Water Beads: Everything You Want to Know

Water beads, jelly balls, magic crystals, orbeez, whatever you call them, you have likely played with or seen them at some point. But did you know that according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, nearly 7,000 water bead-related ingestion injuries have been reported between 2018 and 2022?

So, turns out, water beads are not only some aesthetic little balls, they can in fact entail potential death risks. So, here is everything you want to know about them and more.

What are water beads?

In Layman’s terms, water beads are small beads that absorb water and grow into squishy gel balls. To break it down further, water beads contain super-absorbent polymers, which when placed in fluids, expands up to hundreds of times bigger. 

Water beads are often marketed as toys for children. Since they come in different colors and shapes, they can keep children engaged for hours. They are also known to improve fine motor skills as children get to explore the colors and textures and sort them based on size, shapes, or colors. 

Read more: How to Choose High-Quality Balloons?

What are water beads made of?

Water beads are made of super-absorbent polymers, a kind of material that can absorb large amounts of water. Super-absorbent polymers were initially used in agriculture for conservation of water in soil, but have many more uses today.  

Who invented water beads?

Superabsorbent Polymers, which make up water beads, were invented by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the early 1970s in an attempt to conserve water in soil.

How to make water beads?

Water beads usually come in small packets. To make water beads, all you need is a bowl filled with clean distilled water. Empty the packet of water beads into the water filled bowl, give it a stir and let it rest for some 5-6 hours (even longer for larger beads), allowing them to absorb the water and grow fully. Once they have grown visibly big, drain off the excess water and they are ready to use!

What are water beads used for?

Although originally water beads were used for agricultural purposes (to retain water in the soil), with time, many other uses for them have come out. They are used in floral arrangements to hydrate flowers, they are used to decorate centerpieces, they are used in diapers and sanitary napkins as an absorption element, and they are used as toys. In some cases, they are used in flood control where bags of water beads are dropped in water to absorb the water. 

How to use water beads?

Water beads come as tiny dry beads. You need to place them in water and once they have swelled up, you can use it for your intended purpose. 

How do water beads work?

Water beads come as small hard beads, which have to be placed in fluid, usually water so that the superabsorbent polymers in the beads can absorb the water and the beads grow into translucent rubbery balls. 

What to do with water beads?

You can use water beads as a replacement of soil in gardening and to keep flowers hydrated in a vase. You can also use them to decorate your home by perhaps placing them in a large bowl or vase. They are also used as sensory objects for children, especially those with development disabilities or autism.

How to dispose of water beads?

Water beads typically do not contain any toxic chemicals, which is why it is completely safe to dispose them of in bins just like that. You do not even have to break or mash them they will very naturally biodegrade in the environment. An alternative to throwing them away is to mix them with soil and use in gardening. Also, you can rehydrate them and reuse them to save money!

How big do water beads get?

Water beads can expand up to 1500 time their original size.

How long does it take for water beads to grow?

The time taken for water beads to grow up to grow fully depends on their sizes. While smaller beads take around 3-7 hours, the larger pea-sized ones can take up to 24-48 hours to reach their maximum size. 

How long do water beads last?

If filled with water, water beads can last up to several months, even years! The secret is to keep the hydration level up. 

How to use water beads in a vase?

You can either hydrate your water beads in another bowl or directly in your vase. Water beads can be used in vases for both decoration and for hydrating flowers. Fill up half the vase with water beads and then add water to three-fourth of it. Now you can add other ornaments or real or fake flowers to it.

How long do water beads last in a vase?

Water beads can last up to 3 months in vases with plants or flowers, even more if you add water to it from time to time. 

How many water beads to fill a vase?

For wider or bigger vases, use 1 tablespoon of water beads and for smaller or narrower ones, use 1 teaspoon of beads.

How long do the resin beads last in a water softener?

Hard water is not only bad for our skin, it can also clog pipes, which is why it is advisable to use water softeners. Water softeners contain resin beads, which can last from 10 to 15 years, depending upon the level of chlorine and iron in the water. 

How long do water beads last without water?

Without water, water beads can last up to several days, sometimes even weeks.

How long to soak water beads?

Soak regular sized water beads for 4-6 hours for them to fully grow. 

Why are water beads dangerous?

Water beads are often deemed dangerous because they can entail health hazards, especially to small children below 3 years of age, who are more likely to swallow the candy-like balls. In such cases, this can cause choking and also lead to life-threatening internal damage by bloating up in the intestines. Sometimes, they can also end up stuck in lungs, which is all the more reason to worry about.

Children might also put them in their ears causing ear damage, and in worst cases, hearing loss. Moreover, although non-toxic by nature, at times water beads might cause acrylamide monomer (an ingredient for synthetic superabsorbent polymer) poisoning.

What is demonstrated when you see beads of water on a waxed car hood?

When water beads appear on a waxed car hood, it demonstrated the adhesive properties of water that is its likeliness to get attracted to other molecules. 

How much water for water beads?

You ought to use 5-6 cups of water for a 10-gram packet or 3 cups for 1 teaspoon of water beads. 

How to store water beads?

It is recommended to store water beads securely in an airtight container, and store them out of reach of children. 

