When you’re in a temporary space like a friend’s house or maybe on a camping trip, an air mattress will serve the purpose. However, if it’s not inflated well, you’ll wake up sore or not sleep well at all. When there’s a minor leak present, this is the common cause.
There are two basic but important steps to repairing an air mattress. You must first locate the leak or leaks and then attempt to patch it using a patch kit with a strong adhesive. What follows are clear and simple steps to check for a leak and fix it.
Step One | Find out If the Bed Has A Leak
It’s normal for a temporary air mattress to lose air in a period of time. It’s a good move to reinflate it before you use it each time. You can then make certain that it stays firm and comfortable. Climate is also a factor as cold climates cause the beds to lose air.
The model is another factor and will sometimes not inflate to capacity until you sleep on them several times. In saying that, there is a marked difference between an air mattress that’s losing air as normal and one that has sprung a leak.
One good thing to do is to test the mattress out 24 hours prior to first use if at all possible. Inflate the mattress to the maximum capacity. When you can see the mattress is full then lay down on it. Keep the same position as you would while you’re sleeping. If the mattress has sprung a leak you should look for a one inch sag.
Still not certain there’s a leak? Here’s what you do. Place a heavy object, just not too heavy, like a book on top of the air mattress. Wait a few hours. If there’s no sagging then it’s probably there are no leaks.
The manufacturer’s specifications is another issue to look at as it may be the reason for premature deflation. On the other hand, if the mattress starts deflating very shortly after inflation then there are probably leaks present.
Step Two | Locate the Leaks or Leaks Present
Leaks can be microscopic and therefor hard to locate by looking alone. One way is to attempt to locate a leak by looking and feeling for those little puffs of air that may emerge. If this doesn’t work then the next steps here should do the trick.
- Locate the valves and check them first:
There are valves that are comprised of two parts. There is a plug and it is typically inserted into a stem to keep the air from escaping in small amounts. There are also other plugs that use a dial and is twisted shut. In checking the first type, the valve must be securely fixed into the stem. In checking the dial, make sure it’s securely tightened.
Next, inflate the mattress fully and with your palm over the stem or dial, feel for any air that’s escaping. The plug may be too small for the stem if it’s inserted correctly into the stem yet there’s air escaping. If the plug is not inserting correctly and fully and air is escaping, then the valve is the issue.
If the plug is inserted correctly and can’t feel air escaping then time to look for the leak in another part of the mattress. If the dial type is secure and tight and you still feel air escaping then it’s probably the seal.
- Raise the mattress up against the wall
It’s no surprise that most leaks originate at the bottom of the mattress because it’s been exposed to sharp objects on the floor. If the valve is not the issue, move the mattress so that the bottom of it is off the floor on its side against the wall is best. You may now listen for escaping air that sounds like hissing and feel for any puffs of air escaping.
If you aren’t having any luck hearing and feeling then with your hands, push down on different areas of the mattress surface. Now, to be absolutely certain, check the sides and seams as these areas make it harder to notice a leak.
- Use Dish Soap
When all else fails, break out the dish soap. This method requires you to mix dish soap and water. Place one part liquid dish soap to one part warm water and pour into a clean spray bottle or on to a damp washcloth. When the dish soap is sprayed or whiped on to the mattress you should see air bubbles emerge from the location of the leak. The first place to try is the valve. Then, move on to the surfaces, side walls and seams.
- Hose Method
This is a simple last-ditch method. Spray the mattress on all sides and surfaces and look for bubbles. Both for the safety of the mattress and the ability to see the leak bubbles use a low stream. If you use too hard a stream you can damage the outer surface layers of the mattress and the warranty may become void.
We hope you can find the leaks using one of these methods. Another good extra tip to do is to make sure you mark any leaks found with an indelible marker or pen so that they’ll be easier to locate when you patch them.
If you still haven’t found a leak then you may want to do the next practical thing and contact the manufacturer. If you purchased it at a shop then you may want to bring it there. The shop may have its own return policies as well as working with the manufacturer to understand your buyers rights under their policies. For more information regarding warranties and possible issues see the warranty section below.
- Submerging Method
Before we continue to the next section we’ll touch on another method called the submerging method. We left this one to last because unless the manufacturers manual states clearly that this method can be used, we strongly recommend you don’t.
The submerging method is the same method used to find leaks in bike tires. It requires the mattress owner to completely submerge the mattress under water. When you remove it after a minute or two, you should be able to spot the bubbles caused by any leaks. This method comes with a warning though: though it’s really great at locating leaks, it can also cause irreparable damage to the pads that you sleep on, the valves and air tubes.
Step Three | Prepare the Leak Surface | Clean and Sand
This is only needed if the leak is located in a section of the air mattress that is fabric or any type of fiber that covers the rubber base of the bed. You must begin by deflating the bed completely and squeeze all the air out of it. Take a piece of the finest sandpaper which comes in 360 to 600 grit and rub it down to the rubber part.
