Introduction: Air Mattress Repair

Picture of Air Mattress Repair

psssssshhh...uh oh.
Is that a leak in the air mattress I hear?

Don't worry, you can fix your air mattress with an ordinary bicycle inner tube repair kit and some sandpaper, all in less than 10 minutes!

Step 1: Tools + Materials

Picture of Tools + Materials
  • Sandpaper (150-200 grit)
  • vacuum

time: 10 minutes

Step 2: Sand and Score

Picture of Sand and Score

First, find your leak.
There are a variety of methods such as using soapy water to see where bubbles for, or submerging your mattress in water to find where the leak is coming from. In most cases the leak will be obvious enough to find by sight or sound.

Once your leak has been located deflate your mattress.

Puncture not in flocked area of mattress:
If the leak is not in a flocked area of your mattress proceed to the next step.

Puncture in flocked area of mattress:
If your leak is on the flocked upper area of your mattress start gently sanding away the flocked surface to around the leak to reveal the smooth rubberized surface below. By removing the flocked surface around the leak you are creating a surface which will allow the patch to create a good seal.

Ensure not to sand through mattress or make the leak opening too large from excessive sanding.
Then, use a vacuum or damp cloth to clean the area of debris.

Step 3: Apply Contact Cement

Picture of Apply Contact Cement

Following the directions on the bicycle repair kit, place a dab of contact cement on the area around the leak on the air mattress. Then, place a dab of glue onto the rubber bicycle tire patch. Allow both to dry (about 2-3 minutes).
Contact cement works when you apply two sections that have the cement applied together. To bond, the cement needs to be dry.

When the cement has dried line up the patch over the leak and firmly press patch into mattress. Rub patch in small circular motions to remove any air bubbles and ensure a good seal between patch and mattress. If any corners or edges are not adhering right use small dabs of contact cement, following the same application procedures as before.

For good measure I usually run a bead of cement around the perimeter of the patch, just in case

Step 4: Inflate

Picture of Inflate

That’s it! Once the patch has been applied you’re ready to inflate your air mattress and test to see if your patch held.

As an added precautionary measure, I usually put a small amount of talc over the patch after it’s been applied. The talc acts as a lubricant over the sometimes sticky rubber and cement and reduced the possibility of fabric sheets catching an edge of the patch and tearing it off.

Good luck!
(and stop doing back flips on the air mattress)


pinnaclesystemsgroup (author)2017-12-06

Here are several suggested changes to the instructions to use the inner tube patch solution described here. Use this solution if the tear is larger compared to the repair kit patches.

Prepare the Surface.

Be very careful when sanding the tact felt around the puncture point not to 'thin' the material to the point where you weaken the area creating a possible weak point for another leak. Use a cotton swab dipped into a small amount of nail polish remover to clean the area around the puncture hole. Allow the area to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.

Heat the Puncture Area with a Hair Dryer

If the puncture or tear is wide or large compared to the patch, use a electric hair blower to apply heat to the area around the puncture so it softens and can stretch easily.

Cut out a small thin piece of heavy aluminum foil that is a about 1/2" in length and approx twice as wide as the tear, apply a small dab of Shoo Goo to one side of the foil, gently lift one lip of the tear and insert the foil half way into the hole leaving the other half sticking outside the tear.

Use a tongue depressor, or the flat end of a butter knife to press down on the top of the tear with the foil underneath. Then using the hair dryer (lowest heat setting) warm the area, moving the hair dryer back and forth over the inserted foil lip until the Shoo Goo sets. This will make a pliable,flexible seal of one side of the tear.

Now, apply a small amount of the Shoo Goo to the bottom of other half of the aluminum foil sticking out of the tear. Bend the exposed foil end upwards. Use the hair dryer to warm the area again, and then use a pair of tweezers to pull the other side of the tear as close to the exposed foil while pressing the foil down over the other side of the tear.

