The best way to patch an air mattress
Duct tape? Vinyl tape? Here’s how to do it right.
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Having an air mattress at home is a great way to host guests if you don’t have a spare bedroom. But air mattresses are more delicate than standard mattresses or futons because one tear or tiny hole can leave your guests sleeping on the hard floor.
Materials and setup
In order to test the best ways to patch an air mattress, we ordered a new one off Amazon, choosing the $70 twin-sized Intex Dura-Beam. We selected three types of supplies to repair the ill-fated mattress. Our first method was duct tape because it’s easy to use and most people already own it (indeed, we had some on hand in the lab, Professional Grade Gaffer Tape by Gaffer Power). We also purchased the $11 Maifede Bike Inner Tube Patch Kit and a $10 XFasten Fabric and Vinyl Repair Tape meant to patch items including tents, kayaks, and (yes) air mattresses.
We inflated the air mattress, then popped it in three locations using a Ultra-Tuff Multi Bit Screwdriver, leaving behind three gashes each about a centimeter long. We also popped one pin-prick-sized hole for our test on how to find tiny leaks.
Step 1: Find the hole
If the hole in your mattress is small, you may have trouble finding it. Your first technique is to put your ear to the mattress and listen for hissing to identify the general vicinity of the breach. If you can’t spot the hole with your eyes, mix a squirt of dish soap with water in a spray bottle. Spritz the surface of the mattress while it’s inflated. The spot that's punctured will form a bubble over the hole as air escapes. We used this method on our mattress and all of our holes, including the tiny one, created bubbles.
When you find the puncture, especially if it’s small, circle it with a marker to indicate its location.
Step 2: Apply your patch
After your hole is located, wipe off any remaining soapy residue, dry it well, and allow the mattress to fully deflate. Then, patch it up.
If you’re using duct tape or vinyl tape, you can just cover the hole with a large enough piece of tape to prevent future leaks. You may want to trim the corners of the tape into curves, so it’s less likely to peel back up. If you’re using the rubber tire kit, you’ll need to apply rubber glue to the back of one of the patches in the kit and place it over the hole. This patch will take at least overnight to cure up.
Step 3: Make sure it holds
Though the taped holes immediately allow the mattress to hold air, we gave the patch overnight to set. Then we refilled it.
The mattress stayed aloft, meaning all of our patches held up. However, we recommend the Maifede Bike repair patch for its potential for longer-term durability: It didn’t budge even when we tried peeling it off with our fingernails. If you want to ensure your mattress stays fixed, go for the repair kit.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.