How To Dry Out Inflatables (And Why You Should)

Written By: Jen

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A lot of the inflatables that we use will end up wet during the course of a day.

That might be by design – if it’s an inflatable hot tub, or an inflatable boat, then they get wet because of how you use them.

Other inflatables – like inflatable outdoor decorations or a bounce house – may get wet if they’re used when the weather is not the best. They’ll probably get a little bit wet regardless, unless you live somewhere particularly dry and put down a ground sheet.

Children playing inside the bounce house

So when it comes to putting them away, do you need to dry them first? Let’s take a look.

Can you put inflatables away wet?

You should only put away inflatables that are wet if you intend to use them again within the next 24 hours. Leaving inflatables wet for longer gives mold a chance to grow, which will smell and could damage the material over time.

Inflatables are a nightmare for mold. If mold starts to grow it can really get into the material, and it can be tougher to properly clean out. It’ll make your inflatable smell, and as it grows and multiplies it can weaken the fabric, which could make it easier to get a puncture in the future.

But it’s not just that – inflatables, when they’re deflated, obviously have a lot of nooks and crannies as the plastic is all folded up. Add in some moisture and you’ve got countless perfect surfaces where mold can grow.

It takes between 24 and 48 hours for mold to start to take hold, so if you’re only putting your inflatable away for a short amount of time, and then you’ll be taking it out and reinflating it again for use, you should be fine.

This is also useful if you’re using something like an inflatable kayak at a lake – you can deflate it, put it away and drive it home before reinflating it in your garage to dry it out properly.

If you’re planning on packing it away for more than 24 hours, you’ll need to dry it out first.

two green inflatable kayaks on the river

How do you dry out inflatables?

To dry out an inflatable, you should leave it in a dry space with good airflow. Use towels to wipe off any excess water first, and leave it to air out. Make sure to get into any hidden corners or crevices when drying with the towel first.

There’s no particularly fancy or clever method to drying out an inflatable. Obviously, it will just vary in difficulty depending on the size of the task at hand.

The first job is to remove any pools of water – if the inflatable is something you can lift, then turning or tipping it is a good start. But if it’s a giant inflatable water slide with a pool, then you’ll want to use a pump.

Once that’s done, dry off the surface moisture with towels. Try to use at least two towels – one to mop up the majority of the water at the start, and one to dry off at the end.

Then, to clear out any last moisture, try to leave the inflatable fully inflated in a dry space. Outdoors is best if the weather suits, because the wind will naturally help, but if it’s indoors try to create some airflow. If it’s a garage with just one external door then consider using a fan or even a dehumidifier.

This last step is only really necessary if you’re storing your inflatable for a while. If you’re going to be using it again in the next couple of days then towel drying is probably sufficient.

Dry colorful inflatable swimming pool

How long does it take for inflatables to dry?

The length of time it takes for an inflatable to dry depends on how much surface moisture there is, the size of the inflatable, and the ambient temperature and airflow. Even giant inflatables can be dry in 1-2 hours if towels have been used, and there is a warm wind.

There are too many factors to be able to give a single definitive answer on how long an inflatable will take to dry. It mainly depends on how good a job you’ve been able to do with drying off the inflatable first with towels, and the air around the inflatable.

If the air is stagnant but warm, the moisture should evaporate relatively quickly, though the more humid the air is then the longer it will take. An inflatable will probably dry quicker if you’re able to get a breeze in the room, even if the air is cooler.

You should avoid using heaters to dry your inflatables – for them to have any effect, they would need to be very close to the fabric and they could warp and soften it.

If you want to use an appliance to help speed up the drying time, cool fans and dehumidifiers are your best bet, if you’re in an enclosed space.

But drying outdoors is the best option if there’s no rain, since the natural airflow will help to dry it out. 

How To Dry An Inflatable Water Slide

Inflatable water slides are giant structures, and getting them dry is not an easy task. You’ll need to pump out any water in the base of the slide, and then methodically climb through the slide, drying it with towels as best you can.