Then use the tongue depressor again to press and hold down this piece of the foil flat to the mattress surface until the Shoo Goo begins to dry. Use the hair dryer again gently warm the area until the Shoo Goo is dry.

Once the Shoo Goo is dry, inflate the mattress half way. Use your hands to apply pressure around the repaired area. You may still hear a small hiss of air escaping from the area. If you hear air hissing, then deflate the mattress again, put a small amount of shoo goo along the length of the tear area, and around the exposed foil, use the hair dryer.

Repeat the inflation of the mattress and the air test. When you no longer hear the hiss of air, then put one of the rubber inner tube repair patches over area using the repair glue using the repair kit instructions.

but coffee stir stir apply a small amount of Shoo Goo blo


stormwolf1 (author)2017-01-16

Will spray foam insulation work ??

mikeasaurus (author)stormwolf12017-01-17

Probably not.

MichaelC73 (author)2016-08-14

To find the leak juust get soapy water in a bowl and with a spounge wet the mattress with the soapy water and there will be bubbles bubbling up from where the leak is ,Simples!

Meg18574 made it! (author)2015-07-13

This works great, thank you. Saved a $200 Serta.

bob.schildknecht (author)2014-11-13

Ok, I have an areo bed and it had a leak that when I pumped it up after an hour or two it would need to be pumped up again. The bed had a covering attached to it so I could not locate the leak and it was too big for the tub. I then did something they say not to do. I took a plastic bottle and filled with water and put in laundry liquid into the bottle and shook it up. Then I took the mattress to my kitchen (where if there is any soapy water it won't mess up carpet) I poured the water into the mattress and pumped it up with air and right away I heard and saw where the bubbles were coming from. I then marked the area with a sharpie and then took the mattress outside and let the air and most of the water out of it. I let it sit in the sun for an hour or two and then patched where the leak was. It worked and now no more having to pump up the mattress every couple of hours. Everything else they tell you to do did not work but I thought of trying this and it worked right away.

mick_park (author)2014-11-02

by the way- the photos I posted below are of the AeroBed. The built-in pump is a great feature, so is the wired remote that comes with, but comes at the cost of needing repairs to the area around where the housing meets the rubber on the inside. The housing edges are sharp plastic and I'm assuming that when you fold up the bed and store it away, the rubber rubs against these edges; do that enough times and you'll get the holes. My AeroBed was a hand-me-down so I can't complain. If I'd paid for it, I'd be pissed though. Pretty bad design flaw imo.

mick_park made it! (author)2014-11-02

I left my detailed comments below but finally got around to posting my photos from this repair. Great tutorial btw. I'm an avid cyclist and had several patch kits in my arsenal downstairs. This is really all you need. Less than $5 repair and about maybe 30min.

lifeinbeats (author)2014-09-15

Just did this (before looking at this instructable) and I wanted to share my results. I started with a bucket of soapy water, carefully covering a small area and watching, waiting for bubbles. This was difficult though because the water already had some bubbles. Perhaps the spray method is different and the water won't come "pre-bubbled." At any rate, this method failed.

Next I took it into an oversized bathtub with me. Good freakin luck with this one... Even with a small amount of air, squeezed into a small portion of the mattress, it was very difficult to get it under the water. I'm sure I looked ridiculous, I certainly felt ridiculous and I made a ridiculous mess. And I didn't find anything. This is, however, a good (and possibly the only) method to check for a leak at the nozzle.

I had all but given up and had put the mattress out to dry when I heard it. It was faint, but it was there. Traced it back and patched it up in 15 minutes.

So, to make a long story short, I would start with the feel/hear method, as this is the quickest and, in my case, best method. Find somewhere quiet and it shouldn't take long, scanning sections with your ear/hand. One commenter recommended even wetting your hands continuously which seems like a genius idea to me.

If I hadn't found the hole, I would have filled the thing with water, tossed a sheet on it and worked the water around. Seemed like it would be easy to spot the leak where the sheet got wet. But this also seemed like a mess, and I've read that it's hard to dry the inside out, so there's a concern of organism growth.

