Water Beads for Any Occasion

Frequently Asked Questions About Jelly BeadZ

Frequently Asked Questions About Jelly BeadZ

1. What are “Jelly BeadZ”

The chemical compound is “Sodium Polyacrylate” ([-CH2-CH(COONa)-]n) . “Jelly BeadZ” are tiny hard plastic polymer beads originally developed by the USDA in the ‘60’s to help farmers irrigate their crops more efficiently. “Jelly BeadZ” absorb water very quickly (in about 6 hours) and release that water much more slowly (between 3 and 8 weeks depending on the circumstances). This polymer is used in many common consumer products like baby diapers or the little absorbent pads your butcher puts between the hamburger and the Styrofoam tray (in these applications the compound is used in a flake or powder form instead of the decorative beads.)  It’s also used to help keep plants alive when mixed in the soil or used as a hydroponic medium.

2. What do you do with “Jelly BeadZ”

"Jelly BeadZ” can be used for keeping bouquets fresh (instead of plain water) or for growing cuttings like “Lucky Bamboo”, Pothos, herbs etc. The beads can be mixed in the soil of your houseplants or your garden so you don’t have to water them as frequently. The beads can also be used simply as decorations, using clear glass containers, artificial flowers etc. and getting creative. You are only limited by your imagination. They are great for centerpieces at baby showers, bridal showers, wedding receptions and other parties. The different colored beads can be layered (like red, white and blue for a patriotic theme) or mixed to create interesting highlights for special occasions. Most colors can be made to appear transparent, exposing “suspended” hidden objects, by adding excess water. The additional water fills the spaces between individual beads, causing light to pass through the beads rather than reflecting off the surfaces. This is a nice effect for highlighting specific objects like seashells or ceramic figurines. Another advantage, if you get tired of the decoration, is you can spread the hydrated beads on a non-stick cookie sheet. In about 3 weeks the beads will shrink back to their original size and fit back in the little bag they came in.

3. How do “Jelly BeadZ” work?

Place the beads in a bowl of water (distilled water works best) for about 6 hours. The tiny beads (the size of seedbeads) will absorb the water, swelling to the size of marbles (a teaspoonful of dry beads will fill a 1 quart jar, an almost 200 fold increase.) Once the hydrated beads are removed from the water they immediately start releasing that water, but do so much more slowly than they absorbed it. If using the beads for decoration or as a hydroponic medium, over time you’ll notice the beads on top (those exposed to the air) will gradually get smaller and/or the overall volume of the display will decrease.
 In a couple weeks you’ll want to replace the water that has evaporated. It will only take a couple hours for the beads to swell back to their fully hydrated size. Pour off the excess water and you’re ready for another couple weeks. If you opt to not rehydrate the beads it will take a couple months for them to shrink back to their original size (albeit in a clump.) Our experience indicates freezing the beads tends to break them and once thawed they become fragile. Similarly leaving the beads in high heat or direct sunlight make the beads soft and mushy so avoid temperatures over 90 deg F if you can. If used for growing plants or if they are exposed to other sources of contamination (like dirty fingers) the beads may also grow some mold (just like any other plant) or become cloudy. We suggest rinsing the beads in a bowl of water that has a very small amount of chlorine bleach added (only a drop or two per quart). Let the beads sit in the water for an hour or so. Too much bleach may make the beads soft and mushy. If growing plants in the beads add a couple drops of a liquid plant food (like Miracle Grow) as most plants need more than just water to flourish.

4. Are “Jelly BeadZ” safe?

Jelly BeadZ are non-toxic, biodegradable and colorfast (we are discontinuing the non-colorfast shades). Sodium Polyacrylate is routinely used in baby diapers and butcher shops (the little pad under the meat) to absorb excess moisture. There is some concern, however, that in the powder form this compound may irritate respiratory passages, but in the bead form we sell that should not be a concern. Again the product was developed by the USDA back in the ‘60’s to assist farmers increasing their crop yield.

5. Where do the “Jelly BeadZ” come from?

Although originally developed here in the USA, like so many other products, current manufacturing takes place in the Far East. We import direct from Hong Kong in large quantities and repackage the beads into the little ziplock bags. That’s how we keep our prices low (most of our competitors charge 50% to 100% more than we do for the same amount (5 grams/1 tsp) of product.)

6. Any special water should I use?

For long term display we suggest using distilled water instead of tap water. This is to prevent contaminants typically found in the tap water from affecting the beads. If you use water from a private well you may have traces of algae that grow on your beads or with hard water there are high concentrations of minerals that affect the size or fragility of the hydrated beads. With municipal water supplies you may have an excess of chlorine. You can disperse the chlorine by aerating the water or letting it stand overnight in a shallow bowl or pan. Bringing the water to a rigorous boil for a few minutes will accomplish the same objective in a shorter time.