When you’re camping, having a friend over to spend the night, or just looking for a convenient place to crash, an air mattress can be your best friend. These handy mattresses can make for comfortable sleeping and usually compress to a fraction of their full size, making them highly portable and convenient. Whether you’re working with a mattress-compatible pump or simply using the tools you have handy, inflating an air mattress is a simple matter of pushing air into the mattress (and keeping it from coming back out!)
EditInflating with a Pump
- Open the valve cover. Most air mattresses have either a one-way air valve (which allows air to easily enter the mattress but not leave it) or a simple hole somewhere on the side of the mattress. Your first step should be to locate this and remove the protective cap — you can’t put any air inside the mattress without an opening to do so.
- Note that some modern mattresses have pumps built into the side of the mattress. In this case, simply flip the “on” switch, and, provided the pump is receiving power either from an outlet or batteries, it will start to inflate the mattress.
- Insert the pump. Whether you’re using an electric pump or a manual one, your next step is the same: insert the pump’s nozzle into the hole or valve opening. The pump should make a tight seal with the material around the valve. If it doesn’t, there’s a chance that air may escape around the pump, making it harder to fully inflate the mattress.
- If you can’t get a tight seal around the pump (for instance, if you’re using a pump that wasn’t made for the mattress), you may want to try laying duct tape around the pump to keep it seated in the valve, though this can be ineffective if the pump is very loose. Another option is to melt plastic around the pump to make it thicker and give it a tighter seal, though this can present challenges for novice repair experts.
- If using an automatic pump, turn it on. Most modern air mattresses come pre-packaged with an electric air pump. If this is what you’re using, make sure it’s plugged in or has battery power, then turn it on! The mattress should immediately begin to inflate.
- Note that electric pumps are usually quite loud, so you may want to be careful about running them around where others are sleeping.
- If using a manual pump, start pumping. If you’re working with an older air mattress or you lost your electric pump and had to buy a replacement, you may only have a manual pump at your disposal. Though these aren’t as quick and effortless as electric pumps, they’re usually quite effective in their own right. The two main types of manual pumps used for inflating air mattresses are:
- Hand pumps: Usually large, standing pumps operated with an “up-and-down” motion. However, smaller hand-operated bicycle-style pumps are occasionally used.
- Foot pumps: Usually take the form of a foot pedal attached to a hose and nozzle; stepping on the pedal repeatedly forces air into the mattress.
- Screw the latch back on. Once the mattress is filled to the point that it is fully inflated and firm to the touch, remove the pump, then screw the valve or hole cap back on to trap the air inside. You’re now ready to sleep! Grab some sheets, blankets, and pillows.
- Note that air mattresses with one-way valves will automatically trap air inside. It’s still a good idea to screw the cap back on for these mattresses to provide another layer of protection against deflation. Mattresses with simple air holes (and no valves), on the other hand, will immediately begin to deflate as soon as the pump is removed, so you’ll need to screw the cap back on quickly!
EditInflating Without a Pump
- Use a hair dryer if there is no pump available. If you don’t have any pump to inflate your mattress with, don’t worry — it’s possible to use common household items to do the trick. For instance, you may want to try using an electric hair dryer. Simply turn the hair dryer on and hold it against the open valve hole to begin filling the mattress. Because the hair dryer won’t perfectly fit your mattress’s air hole, the inflation process will usually be slower than when using a pump.
- Be sure to use cool air, not hot air, if you have a choice. Most air mattresses are made from plastic or vinyl, which can sometimes melt or deform if exposed to high heat.
- Use a vacuum cleaner or shop vac. Any sort of machine that can be made to blow air can conceivably be used to inflate an air mattress. For example, many shop vacuums have a “blow” function in addition to their ordinary “suck” function. Other tools, like snow blowers or leaf blowers, are specifically made for blowing. With a tools like these, all you need to do is hold the nozzle or blower up to the air hole or valve and blow to inflate the mattress.
- It’s even possible to convert some ordinary home vacuum cleaners to blow air instead of sucking it up. To do this, remove the bag and connect a long, narrow cleaning nozzle to the hole that the bag was originally attached to — air will shoot out of this nozzle and can be used to inflate your mattress.
- Use a bike or tire pump. If you’ve biked or driven to the place where you’re using your air mattress, you may have a pump handy and not even know it. Many standard bike and tire pumps can be used to inflate an air mattress. However, getting a tight seal around the pump nozzle can sometimes prove tricky. You may need to use a suitable adapter nozzle or increase the width of the pump’s existing nozzle with extra material to make it suitable for use with your air mattress.
- Use a garbage bag. Most people don’t know that it’s possible to inflate an air mattress with nothing more than a standard-size plastic garbage bag. To do this, first open the bag and swing it up and down to catch plenty of air. Gather up the open end of the bag to trap the air inside. Bring the bag up to your mattress’s air hole and hold the open end of the bag around it. Squeeze the bag to force the air out and into the mattress (it’s often easiest to do this by slowly laying on the bag). Repeat as needed.
- If you have a choice, use heavy-duty trash bags for this method. Weaker bags are vulnerable to popping under your weight
- Inflate it with your breath if all else fails. If you can’t find any of the objects above to help you inflate your mattress, take a deep breath and try the old-fashioned way. Use soap or sanitizer to ensure the mattress’s air hole is clean, then simply put your mouth against it and exhale. Repeat until the mattress is full and firm — using your mouth, this can take some time.
- If your air mattress doesn’t have a one-way valve, you’ll need to keep your mouth pressed into the air hole and close your throat to keep air from escaping between breaths. Breathe through your nose to fill your lungs rather than using your mouth.
EditDeflating the Mattress
- Unscrew the valve cover. When you’re done sleeping on your air mattress and want to stow it for storage, unscrew the air hole cover. If your mattress has a simple air hole, it will immediately begin to deflate. However, more complicated models may require slightly more action on your part. If your mattress doesn’t immediately start deflating, try one of the following tips:
- Look for an air-release switch to flip
- Turn an air-release mechanism on the valve to let air escape
- Unscrew the valve itself from its housing
- Fold or roll the mattress to force air out. As air drains from your mattress, it will eventually settle into a mostly-deflated state. To get all of the air out, start to fold or roll the mattress starting from the end opposite the air hole and moving towards it. This will ensure that the mattress takes up a minimum of space when it’s completely deflated.
- To force absolutely all of the air out of the mattress, try making small, tight folds or rolls like you might do to force toothpaste out of its tube.
- To save time, use a vacuum. If you’d like to speed up the deflating process, try using a vacuum to quickly pull air out of the mattress. You can use an ordinary home vacuum, a shop vacuum, or any other machine that can create a suction for this purpose. Simply open the air hole, wait for air to begin leaving the mattress, and hold the vacuum hose or nozzle over the hole to speed up the deflation.
- Hair dryers and blowers may work better if you make a seal around the device with your hand.
- Don’t pass out from blowing up the mattress! If you see stars or you feel dizzy, stop to take a few breaths and gather yourself.
- Hot air from a hair dryer can potentially melt or warp some air mattresses. Use a cold air setting if possible.
- How to Locate a Leak in an Air Mattress
- How to Repair a Sagging or Deflated Aero Air Bed
- How to Repair an Aerobed Leak
EditSources and Citations
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