16-24" Round Balloons

Tuf-Tex 17"

Overall Rating: It's crowded at the top, but these balloons have risen to the challenge. Tough, thick latex and a more manageable size than 24" balloons make the 17" Tuf-Tex a balloon of choice. Deceptively big and spherical like Gayla or Granger, but thicker than Qualatex, these balloons are shaped like punch balls and almost as strong.

Size and Shape: Unlike most balloons, Tuf-Tex 17" are consistently larger than their rated size. On first inflation, tight and full doesn't happen until at least 18.5" to 19". (The one at right is a new balloon at more than 19" diameter.) Big, fat, and round is the name of the game, thanks to the four-flute design that gives a balloon which is perfectly spherical until the neck begins to come out... and come out it will: with a little stretching it can be safely inflated to several inches long!

Latex Quality: As you'd expect from Tuf-Tex, the 17"s are thick and durable, but not so much so that they become hard to inflate by mouth. The latex remains quite supple, however, until the balloon is overinflated. Colors are deep, and though the color is more variable than Qualatex, especially along the peaks and valleys of the flutes, these are merely color fluctuations and not defects or thinning. Bubbles and other defects are much rarer than average.

Reliability: The rubber of Tuf-Tex balloons stretches unbelievably for being so thick. The balloon at right is already 2" over rated size, and still has at least another 2" of room before it's in danger of popping. Tuf-Tex are built to last. If one does pop, however, the price to pay is a much louder than average bang.

Qualatex 24"

Overall Rating: When they were introduced last year, they were the biggest thing (in more ways than one) to hit balloondom for a long time, and deservedly so. You owe it to yourself to experience the "Q24" at least once, but preferably more than that!

Size and Shape: It doesn't take a balloon enthusiast to appreciate the utter hugeness of these balloons. The orange Q24 at right is nowhere near full inflation (the body still has plenty of room!). The body itself can measure 24 inches, and the neck can be blown to incredible length and girth, if you're brave enough. The neck and lip are very wide, almost too wide to allow inflation by mouth.

Latex Quality: The colors are perfect and even and the balloons are double-dipped so their strength is unsurpassed. Curiously, though, the drip point seen on most balloons is nearly absent on these monsters. Defects are rare.

Reliability: It takes a lot to push the limits of these Qualatexes, so for almost all uses they are perfectly safe. The necks are huge, giving you lots of time to turn back, and they're incredibly difficult to blow to popping due to their sheer size and thickness. As you might expect, they pop with an immense, chest-thumping boom. Be careful out there!

Blue Unique 12" shown for contrast

Tuf-Tex 24"

Overall Rating: Tuf-Tex couldn't sit back while Q-Tex had all the fun, so their 24"s came out in early 2006. Essentially up-sized versions of their already-immense 17"s, where the Q24 is a pear balloon, the T24 is fluted and very big and round. The body will get larger than a Q24, and the neck will come out a little, but is much narrower than Qualatex. Big, huge, with thick latex and very strong, they remind me of a Play-Loon's smaller sibling.

Size and Shape: If round is your thing, these balloons have it. Big enough at full inflation that you might have a little trouble getting your arms around it, the T24 inflates a little to the oblong side of spherical, and the neck begins to inflate at high pressures as you'd expect from a fluted balloon. The neck itself is very long, ostensibly for ease of tying. It can probably be inflated most of the way, but you'd better be willing to risk a mighty pop.

Latex Quality: Thick, thick, and strong and thick, the T24 manages to be all these things and not drumhead-hard until it's overfull. Colors are deep, and though there is a little variation around flute lines, there are very, very few defects or thin spots.

Reliability: Believe that Tuf-Tex are tough enough to take anything that's thrown at them. You might even have a hard time popping these balloons by sitting on them. Maybe you could even use them as impromptu chairs... though that may be pushing it a little. Thick and tough equals reliable. Count on it.

Qualatex 16"

Overall Rating: You can't ask for anything more in size, shape, and quality. If 12" are too small and 24" is too big for you, this should be the obvious choice.

Size and Shape: I was tempted to give this one six stars. The 16"ers are the perfect size for any occasion -- use them for decoration when you have a large room, and for games if you have a lot of space to play. The shape is just right: nicely oval, with a neck forming rather easily once fully inflated.

Latex Quality: Qualatexes are notoriously good with latex, and these are no exception. Very, very few defects, and a perfect feel: it gets just tight enough at just the right time. A tightly-inflated one feels almost solid, like it's a solid rubber ball. Very nice.

Reliability: While the latex quality makes these balloons very trustworthy at full inflation, the overinflation capabilities are a little suspect. The necks just aren't long enough to be inflated all the way out without risk. And they are regarded as having one of the fiercest pops in all the balloon world, second only to Qualatex's 24"ers and their now-scarce 14"ers...

Everts 16"

Overall Rating: These are a great balloon, very different from the American brands I'm used to. The latex is soft, stretchy, but very strong. The balloons feel "fresh" somehow, as if the rubber's straight from the tree and still a little sticky. Color variations are there, and they're a bit small for a 16" on first inflation. Otherwise, terrific.

