How to Fix a Leak in Your Air Mattress—Quickly & Permanently

Whether camping or at home, no one wants a saggy mattress. Learn how to fix a leak in your air mattress quickly and permanently, so you can get back to bed.

By Nicole Gleichmann

We’ve all experienced that sinking feeling, the one that robs you of a good night’s rest. The potential for a leak is the primary downside of using an air mattress in your tent or your makeshift guest room.

Fortunately, a leak doesn’t mean the end for your less-than-trusty mattress friend. We’ve compiled a list of quick-fixes and permanent solutions to allow you to stop that flow of air, inflate your air mattress, and get back to sleep on the pillowy mattress (not the ground).

Coleman air mattress

Step #1—Confirm That There Is a Leak

When you wake up to a deflated mattress, it may seem obvious that there’s a leak. Sometimes, however, there are other reasons for your air mattress going limp.

For one, a new air mattress may not fully expand the first time that you fill it up, resulting in a loose feeling after a handful of hours. Additionally, when the temperature drops, the air particles within will take up less space. The result? A less supportive mattress.

To be sure that there is a leak, refill the air mattress. If the bed quickly loses air a second time, you probably have a leak on your hands.

Step #2—Locate the Leak

Now that you have reaffirmed the existence of a leak, you must find the leak. Locating an air leak can be challenging. Unless the hole or tear is fairly significant, it may take some time to find the exact spot from which the air is escaping.

The easiest way to locate a leak is to listen for it. You will want to apply pressure or add more air to the mattress to boost the quantity of air that’s escaping as this will make the noise louder. Because many leaks occur on the bottom of an air mattress, you may need to flip your mattress over or put the top side against a wall to locate the leak.

If you are unable to pinpoint the source by listening for the subtle whistle of escaping air, the next step is to grab a sponge and dish soap. Wet the sponge and squeeze out any excess water. Then put soap on the sponge and begin to cover the surface of the mattress with soapy water. Don’t forget to coat the seams, another common location for leaks. Once you see bubbles escaping, you’ve located your leak.

No matter how you found the leak, mark its location with a permanent marker. You don’t want to have to start that process over.

Step #3—Patch the Leak

There are many ways to go about fixing an air bed leak. The best approach depends on what you have at hand and how long you want the fix to last.

Before you fix the leak, try to create a flat, clean surface. This might mean sandpapering down fabric that stands between you and the underlying vinyl layer. If this step is necessary, deflate the mattress completely first, and then use fine sandpaper until you have a smooth, clean, and dry vinyl surface.

Option 1: Use Duct Tape

Duct tape is pretty much the Jack-of-all-trades for fixing stuff. It can be an excellent option for temporarily fixing a leak. For many of us, this will be the only solution that we have in the middle of the night—especially when camping.

Keep in mind that duct tape is a temporary fix. Its efficacy will eventually drop to nil, so prepare yourself to use one of the following strategies if you plan to keep your air mattress. Before you permanently patch the leak, remove the sticky duct tape residue.

Option 2: Use a Patch Kit

Most air mattresses come with their own patch kit. If your mattress is new, or if you are an impressively organized individual, you can use the original patch kit that came with the mattress. Alternatively, you can purchase air mattress repair kits that will work for any air mattress, or even use a tire patch.

Option 3: Use Thin Plastic

You do not necessarily have to use an official air mattress patch to plug a leak successfully. Any relatively resistant thin plastic will do. If you have an old shower curtain or don’t mind missing a small square on the bottom of your current one, its plastic can make a good air mattress patch.

Now, if you are making your own patch, you are going to need something to attach it to the mattress. Don’t try cheap glue or duct tape to apply the patch. Instead, use a strong glue like rubber cement or gorilla glue. Let the glue fully dry before you allow yourself to drift back off to sleep on your old and improved mattress.

Option 4: Use a Hot Glue Gun

Hot glue is a handy tool for leaks along the seam. These areas are much harder to use a patch successfully. When you use hot glue to patch a leak, be careful not to allow the top of the hot glue gun to touch the plastic—it will melt. If that happens, you will probably need to get a new air mattress.

Step #4—Inflate the Mattress

Once you have sealed the leak and allowed everything to dry, it’s time to test your handiwork. To do this, inflate your air bed and give it a go. As long as there was just one leak, and you plugged it properly, you should all set.


Conclusion

When an air bed begins to lose air, it’s time to do some amateur sleuthing. Once you find the leak and patch it, you can get back to enjoying the comfy layer of air between you and the hard floor, without having to shell out for a new mattress.


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