Around the world it’s called fairy floss, barbe à papa, candy floss, zucchero filato and suikerspin – but in the United States, it’s known as cotton candy.
The wispy sweet strands of sugary deliciousness that comes wrapped around a paper cone was invented in 1897 by an American dentist and was first introduced at the St. Louis World Fair in 1904.
Almost 125 years later, we’re still loving the fluffy pink and blue stuff.
Luckily, you don’t have to go to a carnival to find fairy floss – you can swirl up some sweet magic right in the comfort of your own home. By investing in a cotton candy maker, you’ll always have a sweet treat on hand whenever you want.
We narrowed down the best cotton candy makers you can buy online. Read on, compare and contrast, and find the model that will bring happy sweetness into your home.
Our Picks for the Best Cotton Candy Makers
Top Pick Best Overall Cotton Candy Maker: The Candery Cotton Candy Machine
This brightly designed cotton candy maker takes just minutes to get your sugary sweets spinning into a ball of floss, ready to serve and enjoy. Its colorful design with a modern, kitchen-friendly décor style will win your heart. It not only looks good, it works great, too
We suggest the Candery Cotton Candy Machine as the best overall pick because you have a choice to use sugar or hard candies, giving you a wide selections of flavors to suit your taste. The machine also works with sugar-free hard candies. This way, no one in your family will be left out of the fun, even if they are on a low- or no-sugar diet.
Of course, you can also buy colorful, flavored flossing sugar to make cotton candy that tastes just like the confections you find at a carnival or fair.
This model is safe for adults and kids (with supervision) to use thanks to the clear rim guard, stable feet, and simple design. Weighing slightly more than 4 lbs., it’s portable and easy to move from room to room. Economical and well priced, it comes with 10 candy cones and a sugar scoop.
- Backed by a guarantee for quality assurance
- Transparent, easy-view rim
- Quiet motor
- Spins cotton candy, hard candy, sugar-free candy, sugar floss
- Lightweight and portable
- Floss doesn’t stick well to the cones provided
Best budget: BELLA 13572 Cotton Candy Maker, Red and White
Some of the larger cotton candy machines can be costly. If you’re looking to have some sweet fun, but don’t want to spend too much, then this is the model for you. Not only will it produce delicious cotton candy, the cute red and white design will add a pop of colorful whimsy to your kitchen, or any room in the house.
For a machine that balances price with quality, we recommend the BELLA 13572 Cotton Candy Maker. This is a great little machine. You and your kids will have a blast transforming hard and granulated sugar into fluffy floss. It is easy to set up and clean, and within 10 minutes of taking it out of the box, its ready to heat up and make cotton candy.
This model is also perfect to use at a child’s birthday party because portions are small and individualized, although smaller sizes can be piled together for an adult’s appetite.
When you’re done with the fun, the machine is simple to take apart and clean, and comes with a dishwasher safe bowl.
- Weighs less than 5 pounds
- Affordable price
- Simple to use
- Easy to assemble
- Doesn’t make a mess
- Takes practice to figure out how to gather the candy
- Cover rattles if installed incorrectly
- Paper sticks work better than the plastic ones included
Best Unique Feature: Cra-Z-Art Deluxe Cotton Candy Maker Kit with Lite Up Wand Toy
Making cotton candy is fun in itself, but when a colorful wand is involved, be prepared for lots of laughs, giggles and smiles. The whole sugary experience is lifted to a new level.
Picture a collector wand light up with colors as you swirl the sugar and spin it into floss. This model is a smart choice for a child’s birthday party, making it an entertaining activity and a delicious treat all rolled into one.
To get a funky, carnival-like experience that’s a real crowd-pleaser, we recommend the Cra-Z-Art Cotton Candy Maker Kit with Lite Up Wand Toy. Make real cotton candy quickly and easily using regular household sugar or candy floss sugar.
The clearly written instructions make this machine easy to operate. You just wait until it warms up and then slowly pour small amounts of sugar into the spinner.
Then watch the fun unfold as the floss collects and builds up on the sides of the bowl. As the wisps accumulate, gather it all with the special Lite Up Wand to build a ball of sweet fluff. Your kid’s eyes will sparkle with delight as the cotton candy glows with five different light patterns every time the button on the wand is pressed.
Hand-wash the wand when done so it’s ready to use the next time. Bonus? Batteries for the wand are included!
• Easy to use and clean
• Weighs just under 3 lbs.
• Comes assembled
• Batteries for Lite Wand included
• Choking hazard, small parts, not recommended for ages 3 and under
• Takes time to figure out how to make floss stick to glow wand
Best High-End Cotton Candy Maker: 6325 Great Northern Popcorn Junior Vortex Cotton Candy Machine Floss Maker
When only the best will do and you’re willing to pay the price, you’ll want to consider a commercial-grade cotton candy maker that isn’t too big or complicated to use at home.
