Picture of Reusing a Disposable Helium Tank
I had a couple helium tanks leftover from the kids' birthday parties, so I figured I'd take a whack at reusing them. Here's how to attach 1/4" OD tubing to one. From there, you can use it to store compressed gases (e.g. CO2, air).

Disposable helium tank (the ones I have are Balloon Time)
1/4" OD compression nut with insert
1/4" OD tubing
3/16" drill bit
5/16" drill bit
cutoff wheel
Teflon tape

Disclaimer: Author is not responsible for loss of life, limb or property. Author is not responsible for anything. In fact, author is completely irresponsible. I mean, you should see some of the stuff he gets up to. It's amazing he hasn't burned the house down yet. Don't listen to him. Seriously.
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Cutting

Picture of Cutting
Remove the nozzle. Cut the connector off as close to the thread as possible. There should be a small plastic nib inside. Remove that.

Step 2: Drilling

Picture of Drilling
Drill out the valve with a 3/16" bit. A bunch of black plastic will come out. Keep drilling until it bottoms out. As far as I can tell, the plastic is a check valve that prevents refilling.

Countersink with a 5/16" bit to a depth of about 1/4".

Wrap with Teflon tape, overlapping the edge.

Step 3: Attaching the Tubing

Picture of Attaching the Tubing
Assemble the compression nut and attach to the connector. It just happens to be the same thread.

I've tested this up to 70 psi. Not sure how far it'll go.

I've done this with two tanks so far. On one, the valve doesn't close all the way anymore, so I put an inline valve on the tubing instead. The other one seems to work fine.

I'm currently using one for compressed CO2. Haven't decided what to do with the other yet.
mrmkv10 months ago

Folks, I would highly advise you do not even attempt this, these helium tanks are not real cylinders they are disposable much like most aresol sprays, these tanks are prone to explosion when heated, punctured, or damaged. They also cannot withstand the integrity of being refilled. Real cylinders have pressure ratings and designated hydrostatic testing dates carried out by the manufacturer and licensed practices under the department of transportation, THEY ARE TESTED EVERY 5 - 10 YEARS. Not only do I believe this is the stupidest thing you can possibly do, but I would never risk my life or quality on a cheap disposable canister project such as this.

I will say this as politely as possible. I am so thankful that the Wright Bros, Newcomen, Watts, Fulton, and every pioneer of science and industry did not share your cowardice. Yes, cowardice to match your contempt for objective critical thinking that goes beyond reading a warning label.

Mods, please do not kick this post, I promise the nicest thing a person can do is help another overcome their own ignorance. I promise you, everything I am saying here is true and it comes from a place of love.

Now... About these tanks. Compared to a normal helium tank hese are low pressure tanks. Helium tanks are normally like 3000psi and shaped like O2 tanks. Those H2 tanks hold liquid H2 and a lot of it.

These little pink piggy tanks hold gasseous H2, enough to fill 40 or so balloons. The pressure of the H2 in the tank is about 260PSI and the tanks are rated to function at over 300PSI.

These helium tanks are identical to the white refrigerant tanks. Tanks for which they sell an addapter to convert it to a compressed air storage tank (

The valve regulator on the helium tank even matched this conversion kit.

You know what a steel tank at 60PSI does when it ruptures? Not a whole lot. It hisses and whistles and maybe it wonders who shot it because that's the only way it's going to rupture.

Jesus... this is what the end of our species looks like. We go out, not with a bang, but with a "don't try anything new, you might hurt yourself!"

just a couple, hopefully constructive comments I'd like to make in response to your post. First point is that the symbol for helium is "He" not "H". The second critical point is that no cylinder of helium gas contains liquid helium. While it is true that some tanks of gas do largely contain a liquid with a gas phase, examples being CO2 and N2O, none of the gases like oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and or helium are at sufficiently high pressure to exist as a liquid at room temperature.

Comments like you made are likely well intentioned, but that doesn't make them correct. A metal tank that ruptures, even if pressurized initially to only 60psi can, under certain circumstances behave like a bomb. Knocking a tank valve off a pressurized tank is a much less violent event than is a tank rupture. The problem is that these tanks are not designed to be re pressurized. That doesn't mean they can't be represurized but they may not behave predictably.

A very real senario that results in a tragedy is a tank that is pressured to 100psi at night when the ambient temperature is cool. Let's say the temperature during the day doubles as compared to temperature at filling. The tank pressure will double. This assumes you only have dry air in the tank. Add a volatile liquid and the situation becomes even worse (ie CO2 or nitrous oxide -N2O).

The reason tanks are certified and tested "hydrostatically" is because water is essentially incompressible. A water filled tank at 3000psi will behave much more predictably at failure than a tank failing with 300psi of air.

Tanks can be repurposed safely and are repurposed by people all the time BUT, if one fails, the full weight of the law will come down on you. Make no mistake about that. It says "DO NOT REFILL" not only to protect you, but also to put the legal liability squarely on your shoulders, should something go wrong. You could pay (as in cash money) for this for the rest of your life, if your negligence harms someone other than your self.