How big can water beads get

Water beads can grow up to 100 to 1500 times bigger than their original sizes depending upon their sizes. While small beads can grow up to the size of marbles, bigger ones can grow up to the size of tennis balls. 

How to use water beads for centerpieces?

Water beads can be used to augment the beauty of centerpieces in any event. One way to make a beautiful centerpiece using water beads is to using uncolored water beads. 

Fill a vase with the beads and then you can place ornaments like pearls and submersible LED lights in between the beads and once you feel the vase with water, you will end up with an illuminated floating pearls centerpiece!

Another idea is to layer different colored water beads in a vase and fill it with water and top it off with floating sox wax candles. Bonus – You can also add few drops of essential oils to make the place smell like heaven!

How to dry out water beads?

Without water, eventually water beads would begin to shrink, but that may take weeks. To dry water beads, pat the beads with a dry towel to soak up extra moisture and then lay them in a fresh towel and leave them to air dry. 

It may take up to 7 days for the beads to dry out completely. To fasten the process, you can bake the beads in your oven at 350 degrees for an hour. That way, they will get back to their original size without much hassle. 

How to use water beads for plants?

If you often forget or feel lazy to water your plants, water beads got your back! While you can make a bedding of water beads underneath the plant pots, its better to mix the beads in with the soil. Some plants can also make do without soil, so you can use water beads instead (Bamboo shoots for example).

How to use water beads with fresh flowers?

Fill half a vase with water beads and fill the vase with water. Put your fresh flowers in the vase and voíla, your flowers will stay fresh for a longer time. 

What happens if water beads are swallowed?

If swallowed, water beads can cause choking as well as serious internal injuries by inflating inside the intestines. 

How to dissolve water beads in a drain?

Water beads could clog toilets or sinks if you flush them down, but do not worry there is a solution to dissolve them in the drain. The best way is to put baking soda into the drain followed by vinegar. Other alternatives are salt, which will eventually bring out the water from the beads, and bleach.

How much water for a tablespoon of water beads?

The general rule of thumb is to add 5-6 cups of water for a tablespoon of water beads.

How much water to add to water beads?

By adding 5-6 cups of water to a tablespoon of water beads, you will get around 6 cups of water beads. 

How to get rid of water beads?

Water beads normally degrade in soil easily so you can get rid of them by tossing them in the trash. But beware of not draining them in your sinks or toilets or you could end up clogging them. Other alternatives to get rid of them are to dry and shrink them back to be able to use them again and to mix them with soil and use it for your plants. 

How to keep water beads from molding?

Water beans can get moldy after coming in contact with dirt after playing. In order to prevent the buildup of mold, it is recommended to wash them with a mixture of lukewarm water and dish soap or a few drops of vinegar and then rinsing them nicely off with clean water.

How to play with water beads?

There are many ways your child can play with water beads. The most common one is to put them in a bowl to let your child explore around and familiarize with the texture and size. Add shaving cream to the water beads and it can turn into a messy sensory play session! You can also put out a few small bins around and ask your child to sort them based on colors, a fun way to learn! 

You can also put the beads inside balloons using a funnel and your child can use it as a squishy ball or even you can use it as a stress ball. Or just give them to your child to smash them around. 

What happens when you put silica beads in water?

You would often find little bags of silica gels or beads in your jar or say peanuts or candies. They are used to keep away moisture from your products and subsequently keep them from going bad or getting moldy. When you put silica beads in water, they will typically grow a little and if they are coated with indicating colors, they will likely change color to signal that the beads have absorbed moisture. 

How does the structure of the water molecule help explain the ability of water to form beads?

Water (H20) is a polar molecule owing to its structure in the sense that the hydrogen particles in it carry positive sign while the oxygen particle carries negative. This causes water molecules to attract each other as well as other polar molecules, which explains its ability to form beads. 

What property of water causes it to form beads on the leaves of the plants?

In easy language, owing to the Cohesive Properties of water molecules, they tend to stick to each other and create beads on the leaves of plants.

What is the difference between orbeez and water beads?

Although often used as synonyms, Orbeez is just a popular brand of water beads that manufacture them for kids. 

How to make water beads at home?

If you are concerned that your child will end up swallowing the forbidden balls also known as water beads, good news is that you can make edible water beads at home with minimal ingredients! All you need is boba or tapioca pearls, which you can get in stores or even make at home and the rest of the process is fairly simple. 

First of all, boil 5 cups of water and then add ½ cup tapioca pearls in it. Once the balls float up, you know its ready. Drain off the water and cool completely before use. 


Water beads are versatile fun little balls but of course you cannot forget the hazards that come along with it. While it can keep your children engaged for hours, you should closely supervise them. For their betterment, avoid giving it to children below 3 years old. 

And If your child has water beads ingestion induced vomiting, drooling, wheezing, or abdominal pain and swelling, call Poison Control immediately at 1-800-222-1222.

Emily Rose

Wife. Mom. Blogger. Actress. Friend. I got married to Dariek in 2009. Now I am the mother of three cute and naughty children who keep me busy always. As a lifelong learner, I find inspiration from the everyday experiences of motherhood. When I learn a new thing, I share it on my blog GlobalMomsMagazine.com.

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