How Do Inflatable Costumes Work? Here’s The Truth

Written By: Jen

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Inflatable costumes are really fun at parties or corporate team-building events. They’re often comical thanks to their inflated size, and can turn a regular costume into something more chaotic.

But how do inflatable costumes work? Do you have to wear them all day once inflated, and is it easy to breathe while you wear them? Let’s take a look.

inflatable dinosaur costume

What is an inflatable costume, anyway?

Inflatable costumes aren’t particularly complicated – they are costumes that you can buy or hire, that are constantly inflated using a small battery-powered fan. They come in various different guises, including sumo suits, pumpkins (great for Halloween) and the ever-popular T-rex.

They’re made from a lightweight plastic material which can easily inflate, and the fan is discreet enough that most people won’t notice it while you’re wearing the costume. The fans need to be powerful as the costume is never normally airtight, although it should be relatively tight to you.

Inflatable costumes are ideal for those occasions where you want a silly costume that looks great, since when fully inflated they are a more three-dimensional costume than simply putting on an outfit.

Father wearing a dinosaur costume with son waking at the park

How do inflatable costumes work?

Inflatable costumes work via a battery-powered air blower. Once you’re in the costume, you pull it ‘airtight’ (some air is bound to leak), normally using drawstrings. Then when the blower is activated, the costume will inflate.

It normally takes around one minute for an inflatable costume to fully inflate, although it depends on the size and complexity.

And then when you’re ready to deflate it again, just switch off the fan and loosen the costume, and it’ll soon deflate to a point where you can unzip it and step out.

The Best Inflatable Costumes

Inflatable Dinosaur Costume
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Inflatable Unicorn Costume
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Inflatable Shark Costume
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Inflatable Ostrich Costume
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Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to inflate a blow-up costume:

1. Put the costume on

You won’t be able to put a costume on when it’s already switched on, so your first step is to step into the costume and zip it up.

2. Pull the drawstrings on any neck/arm/leg holes

These costumes are never airtight, but they’ll have some areas where your body parts will be sticking out. So if there are drawstrings, make sure to pull these relatively tight. Don’t cut off your circulation though.

3. Switch on the blower

And that’s it – within about a minute your costume will be ready to go.

man wearing an inflatable unicorn costume

How to make an inflatable costume

Some people like the idea of creating an inflatable costume of their own. It’s not easy, but if you wanted to, here are some tips:

Stitch drawstrings into the costume

Most people making their own inflatable costume will forget this key step, but if you don’t add drawstrings then you’re just going to let air escape from the costume and it won’t ever inflate properly. All it needs to be is a simple string sewn into the costume that can bunch the material together.

Find a reliable battery-powered air blower (and install it correctly)

It’s important to choose an air blower that runs on battery power (unless you want to be plugged into an outlet all day), and yet it needs to be powerful enough to inflate a costume perpetually. Most air blowers will be up to the task even if they are only a couple of watts, provided you don’t buy a cheap one.

Make sure you install it correctly though – these fans are normally directional, so if you install them backwards then they’ll be sucking air out of the costume, instead of inflating it.

Blower for Inflatable Dinosaur Costume
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Choose the right material

Inflatable costumes must be made from a lightweight material, otherwise they won’t inflate. Nylon plastics are the best choice, as they’re durable enough to be painted or drawn on to create the design, whilst also being light enough to properly inflate.

How long do inflatable costumes last?

Inflatable costumes can normally stay inflated for up to 4 hours at most, depending on the battery power of the air blower. If you plan on wearing the costume for a long time, make sure you use high-capacity batteries, or choose a rechargeable costume with a high capacity.

Bear in mind that inflatable costumes get hot, and you’re going to need to take occasional breaks every 60-90 minutes at most if you want to avoid dehydration and overheating.

As far as the longevity of the costume overall, as with many things, it really depends on how you care for it. Allowing the costume to deflate naturally, rather than using a pump to deflate it, is one way to help the material last longer. Additionally, wash the costume only when necessary and avoid placing it in the washer!

Can you wash inflatable costumes?

You can wash inflatable costumes, which is good considering how they’re normally worn at parties, where spills and accidents are common. Use lukewarm water and dish soap with a gentle cloth to clean it, and allow it to air dry. Wearing the costume will help it dry faster thanks to the moving air.

You won’t be able to put an inflatable costume into a washing machine – the material won’t survive intact.

Can you breathe in inflatable costumes?

Of course you can breathe while wearing an inflatable costume, otherwise, they wouldn’t be a viable costume choice. Just avoid pulling the string too tight around the neck and you’ll be fine.

You also shouldn’t surround your head with an inflatable costume, even for a few minutes as a joke. While there will be air holes, you might struggle to breathe properly due to overheating. The costumes get very hot. They aren’t designed to completely cover your head, so don’t do it.

So, there you have it: inflatable costumes rely on a combination of relatively airtight nylon, battery power, and an air blower. All that you need to do is make sure the batteries are good to go, pull the drawstrings tight, and turn on the air blower.

Can you sit down in inflatable costumes?

You can sit down in most inflatable costumes quite easily, but there are some thing that you should be aware of. One of these is the location of the fan.

Find out what else to know about sitting down in an inflatable costume here.

inflatable unicorn costume (600 × 800 px)

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Jen is your go-to expert on all things inflatable, from pools to tents and beyond. A former hot tub rental company owner, she's experienced the ups and downs of inflatables firsthand. Nowadays, she writes practical guides on maintaining and enjoying inflatables. A mom of young enthusiasts, her family's favorite outing is the inflatable fun park!

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