One minute you are sound asleep, the next you are flat on the floor. At some point, every inflatable air bed loses its appeal. Getting back to sleep quickly after a blow out is your only concern at 3 o’clock in the morning. The best way to patch an air bed is with a simple kit and a little patience.
Finding the Air Mattress Leak
First, you need to find the air leak. This should be easy, but can be almost impossible if the leak is small. A tiny leak the size of a pinprick can deflate an air bed after 6 to 8 hours. A larger but still almost imperceptible opening will land you flat in three hours. A quarter inch opening will drop you like a rock.
The easiest way to find a tiny leak is to move your hand one to two inches over the surface of the mattress, feeling for a stream of air. Check the seam areas first and any junction points where the inner suspension system may create a stress point.
If you have no luck finding the leak with your hands, use your face to feel for the air stream. The nerves on your face are more sensitive and can feel the air flow easier. Also engage your ears as many leaks can be heard once you are near them.
Once you have a general location for the leak, keep your face at the location and slowly move a finger over the area. When you feel the air flow stop, you have found your leak. Mark it with a piece of tape or marker pen so you know where it is after the bed is deflated for repair.
If you’re still having trouble finding the leak, rub a little full strength dish washing soap over the area. Air bubbles will be seen where the leak is. The drawback to this method is that you must wash off the soap from around the area in order for a repair patch to stick. Too much dish soap and you’ll be washing foam off for hours – use this method sparingly.
Deflate the bed for repair. Any areas around the leak that are damp will need to be dried with a hair dryer on low heat before applying any adhesive patch. Patching the air mattress will be easier if the bed is flat and the area to be repaired is not wrinkled.
Patch Kits for Air Beds
Many inflatable beds come with a small repair kit. In general, these kits are a joke. It might get you through a night and it might not. In an emergency, duct tape may also work for small leaks. Super glue is great at holding things together but does not create an airtight seal. Super-gluing the manufacturer’s patch often doesn’t work as the air will seep out around any weak application of glue.
The very best solution is a vinyl pool repair kit available at many hardware stores (less frequently at big box home improvement stores). Consider buying one when you purchase the air bed so that you have it for emergencies. The kit contains an adhesive designed for airtight application and usually a sheet of clear vinyl that can be cut to size. Follow the instructions on the package. Often this means applying the cement in a thin layer to both the area around the leak and the patch, waiting a set amount of time, and pressing together. If the patch edges curl up after a minute or two, press down to make sure the seal is set.
How long does it take to work? A patch like this is meant to cure, or set, for 24 hours. That’s a joke too. If it’s a small leak, you can usually re-inflate the air bed within an hour. A larger hole or tear will take a full twelve hours – which means you’ll be sleeping on the couch for the night. Large repairs are best done in the morning so the bed can be re-inflated at evening time.
Large Rips or Tears in Air Beds
Fixing large tears in the air bed mattress can be done but they are tricky. It is possible to repair rips of a few inches to a foot in length. Work on a flat surface with the bed completely deflated.
First, reinforce both ends of the rip with cross patches to stop the continued pressure to tear further. Then, cut a patch about a half inch larger than the existing rip in both directions and place it inside the bed under the hole. Apply the vinyl repair cement to the underside of the rip, lining the edges up, and press to the patch material. Allow this to cure for an hour or so. This under-patch sets you up for success by reducing the stress on the hole. Cut more patch material for the top making sure to extend over the cross patches on the ends. Cement in place checking for curl in a few minutes. A large patch like this should cure for 12 hours.
When Is It Time to Throw Out the Air Bed?
It seems that once you start to patch, leaks start to show up on a regular basis. A daily fix-and-repair is inevitable as the stress points give in to air pressure. An air mattress repair will last only so long before it fails. But if you only use the air bed occasionally, its service can be extended a long time with a simple air mattress patch.