As anyone who has ever slept on an air mattress will tell you, all air mattresses leak. Even a model that claims to be “airtight” will eventually lose some air.
While a little sagging is forgivable, it becomes a problem when you can’t even make it through a single night without a noticeable loss of air. When you seem to be doing more re-inflating than sleeping, it’s time to put on your detective cap and start searching for that leak.
Use your senses to locate the leak
As noted, finding a hole in an air mattress can be extremely difficult, especially if the air is only escaping gradually.
While there are ways to quickly locate a hole in an air mattress (and we will discuss them in the next section), they can be a little messy or labor-intensive.
If you don’t want to break out the baby powder or fill the tub right away, try using your senses.
Air that is leaking slowly is probably coming from a hole that is too small to see. It may also be hidden by the flocking (tiny fiber particles that are applied to a surface to give it a more desirable texture). Consequently, using your eyes may be the worst way to check for leaks, but it is the most obvious first step.
To use your ears, you will need to fill the air mattress all the way up, ideally using an electric air pump, and listen.
The leak could be a pinprick that is located nearly anywhere on the surface (usually the bottom) of the air mattress. Or it could be a tiny split hidden in the seam. Another common problem is a leak around the valve.
If listening doesn’t help (admittedly, it’s not too much better than looking), it’s time to resort to feeling.
Place your open hand close to the mattress, and very slowly move it around to see if you can detect any air currents. Better than your hand, but a little more time-consuming, is placing a tissue on the air mattress in different areas to see if it moves, especially when you put a little weight elsewhere on the air mattress.
If you get lucky, one of these ways will reveal the location of the leak. Chances are, however, you will want to resort to one of the methods in the following section.
Pinpointing that air mattress hole
If you have any on hand, coating the air mattress in baby powder will reveal where the leak is in a tiny puff of powder. While this is effective, it is messy. A slightly less messy approach is to take a small spray bottle, fill it mostly with water and add a few drops of dish soap. If you’d like, you can shake the bottle up a little and then start spraying down the air mattress. Wherever there is a leak, you will notice active bubbling.
The best way to find a leak, unfortunately, is also the most labor-intensive. After inflating the air mattress, submerge sections of it in water, and pay attention to where the bubbles come from. You can use a bathtub, a kiddie pool or even a full-size swimming pool to complete this task. Alternatively, you could take the air mattress outside and spray it down with a hose to locate the leak — just be careful not to set it down on any sharp objects.
Our go-to method is the soapy-water spray bottle. It is effective, not too labor-intensive and not super messy.
How to repair a hole
After you find the leak, mark it so you do not lose it again. You can use a permanent marker (if the mark won’t bother you) or a piece of painter’s tape, which will be easy to remove.
Next, you will want to clean, degrease and dry the area around the hole.
If the leak is located in the flocking, you will first need to gently sand away the flocking using very fine sandpaper (you do not want to create more damage to the air mattress). If it is just a tiny hole, you can simply add some liquid PVC repair glue to the damaged area according to the product’s directions. For a larger hole, it’s best to use a vinyl repair kit to patch the air mattress.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product-review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.