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Can You Use an Air Pump to Blow Up Balloons?

Can You Use an Air Pump to Blow Up Balloons?

It’s the night before your little sister’s birthday, and you are supposed to be in charge of decorations. 

A quick trip to the drug store equips you with a spool of streamers and a bag of balloons, but you can’t find a place to fill them up. 

Well, the gas station has an air pump, can I just use that, you wonder?

Yes! It’s certainly not ideal, but in a pinch, most gas stations have pumps that work surprisingly well

The first step, finding a simple adapter  to help fit a balloon onto a Presta valve, can be solved by a simple trip to the bicycle area of a department store. 

The second hurdle is a bit more difficult, finding a way to deal with the high pressure produced by air compressors used in the automotive industry. 

Whether you have a hand pump, an electric compressor, or you are resorting to a gas station pump, you will find a tutorial below to help you along.

How to Inflate a Balloon With an Air Pump?

While inflating balloons is generally self-explanatory, the process will vary a little bit based on the kind of pump you are using. 

Remember that whatever method you use, a regular air pump won’t inflate balloons that float without helium.

Bicycle/Hand Pump

use bicycle pump to fill balloons

The easiest and best method for filling balloons is with a hand air pump, using either one designed for bikes  or one specifically made for balloons . Some cities even have public bicycle pumps you can use in parks and along trails! 

Using a plastic bit to convert between the normal Schrader nozzle of a manual pump and one more apt for balloons will make the process much easier. 

Luckily both bike and balloon pumps often come with such an attachment. 

If you don’t have one, however, don’t despair! Because you can control the air flow with these devices, you can try and work the pump without one and you shouldn’t have too much trouble.

Slipping your fingers into the end of the balloon, pull the plastic outwards until the opening is large enough to fit around the pump’s nozzle. 

Then, continuing to pinch the balloon onto the nozzle if necessary, begin cycling the pump to inflate the balloon until it reaches the desired size. 

When filled to size, pinch the balloon just above the nozzle before slipping the balloon off the nozzle and tying the neck with a simple overhand knot.

How to inflate balloon quickly using bicycle pump

Electric Pump

electric air pump

If you have access to an electric air compressor, that can be used as another easy and simple option. 

Depending on the tubing you have, you may need an adaptor, one that allows you to control the air flow with a lever  if possible. 

If the compressor is designed with a Schrader tip (the type used for bike and car tires) you will need to slip an adaptor into the nozzle and pull the lever on the pump head. 

To fill the balloon, simply fit it around the adapter tip like you would with a hand pump, turn your compressor to its lowest setting, and flip it on. 

Watch the balloon carefully as you fill it and, when it’s sufficiently filled, simply turn off the air flow (often you can do so without turning off the compressor) and tie it off. 

For a video walking you through this method you can visit:

How To Inflate Balloons With Air Compressor | Inflate Balloons For Your Party In Minutes | RxRn

Gas Station Pump

gas station air pump

Sometimes you don’t have another option, and between being open 24 hours and many of them being free (check here to find free pumps near you), gas station pumps are far and away the most accessible option; unfortunately they are also the most difficult. 

Before starting, make sure the pump has a way to easily turn on and off the air flow while you work, and while it is sometimes possible to fill balloons at a gas station without a nozzle adaptor, it’s a lot harder without one.

When you get to the station to fill your balloons, make sure and run inside first and ask permission; while you should be fine, it’s always easier to ask first. 

Once you’ve done that, actually filling the balloon is done in much the same way as with a normal electric pump but turned up to 11. 

Without options to slow down the air flow, using most pumps like this will feel a bit like you’re watering a plant with a firehose! 

As you start, just make sure to pinch the balloon firmly onto the hose with your fingers before you turn the pump on and as you inflate it. 

As the balloon fills, you will want to keep your other hand ready to turn off the air flow. 

After you finish tying them off, repeat the process with the other balloons and before you know it you will be ready to start tying balloon animals (or whatever else you are filling balloons for).

Other Alternatives

inflating a balloon with your lungs

If you don’t have access to an air pump, you can always try inflating a balloon with your lungs. 

To do so, make sure and stretch the balloon out with your hands before holding it by the neck and blowing into the opening, pinching it off between bursts with your fingers.

Failing that, many stores (most Walmart, Dollar Tree, and Kroger stores have helium pumps) will inflate your balloons for only a few bucks, just ask at the customer service desk before checking out. 

If all else fails, you can always fill the balloon with baking soda and vinegar. 

Just a splash of vinegar in a baking soda dusted balloon should be enough to get it filling itself with carbon dioxide as you tie it off, making this method by far the most fun (and most messy). 

Whatever method you use, let us know how it worked for you, and remember, the balloons won’t care as long as you’re having fun!


Thursday 6th of April 2023

The gas station worked great for balloons that would be on the floor. It was free too! Thank you