“I now have an Orbeez gun of my own!” my neighbor’s son Jake said gleefully, running up to me with his new toy. Sure enough, the UnlocX gel blaster in his hand explained the toothy grin on his face. “Well, kid…fancy a quick battle, then?” I asked him.
Little did he know, the dehydrated Orbeez beads he held in his hands would need hours to fully grow into gel blaster balls. Luckily, I had some hydrated splatter balls remaining from our last play session.
Once we were done playing and I was teaching Jake some tricks to play with his new toy, I figured that it would be best to write a guide for others who might be unaware of how long these Orbeez balls need to expand to their full size.
How Long Do Orbeez Take To Grow?
Orbeez can take around 2 to 8 hours to grow, but the duration depends on their dehydrated size, surrounding conditions (temperature, humidity, etc.), and how big you want them to be. In my experience, soaking the water beads for 3 to 6 hours is most favorable to use them as ammo for gel blasters. However, if you need the Orbeez for art and décor purposes, you may adjust the growing time to make them smaller or larger than usual.
For instance, let me share a story about a creative project I worked on. I wanted to make a pretty decoration using a glass bowl and colorful Orbeez (leftover from a gelly ball party). But the gel balls were too small, so I soaked them in water for 10 hours to make them bigger.
However, I noticed that the gel beads became softer after hydration and could break apart easily. So, I decided to get bigger Orbeez for this project.
Step-By-Step Guide: How To Grow Orbeez?
Factors That Determine The Growth Rate Of Orbeez
As I found out over the years, the rate at which your Orbeez would expand depends on a number of factors. In fact, these factors can even be adjusted to make those gel balls grow faster, which I’ll discuss here.
1. Water Temperature
The temperature of the water can potentially slow down or quicken the growth rate. A higher temperature speeds up the water absorption rate which ultimately leads to the expansion of the gel balls. Although, be careful not to dunk the Orbeez in boiling hot water – it would cause the polymer to melt and deform.
Cold water, on the other hand, can slow down the rate of water absorption and cause the gel blaster balls to grow slowly. After testing with both, I can confidently tell you that it is wise to use warm water (110°F for 2 hours, as a benchmark) to improve the growing speed of Orbeez– neither too hot nor too cold.
2. Hardness Of Water
The growth rate of the Orbeez also depends on the type of water you use to soak them. Hard water, i.e., water with high mineral content (typically, 300 ppm or more hardness), can slow down the speed at which the superabsorbent polymer absorbs water.
This is because water beads cannot soak the minerals present in hard water, and thus deposited on the surface area of the balls, preventing further growth. If the water supplied to your home is hard water and you do not have a water softener, boiling it can remove the unwanted mineral content partially.
3. pH of Water
I’ve learned that Orbeez grow best when the water they’re soaked in has a pH around 7, which is considered neutral. This pH level allows the gel balls to absorb water effectively and expand to their maximum size without experiencing any negative effects.
If the water’s pH is too high or too low, it can actually impact the expansion of Orbeez. When the water is acidic with a pH below 7, the splatter balls may not expand as much and might not reach their full size or absorb water efficiently. On the other hand, if the water is highly alkaline with a pH above 7, the Orbeez can expand excessively and become too soft or even break apart.
4. Freshness Of Orbeez
The age of your Orbeez influences their growth rate too. Gel balls that have been stored for a long time tend to lose their water-absorbing capabilities, which causes them to expand at a slower rate. This is especially true if they were exposed to sunlight and heat earlier. Fresh gel beads that haven’t been sitting around take less time to grow.
So, make sure to store the Orbeez properly, away from heat and light. Avoid direct exposure to sunlight at all costs – it would not only affect the material’s ability to absorb water, but the UV rays may also cause the beads to lose their color and integrity.
5. Humidity Conditions
I’ve noticed a difference in the growth rate of Orbeez in different humidity conditions. The gel balls might absorb more moisture from the air in humid conditions, which would cause them to expand faster. On the other hand, low humidity in the air slows down their growth rate as it’s harder for them to absorb moisture.
Here is a nice time-lapse video of expanding multicolor Orbeez balls. See the different stages of growth at different times to understand how to get prepared.
What Happens If You Take Gel Balls Out Of Water Early?
If you remove the Orbeez from the water midway, they will simply remain at their current size. This is actually a good idea when you need smaller gel balls for a particular purpose but they only have a regular size.
However, since the transparency of hydrated Orbeez comes from their water content, if scooped out of the water before they are fully grown, those gel balls might appear slightly more opaque than usual. They’d also be harder than standard splat balls since the water grants them a soft gel-like consistency.
Now You Have Fully Grown Orbeez! What To Do With Them?
Once the Orbeez balls are fully grown, you’re free to use them however you wish – be it an Orbeez gun battle, as sensory toys, or as creating some colorful artwork. Now, what if you soaked more water beads than necessary and didn’t need all of them right away? Well, you may still store them for later rather than throwing them away.
As long as you store the gel balls properly, they should last at least around a couple of weeks. Here are some tips to extend their growth rate and lifespan as much as possible.
- When soaking the Orbeez beads, use distilled water. Not only would the gel blaster balls grow quicker due to the absence of elements that might interfere with the chemical reaction, but distilled water would also contain fewer contaminants.
- Once again, adding some salt to the water can be very useful when soaking Orbeez. It increases the lifespan of your gel beads by preventing fungal growth.
- If the gel balls are already hydrated before you realize that you’ll have to store them for later, rub some salt or alcohol on them to make them last longer.
- If you don’t expect to use the Orbeez anytime soon, you may also dehydrate them, keep them away, and hydrate them when needed.
To sum it up, Orbeez generally take four to six hours to grow, but you can cut it down to around three hours by using the tips and tricks I shared. I personally just use warm and low-pH water most of the time, occasionally adding some salt to prevent the Orbeez from getting molds. If you ever need to grow gel balls at short notice, I hope this guide will prove helpful.