Valve Adapter for Air Mattress




About: Virologist, Dremel owner, hardcore bike commuter

Shortly after graduating from college I needed a cheap mattress and bought a camping air mattress (I'm not a fussy sleeper). Unfortunately I didn't realize before purchasing it that the valve is a completely different shape and it's virtually impossible to find an adapter to connect a "regular" bicycle pump ( Schrader valve ) to the air mattress.

I didn't want to spend more money buying a special pump JUST to blow up the mattress, so I did it orally (yah, that sounds slightly obscene)...this was when I discovered that you can make yourself faint by hyperventilating.

There's gotta be a better way. Here it is.

Step 1: Materials

*Plastic valve used for inflating beach balls, swim floats, etc. - you can find these in sports stores or even sports departments of ordinary department stores. One end screws into the Schrader valve adapter of bicycle pumps. (Schrader is the big one, Presta is the skinny one for special tires.)
ShapeLock or other low-melting thermoplastic - these plastics melt at less than the boiling point of water, but become quite hard at room temperature
*Oil - pretty much any kind will do; cooking oil, Vaseline, machine oil, baby oil, whatever

*Vessel for boiling water in
*Microwaveable bowl
*Fork, tongs, chopsticks, or other tool for handling hot substances
*Small knife, compasses, or other pointy thing
*Air mattress (the one you want to inflate, obviously, but I think the valves are standard sizes)

Step 2: Simple, Straightforward:

Scratch the surface of the beach ball valve with the knife or other sharp tool to allow the plastic to adhere better. If it's greasy, wash it off.

Put about 2-3 tablespoonsful of ShapeLock pellets in a bowl and EITHER pour boiling water into it and let it sit, OR put tap water in the bowl and microwave it till the pellets melt. The plastic turns from white to transparent as it melts.

Try to push the pellets together into a single lump with a fork or chopsticks, avoiding air and water bubbles as much as possible. It's incredibly sticky, by the way, so don't use your fine porcelain to melt it in.

Pick it up and wrap it around the valve, using fingers to help as soon as it's cool to touch. Don't get it into the screw threads or the hole at the tip. Try to make the lump of plastic slightly wider than the inner diameter of the air mattress valve.

Grease the inside of the air mattress valve so that the plastic won't stick. When it has cooled down to about the hardness of plasticine, stuff it into the air mattress valve and hold it there until it's hardened.

Step 3: Sleep Well!

Anyway, nothing fancy...just a way to avoid having to go out and get another pump if you have a bike pump handy. Bike pumps are designed for inflating a much smaller volume than a mattress, so it's still going to take a long time pumping, but at least you won't have to knock yourself out. I suggest watching television or listening to the radio or podcasts while pumping.



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11 Discussions


1 year ago

What would work best on the double-lock values found on Coleman air beds?


7 years ago on Introduction

As we find ourselves in a predicament sometimes...good solution. I wasn't aware of this product, but now I can add it to my "toolbox"


8 years ago on Introduction

Three things.
First of all, Awesome instructable! And you must get a lot of hits because I keep getting directed back to your instructable while searching variants of Boston to Schrader adapters.

Second, I was just as surprised as dchall8 that you can buy plastic pellets and create your own plastic parts. My girlfriend is always marvelling at how cheap plastic is, and yet how difficult it would be for an ordinary person to manufacture these intricate parts.

Third, by total accident, I found out that plastic fill valves for toilets, purchasable at any hardware store, are the same ~1 inch size and thread pitch, as air mattress valves. They even taper to a smaller size that comes close to Schrader size. This means that you dont have to create your own Boston valve, if you just so happen to be repairing toilet valves as I was.

I would've bought the $5-$15 Kwik Tek multi-valve that DaveB13 mentions, but the shipping costs are all above $20 to get it to Canada :(

Anyway. Your instructable is very insightful!

1 reply

Thanks for the info DaveB13 and katratzi. I had asked around at the department store where I bought the air mattress, and at a local hardware store, and neither of them said they had such an adapter...knowing it's called a Boston valve might be helpful next time.

By the way, now that this "Sugru" stuff that a lot of people are using in Instructables exists, I think it might be a better alternative to ShapeLock for this purpose because it's rubbery (silicone resin). ShapeLock is a low-melt thermoplastic that's pretty hard at room temp. If I try using it to make a valve adapter again I would actually mould it onto the threaded side so it would actually screw on when it hardens instead of just fitting by friction.


8 years ago on Introduction

The photo for your article the valve looks like a "Boston Valve" to deflate the inflatable, this entire valve unscrews. For inflation it has a one-way rubber flapper built into the bottom. The Kwick Tex Multi-Valve is a widely available blister pack that contains 2 replacement "Boston valve"'s and a "Shrader Valve adapter" that screws on the top of either one in the kit and probably any other "Boston Valve" in place of the valves dust/leak seal cover. Oddly they also provide a screw on cover for the adapter. There is a bit of a hazard with use of the Shrader Valve since pumps that fit it can get to far higher pressures much easier than the large volumes pumps made for use with inflatables. Assuming 1" diameter tire pump , the radius is then 0.5" = r 3.14 = apx PI = any circles circumference / the same circles diameter by definition. area of tire pump piston - Pi x r x r (formula for area of a circle) 3.14 x 0.5" x 0.5" = 0.785 Square Inches (S.I.) 1/0.785 = 1.27 lbs 1 P.S.I. (Pounds per Square Inch) = 1.27 lbs x 0.785 S.I. = 0.99695 [close enough] The information I've run across is that inflatables run around 0.75 PSI , so if you are pushing down on a 1" diameter bicycle pump with only a 1 lb weight , that would be just about right, 0.78 P.S.I. . Also on the web, Sevyelors seem to have about a 10% increase in length of a portion of the inflated surface vs the same portion of surface un-inflated as a guide for proper inflation of some of thier products. Out of hand that seems like quite a lot of stretching to me, so I'd guess their is no fabric reinforcement for those models. I have a sea eagle inflatable paddle board (made with drop threads between upper & lower surface to get a board shape) of very heavy material, that is recommended to be pumped up to just 7 P.S.I. for routine use.

1 reply

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for the technical analysis! I wasn't aware that there were boston-to-schrader valve adapters, I had looked around the department store where I bought the mattress and didn't see any.


10 years ago on Introduction

you could just take the rubber adapter off the bed and make a permanent one by buying a old beach ball and melting the rubber edges into the mattress providiing an air tight seal

2 replies

Easier said than done - I don't know what kinds of plastic they're made of. That makes a big difference as to whether a plastic will melt or just decompose/burn under heat, and whether 2 different types of plastic can stick together. I'm not too keen on ruining a mattress to find out.

Hmm true im sure doing something like it with rubber solution Should work . God i wish air beds had schnader (dunno if thats spelt right) Valves


11 years ago on Introduction

I had no idea that we mere mortals could buy plastic pellets. Hmmm. The cost at your link seems to be $25/pound. I wonder if the pellets used for low speed bb-guns would do the same thing??? I'll have to check the price, too.

1 reply

Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

Click on the link that says "Free Offer" on the left of the ShapeLock homepage. That gets you 35 g (more than an ounce) for $4.95 shipping. That's the amount that's in the picture in Step 1.