This is a common point of confusion for air mattress owners who notice leaks. How do I find the leak? Do I use a repair kit? Should I go with rubber patches or with one of those airbed repair kits that are intended specifically for the PVC the mattresses are made of?
Let’ put all those dilemmas to rest in this precise, step-by-step guide to fixing your leaking air mattress, and understand one thing, even if you choose a heavy duty air mattress, air leaks are bound to happen, and it can be difficult to locate them, especially if they around the seams or in the area close to the pump.
Before you give up and start shooting for the nearest dumpster, here are some quick tips to help you locate the elusive hole in your inflatable.
We have to start things off with a small apology, though. This is one of the most important “know-hows” for every air mattress owner, so we should’ve definitely addressed it earlier. Apologies being given, let’s jump right into some time and money-saving mattress hacks.
Last updated: March 2019
Table of contents
- 1 Step 0 – what you do before you proceed with finding and repairing the leak
- 2 Step 1: Find the right space, remove the bedding and “abuse” the mattress a bit
- 3 Step 2: Inflate the airbed to full capacity
- 4 Step 3: Inspect the valve for leaks
- 5 Step 4: See if you can just sport or hear the leak
- 6 Step 5: The last resort of finding the leak – dish soap
- 7 Additional tips
Step 0 – what you do before you proceed with finding and repairing the leak
Our ground zero is trying to replace the air mattress that sprung a leak.
I know it sounds kind of intuitive, but people make this mistake all the time. They try to fix the leak themselves and void the warranty in the process. So, if the warranty hasn’t expired yet, make sure to contact the seller and ask for a replacement. It’ll save you a lot of time and effort.
The tricky part starts if the warranty HAS expired. We have only one course of action there, and it’s a Hail Marry at best. Most of the time, if the leak appeared in the first couple of months after the purchase, the seller will give you a replacement inflatable bed. It’s just good business practice mixed with customer service. You see now why I called this a Hail Marry, right?
It CAN happen, but the seller doesn’t have to do anything if they don’t want to. Be that as it may, be sure to give it a go; you never know until you try it. There are companies out there that care about their reputation enough to go above and beyond to please the customer. That’s what customer service is about, looking at a problem through the glasses of opportunity.
What I’m trying to say is this – when getting an air mattress go through the reviews of consumers and see what they’re saying about the company policies.
Now, if the warranty maneuver failed, we’ll need to get our hands dirty and give that bad boy a detailed checkup. If you choose a high quality air mattress, you won’t need this tutorial in the first place.
Step 1: Find the right space, remove the bedding and “abuse” the mattress a bit
The first thing is pretty obvious, but it is canon, so we’ll address it with due diligence. First you’ll need to remove all of the bedding from your leaking air mattress. You won’t be able to spot any holes if you don’t, so our little hunting expedition will be a bust from the start. Get the bedding out of the way, so it doesn’t get in your way with the next steps.
We need to find a proper space for closer inspection.
We need enough room to fully inflate the mattress, flip it over, go around it… In other words, the bigger the mattress, the more space we’re going to need. You need to be able to maneuver perfectly, so make sure you’re able to.
That’s all sunshine and rainbows if we’re home, but what if our mattress sprung a leak in the middle of your camping trip?
The best tip we can give you there is to do this in your tent. You’ll have to sacrifice some of the mobility, true, but the tent will muffle all the outside noises. This might help us locate the tear just by listening for it.
The last thing to notice in this step is providing enough light for the entire operation. We’ve written articles upon articles about the importance of a good trusty flashlight in a camping situation.
It goes something like this:
- If you’re home – excellent
- if you’re out camping, and it’s daytime – not optimal, but we can work with it
- It’s nighttime – You better hope you have a good flashlight on you, or you’ll be sleeping on the ground for sure
Proper lighting enables us to potentially see the cause of our problems, just as tents help us hear it.
Step 2: Inflate the airbed to full capacity
Now it’s time to inflate your mattress. You can inflate it all the way to its full capacity, as that’s the optimal scenario for spotting any holes.
If you’re mattress hacking and don’t have an adequate pump, please don’t use compressors. That’s one general tip I’ll insert here. High-pressured air is not something air mattresses are designed to handle and you are likely to make the leak worse.
You’ll most likely have an automatic air pump, so this step will do itself most of the time.
Step 3: Inspect the valve for leaks
The most obvious space to leak air is the valve. It’s the most common leak source, so we’ll need to check it out first.
When we say valve here, we don’t just mean the plastic part itself, but the connections between the plastic and the vinyl. The later is probably the most common among leak causes.
Here’s the protocol:
- We’ll start things off by checking if the valve is inserted completely into the stem of the valve
- If the valve is double locking, check if the stem is pressed completely against the stop
- If there’s a valve failure, you most likely won’t be able to fix it. However, if the plug doesn’t seal completely against the stem, you can insert a thin plastic slice and get off easy with a quick fix
- If nothing of this seems to be the problem, we can start looking at the mattress itself
Step 4: See if you can just sport or hear the leak
The first of our 2-step inspection program won’t require any additional tools. We’ll get to that later if nothing in this step proves useful.
The first thing we’ll do is conduct a little visual inspection. This is where the whole story about having enough room and light comes into play. If it’s a sleeping ad, applying pressure will help hear the leak and locate it, for a home air mattress is a bit trickier. So, divide the mattress into “areas” and inspect one by one.
Inflate your mattress before anything since even the tiniest hole should become visible when the mattress is fully inflated. We need a systematic approach here. Map the parts of the mattress in your head and go over them one by one. The plan that works best for me goes: the top, the sides, the underside.
While doing this, pay close attention to every single seam on your airbed since they’re the most common places for potential tears alongside the valve.
If you can’t see the hole for some reason, it’s time to get all hands on deck. Start moving your palm along the surface and see if you can feel the air escaping. You can even get your hands wet to increase the odds of catching the subtle escaping air. The air brushing against your wet hands will feel quite cooler than if they were dry.
Step 5: The last resort of finding the leak – dish soap
If everything else fails, it’s time for the bulletproof method. We’re talking about the method using dish soap.
All you’ll need is some liquid dish soap and a spray bottle filled with warm water. If you can’t find any spray bottles lying around, you can make it work with a wet soapy rag or a sponge as well.
You main focus areas are the valve and all of the seams. As we’ve already said, those are the most critical areas, so it’s only logical to start there. If you get no “positive” results, just spray on until you get that pesky nuisance of a hole.
When you notice soap bubbles, you can shout BINGO and go get your patch kit. You can see the recommended patches in our guide on top inflatable chairs, air pumps, patch kits, inflatable sofas and pool floats.
Don’t worry about the soap layer on your mattress. You can just wipe it off and let it dry out, no problem.
If your air mattress is small enough or bathtub large enough, you can bypass all of the steps above and simply submerge it completely. This will reveal the leak in your inflatable mattress in no time.
On the other hand, we must urge you to resist the temptation of pouring water inside the mattress. It’ll show you the leak right away, sure, but you’ll ruin your bed in the process. You won’t be able to dry it out fast enough to prevent molds from forming, and I don’t think we need to say anything further than that.
These steps will locate the leak in your air mattress 99% of the time, so we really hope they work out for you.