“No helium needed to fill balloons for parties…..just vinegar and baking soda!”
This is a pin that if anyone took middle school science class, they shouldn’t be pinning. Why? Because you can’t just make up helium. Can you use baking soda and vinegar to fill balloons? Sure. But it’s not going to float like helium will. You’re better off just blowing them up with your own breath, unless you are planning on using it as a science experiment for kids. Which, come to find out, is what the image is actually depicting.
A quick search and I found the source of the image. Over at the blog Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas, she writes about a common trick of using vinegar and baking soda to fill a balloon, showing off the gas the chemical reaction produces. In fact, she has even added a disclaimer on the post explaining that this will not produce helium. Helium is a naturally occurring gas, you can’t just make it. It’s number 2 on the periodic table of elements, meaning it’s lighter than air (which is primarily made up of heavier oxygen and nitrogen), which is why when you fill a balloon with helium, it floats instead of sinking like if it were filled with air. (The only reason an air balloon sinks in the first place is because you’re loading it up with compressed molecules, making it heavier than the air around it.) The gas produced from baking soda and vinegar, however, is your run of the mill carbon dioxide. Since carbon dioxide is heavier than air, it won’t float. In fact, technically it will be heavier than if you simply filled it normally with air.
So there you have it, this is a great experiment for the kids, but don’t think this is going to magically replace helium in balloons.