Size and Shape: The shape gets a definite thumbs-up: similar to a Qualatex 14". Unfortunately, it's not a whole lot bigger than the Q14, either, at least on first inflation. Subsequent inflations should make these balloons huge, thanks to their incredibly supple latex.

Latex Quality: Wow, what a treat: unlike Qualatex which are hard and tight right from the start, these balloons start soft and stay soft until full inflation. The rubber is fresh and alive, almost silky. It also has a tendency to stick to itself in the mouthpiece if it gets a little damp. There's a little color variation - principally, some color cracks - and an occasional thin spot, but the latex itself is great.

Reliability: No reason to doubt them yet, though balloons that are soft and supple like these might be slightly more fragile under pressure.

Blue Unique 12" for size comparison

Qualatex 18"

Overall Rating: Sometime, I have to decorate a party with these monsters. Big, big attention getters, their strength and unique design make them a joy.

Size and Shape: Big, but not too big. The clear latex stretches forever, and it takes guts to get it tightly inflated. Though I've not done it, I have seen these balloons inflated down their wide necks.

Latex Quality: Again, there's a reason they're called Qualatex. The latex is impeccable, and defects are few and far between. Plus, since these balloons have been inflated when they were printed, most of the defective ones have already been weeded out.

Reliability: Nothing indicates to me that these balloons are anything but reliable. The rubber is strong and defects are rare, so go nuts-- these balloons can take it.

Suzuki Latex 18" Peacock

Overall Rating: A balloon that really turns heads. This strong, colorful balloon could also do double duty as a punch ball.

Size and Shape: They're not fluted, but they do blow up rather round. Necks aren't seen until dangerous levels of inflation, but they do exist.

Latex Quality: How can you turn down such a colorful balloon? The latex is very thick, as it is with most agate balloons, and the tightly inflated balloon shines like no other. Hold it up to a light, though, and you'll see veins, products of the injection-molding method by which they get their colors.

Reliability: Strong, strong, and strong. These are balloons that can take a beating, but due to the thickness of the latex, pops would be loud to say the least.

Gayla 17"

Overall Rating: If big, round balloons are your favorites, these are for you.

Size and Shape: Deceptively big! Look at the size of the uninflated balloon at right, compared with the inflated one. These balloons can really stretch. And due to their fluted design, these balloons blow up very spherical and round, a shape that is hard to attain without getting boxy-- Gayla does it flawlessly. Plus, when properly done, they can develop long necks, something that few spherical balloons rarely do.

Latex Quality: A nice, relatively thick latex that is very confidence-building. The colors are very regular and uniform, and tightly inflated have a nice shine. Defects are less pronounced than Tilco, but watch carefully for severe bubble-holes.

Reliability: A flawless Gayla is a thing of beauty, but I'm not confident that the defects in the others would withstand a tight inflation.

Supertex 18"

Overall Rating: They're big and they're beautiful, and just the right thickness.

Size and Shape: If you've got the courage, they've got the size. 18" is a definite underestimate, as they can reach 20 inches and beyond before even developing a neck. They're not fluted, so their shape is teardroppish, like an oversized Qualatex. Necks are definite possibilities, although it takes forever to finally get these balloons full!

Latex Quality: Defects are minimal but present. The variations in color are suspect, however, as one balloon can have both light areas and dark areas. The colors themselves are very pleasing, however.

Reliability: Despite the color variations, these balloons have proven themselves reliable for repeated inflations and neck inflations.

Granger 17"

Overall Rating: Too thin for me. The size and shape are nice, but not enough to make up for this balloon's suspect latex and widespread defects.

Size and Shape: Fluted and perfectly round, but the neck can be coaxed out. Roughly the same size and shape as a Gayla 17": just barely big enough around to hug without squashing it.

Latex Quality: Very thin. It makes for nice pale colors and transparency when fully inflated, but it's not for the faint of heart. The latex is even thinner and paler on the fluting lines, running down four sides of the balloon. It remains soft and squishy like a Tilly, but doesn't feel or smell as pure as Tilly. Perhaps there's some synthetic in these balloons.

Reliability: I still haven't found a perfect specimen. All of them have slight bubbling, especially on the flute lines near the neck end, and some have more severe bubbles and thinning near the drip point. The flute lines themselves probably aren't very strong either.

Tilly 20"

Overall Rating: Pliable and soft, almost to a fault. Big, thin balloons that are better to play with than to look at.

Size and Shape: The Tillys are fluted balloons, and so they inflate to a round sphere. However, the neck area usually stretches first on inflation, so you're stuck with a neck whether you want it or not. For sheer size, however, these are a good choice.

Latex Quality: Like the balloons you remember from your childhood, the latex is very thin and soft, and even a fully inflated Tilly is very squishy; never tight, unless you've blown way too far. Defects are a problem, too, especially bubbles.

Reliability: I can't bring myself to trust the Tillys not to pop on inflation. The combination of thin latex and bubble defects is a perilous one.