Best Water Bead Packs

Updated May 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

52 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
160 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best water bead packs

You are probably familiar with water beads, but you might be surprised by everything they can do. From hours-long entertainment for children to decorative accents to self-watering planting material, water beads have a wide variety of applications.

Water beads are easy to use (just add water) and reusable, and their nontoxic and biodegradable nature means they are safe for kids, pets, and the environment. But when you set out to purchase a pack of water beads, you’ll be faced with some choices. How many beads should you get? How large do they get when they expand? Are they durable?

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Another name for water beads is gel beads.

Key considerations

Quantity

The more beads the more fun, right? A package of water beads ranges from 2,000 to 35,000 or more. This might be surprising given the size of the package, but remember that water beads can start out no bigger than seeds and swell up to many times their original size. A few thousand and several thousand beads may seem roughly similar right out of the package, but add water and you’ll quickly discern the difference.

Some packages of water beads sell by weight and some by volume, so you might need to do some comparing and converting to determine if you’re getting your money’s worth in terms of quantity.

Size

When hydrated, water beads can vary in diameter depending on what you buy. Some water beads are more compact — the size of marbles — while others are larger. Hydrated beads can range from 100 to 1,000 times their dehydrated size. Some packs offer uniformly sized beads, while others include various sizes in the same pack. Read the listing carefully to be sure you know what you’re buying.

Durability

Most of these beads are crafted from a super-absorbent polymer, which is fairly durable, but this can vary a bit from bead to bead. Beads can take a fair amount of abuse from tiny hands, so they should be able to hold up to it. Less durable beads can break apart if left too long to soak, and sunlight can break them down over time. If you’re primarily interested in the durability of the beads, there are a couple of buying tips.

Choose smaller beads. Smaller water beads are usually more durable than larger ones.

Choose firmer beads. You can also ask about the firmness of the water beads when hydrated. Firmer beads often hold up better than softer beads, which can both break apart more easily and shrink more quickly.

Nontoxic

Water beads are typically both non-toxic and biodegradable, but you should double-check this in the product description just to be sure if you’re concerned.

While rainbow-colored water beads are fun, beads of one color might be better for an occasion when specific colors are important, such as a wedding or themed party.

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Features

Qualities

Color: If you browse through listings for water bead packs, you’ll find that rainbow colors dominate this niche. These packs can range from only a few colors up to a dozen different colors. If you’d rather have a single color, you should be able to find these, but you might need to search a bit. Some water bead packs are also themed, so you can pick up packs with aquatic colors, for example, or even choose holiday-themed packs, such as those for Halloween or Christmas.

Translucence: Most water beads are fairly translucent, meaning that light can easily pass through them to give them the appearance of shimmering or shining. This translucence adds a special quality to the visual appeal of water beads.

Container

Some water beads come in a container. If you’re planning to hydrate all your water beads at once, you really won’t need a container unless you’re planning to dehydrate them again (our recommendation is to save yourself the hassle and mess that this can cause). If you’re going to dole out a handful of beads at a time, having a rugged, closed container to hold the remaining beads is a great idea.

Extras

While not standard, some water beads ship with additional elements to increase the fun, usually such things as scoops, tweezers, and other tools that kids enjoy. If you’re interested in some extras, try to verify that they’re of high enough quality to justify the additional cost.

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Did you Know?
One great way to increase the shimmer of water beads is to put them in a shallow, clear container placed on a light table.
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Water bead pack prices

You aren’t going to break the bank buying water bead packs. They start at less than $8 and reach about $20 in rare cases. Most packs cost $8 to $13.

Inexpensive: At less than $8, you can find minimal packs with fewer than 10,000 beads. Packs with more beads in this range are usually less durable. You can also find in this range smaller amounts of single-colored beads for decorating.

Mid-range: Most water bead packs cost between $8 and $13. The number of beads here can range from 2,000 to 50,000 (20,000 to 35,000 is common), and the quality is generally pretty decent.

Expensive: Any water bead packs that cost over $13 should contain a large number of beads, usually in excess of 35,000. Packs in this range often have a special theme or include extras such as scoops and tweezers that offer kids more ways to play with the beads.

For the largest and strongest beads, consider soaking them in distilled water.

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Tips

  • Go small and colorful. If your water beads will be used for play, consider going with smaller beads. These hold up better in little hands and tend to be less messy. Also, a pack of assorted colors can provide more sensory stimulation for younger kids and is perfect for color-sorting games.
  • Beware of sunlight. While sunlight looks great shining through water beads, it can quickly break them down. Store or display your water beads out of direct sunlight to help them last longer.
  • Dye your own. Start with clean dehydrated beads. Drop them into various containers that hold a mixture of water, gel food coloring, and a bit of vinegar to smooth out the mix. As the beads expand, they draw in the colored water.
  • Use them in flower vases. In addition to using water beads with plants, you can also add them to vases filled with cut flowers to create an attractive display and avoid stagnant water.
  • Decorate with water beads. Sort them by color and layer them in a container. Or submerge a waterproof LED light, such as a pond or fountain light, in your water bead collection for a stunning effect.
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Are your little ones impatient? Warm water speeds absorption and is more fun to splash around in than cold water.

FAQ

Q. What age group are water beads designed for?

A. While water beads are typically non-toxic, they can still prove a danger if swallowed. As such, you should avoid letting babies or toddlers play with them. Children three years of age and older should be fine so long as they’re supervised while using the water beads.

Q. How long do water beads last?

A. This varies from brand to brand and depends on how often they’re used and how you store them. If you’re just storing your water beads without hydrating them, they’ll last indefinitely, but what fun is that? Constantly hydrating and dehydrating the beads over and over can considerably shorten their lifespan. The best strategy is to hydrate your beads and top them off with a soaking every couple of weeks or so. Stored this way, the beads can last several months or longer, depending on how often they’re used. To prolong their life, keep your water beads in a cool location and out of direct sunlight. You might also consider keeping your hydrated water beads in the refrigerator, which can help cut down on any potential mold problems.

Q. What is the best way to use water beads with plants?

A. Because they’re nontoxic, water beads can be used as a soil replacement for plants. Think of them as sort of a decorative hydroponic solution. Here’s how to do it:

  • Add a pinch of plant food to the water when you hydrate the beads. The beads will slowly release nutrients to the plant.
  • Remove the plant from its pot.
  • Rinse any soil from the roots.
  • Place the plant in a container (glass or clear plastic is obviously best) with the roots spread out.
  • Layer hydrated beads over the roots until the container is full and the plant is completely supported.
  • Add water and a pinch of plant food as the beads on top start to shrink.
  • Drain off the excess water once the beads are rehydrated.
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