Finding a hole in an air mattress

So I’m finally getting settled after nearly four weeks of living in a new state by myself (that in itself is another story). When I managed to get an apartment, I was sleeping on an air mattress that I’d brought along until I could get a bed. Well, “sleeping” anyway. The mattress quickly deflated until I’d wake up lying on a rubber sheet on the hard floor. I did manage to find one hole and patched that with a bicycle tire repair kit, which stopped the leak from there…but the next night the mattress deflated almost as quickly as before.

I have a bed now, but I’d like to try to repair the mattress for when I have more guests coming over than who’d like to share the futon I’ve also gotten. I could feel air leaking out of the first hole I found, but try as I might I can’t locate any other punctures that way. I thought about reinflating the mattress and dunking it in water to see where the bubbles came out from, but I think my apartment manager would frown on me fiddling around with an air mattress in the pool. I’m struggling to think of any other techniques, though. Any suggestions?

Inflate it, smear dishwashing soap on it and then slowly hose it down. Bubbles indicate leaks.

However, I have to say after many years of many air mattresses, it’s usually not worth it. When you get to the point of having multiple leaks, you’ve often got a whole lot of leaks, and a just generally worn out air mattress. You can chase those suckers for weeks.

If it’s a really high end air mattress, I might look, but if it’s your standard single high without the bells and whistles, you’re probably better off just replacing it. They’ll be going on sale very soon as camping season swings into gear.

This may not work for you: Spraying water and detergent was too messy. It seemed that the air was leaking out fast enough to be making a sound (sssss) but as I am hearing impaired that was not going to help until I realized that I had a hand held audio recorder (Zoom H4) and a pair of head phones. I cranked the volume and used it as a noise sniffer. Voila!

I suspect a phone with a sound recorder app would work the same.

Another way (and this is a bit weird, but it works):

Inflate the mattress, wipe your face with a damp flannel and move the mattress around close to your moistened skin - you should be able to feel the jet of air this way.

I’ve done this when camping - where there wouldn’t have been time to dry the mattress again before bedtime.

soapy water (dish detergent in water the same as for washing dishes) will bubble, either spray on or wipe on with a sponge or cloth.

listening with your ear close also works very well, though this is better as a confirmation test rather than a survey.

the back of your hand is more sensitive to that slight pressure because of softer skin and hairs. this also can work better with a moistened skin.

don’t neglect the valve and seams as leakers.

If you don’t want to mess around with soap, just fill your bathtub with six inches or so of water. Inflate the mattress and stick it (or as much of it as will fit) in the tub. Pressing against it will cause air bubbles to exit any holes, which is easily seen. It’s how I always checked my bike tubes when I was a kid.

Good thing I live in an apartment by myself, so I don’t have to explain why I have a wet face while I’m filling the bathtub and squirting dish soap on a half-inflated air mattress (this all sounds like some experimental art project). Unfortunately, this air mattress has a cloth-like cover top, so I think the dish soap idea is going to have to be out as it would probably irrevocably stain the mattress. But I’ll try the other ideas over the next couple of days and see what happens.

I’ll also check both the intake and the output valves. I couldn’t feel anything at either of those, but maybe I could with wet hands. And getting a new mattress is always an attractive plan B; even though I’ve moved somewhere without a lot of campsites, I should be able to find one around.

Thanks to everyone who answered!

I would be surprised if a mild dish soap stained the air mattress. (What were the original instructions for cleaning it?) If you are still worried, try Woolite or Dreft.

Every air mattress leaks. I believe it is required by law. And, as soon as you fix the leak, it will leak somewhere else- also required by law.

You would be better off getting a foam filled camping mattress or just a bunch of thick top covers or quilts to make a sleeping pallet for those occasions when you need extra sleeping spaces.

The foam filled camping mattresses will shrink down to a very small packet when not in use, but I don’t know how long they last. If you only use it once or twice a year, it may not store well. If that’s the case, you might like camping cots or even a sleeper sofa.

A bunch of thick top covers or quilts can make a nice temporary bed if you lay a few of them down on top of each other to use as a mattress. You can the use one as a blanket.

I have a lot of teens and use couches, quilts and camping cots.