Bean bags can be filled with a variety of different fillings. We discuss the most common fillings below, but if you just want a quick summary to help you decide, jump to the end of this blog!
EPS Beans / EPS Beads / EPP Beads
Bean bags, whether that’s bean bag chairs or large bean bag loungers like our Big Kahuna, are typically filled with small polystyrene ‘beans’. You might see it advertised as EPS beads or beans, which just stands for ‘Expanded Polystyrene Beans’. They are typically used because they are great value for money, outlast other types of filling, they’re lightweight, and resist moisture and heat. This is important if you want to move your bean bags easily, and of course, use your bean bags outdoors. They are also extremely comfortable – which is obviously very important!
If you are worried about the environment, EPS beans are not bio-degradable, but they can be recycled or used in other projects. There are not many recycling places that take EPS beads, but when you find one, you can rest easy knowing that you are not adding to landfill. Recycled beans can be remade into more EPS, or used to make a range of hard plastics.
You might also see advertisements for micro-beads as bean bag filling. These are typically used in neck pillows or other small toys / cushions. As they are so small (they range in size from 10 µm to 1 mm), they are not really suitable for bean bag chairs or large bean bags.
Foam / Memory Foam
Shredded foam is another popular option for bean bags. As long as the foam is shredded, it can provide a comfortable filling for your bean bag. And you can find environmentally friendly foam if you are concerned about the environment. You can also use a mix of shredded foam with EPS beads in beanbags to add bounce and improved feel to the EPS beads.
You might be able to get manufacturing foam cut offs for a cheap price as they have to dispose of them anyway. Just make sure you shred them, as odd shaped foam can make your bean bag uncomfortable. Alternatively you can buy shredded foam by the bag. One bag is usually sufficient to re-fluff one bean bag chair, use 2 for large bean bag chairs or 3 or 4 for extra large styles.
One thing to keep in mind with foam is that it may not be suitable for outdoor bean bags, unless it is a special outdoor quick drying foam. If the foam gets wet, it will obviously make the bean bag heavier & harder to move, but it will also retain the moisture and mould will develop. If this happens, see our guide for cleaning your bean bag. But isn’t my bean bag waterproof? Won’t that stop the water from getting in? Typically most outdoor bean bags are water resistant, not water proof. Water that hits outdoor materials will bead off, but with large amounts of rain over a period of time, the water will eventually seep through. The stitching also creates little holes where water can penetrate. It is possible to create water tight stitching, but this significantly adds to the cost of manufacturing, so most bean bags are not made this way – even ones that are advertised for use in pools! The other reason it’s not typically done, is that any water that does get in does not actually harm the beanbag if you are using EPS beans. With outdoor fabric and EPS beans, the only thing you need to be concerned about is the potential for mould if the bean bag is not dried out properly – see our guide to deal with mould.
Bean bags can also be filled with more natural fillings, such as beans, rice, hay, sand, sawdust, buckwheat, as well as some out of the box ideas like old clothes. Each have their pro’s and con’s which we have presented in this summary.
Bean Bag Filling Summary
- EPS/EPP Beans: Long lasting, cheap, light-weight, comfortable, resists moisture & heat – there’s a reason why most bean bags are filled with EPS beans!
- Micro-beads: Used in neck pillows/toys, Not really suited to bean bag chairs or large bean bags
- Shredded Foam: A good alternative to EPS beans, or can be used together with EPS beans. Can be sourced as off-cuts so you may be able to pick up a bargain. Just keep in mind that foam can retain moisture if you are going to use your bean bag outside – so it could result in mould.
- Actual Beans: You can choose any type of bean – just make sure they are dry and clean. Since it takes quite a few beans to fill a bean bag, consider mixing with another (natural) filler. Weight could be an issue.
- Rice: Similar to beans, rice is a good choice. But, as with beans, you might like to mix rice with another filler as it would take a lot of rice to fill larger bean bags! Rice can also result in a heavy bean bag, so keep that in mind – including the stress the weight might put on the seams as you move the bean bag around
- Sawdust: If you do a lot of DIY, you might have lots of sawdust you could use. However, sawdust is carcinogenic, and can cause allergic reactions, so we don’t really recommend this as a filling
- Buckwheat Hulls: Strong, do not retain heat or bacteria, and have a beautiful fragrance. Their strength means they don’t compress, so it’s probably best to combine them with another filler
- Sand: It is fine to fill your bean bag with sand, but (as with most natural fillers) the weight does become as issue. The joy of bean bags is being able to move them around, and too much weight makes this difficult, and could stress the seams. Sand also doesn’t mould to your body as easily as some of the other fillers, in particular EPS beads.
Hopefully that will give you some ideas about the different types of bean bag filling and their pro’s and con’s. You can pretty much use anything, but the key things to keep in mind are comfort (how easily the bean bag moulds to your body) and weight – or – if you are using your bean bags outdoors, how much water the filling will retain.
Please also keep in mind that bean bag filling is generally small, and can cause a hazard to children if they are inhaled or swallowed. Our bean bags, as well as confirming to Australian safety standards, include an inner liner that contain the ‘beans’, giving an added layer of safety.