full-time blogger with a passion for anything DIY. When he's not hanging out with his wife and son, you can find him putting the finishing touches on yet another home project he's taken on. He's also the creator of AllAboutAirCompressors.com.