CO2, Air, Latex, and Ultra HiFloat Helium Balloon Life Extender

A latex inner tube is kind of like a balloon, and air is kind of like helium, so I wonder if Ultra HiFloat helium balloon life extender will help a latex inner tube hold air longer.

In our last episode of Esoteric Observations on Bicycles and Cycling I used latex balloons to demonstrate that carbon dioxide leaks through latex faster than air, and I promised to test Ultra Hifloat (a helium balloon life extending product) to see if it could decrease the flow of CO2 through latex, as soon as Amazon delivered my Ultra HiFloat. Well, I received my HiFloat and I’ve done some tests, but first…

I stumbled across a Material Safety Data Sheet for Ultra HiFloat, which lists the ingredients as: Water, Polyvinyl Alcohol, and Dextrose Monohydrate. Considering each of these ingredients:

Polyvinyl alcohol, also known as PVOH, PVA, or PVAL, is a synthetic polymer that is soluble in water. It is effective in film forming, emulsifying, and has an adhesive quality. It has no odor and is not toxic, and is resistant to grease, oils, and solvents. It is ductile but strong, flexible, and functions as a high oxygen and aroma barrier.”

Maybe the “high oxygen and aroma barrier” property will help a latex inner tube hold CO2 or air.

Dextrose Monohydrate is apparently a glucose source used as an ingredient in intravenous feeding solutions. Maybe it’s in HiFloat to make it taste better???? Any chemists reading this?

Water is water.

…so my initial tests, as previously reported, showed that CO2 leaks through a latex balloon much much faster than air.

Balloon 7Previous test result – CO2 bleeds through a latex balloon faster than air.

A latex inner tube is kind of like a balloon and sure enough, CO2 leaks through a latex tube faster than air.

Tube FinalPrevious test result – CO2 bleeds through a latex inner tube faster than air.

With my HiFloat in hand I set about to determine if the product would slow down the loss of CO2 through Latex. I filled four balloons with CO2, two treated with HiFloat and two untreated. It took about twelve hours to determine that the answer to that question would seem to be a definite NO.

CO2HiFloatT12Four CO2-filled balloons, two treated with HiFloat, two not treated, after twelve hours.

That was all fun but I don’t even carry CO2 on my bike. I use a mini-pump because I’m never in that much of a hurry and, well, I’m cheap. So what I would really be interested in is a product that allows me to run latex tubes with air retention equivalent to butyl tubes. Here goes.

I filled four balloons with air. Two were treated with HiFloat and two were untreated.

HiFloatT0Four air-filled balloons, two treated with HiFloat, two not treated, time zero.

HiFloatFinalThe same four air-filled balloons, two treated with HiFloat, two not treated, after two weeks. The two slightly larger balloons are the treated ones.

This was all much slower than I expected. It took about two weeks to see any difference, but there is a difference. The HiFloat treated balloons remained slightly larger. Still, not very impressive.

I cut the balloons open and I was surprised to see a stretchy plastic-like film that felt and looked a lot like saran wrap coating the inner surface of the HiFloat treated balloons.



This is all occurring at the relatively low pressures encountered in balloons. What about at higher pressures, like in inner tubes?

I installed a Michelin latex inner tube in a 23mm tire and inflated it to 100 psi. I monitored the deflation rate over several days. Then I dismounted (demounted? unmounted?) the tire and squirted 17 grams* of HiFloat into the tube thru the valve stem. I followed this with a squirt of water to hopefully keep the valve stem from getting glued shut (which worked, BTW). I squished the product around to distribute it around the tube (it’s very viscous), remounted the tire, and  inflated it back to 100 psi and spent several more days monitoring deflation rate.

How’d I monitor deflation rate you ask? I chucked up my favorite Silca pump and stroked slowly until I heard the presta valve crack off-seat. I know, I raised the pressure in the tire a small amount each time I did this, but give me a break. It’s close enough to make the point, and I did it this way consistently.

The results of all this testing were a bit underwhelming.


HiFloat made no difference in the first 24 hours, during which time the tire deflated to ~75 psi with or without. After 24 hours, below 75 psi, the HiFloat treated tire did deflate more slowly. I’d want to run the test a few more times before calling this significant, but I’ve lost interest and I want to go do something else.

Maybe this would be helpful in a gravel situation, although tubeless is probably a better solution for that. In conclusion, I’m not sure how to use what I’ve learned. I’m not running latex tubes currently, though I have in the past, and I enjoyed what I perceived as a performance boost. I may run latex tubes in the future, but based on these results I think I’ll keep my HiFloat for helium balloons.

Next up for Esoteric Observations on Bicycles and Cycling – Installation of a retrofit threaded bottom bracket sleeve in a BB30 bottom bracket, with pictures.





  • Why 17 grams? No reasaon other than that it was equal to “two pumps”, or twice the amount of HiFloat recommended to treat a large helium balloon.