Water beads are sold in a few different sizes and multiple colors, however, this does not mean that each size is as durable as the other. The smaller half-inch (meaning the size the beads will reach in their hydrated state) beads are the best because they tend to be more sturdy and durable. The larger the size (one inch or larger), the more water is absorbed which means a heavier bead.
Larger beads tend to fall apart very easily, are extremely messy (they get everywhere), and they don't last very long. Soaking the half-inch beads too long, will cause them to become less firm and fall apart much easier. An adequate amount of time for soaking is six to eight hours to obtain maximum size. Once the maximum size has been reached, gently place them in a strainer to drain out the remaining water.
The type of water used makes a BIG difference when it comes to water beads. The purer the water, the larger and more durable they will grow. Soaking the beads in distilled water (which is pure) allows the beads to absorb 800 times their weight.
Soaking the beads in tap water and only 300 times their weight is absorbed. Now that's a pretty big difference in size! Tap water contains some sodium, calcium and other mineral salts which reverse the absorption of water, therefore allowing less water to enter the water bead.
It is possible to speed up the absorption process by using warm water to soak the beads in. Note: Hotter is not necessarily better, do not use boiling water because this will cause the beads to split and break down.
Water beads can be dehydrated and stored away for later use. Shrinking will occur, but resulting in a slightly larger size than the dehydrated form they initially came in. Dehydrating and re-hydrating the beads, results in a shorter lifespan, so keeping the beads continuously hydrated is highly recommended. To do this, soak the beads again (three to five hours this time instead of six to eight hours since they already contain some water) every two or three weeks to maintain their size. By keeping the beads continuously hydrated, they can last two to three years! Sometimes it's just not feasible to keep the beads in their hydrated form.
Water beads become somewhat sticky during the dehydration process. So if you need to dehydrate them to store away, follow my tried and true storing method to ensure that your beads won't get destroyed in the process.
Dehydration Method& Proper Storage
Things to avoid:
1. Dehydrating water beads in a ziplock bag. The beads WILL dehydrate at a much slower rate due to slower evaporation from the bag and the beads being on top of each other.
2. In the past, I have used a glass container an also tried paper towels for this process. I ended up with dehydrated beads stuck to the container. I was able to pull the beads off, but upon re-hydration, the beads were damaged (no longer perfectly round and chunks missing). So, I strongly advised against using any kind of glass container or paper towels for the dehydration process.
Using a non-stick silicone baking mat (for smaller amounts) or a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (for larger amounts), gently spread your water beads out on a flat surface. Make sure that you leave just a tiny bit of space between each bead to prevent them from clumping together. The dehydration process generally takes four to five days depending on the size of the hydrated bead.
When your water beads are completely dehydrated, they will not be sticky to the touch. Place the beads in a zip-lock bag and store in a cool, dry place.
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The type of water beads size makes a Sizable difference. Too large a water bead breaks up. The most common size is 2.0 -2.5 mm that grows close to the size of a marble.