Has this ever happened to you: You lay down at night on a firm air mattress while camping at your favorite campground and drift off to a good night’s sleep. But when you wake in the morning, you’re almost laying on the ground? Sometime between when you drifted off to sleep and woke up in the morning, air found a way to slowly escape through a tiny leak somewhere on the mattress. Given the weight that air mattresses have to support, it’s no surprise that they often buckle under the pressure and spring a leak. And even the tiniest leak can leave you feeling, well, flat. Let’s look at the ways to find a hole in an air mattress and how to repair a hole in an air mattress if you find one.
Quick methods for finding a leak
These methods are not as thorough as using water or soap. However, if you can find the source of the leak without getting the mattress wet, you can patch the mattress right away without having to wait for it to dry.
- Inflate the mattress and apply pressure to it. Listen around the seams and fabric for the sound of escaping air. This method works best for a serious leak, not a tiny one.
- Wet the back of your hand or forearm and slowly pass it over the mattress. Escaping air will make your wet skin feel cool.
- Using a thin sheet of plastic or toilet paper, slowly move it over the mattress. When it passes over the leak, the escaping air will make it flutter or ripple.
Once you find the source of the leak, mark it with a felt pen or a piece of tape.
If the leak is in a seam where a patch cannot make full contact with the fabric below, a dab of tent sealer or repair-kit adhesive may work to plug the leak.
If the seam has opened up (big leak), you may need to do a multi-step repair:
- Deflate the mattress
- Close the opened seam with adhesive from an air-mattress repair kit
- Let the adhesive set up
- Apply a patch across the repaired seam to support it and keep it from opening up again
Patching an air mattress leak
There are various patch kits available at camping stores for patching an air mattress leak. They contain a fabric patch and an adhesive. It’s a good idea to have one of these in your camping kit.
Here is a look at a few of the more popular repair kits on the market:
Vinyl Waterbed & Air Mattress Repair Kit: At just over $10, this is a cheap fix. It contains a tube of professional-quality glue and about 21 square inches of vinyl for patching the mattress. The repair is easy: find the leak, cut a piece of the vinyl to fit, and glue it onto the mattress.
Tear-Aid: These repair kits can be used on almost anything, giving you a flexible, airtight, puncture-resistant patch that is also watertight. There are two types of Tear-Aids: Type A and Type B. According to the manufacturer, Type B repair kits are specially formulated for and only applicable on vinyl products, whereas Type A repair kits are applicable on a variety of materials including: acrylic, aluminum, canvas, dacron, fabrics (most), fiberglass, Gore-Tex, hypalon, leather (non-oiled), neoprene, nylon, plastics, polyester, polyethylene, polypropylene, polyurethane, rubber, and Sunbrella. For under $10, you get an instant adhesive patch that won’t pull off when stretched. It won’t lead to discoloration over time and the glue is solid, not liquid, so it won’t run all over the place when you use it.
No Heat! Leather & Vinyl Repair Kit: With a no-heat kit, you won’t run the risk of melting or deforming the mattress by using too much or too-high heat. With this kit, the heat is substituted with an excellent adhesive that works fairly fast and holds two pieces of vinyl together.
Sevylor Repair Patch: Very simple to use and just over $10, this repair kit is very popular for its quick and easy application. It comes with three patches that are coated on one side with a pressure-triggered adhesive. The patches are transparent, they apply quickly, and they dry to a perfectly smooth finish in just a couple of minutes.
Therm-a-Rest Universal Repair Kit: This repair kit contains two type-A patches made of vinyl, an alcohol cleaning wipe, and two pouches of adhesive that are heat activated. This is a very effective kit if used according to directions, but the process is rather complicated.