Thanks for the ible!

kathleen.thuraubryant (author)2014-08-23

anyone know how to fix the part where the air comes out? The clasp on mine broke. Tried duct tape and no luck.

duct tape is horrible,we had a leak and we used duck tape and the leak went right through it,my husband actually though of the tire repair so glad to see it up here.

KDWalker (author)2014-07-07

Thank you so much for this guide, mikeasaurus! I used this to successfully repair my old air bed -

I used Loctite epoxy mix instead of the one that you used because it wasn't available at my local store.

mick_park (author)2014-04-20

Just repaired two leaky air mattresses yesterday. Thanks for the good tutorial. I can attest that for me, the best methods for finding leaks are 1) Sight, 2) Feel, and 3) Sound.

Trying to submerge a semi-inflated air mattress in a bathtub is a cumbersome folly. Using soapy water was just messy and didn't locate the leaks I eventually found by sight.

Inflating the mattress to near-bursting levels is what really helped with sighting the holes and also feeling with two hands, very slowly, over the entire mattress. The increased psi in the mattress will make air streams that you can easily feel and hear.



ac-dc (author)2014-03-19

It would improve the patch resistance to tearing off if you cut it in a circular or oval shape so there are no pointed edges, or at the very least cut the edges into rounded ones.

digimancer (author)2011-12-30

So I have a couple crazy notions in my head... I have a very very very slow leak.. In the morning my mattress is only half empty... So my idea is... Why not add bike tire "slime" to the air mattress? Also there is a product called Fix-A-Flat that inflates car tires with compressed air and a sticky substance that exits the leak and dries in place. I have had really good luck with both of these on bicycle tires, so i am very curious if anyone has tried either product on an air mattress?

ac-dc (author)digimancer2014-03-19

It won't work for long if at all because these products depend on the thickness and higher rigidity of a vehicle tire rather than a thin, flexible, slick surface of an air mattress.

betweenureyes (author)digimancer2013-05-19

Have you tried it? Im thinking about it but im scared.

digimancer (author)betweenureyes2013-05-20

No, but I also wonder if that "Slime" stuff would work... Be a hell of a mess when you go to empty it though...

HollyMann (author)2013-06-17

I tried EVERYTHING...then threw the mattress out (2nd one recently) to never buy one again hopefully. Ended up buying a fold up bed instead for about $100 online from Target. But, if for some reason I ever get an air mattress again - this will be a lifesaving instructable! The problem with my last air mattress travesty was that the hole was at least 3 inches long by 2 inches - a large gaping hole..impossible...

jbw (author)2012-12-01

I used liquid electrical tape. Stuff is like plasti-dip, but maybe a little thinner, used to waterproof electrical splices. Put a coat on a seam while the bed was partially deflated and another 10 minutes later and it worked with no leaks at the site. It was a pin hole leak and not a large puncture so for a large hole, the patch kit would be needed.

mmauk (author)2011-08-08

To find a leak= I filled it with air, got on top , using a wet facecloth to wipe my hands and keep my hands damp, I can find the ones so far,,I have fixed 13 leaks! In two air mattress,, that we use when our two grandsons come over,, good luck.

shannonlove (author)mmauk2012-04-03

Hah, brilliant!

I've tried many solutions and have usually been reduced to filling the mattress/boat /whatever with significant amounts of soapy water which is very difficult to clean up.

This will work much better. I image any volatile cooling liquid will work e.g. alcohol, in a pinch. 

georion (author)shannonlove2012-08-27

Filling...... up ?????
What did you really mean ???

shannonlove (author)georion2012-08-27

I put a few tablespoons/3-cc of disk soap inside the in the deflated mattress and then fill it half way or more with water from a garden hose. Then inflate it with air the rest of the way. Rotating the mattress and water around will eventually cover the hole with soapy water which will be pushed out to the exterior as visible bubbles.

Of course, I do this outside.

