There's a couple of ways, one is to inflate the mattress and just feel around to see if you can find the leak. Another is to use baby powder after you've inflated it, the air escaping will blow the powder up. It's messy but does work. The first method usually works best. Most air mattresses leak along the seams or around the hole where you inflate it. I would check that hole and make sure the valve is completely intact. Sometimes on cheaper beds that valve wears out or stretches out over time. I worked for a sporting goods store for many years and have come across this many times!
For fixing it. If the leak is along a seam then I'd use duct tape, they even make colored tapes now if you wanted to match the mattress. If it's something in the valve area. I'd probably just get a new mattress most of them are on sale this time of year. In fact I just got a twin size one for my daughter for $7 on clearance at a chain store!
If you do end up getting a new one, the old "flat" has lots of uses. I cut the vinyl off of one to make the bottoms of dog beds for our labs. I also have an old one in the back of the Suburban to protect the carpeting! (08/24/2005)
You could make a soap water mixture and spray where you think it might be leaking. It'll make bubbles where the air escapes. (08/24/2005)
Another thought is using an incense. Get the stick format and wave the smoke from the incense around the area of choice. Smoke is great for air leak detection. (06/14/2006)
I've discovered a much better way of detecting leaks in air mattresses, that does not involve getting anything wet, or making a mess. Get a thin sheet of tissue paper, the kind you use for wrapping gifts. Make sure the room is relatively quiet and the mattress is full. Lay the tissue paper on the mattress and let it rest. If the hole is under the paper, it will make a very audible hissing noise. If you don't hear any hissing after a few seconds, move the paper to cover another area.
Flip the mattress over and try the other side. Then stand the mattress up on its edges and cover the edge with the paper, moving and rotating until you have covered the whole mattress. For the corners, just hold the paper in place in a way that tightly covers the corner. I had an expensive air mattress with built-in pump and velvet top with a hole it it, so we didn't want to use water or soap on half of the mattress, and none of the other methods worked. Tissue paper made the tiny hole quite obvious even on the corner of the mattress. One small patch later (patch kit came with the mattress) and the mattress works perfectly, no need to get an expensive replacement. (11/16/2007)
Just fill an ordinary spray bottle with a few drops of dish soap and some water, and spray. Inflate it, and bubbles will appear. I found several in mine that way. (02/18/2008)
Nothing worked except to fill the mattress with water. Actually, I didn't even get the mattress full of water before I found the leak. (08/22/2008)
By Shane Clark
Brian, tissue paper, worked great! found the whole no water, no soap, no mess. Awesome! (09/16/2008)
By Mary Ellen
I usually air up the mattress, then I turn off everything that makes a loud sound. Once it's quiet, I follow the hissing sound that the mattress makes when air is seeping out of it. Usually that sound leads me to the hole. (11/14/2008)
Fill around 1/2 gallon of water into deflated mattress. Next, with water still inside, fill mattress completely with air, and plug it up.
Next, move mattress to a very dry area and wipe down outside of mattress with a towel. Next, rotate the mattress, and shake it, so the water inside hits every part of mattress.
Next, completely examine outside of mattress for wet spots. There's your hole! :) (12/01/2008)
Brian's method worked awesome! I didn't have tissue paper so I used foil and I found the leak super quick without any mess whatsoever. Thank you! (12/30/2008)
I just did a search to get some help with problem. I saw tons of posts about water and powder and I did not want to get into all of that. Then I saw the one about the tissue paper. Worked like a charm. It took me less than a minute to find the leak. I patched it and now we are back in business. Thanks! (01/08/2009)
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