Once you’ve removed the majority of the water in this way, leave the slide inflated for 2-3 hours to allow it to dry in the open air. 

If it starts to rain then you can deflate the slide and pack it away, provided you have towel-dried it and you’re able to re-inflate it somewhere outdoors in the next day or two to fully air out.

Happy children playing on an inflatable slide

How To Dry The Inside Of A Bounce House

If the inside of a bounce house or jumping castle has become wet due to rainfall or nearby water splashing, you’ll find that the water tends to run down into the seams. Try to dry these areas off with towels as best as you can.

Some water may have got through the seams and into the inside of the bounce house. To fully dry it out, you should leave it to stand for 4-6 hours in the sunlight, leaving the blower switched on but the zipper holes partially open.

This will warm the bouncy castle and the moisture inside it, causing it to evaporate. Having the zipper holes partially open will give that moisture somewhere to escape to.

pink and blue bouncy castle

How To Dry Out Christmas Inflatables

Christmas inflatables tend to get quite wet if they are left out during the winter season, since it often rains and snows while they are in use. To dry them off, leave them inflated on a dry day, and wipe excess moisture off them with a towel.

Make sure they aren’t standing on wet ground – put a groundsheet down while they’re drying, so that they aren’t still getting wet from the grass or any puddles. If the air is cold, try to leave the inflatables standing on a dry day for 6-8 hours so that the moisture can hopefully evaporate.

If that’s not working, because the weather is just too cold, try to find an indoor space such as a garage to move your inflatables to where they can remain inflated until they have dried – even partial shelter will provide enough warmth that they will dry off within a few hours.

It’s hard working out how to clean Christmas inflatables easily when the weather sucks, but do the best you can – you can always come back to them on a clearer day to finish the job.

Read more: How To Dry Out Inflatable Decorations

Snowman inflatable Christmas display

How To Get Water Out Of Inflatable Toys

If you have some water on the inside of an inflatable toy, you need to get rid of it before it begins permitting mold to grow. Start by draining it as best as you can, squeezing the valve to let any water drip through.

Once that’s done, inflate the toy and gently push a screwdriver through the valve to prevent the flap from closing. With the inflatable as inflated as it can be, considering the valve is open, leave it somewhere warm.

Don’t point a heater directly at it, but somewhere sunny or a warm indoor room should do. The moisture will slowly evaporate and escape through the opened valve.

frog and bird inflatable toys on the dry pavement

How To Get Water Out Of An Inflatable Kayak

To dry an inflatable kayak, remove any seats or other items from the kayak first. If there is excessive water, use a bilge pump to remove it. Otherwise, dry it with towels to get rid of the surface moisture.

Once that’s done, leave it inflated for up to 6 hours (depending on the air temperature and humidity), to remove any last moisture. If you’re not able to do this, you can pack a kayak away after towel drying, but it should be reinflated at your earliest opportunity to allow it to air out fully.

Dry blue inflatable kayak on the sand

Do Inflatables Get Moldy?

If inflatables are not properly cared for then yes, they can develop mold and mildew, which can be harmful to your health and also damage the inflatable. Inflatables have a lot of folds and crevices when they deflate, which often trap moisture – this is why they should always be dried out when fully inflated.

It’s a painstaking job when the inflatable is pretty large, but it’s important to do it right, otherwise, you’ll have to work on cleaning out the mold properly before it can be used again.

Drying inflatable boat in the sun

How To Clean Mold Off Inflatables

The best way to clean mold from an inflatable is to use a soft brush or rag, along with a mix of 50% bleach and 50% water. This ratio of bleach should be sufficient to kill mold and prevent it from returning, provided you then dry the area fully.

Be aware that bleach will probably cause your inflatable to fade and weaken slightly – but mold would do a lot more damage if left untreated.

Want to learn how to clean mold off your inflatables in more detail?

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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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