I seem to always get these pinhole leaks that are very hard to find.

karlpinturr (author)2011-07-28

The so-called 'French Chalk' supplied in many repair kits does the same job as your talc, but it is a PAIN to grind down. However, I have NEVER got ANY patch (proper, supplied, or for bicycle tube) to work :-(.

mikeasaurus (author)karlpinturr2011-07-28

hrmm, never heard of 'french chalk' before. But not surprised it's supplied in some kits as reducing the friction on the new patch is important.

Sorry to hear that you haven't managed to get it to work, are you applying the cement correctly? If you don't let the cement set before applying the patch you may run into leaky problems.

shannonlove (author)mikeasaurus2012-04-03

French chalk is talcum powder used in chalk lines. The name itself is used in England/Australia/New-Zealand but not North America to my knowledge.

karlpinturr (author)mikeasaurus2011-07-28

Ohhh yes!! I've tried all sorts - from waiting the precise amount of time the instructions say, to checking the tackiness with a clean finger - and I always clamp.

Funny thing is, I'm great on actual bicycle tubes, but cannot get any patches to work on anything PVC/vinyl, etc. - must be just me being 'odd'... ;-$

majorshadow (author)2012-02-23

Use LOCKLITE Epoxy instant mix. I found it in the glue section at Walmart, CVS and Target. It works wonders., For a patch, you can use the piece that comes with the air matterss or cut out a portion of an unused old and damaged air mattress. Apply the Epoxy to that and place over the hole. It works, I promise. I used super glue, gorilla glue, tape etc and they all failed. Epoxy is the best solution. You will be amazed.

PaulMakesThings (author)2011-07-27

This is good, but how do I find the leak! It doesn't hiss it just goes flat overnight.

mbudde (author)PaulMakesThings2011-07-28

Fill it up and put soapy water over it! It will bubble where the leak is.

PaulMakesThings (author)mbudde2011-07-28

I thought of that, but it seems so impractical to cover a king size air mattress completely in soapy water.

jennchap (author)PaulMakesThings2011-10-11

I put our air mattress in the kiddie pool & sat on it to find the pin hole. It took a while but worked!

Rather than cover the entire thing, why not use a spray bottle with soapy water? Start with the areas you think might have the leak.

mbudde (author)PaulMakesThings2011-07-28

Having an air mattress that doesn't hold air is pretty darn impractical too ;)

Caym (author)PaulMakesThings2011-07-28

why not just chuck it into a pool ?

dead345 (author)PaulMakesThings2011-08-25

i had the same problem, i layed on it as i looked for the hole, u might try putting weight on the mattress after airing it up, and then using your hands to feel where the airs coming form, and listing for the hiss, just make sure, what ever you use, it doesn't have sharp enough corners to cut a new hole. good luck!

yurfriend (author)2011-08-28

that should read car tire not care tire my keyboard has a spelling problem!!

yurfriend (author)2011-08-28

cut the patch round instead of square and the edges with stay glued down. That is why care tire patches are round. Good lible'

SHIFT! (author)2011-07-29

Wow, I didnt know patching an inflatable mattress was so simple! Hey, know if this same process could work for inflatable rafts?

Greasetattoo (author)2011-07-28

Same problem here...

Did the soap thing.
On every seam..

Cannot, for the life of us, find the leak.

But, when we wake up in the morning, it is flat.
It is a air mattress that goes in my Chevy Avalanche.

Well, went to Walmart and bought a new one. $17.88

coolsk8rdude (author)2011-07-28

I actually got a hole in my air mattress yesterday. Duct-tape works fine!

depotdevoid (author)2011-07-28

Thanks for this Mike, I've got the same air mattress, and it's leaky . . . unfortunately it's a slow leak and I can't seem to find it. If I ever do, now I know how to fix it!

vishalapr (author)2011-07-28

Very useful!

splazem (author)2011-07-27


dombeef (author)2011-07-27

What font is that? It looks very cool!

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Bio: I'm Mike and I make crazy things at Instructables HQ in San Francisco. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!
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