Talk about going out with a bang. Filling balloons at a party with hydrogen is probably not a good idea. ;)

what is funny is that i disagree with that as well, if you fill the balloons with pure hydrogen the explosion is much softer (no bang all woosh), pretty fun for kids to watch; even better for parties ;)

kivster4 months ago
Fun project. Really a great use for the tanks.
balloons5 months ago
Oh no! Half knowledge can be really dangerous for you and the ones around you. These cyllinders have a opperating pressure of 260 psi. And compressed co2 can reach pressures of 800 psi it then turns into its liqued state. REALY NOT GOOD! ive got two balloon time cyllinders and I always fill them to 110 psi with just air. Completely safe.
vaporlock8 months ago

Nobody takes a poorly devised "oxygen cylinder" diving. Nobody take a properly designed "oxygen cylinder" diving. Diving involves, in typical cases 3,000+ psi of air, not oxygen. Wall thickness is about 3/8" of a special aluminum alloy designed for a combination of rigidity and flexibility (and yes, the DO flex and expand noticeably under the pressure). If one of these cylinders defies all safety measures and bursts, you are hosed if it happens to burst in your direction, otherwise taking a 35lb chunk of aluminum in the jaw could have many different outcomes. If they rate these little helium tanks at X psi they are really rated for X x 1.2 psi. The tanks are constructed of maleable metal and would split without shrapnel and could cause a big bump on your beanie, but would be less than stellar and hardly worth a youtube video.

Atomic Shrimp12 months ago

I just found one of these today in a skip. I'm going to make it into a hot smoker for smoking fish/bacon etc.

rjkorn1 year ago

Love these tanks... and any i'ble that gives me more ideas to use them!

Tegra1 year ago
I just did one and used a reinforced PVC toilet hose. (kind of limits the pressure a bit) and a compressed air disconnect.
Found there is a combination shut off/anti-refill cone that is pushed down by the turn handle. Even with the handle turned open, it will fall over the hole and the refill pressure with keep it closed and prevent it from filling.

I was thinking of just drilling it al well, but this would then not allow it to be shut off. I found that it it turned the tank upside down and gradually increased the pressure the "cone" would not get pressed into place.

I am also thinking of filling it with CO2 (only about 60 PSI) and using it to push beer out of a keg.

With all due respect.....

It is true that it is illegal to "Transport" refilled cylinders. However, what does transport mean? This means moving, usually in large quantity, from one place to another, for someone else, for a price.

When I bring groceries home or take my gear on a camping trip I am not engaging in "Transport".

It has been explained to me that it is perfectly legal for me to take a refilled cylinder in my vehicle. It may be another thing if something went horribly wrong on the way and the insurance company hired a lawyer or two.

As far as these "Balloon Time" cylinders. How much pressure do they contain, sitting in the aisle at Walmart and bouncing around in the hot car on the way home/to a party? Approx 250 PSI!

To refill one with compressed air at 125 PSI and keep stored in a safe place seems very reasonable to me. (on a side note, it is frightening to me that a common use of these helium cylinders is DIY suicide. Thus proving that a leaking helium cylinder can be fatal)

Ones point to the YouTube videos (and the shop teachers scare tactics) that show a high pressure cylinder being shot at. What is the pressure in those cylinders? 3000 to 4500 PSI! Over 20 times the pressure!

What does it look like when a 125 PSI cylinder is shot? You will not see a video on this, because it is boring! Most failures will be rust induced which will usually be so slow that you will not even notice.

(If someone was to do the math they would probably find that there is not enough energy in this cylinder at 125 PSI to bend the "thin metal.

Sorry for going on like this but I get tired of "fear mongers" with their FUD.

Like I tell my kids... "do the math".

rjkorn Tegra1 year ago

Beautiful cogent reply. I wish you said that was on my i'ble.

Bungie1 year ago

Found this buried at the bottom of Balloon Time's web site FAQ's. Looks like these hold more pressure safely than they seem to imply:

  • What is the working pressure of Balloon Time tanks?

    Time tanks operate at a working pressure of 260 psi and are
    successfully leak-tested at a minimum of 325 psi to ensure quality. In
    addition, each Balloon Time tank has a patented flow restriction safety
    device, reducing the helium flow rate and improving the safety of the

rich603 years ago
I can't really see why you would want to refill this kind of tank anyway.
I think I might have to make a Barbute helmet from one of these... There's an idea for my first instructable!
kwhit1902113 years ago
I would never advise anyone to refill a sheet metal tank with any type of compressed gas. You making a bomb out of it for one thing. Just like some of the people above advised. But, I also did find a use for the tank. On my round as a ball charcoal grill. The charcoal holder finally went. So after cutting the top & the bottom off of the tank, I had the makings for the holder. I just needed some more metal to make up what I needed. And, anymore I don't throw to much away. And, if I do throw anything away it's shot!!
allen_idaho3 years ago
I need to advise against reusing these tanks. They are constructed of thin walled sheetmetal and weren't designed to hold much pressure.

