How to Find a Leak in an Air Mattress?

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Written by: Alex Savy
Read 9 minLast updated on February 17, 2023

Great question! 

If you want to know how to find a leak in an air mattress, here are a few methods:

Thoroughly inspect an inflated airbed for a hissing sound, use baby powder or dish soap foam to locate the leak, or find a hole with a piece of paper towel.

If you have a pool, you can also submerge your inflated airbed into the water. But only use this as a last resort (I’ll explain later, why).

So, let’s break down each method step by step, so you can choose the most suitable for you.

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Preparation Steps

Before you get down to finding a hole in your air mattress, you need to do the following:

  • Remove the bedding. You won’t see any holes and punctures with your sheets on, so take them away.
  • Get enough space. While you’re inspecting your airbed, you’ll move around it a lot, so you’ll need enough room for these maneuvers.
  • Place your mattress on the clean floor. Any small items or debris might result in more punctures, so instead of fixing the air mattress, you may end up needing a replacement.
  • Inflate the airbed. Try not to overinflate, though, because this can add more tears or make existing punctures bigger and they will be harder to patch.

Preparation Steps to find leak

Also, you’ll need something to mark the puncture so that you won’t lose it while preparing to fix it. A tailor’s pencil or a marker of a contrast color will do fine.

How to Find a Leak in an Air Mattress#1 Check the Vulnerable Spots

A leak can be located anywhere on the airbed.

But the most vulnerable spots are mattress seams, edges, and the area around the valve. The material in these areas is usually glued together, so it may split apart over time and start leaking. Starting your search from these areas can save you a lot of time.

Also, make sure that your leak is not the standard overnight deflation

Here’s the thing:

Most of the modern top-rated inflatable mattresses will let some amount of air out due to the temperature fluctuations during the day. However, they will still maintain a sufficient volume to support you.

However, if your airbed loses a significant amount of air a couple of hours after you have inflated it, there must be a puncture somewhere (unless you forgot to close the valve).

“New air mattresses might lose some air faster than old models as the materials stretch out and adjust to the pressure.”

#2 Visual and Audial Inspection

If you have checked the weak spots and haven’t found any holes, it’s time to check the rest of the mattress surface.

Thoroughly look at each side of your airbed. You can use a magnifying glass to find tiny punctures and speed up your work.

Also, you can use your hearing to detect the hissing sound of escaping air.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Place a mattress into a quiet area. No other sounds should bother you.
  • Listen. Slowly rotate the air mattress and listen to the sounds it makes. You can also squish it lightly with your hands to make the hissing louder and easier to detect.

“If you don’t have enough room to rotate your airbed, you can take it outdoors. Just make sure that the weather is appropriate and there isn’t any debris that can potentially damage your mattress.”

#3 Use Paper Tissue

You can enhance the previous method of finding a leak in an air mattress with a paper tissue. 

Here’s how:

  • Inflate the mattress and place it into a quiet area.
  • Take a piece of tissue and spread it flat on the mattress surface.
  • Squish the mattress around the tissue with your hands.
  • If you hear the hissing sound or if the tissue starts moving, mark the puncture and patch it.
  • If nothing happens, place the tissue over another area and repeat the steps until you find the leak.

#4 Dish Soap Trick

This is probably the most common method of locating a puncture in the airbed.

Note, though, that it’s better not to use soap mixture on the mattresses with a flocking top because soap can bleach or stain it.

However, for other surfaces, it works just fine.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Make the soap mixture. Dissolve a small amount (around ½ of a teaspoon) of dish soap or a mild detergent in a cup of water. 
  • Pour the solution into a spray bottle. If you don’t have a spray bottle, take a rag or a towel and soak it into the mixture.
  • Spray the mixture around the mattress surface. Do this generously; the mattress surface should be wet. If you’re doing this with a rag, blot the areas of the mattress so that the mixture creates a thin layer around the surface.
  • Watch for bubbles and foam. The escaping air will form a foamy lump around the leak. Wipe this area with a dry cloth and circle it with a marker.

This method works great for finding tiny punctures, especially if your mattress material is dark and you cannot detect them with the standard inspection.

#5 Plastic Wrap Method

This is a perfect method if you have a small mattress, such as Twin. However, you can use it with large mattresses as well, it will just take a little longer.

Here’s what you should do:

  • Spray the mattress with water until it’s visibly moist. 
  • Rip off a large sheet of plastic wrap and place it over the area that, you suspect, has a hole. The film will easily cling onto a wet surface.
  • Smooth out the wrinkles and air bubbles with your hands. If there’s a hole, it will create a big air bubble under the plastic wrap, so you can spot it and locate it before repair.

Note that this method won’t work on a flocked surface of your airbed, but it’s great for such areas as sides, bottom, and seams.

#6 Other Methods: Submersion and Baby Powder

I have a couple more ways to find a hole in your air mattress. However, both of them are pretty controversial, so I recommend using them only in case everything else failed.

Submersion Method

This method includes — you guessed it — full or partial submersion of your air mattress under the water. Since many air mattresses are pretty bulky when inflated, you’ll more likely need a bathroom or a pool for this.

But here’s the kicker:

If the water gets trapped inside your airbed, there’s no way you will get it out. So, you can expect a mold formation and a foul odor coming from your mattress as a result.

Baby Powder

Using baby powder is somewhat similar to the paper tissue method. You need to scatter baby powder over your inflated mattress and then squish its sides. The escaping air will create a powdery cloud that will help you locate the leak.

The downside?

It’s very messy. And when you find the puncture, you’ll have to vacuum not only your airbed but also the whole room. Plus, you may not like breathing in the baby powder as you’re trying to locate the hole.

So, how are you going to find a leak in your air mattress? Which of these methods seems the most effective to you? Share your experience in the comments!

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