An air mattress can be a real lifesaver in a number of situations. If you live in the city and don’t have the luxury of several additional guest rooms, or if the available bedrooms can’t accommodate all your buddies after a party, a mattress that you can inflate when it’s sleep time and tuck away later is simply irreplaceable. These mattresses’ excellent foldability and lightweight construction also make them ideal for camping trips.
Unfortunately, their versatility stops at the first leak. No matter how small the leak seems, it can lead to the longest night ever be it in the sitting room floor or somewhere in the woods.
You don’t need to replace or dispose of the mattress right away though if you know how to patch it. And that’s what we’ll be talking about in the next couple of minutes.
What you’ll need
- Permanent marker or tape- you’ll need any of these to mark the leaks after identifying them
- Dish soap
- All-purpose cleaner
- Lint-free rag (2)
- A patch kit (most air mattresses ship with this kit in the package. Almost all outdoor camping stores stock them as well. The store-bought kits are meant for mending bikes, tents, and airbeds and contain a patch, glue, and sanding paper)
If you don’t have the patch kit or can’t get it in time, add the following 3 items
- Strong adhesive (such as superglue, Gorilla glue, or KrazyGlue)
- Sandpaper/wire brush
- A small piece of tarp or shower curtain liner
How to Patch an Air Mattress
Step 1: Find the leak/leaks
Of course, if you are not sure where the leak is, the first thing that you’ll need to do is to identify it. The leak can be anywhere on the mattress especially at the bottom and along the seams.
There are 3 ways of finding the leak depending on the size of the hole. But they all begin with inflating the bed.
The first method involves looking and listening for the hole. Gently press on the mattress and listen for a hissing sound as the air gushes out. While it’s ideal to pay more attention to the bottom and seam, don’t ignore the top.
On this note, don’t be tempted to lie or kneel on the mattress as you look for the hole as this might expand and make it irreparable.
Once you’ve located the hole, use the permanent marker or tape to make the hole visible then progress to step 2.
You might not be lucky to locate the hole by listening though. If that’s the case, you might have some luck with the second method.
Dampen the back of your hand and pass it an inch over the mattress from top to bottom and along the seam. Hopefully, you should be able to feel a burst of cool air gushing out. Mark it and deflate the bed and proceed to step 2.
There’s still one more trick left if you are not lucky to detect the leak through the first 2 methods.
Mix one teaspoon of dishwashing soap in a bowl of water and then spread it over the mattress using a sponge. Look keenly for bubbles as you spread the soapy water. After identifying it, use a rag to wipe the area dry and then use the permanent marker or tape to mark the leak.
Step 2: Preparing the leak for patching
After identifying the leak, deflate the mattress by opening the valve. You might also want to press the mattress with your hands to deflate it completely. The essence of this is to ensure that there won’t be any air under the patch that may ruin the glue or cause air passages through which air might leak through even after patching.
The next step would be preparing the area surrounding the leak for patching.
Start by cleaning it extending an inch or 2 all around using the all-purpose cleaner and a lint-free rag. What you are trying to do here is to remove any dust and dirt that might prevent the patch from bonding well with the material.
Use the other lint-free rag to wipe it completely dry.
Using a sandpaper, sand away all the soft coating around the leak. This ensures that the patch will stick permanently.
Step 3: Sticking the patch
With the leak area clean, dry, and sanded, it’s time to place the patch.
Patching with a store-bought patch kit
- If you still have the patching kit that your mattress shipped with, or if you got one from mass merchandisers, use that.
- Using these patches basically involves following the same instructions. You’ll need to apply a generous amount of sealant around the leak and placing the patch.
- It’s important that the hole sits almost at the middle of the patch. But this isn’t so important. So long as the leak is well covered, resist the urge to remove the freshly placed patch and place it again as this will only make it less sticky.
- Use your thumb to press down on the patch firmly and applying even pressure for around 30 seconds
- Let the patch sit for 2-3 hours to allow the glue to hold firmly. You could also apply some pressure using a tool such as a G-clamp or by placing a heavy object such as a book.
- After 3 hours, inflate the mattress and inspect the patch for any leaks. You could do this by placing your ear close to the patch and listening for any s-s-s-s-s sound or pouring water over the patch and looking for bubbles
Patching without a patch kit
- There’s still a way out in case you don’t have the store-bought patching kit. Before proceeding with this method, it’s important to keep in mind that DIY patches might easily tamper with the airbed’s warranty. So, if you have a super expensive air mattress that is still within the warranty period, perhaps sending it for repair might be the best option.
- All in all here is how to make a patch from scratch and repair a leak without a professional patch kit
- Use the scissors to cut out a small patch enough to cover the leak from the tarp or shower curtain liner. Ensure that it covers at least a half inch on all sides to minimize the possibility of air leaking out.
- Apply glue all around the leak and attach the patch smoothly
- Using the heel of your hand, apply even force all around the patch and hold for around 1 minute.
- Let the patch stay for around 3 hours for the glue to hold firmly. Later, inflate the mattress and inspect whether the patch is working.