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.

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Step 1: 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

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

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.

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    41 Discussions

    Jim White

    9 months ago on Step 3

    Their website says the tanks have a working pressure of 260psi and are tested at 325psi. I was going to fill mine with comprezsed air and somehow connect it to an empty SSSCAT can which has a motion sensor and emits a spray to keep the damn cats off our kitchen counter. The Sssscat works great but at $12 for a new 4oz can that only lasts about a week its either hook a bigger tank up or sit there with a spray bottle 24/7!

    Matthew R.K

    4 years ago on Introduction

    theres a tool shop 5 gal tank at menards for 25$ and it says max pressure is 125psi... if this party helium tank is operational at 275 then which tank would be safer to use at 125.. an air tank with max pressure 125 being sold as a refillable air tank or a disposable party helium air tank rated at 275... come on fear mongers.. do the math.. help me out here...


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Here, I copied from the Balloon Time FAQ page,

    Hope this helps!

    What is the working pressure of Balloon Time tanks?

    • Balloon 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 flow rate and improving the safety of the product.

    6 years ago on Introduction

    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".


    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction


    What you've done here is "arithmetic" not math. Math is a little more complicated! :)

    Just because you might get away with something doesn't mean it's safe. Statistics show that if enough people (or one person, enough times) do something that is unsafe, bad outcomes will follow. Call it the Golden BB, or the Darwin Award, but I've seen these stories through to their logical conclusion on more than a few times. Each time you cycle a pressure vessel through its full/empty state, the metal wall distorts. Some metal work hardens due to this distortion but all metals undergo fatigue. The disposable tanks are not designed to undergo these pressure cycles. You may not believe that, and you may not know that, but it doesn't change the facts.

    As a final comment, I don't believe any of what I've said is "fear mongering". When people express their opinion, they are often speaking from a position of knowledge. On the other hand, have you considered how annoying it might be to some of us when a person "safety mongers"?



    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

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


    ok, if anyone has got down this far, please listen to what i am going to say. PLEASE DO NOT DO ANYTHING THAT IS MENTIONED ABOVE. i work in the refrigerant/gas industry, the cylinder which is talked about above is what is called a disposable cylinder for the pure fact that it is not meant be be reused in any way other than scrap.

    the box the cylinder would have come in would have probably had loads of warnings on it say do not refill, caution pressurized gas etc etc.

    messing around with pressurized gas, no matter how low the pressure is, is dangerous. that cylinder has no relief valve just a burst disk which come flying off if the pressure gets to high or the cylinder fails, and if that hits you it made do more than just hurt.

    please do not follow the above instructable. if you want to refill a cylinder get a refillable cylinder. they dont cost must and are meant to be refilled


    4 years ago

    Fun project. Really a great use for the tanks.


    5 years 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.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    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.


    5 years ago on Introduction

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


    5 years ago on Introduction

    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


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I can't really see why you would want to refill this kind of tank anyway.

    Master Beorn

    8 years ago on Introduction

    I think I might have to make a Barbute helmet from one of these... There's an idea for my first instructable!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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!!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    8 years ago on Step 2

    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.