Whether it’s for personal use for your immediate family, or you love large gatherings, organize community events, fundraisers and parties, we recommend the 6325 Great Northern Popcorn Junior Vortex Cotton Candy Machine Floss Maker.
This unique model is equipped with a 20.5-inch aluminum steel kettle, belt-driven performance grade motor, and one of the industry’s leading 1685-Watt high performance heating elements. This machine runs continually, allowing you to swirl up one sweet cotton candy cone every 30 seconds. That’s a lot of cotton candy for any large crowd.
The 6325 Great Northern Popcorn Junior Vortex Cotton Candy Machine Floss Maker comes with many special features that will guarantee many years of pleasure and satisfaction.
This machine is quieter than most because the pan mounts to the machine in three places that are covered in rubber. A safety switch assures the machine will not turn on if the bowl is not put correctly in place, preventing damage and electrical surges.
- Front on-off switch
- Built-in reset switch instead of a fuse
- High efficiency: Power: 95W-1685W, AC 110V
- Works continually and makes one cotton candy cone per 30 seconds.
- Plastic bubble cover to keep cotton candy contained sold separately
- Weighs 25 lbs.
- More than 4 times the price of a regular cotton candy maker
Frequently Asked Questions:
How does a cotton candy machine work?
Most models work the same way. A typical machine has a spinning head that encloses a small sugar reserve bowl where you pour granulated sugar, colored floss sugar or in some cases, some hard candy. Heaters are located near the rim of the head to melt the sugar, which is then squeezed out through tiny holes by centrifugal force. This transforms the sugar into fine wisps of sweetness that you gather on a cone.
Can I use regular sugar in a cotton candy maker?
Yes, you can use regular granulated household sugar in most cotton candy makers to make delicious fluff.
What other kinds of sugar can I use?
You can also use different colored and flavored flossing sugar. You can usually buy these products separately online while purchasing your cotton candy maker.
Can I use hard candy to make cotton candy?
Yes. Make sure you purchase a model that has a special extractor or method of crushing hard candies. Look for a cotton candy maker that specifies you can use hard candy.
Is a cotton candy maker easy to use?
Yes, most models are simple to use. You just plug it in, turn on the heat, and when it’s hot, pour in the sugar. In a few minutes, you’ll be able to start gathering the floss on a stick or cone.
Are cotton candy makers expensive?
Not necessarily. Like most small appliances, Cotton Candy machines come in a wide range of prices, depending on the features included. Many basic models that work well and are fun to use are very affordable and priced between $30 and $45.
Can I make cotton candy if I’m avoiding sugar?
Yes. With cotton candy models that let you use hard candies to make the floss, you can use your favorite sugar-free flavors and enjoy the snack like everyone else.
Does a cotton candy machine make a good gift?
Yes. It is a popular birthday present for kids and an often-requested gift for Christmas.
Can I use a cotton candy machine to feed large crowds?
Yes, but you will have to spend more money and look for an industrial-grade model that can produce a fluffy ball of cotton candy in about half a minute at a time. To serve a large crowd like you’d find at a community event or fundraiser, the machine should be able to run continuously to be able to make large quantities in a timely fashion.
Things to look out for:
Before selecting a cotton candy maker that’s suits your needs, you may want to consider these factors:
Decide how often and for what activities you want to use a cotton candy maker and that will determine the price point. There’s no use spending a lot of money if you’re going to use it once and then hide it away in a cupboard where it will be forgotten.
If you plan to use your cotton candy maker often, you may want to invest in a pricier model that will last longer and spin more cotton.
Cotton candy makers come in many sizes, but there is a large selection of smaller models that weigh less than 5 lbs. For movie night, small parties and snacking, these are perfect for most people.
If you want one for personal use, but you also host big backyard parties, community events and fundraisers, consider a larger, more professional-grade model. While these will cost more, the output is quicker, mechanics more sophisticated and the fluffs of cotton larger. A model such as this will also last many years.
Some cotton candy makers are pretty basic; flip a switch, it heats up, you pour in regular sugar from your pantry and you spin a small amount of cotton candy.
Perhaps you prefer to have more of a complete package, with choices. Many models include one colored, flavored floss sugar and a few reusable cones, while others come with a party kit that includes three or four containers of floss sugar in different colors and flavors and many paper cones.
Some people cannot have too much sugar, or are trying to reduce their sugar consumption, but still yearn for something sweet. If this is the case for you, consider a model that comes with a feature that accepts sugar-free hard candies as a way to make cotton candy.
If noise is a factor, check out models with quieter motors.
To reduce mess, you may want a cotton candy maker that has a transparent cover to catch any flying floss.
To increase safety, look for a model with legs that have rubber tips for more stability.
If you’re not that handy around the house, and don’t like spend hours cleaning, make sure you find a model that is already assembled and easy to take apart to clean.
Finally, if you want to add to the fun and bump up your retro decor, choose a nostalgic style like one that is built like a mini-carnival cart that will fit on your kitchen counter or table.
Photo credit: Pearl PhotoPix/Shutterstock