Overcharging one is very easy to do and can result in a catastrophic failure. If you are lucky, it will just crack and shoot off like a torpedo. If you are unlucky, it will explode killing you and whoever else is nearby.

Something similar happened in Florida about a week ago. A guy was taking a poorly manufactured oxygen cylinder to his car to go diving and it exploded, killing him instantly.

I highly recommend using thick walled steel cylinders instead.
Thanks posting this. These tanks have many uses, just seeing one more, thought I have seen everything, I learn something new every day.

Reminded me what I just recently saw. Was getting new tires on my truck, and new ones did not want to air up, even taking out valve stem, connecting air hose. Feller pulled out a similar tank with a 2" ball valve, air gauge, valve stem, and a 2' pipe coming out of ball valve. He aired up tank to about 100 psi, opened ball valve, shooting a massive amount of air near bead on tire which was on rim. Like a cannon of air, sealing bead to rim, thereby filling tire at the same time.
Achan203 years ago
if i may. you dont have to drill out the black plastic. take a wood screw and put it into the black plastic stopper and twist it in. (dont push too hard or it will get shoved back and you will have to drill out) then when you have a good grip take a pair of pliers and pull the screw and the plug out! im going to put some rustoleum in mine and swash it around. then dump it out to let it dry to prevent rusting. then put water in it and put it in the shed upside down for washing hands/ parts/ ect. lol. hope i helped. also thought about painting it blue and sticking it in the back of my car to look like nitro. lol.
rbclima3 years ago
man ... i wouldt do it if i were u ... its a freaking BOMB hehehe be carefull or its gonna explode. this walls are very thin
colorex3 years ago
You should come to Ecuador, see what they do with them here!

They retrofit them with a compressor from an old fridge, and voilá you've got a compressor for spraypainting, filling tires, etc.

They split them in half vertically, add some legs, a grill from a fridge, and turn them into grills.

They split them in half and turn them into flowerpots...


Good Instructable!
skincage3 years ago
I imagine you can also make a wee tongue drum out of one.

cchubb skincage3 years ago
That was my idea. I'll be taking pictures along the way, mayhaps to turn into an I'ble.
coppeis4 years ago
How do you fill it up(re-fill it)?
Mmatch5 years ago
Looks interesting ... thanks for sharing.

But can you help with a couple questions?

1. Why do you need to "Cut the connector off as close to the thread ..." ?
2. In other words, why isn't the drilling out the aperture enough?
3. What is the point/need for a "Countersink" afterward (1/4-inch deep)?

Maybe any closer (macro) views would explain these basic concerns in advance.

Mmatch5 years ago
Looks interesting ... thanks for sharing.

But can you help with a couple questions?

1. Why do you need to "Cut the connector off as close to the thread ..." ?
2. In other words, why isn't the drilling out the aperture enough?

Maybe any closer (macro) views would explain these basic concerns in advance.

My school throws these out after school dances but i never though anything of them, i cant wait for the day after the next dance!
Interestingly enough, I have the exact same helium tank and luckily brought it home from a party today in hopes that I could use it for something like this. Thanks :D
bwpatton15 years ago
You can also do this with propane cylinders
kill-a-watt7 years ago
Awesome, another take is always good on those pesky one-way valves.
degroof (author)  kill-a-watt7 years ago
Yeah, that looks like it's nearly identical to the valve on the helium tank. I've got one more sitting around. I might try grinding down the lip on that one, just to see what's inside.
how do you put air in the can
how do you fill them up what did you use to cut offf the nozzel
Bad-dawg6 years ago
We like to pump 'em up to 150PSi with a compressor and take them shooting.... Hit one of these(from FAR away) with an '06 or 8mm round and watch the FUN!
funoldman6 years ago
One should NEVER re-use a "disposable" cylinder. These cylinders such as "refrigerant" (R-12,R-22, etc) or "helium" are not meant to be refilled. The wall thicknesses are thin, and they are not coated on the inside to prevent rusting. Once the original material are gone, rust can begin. The empty tank should be rendered useless and then recycled as scrap steel or set out with the garbage. Most tanks will say not "re-usable" but might say recyclable. BE SAFE don't explode an old tank and kill someone.
hanelyp7 years ago
Re-pressurizing a tank can fatigue it, especially if the tank isn't designed for reuse. Beware of catastrophic failure. The authors disclaimer is good advice here.
DeimosOne7 years ago
I've got about 10+ empty CO2 tanks at work, Maybe I can make some use out of them now, instead of just throwing them in the storage room.
Good job. No, great job! This is very smart, but I just like tossing them high in an empty parking lot or something. (Of course, when they have nothing in them. Or do they still have some left?)
jimmyb0nz7 years ago
I turned mine into a smoker/barbecue once. It got rusty from neglect but worked great!
nanonano587 years ago
nice :)