If you want your bounce house to last for many years of jumping fun, you need to take good care of it. That means making sure nobody bounces on it with anything sharp, that you lay good ground sheets… and you clean it properly.
This last one might sound boring but it’s so important, especially if it rains while you’re using it. Otherwise, your jumping castle can quickly turn nasty, with mold and mildew taking hold if you store it away without having done a proper job.
And mold can be a serious problem – it doesn’t just cause a nasty odor, but it can weaken your bounce house and cause it to deteriorate quicker. It’s also bad for anyone jumping on it, since they can breathe in the spores.
While mold can be difficult to clean, it’s usually still possible. So in this guide, I’ll explain everything you need to know when you want to remove mold from a bounce house, and what to do when Plan A doesn’t work.
How to remove mold from your bounce house
Here’s a step-by-step guide on removing mold and mildew from an inflatable bounce house.
1. Inflate the bounce house
One of the easiest mistakes to make when cleaning a bounce house is to see a small patch of mold and assume that’s all you need to clean. In reality, if an inflatable has mold growing on it, there’ll be all kinds of nooks and crannies that need to be investigated.
So step one is to fully inflate the bounce house. This will make sure any creases are completely expanded, and you can do a full inspection to find all patches of mold.
It also means that you’ll remove all the embedded spores with your chemical mix – otherwise, you might only remove those on the surface, above the stretched area.
Keep it inflated during the cleaning process – you don’t want any of the chemicals you’re using to seep into crevices again, as that can also lead to long-term damage.
2. Prepare the affected area
Before you do the full clean, you’ll want to scrub the mold with hot water and a sponge. This may remove some of the mold, but don’t be fooled if it looks like it has all disappeared. The spores will be embedded in the material and still need to be killed.
However, an initial scrub with hot water will at least remove the surface layer of mold, so that you penetrate deeper in the next steps.
3. Prepare your cleaning solution
To effectively kill mold, you’re going to need bleach. This is the only time you should be using bleach to clean your inflatable – used too often, or without the proper dilution, it will cause colors to fade and can weaken the material
In fact, there’s a good chance that even used correctly this will cause the color of your bounce house to fade. That’s an unfortunate side effect of removing the mold that you’ll have to accept.
If your bouncy castle does fade, you may be able to spray paint it to restore the color.
The cleaning solution should be simple to prepare – 50% bleach and 50% warm water. Just mix them in a bucket and make sure you have a soft scourer to hand. You shouldn’t use anything too abrasive as that could tear the fabric and cause a leak, but a soft sponge also won’t clean the mold properly.
You’ll want to use gloves when cleaning with a bleach solution, and make sure the rest of your skin is covered.
4. Clean the affected area
With the surface prepped, clean the mold. If it’s on a flat piece of material, this should be easy – use gentle circular motions using your bleach/water mix, intensifying a little if the mold isn’t initially coming off.
With seams, it’s a bit tricker. These tend to be a little thicker but also harder to get into, but you need to do the job thoroughly to make sure you get into every gap. Try to scrub against the stitching, rather than running along it, as that is more likely to pull the thread and potentially remove it.
After cleaning the area with bleach, wash it again with clean warm water, making sure you’ve given it a thorough rinse to remove any bleach solution.
5. Dry the bounce house
Once you’ve finished cleaning the bounce house, the next step is crucial – you have to allow the bounce house to thoroughly dry, ideally air drying it for a number of hours. Towel dry it first, to get rid of the excess moisture and speed up the air drying time.
It’s likely that the mold has already grown because the bounce house wasn’t dried properly the last time it was used, so this step really can’t be understated.
Mold grows in damp conditions, so ensure the area (and the rest of the bounce house) are fully dry before you deflate and store the bounce house.
Read more: How To Properly Dry Out Inflatables
How to remove mold from netted sides of a bounce house
Some bounce houses have a netted wall rather than a solid plastic one. The Little Tikes Bounce House or the Jump-O-Lene are examples of this.
Thankfully, if the netted wall gets moldy, it’s much easier to clean. The material is too thin for the mold to fully take hold. You can usually clean mold from netting with hot water and a little dish soap.
It’s still a good idea to disinfect the area once you’re done, just with some kind of antibacterial spray.
What to do if mold can’t be removed from an inflatable bounce house by chemicals?
Unfortunately, if you can’t clean mold from your inflatable bounce house using a bleach/water solution, you likely won’t be able to kill it and remove it at all. Specialist mold killer chemicals likely won’t be any more effective than bleach.
If the affected area is small, you could cut it out with a sharp knife and then patch your inflatable bounce house. But if it’s a larger area, that may mean sending it off for a professional repair – and by that point, it might be easier or more cost-effective to look at replacing it instead.
Can you use vinegar to clean mold off an inflatable bounce house?
Vinegar can kill small amounts of mold, so if the mold on your inflatable bounce house is contained to a small area, you could try using it before you use bleach. Bleach is more effective but more likely to fade the colors of your bounce house.
In most cases, vinegar won’t be enough to kill the mold on an inflatable bounce house as it’s not strong enough. That’s why bleach tends to be recommended.
Can you use baking soda to clean mold off an inflatable bounce house?
Baking soda can be used to remove light mould from some surfaces but it isn’t strong enough to clean established mold from a bounce house. Baking soda does have deodorizing properties and so can be used to remove the smell of mold or mildew.
You’ll likely still need to use bleach to properly kill the mold on your jumping castle. But if there’s then a smell of bleach you struggle to remove, try cleaning the area again with a paste made using baking soda. It may remove the scent.
Can you use chlorine to clean mold off an inflatable bounce house?
Chlorine is bleach, so yes you can use chlorine to clean mold from a bouncy castle or inflatable play house. If you’re using pool chlorine, check the recommended dilution on the bottle so that you don’t use too harsh a mix and potentially damage your bounce house.
Can you power wash an inflatable bounce house to remove mold?
Power washing is not effective at removing mold from an inflatable bounce house. Power washing does not kill the fungal bacteria causing mold, and while it can make the job of rinsing easier, it can cause complacency if you don’t make sure the spores are killed.
Using a power washer isn’t recommended for an inflatable anyway as, if you accidentally set it to the incorrect setting, it could be too powerful and puncture a hole into the inflatable.
How to prevent mold growing on an inflatable bounce house
The best way to stop mold from being a problem on your inflatable bounce house is to prevent it from growing in the first place.
To do this, you just need to make sure you wipe down your bounce house after every use to remove any slime or dirt build-ups, and then properly dry it.
Drying it is the key step here, as it is moisture that gets trapped in the folds which will cause the mold or mildew to take hold.
Always start with a towel dry, making sure to get into every fold in the bounce house, to help speed along the air drying process.
Then, store the bounce house in a sealed container if possible. If not, make sure it’s stored somewhere where there isn’t another damp problem, otherwise, the moisture in the air could get into the folds of the deflated bounce house.
Mold and mildew can be rough on a bounce house, or indeed on any inflatable. But if you act quickly to remove it once you’ve spotted it, you shouldn’t have any issues getting rid of it and keeping your bouncy castle ready for future playtimes.
If it does become a serious issue, a patch may work but you would need to completely remove any moldy section – don’t just cut out a small part of the worst affected area. If that means you can’t patch it, and it won’t clean, it might be time to buy a new one.