How To Fix A Hole In An Air Mattress Without A Patch

Written By: Jen

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Air mattresses are very popular for both camping and as a temporary camp bed for guests. But being filled with air, they can sometimes be prone to punctures.

Often you won’t notice a puncture until you’re trying to use the air mattress – how often do you inflate one just to test it’s working? Which means a quick repair is often needed. And if you don’t have the repair patch that came with the air mattress on you, or you’ve already used it to patch another leak, you’ll need to get creative.

blue air mattess

Luckily, there are several do-it-yourself tips on how you can fix a hole in an air mattress without a patch.  

How To Fix A Hole In An Air Mattress Without A Patch Kit – Getting Prepared

Before you get started with the actual repair, there are a few things you need to do first.

1. Check That There Is A Leak

The first step might sound obvious but it’s something you should check. You need to make sure there actually is a leak.

If you’ve inflated the air mattress and then left it for a couple of hours, the ambient air temperature around you may have cooled it down. When that happens it can seem to sag, giving the impression that it’s got a leak.

man inflating an air mattress

Re-inflate it and see if it loses air again without the temperature changing. If it does then yes, there’s a leak.

2. Find The Leak

Usually you’ll be able to hear a leak, so get close to the mattress and listen carefully. Make sure you re-inflate it to the maximum, as that’ll force the most air out of the leak, making it easier to hear.

If you can’t here it, mix a little bit of liquid detergent into some water and then either spray it on the mattress, or wipe it on using a sponge.

spraying water and soap on the air mattress

Then look for any bubbles forming. The bubbles are created by airflow forcing its way through the detergent, so that can tell you where the leak is.

3. Sandpaper The Area

It’s best to use a mild sandpaper to wear down the area around the leak to the vinyl. This’ll help any adhesive you’re using to bond properly.

sand paper

4. Clean The Area

You can’t fix a leak if there’s any grease or grime in the area, so once you’ve found it you need to clean the site. Use hot water and a little bit of the same liquid detergent to scrub the area. Do this after you’ve sanded it, as that’ll remove any debris you’ve sanded down too.

spray bottle and towel on the table

5. Dry The Area

You can’t do any repairs while the area around the leak is damp, so once it’s cleaned make sure to dry it out thoroughly. Don’t rush this step because otherwise, you’ll compromise your repair. Once it’s dry, you’re ready to attempt a fix. Make sure the mattress is fully deflated.

using a blower to dry the wet spot on the air bed

Ways Of Fixing A Hole Without A Patch

Homemade Patch Kit

If you don’t have the manufacturer’s patch kit, you can make one yourself. To make a patch, you’ll need to have a thin rubber material such as a bicycle tube. It needs to be soft and flexible, so it can stretch as the mattress inflates.

Cut the material to the desired size. Make sure that the patch size fully covers the hole and extends at least an inch all around it.

Bicycle rubber inner tube

After cleaning the surface, apply glue on both the patch material and the surface of the mattress where the hole is. Give the glue about a minute to start drying before you put the patch in place – it’ll stick better.

Position your patch and press it down with your hand or place a heavy item on it for a couple of minutes. Don’t re-inflate the mattress immediately – let it dry for at least an hour, though if you can leave it overnight then even better.

After the glue has dried, re-inflate your mattress and confirm whether the leak has stopped.

Using A Glue Gun

A glue gun is an effective way of sealing a leak in an air mattress if the leak is small enough. The dried glue will act as a stretchy patch itself. But it should only be used for pinhole leaks.

Once the glue gun has warmed up, run the glue along the leak slowly and gently, ensuring that the nozzle does not touch the mattress – otherwise you might burn a new hole in it. Let the glue fully dry before inflating the air mattress.

Gorilla Full-Size Glue Gun
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Duct Tape 

You might not always have a glue gun or adhesive around, which is when duct tape might be your best friend.

Cut a large strip of duct tape that will cover the leak, including at least an inch all around it. For large tears, you will need several duct tape strips.

Gorilla Waterproof Duct Tape
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Place the strips directly along the leak and gently smooth out the tape to ensure it’s in place. To maximize its effectiveness, you will need to place more strips that overlap each other along their border.

Duct tape is only a temporary solution. As you inflate and deflate the mattress it will lose its integrity, and the glue does wear off as well. But if you’re camping and need a quick fix, it could be ideal.

air bed in the camp site

Final Thoughts 

Where possible, you should always try to repair an air mattress using the repair kit provided by the manufacturer. But it’s also perfectly understandable if you’ve lost it, or already used it.

These quick fixes may help with smaller holes but larger tears might just mean the end of your air mattress – so make sure you look after it! And if you have used your official patch already, you might want to pick up a camping repair kit for the future.

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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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