Orbeez are those colorful little balls that grow to huge sizes when you soak them in water. It’s mesmerizing to watch them expand from tiny beads to giant squishy orbs. But what happens when the fun is over and you want to put the Orbeez away? Do they shrink back down after expanding?

The short answer is yes, Orbeez do shrink back down when they dry out after being in water. But there’s a little more to it than that simple explanation. Let’s dive into the science behind how Orbeez expand and shrink to get a better understanding.

How Orbeez Expand?

Orbeez are made of polyacrylate, which is a type of superabsorbent polymer (SAP). This material has some pretty unique properties that allow Orbeez to absorb and retain so much water molecules.


Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Polyacrylate is made of chains of acrylate, which is a compound containing vinyl groups.
  • These chains are hydrophilic, meaning they attract and absorb water.
  • When dry, the chains form tight balls with hydrogen bonds to give Orbeez their small bead-like shape.
  • Adding water activates the polymer chains to open up and unfold. This allows them to grab onto the water molecules.
  • One Orbee can expand to over 100 times its original size by absorbing the water into its polymer network.
  • The spheres maintain their swollen size due to the electrostatic repulsion between the charged polymer chains.

So in essence, the polymer chains in Orbeez unfold and expand when introduced to water. This transformation is reversible once the water is removed.

Why Do Orbeez Shrink Back Down?

Once Orbeez are saturated with water, they can be left to air dry or soaked up with a towel. This process removes the water from the beads, allowing the polymer chains to fold back up and collapse.

Here are some key reasons why Orbeez shrink after drying out:

  • The polymer chains are no longer expanded – Without the water molecules, the chains can return to their tight ball formation.
  • Hydrogen bonds reform – These bonds help the beads maintain their small, compact shape when dry.
  • Loss of electrostatic repulsion – The charges along the polymer chain dissipate as the water leaves. This removes the repulsive forces puffing the Orbeez up.
  • Elasticity – The polymer chains have elastic properties so they can stretch out and snap back based on water content.

So in summary, the polymer chains are super absorbent when introduced to water but are equally good at releasing the water and shrinking back down when dried out.

How Small Do Orbeez Shrink Back Down to After Drying?

Many people wonder if Orbeez shrink all the way back down to their original tiny bead size after expanding.

The answer is they often come very close to their original size but not quite.


Several factors determine how much the Orbeez will shrink after drying out:

  • Length of time in water – The longer the soak, the more expanded the beads become. This may make them not shrink as small.
  • Temperature – Warmer temperatures during drying will remove moisture quicker. Cooler air drying may leave a bit more residual moisture.
  • Drying method – Quicker drying like laying Orbeez out in sunlight or patting with a towel helps them shrink more. Slow air drying may not shrink them as much.
  • Age of Orbeez – Older Orbeez that have been expanded/shrunk repeatedly may not return to original size as well.
  • Manufacturing variances – There are always tiny differences in polymer makeup from batch to batch.

Table comparing how conditions affect Orbeez returning to original size:

ConditionShrinks to Original Size?
Short water exposureYes
Prolonged water exposureAlmost
Warm, quick dryingVery close
Slow, air dryingSlightly larger
New OrbeezYes
Old OrbeezGenerally no

So while Orbeez may not always return to the exact original dimensions, they do get remarkably small after drying out.

Tips for Shrinking Orbeez After Use

If you want to get your Orbeez as small as possible after playtime, follow these handy tips:

Drain Excess Water – Colander Is Your New BFF!

Okay, folks, picture this: You’ve had your fun with your squishy, bouncy Orbeez, and now it’s time to say goodbye—or at least, “See ya later!” First things first, grab that colander or strainer from your kitchen. What, you thought it was just for spaghetti?

Ha, think again! Use it to drain all that excess water from your Orbeez. It’s like they’ve just come out of a spa, and you don’t want them dripping all over the place. Remember, less is more when it comes to moisture; you want these little guys to shrink back to their original size, not stay waterlogged like a sponge!

Air Dry – Sun’s Out, Orbeez Out!

The next step in the Orbeez saga is crucial. Forget the microwave; unless you want warped, mutant Orbeez, natural drying is the way to go. Lay them out on a towel—maybe even a beach towel for that extra sunny vibe—and let ’em bask in the glory of the sun. Think of it as sending your Orbeez on a little beach vacation, minus the sunscreen. Leave them out for at least 24 hours; patience is a virtue, my friends!

Occasionally Fluff – Become The Orbeez Whisperer

So, they’re lounging out in the sun, but don’t forget to give ’em a little nudge now and then. It’s like flipping a pancake; you’ve got to get both sides nice and crispy—or in this case, dry. Every few hours, or whenever you pass by them humming your favorite tune, give the Orbeez a little fluff. Roll ’em around, toss ’em gently; make sure every inch gets its share of fresh air and sun. If Orbeez had a motto, it’d be “Dry me from all angles!”

Check For Dampness – The Squish Test

Alright, 24 hours have passed, and it’s the moment of truth. Before you store them away for their next adventure, you’ve got to check if they’re truly ready. Pick one up and give it a little squish. What you want is a hard Orbeez, one that says, “Hey, I’m dry and ready to roll!” If it’s still acting like a mini water balloon, well, back to the drying board it goes.

Use Right Away Next Time – They’re Not Fine Wines!

Last but not least, a quick PSA: Orbeez aren’t like a vintage wine; they don’t get better with age. So don’t stash them away and forget them like that mystery meat in the back of your fridge. Once they’re dry, use them in your next fun project or activity. If you wait too long, they may not expand evenly next time, and let’s be honest, nobody likes an uneven Orbeez!

Follow these tips, and your Orbeez should return to almost their original tiny bead size once dry. It may take some trial and error to figure out the ideal drying method for your climate.

Can You Re-Expand Dried Orbeez?

Good news – if you fully dry out Orbeez after expanding them, they can be reused! The polymer will allow the beads to repeatedly absorb and release water.

However, you may notice subsequent expansion takes longer the more times Orbeez are used. The material loses some elasticity over time.

Guidelines for re-expanding dried Orbeez:

  • Fully dry beads for at least 24 hours before reusing
  • Test expansion with a few beads before soaking the full batch
  • Expect the expansion process to take a little longer each time
  • Don’t microwave dried Orbeez to re-expand – this can damage them
  • Replace Orbeez with a new bag if beads no longer expand well

As long as you thoroughly dry them between uses, Orbeez can go through many cycles of expanding and shrinking down.

The Takeaway – Orbeez Shrink After Drying But Not Always to Original Size

To recap, when you dry out Orbeez after they’ve expanded in water, they will absolutely shrink back down. This reversible process is due to the unique properties of their superabsorbent polymer composition.

However, they likely won’t return to the exact original dimensions depending on water exposure time, drying conditions, and age. But with proper drying, Orbeez will return remarkably close to their initial tiny bead size. Best of all, once dry, they can expand over and over again when placed back in water.

So while the polymer does lose some elasticity over repeated uses, Orbeez provide endless mesmerizing fun. They will continue expanding and shrinking to delight kids and adults alike. Just be sure to dry them properly between uses for maximum reuse.

Now that you know what happens when Orbeez dry out, you can keep the magic going. Have fun watching them grow to giant size and then shrivel back up like raisins over and over again!

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