The surface must be completely flat while patching as an uneven surface will still leak when its patched. The sanding will create a smooth surface optimal for the patch job. If there is any other dirt or gritty substance on the leak site or in the closely surrounding area you can use rubbing alcohol or a damp cloth to clear it up.
Step Four | Completely Dry The Air Mattress
Step four is only necessary if you’ve used the submerging, hose or damp cloth method as described in the above section. I you haven’t used any of these methods then you can skip straight to the patching method we will talk you through now.
If you have used any liquid to clean the leak at all, then leave the mattress in direct sunlight or at least out for several hours until dry before attempting to patch it. If you don’t need to sand it then deflate it all the way anyway and assist the drying process.
Step Five | Start Patching the Leak or Leaks
There are many air mattresses that will come complete with a patch kit. If you can’t find it or for some reason your model didn’t come with one, then all is not lost. You may refer to some of the retail companies that carry patch kits such as Walmart and Therm-a-Rest and REI. Though these are made for air mattresses, one good trick to use if you can’t locate one, is a bike-patch kit, these work tremendously well.
There are two ways that patch kits work. They may require some sort of adhesive to be used on and around the area of the leak. Others may be used as sort of a bandage that already has glue on it. It can be simple or a bit complex but either way, they work.
Whichever one you use you must be sure that the mattress is completely deflated and flat in order for the patch job to take properly. If it’s not, then the patch is going to bubble up and the sides can lift therefore the air will continue to leak.
Make sure that you place your hand over the patch or something a bit heavy like a book to make sure that the patch does not curl up at the edges. Once, the patch is dried on then inflate the mattress totally and then of course feel and look for leaks.
Try to make sure the bed stays inflated for at least a night and then check for the leaks the next day. This is best done when you’re not using the bed for a night. If the bed is still inflated then it may be that the leaks are repaired.
Below, are some other ways that you can patch the air mattress however, they aren’t the best ways or the most suggested because of the drawbacks.
DIY Mattress Repair
Creative Patch: All you need is a clear sheet of plastic cut to fit the area of the leak. A shower curtain with no texture like a liner would do in this case. Other than that, plastic sheeting is also a great choice for do it yourself mattress repair. As far as size is concerned, it’s relative to your leak size. The plastic should cover the leak and surrounding area that you may have had to sand down. As far as the adhesive that you use it should be waterproof like a epoxy, rubber cement or E600 type permanent adhesive.
We have to mention that if you have a warranty that you need to check if this DIY patch method would negate your contract.
Using Hot Glue
There are some DIY suggestions out there that suggest the use of a low temp glue gun. This would make a protective covering. It may however provide less than perfect results. The glue is a bit stiff and may actually cause the leak to occur again. The glue gun may also damage the covering of the bed. This is something that may also negate the warranty so it’s worth checking out.
If you really want to be safe and do what you can for a temporary overnight fix then use plain duct tape. This will leave very little residue on the bed and will probably not negate the warranty. It won’t stop the leak entirely or long term but maybe overnight and then you can find another solution.
What to know about your warranty
Please note that there are many warranties and they are all different. There are warranties that will cover the product for a certain time period. There are also those that will cover any damage that is made for the life of the product but typically you would have to be the original owner.
The warranty typically covers defects in the mattress in the manufacturing or in the shipping. If the damage is caused after it is unpacked and has for example met with a sharp object and ripped or has been patched incorrectly etc then it’s very unlikely that the mattress would be covered.
If you’ve used any of the above DIY mending methods rest assured that it probably won’t be covered by the warranty. If you’ve actually tried to take the mattress apart and repair it then you can rest assured that it would be negated.
Here is what to do to be safe: If you haven’t caused the damage on the air mattress then you can probably have it replaced by the manufacturer and only have to pay the shipping and handling. If you have damaged it by either a sharp object or something that the warranty is not going to cover then by all means do the patch jobs we suggested here.
To repair the leak you need these supplies
- Replacement Patch Kit if you have one
- Wash Cloth
- Spray Bottle
- Fine Grade Sandpaper
- Dishwashing Soap
Steps to Follow
- Inflate the mattress and check to see by the prescribed methods if there is a leak.
- Check the stem or dial valves
- Check all the areas of the mattress by propping up and spraying with hose or dish soap and spray bottle.
- Deflate the mattress all the way
- If the mattress has fibers and you have to sand it then do so
- Make sure you dry the mattress completely
- Use the adhesive and patch to seal the leak
- Get the patch to sit under a heavy object until dry
- If all else fails then contact the manufacturer or shop where the mattress was purchased
Greg Taylor is a Mechanical Engineer and former competitive long distance runner with a keen interest in health and general well-being issues. He acquired some carpentry and welding skills from his father and worked for a couple of very famous furniture and mattress manufacturers over the course of 30 years.