DIY Repair & Maintenance

Solved! How to Find a Hole in an Air Mattress

Locate a leak in an air mattress with these tried-and-true methods, and stop waking up on the hard floor or refilling the mattress in the wee hours of the morning. 
Tony Carrick Avatar
how to find a hole in an air mattress

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Q: My husband and I have bought our two children inflatable air mattresses that they can take to slumber parties and on vacations. By morning, after sleeping on them, the mattresses have half-collapsed. It’s clear that the mattresses are leaking, but we can’t find the leak. Can you please let our family know how to find a hole in an air mattress, so we can salvage ours?

A: Finding a hole in a leaking air mattress can be a frustrating process, especially since even tiny pinholes can cause the occupant to find themselves sleeping on the hard floor by morning. Fortunately, there are a few tried and true methods that will help you locate the damage so you can patch it and get it back into service.

Inspect the valves.

Before looking for a potential hole in the air mattress itself, check the valves. This can save you a lot of time. Make sure each valve plug is pushed completely inside the valve stem. Some valves can be double locking. This means that the valve locks when it’s pushed inside of the mattress, then adds a second layer of protection when the valve plug is pushed into the stem. Check to make sure the stem is pushed inside of the mattress.

Also check around the stem to see if there are any tears at the base that could be causing a leak. If the valve is damaged, you probably won’t be able to fix it. If the valve plug is inserted into the stem and the stem is pushed into the mattress, move on.

how to find a hole in an air mattress

Related: The Best Camping Hammocks for the Outdoors

Use the dish soap method.

The dish soap method, a tried-and-true solution for finding holes in pool floaties, is still one of the best ways to locate a hole in an inflatable. Fill a spray bottle with water and a little dish soap. The dish soap makes the solution more viscous, allowing it to stick to the surface of the mattress long enough for you to find the leak.

Begin with the vulnerable places a mattress is most likely to leak. Spray around the valve to check for leaks then continue on to the seams before moving on to the rest of the mattress. Once you locate the leak, use a permanent marker or piece of duct tape to mark its location.

how to find a hole in an air mattress

Inspect the air mattress visually.

This may seem obvious, but scanning the air mattress visually is one of the best ways to spot a leak. The key here is to fully inflate the mattress before beginning your inspection. When inflated, the tension on the mattress material will cause even small pinholes to open, making them easier to see. Conduct your inspection in a well-lit room to make it easier to see any holes. If necessary, use a flashlight to improve visibility.

Be methodical in your search. Start on one end of the mattress and move through in sections to avoid missing any parts. Use your fingers to feel for escaping air. Seams are a common place for leaks to form, so check each one carefully.  Remember to mark the leak with a permanent marker once you locate the leak.

Related: The Best Mattress Toppers for a Comfier Bed

Submerge your mattress.

Submerging a mattress is one of the best ways to locate a hard-to-find leak, but it’s also one of the more cumbersome options. First, check the mattress label to make sure submerging it in water won’t damage the material or seams. Only inflate the mattress partially as fully inflating it will make it very difficult to submerge.

If you have access to a large body of water, such as a pool, fully submerge the mattress and look for bubbles, which indicate air escaping from the mattress. If there is no pool available, use a bathtub. Begin by submerging the valve and attempt to force air out of it by squeezing the mattress. Check for bubbles. If the valve checks out, submerge the mattress in small sections, which will make it easier to spot telltale bubbles. Keep a close eye on the weakest point of an air mattress–its seams.

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Use the garden hose method.

Place the mattress outdoors on a flat surface, such as a table, deck, patio, or driveway. Use a garden hose with a sprayer to saturate the mattress in small sections, beginning with the valve. Hose down the area then quickly check to see if any bubbles form in the water before it runs off the mattress. Any bubbles are an indication of air escaping the mattress and hence a leak.

While these methods will help you find a leak, you can avoid the frustration of a leaking air mattress by taking precautions to protect it from damage. Avoid overinflating an air mattress. This will put added pressure on its seams, increasing the likelihood of a tear. Check your surroundings for sharp objects when setting up an air mattress. Use bedding. Sheets, blankets, and mattress pads serve as a layer of protection from sharp objects and pet claws.

how to find a hole in an air mattress