How can I fix an air mattress without ordering a patch kit online?
December 13, 2012 8:22 AM   Subscribe

Can I patch a tear in an Aerobed with a vinyl pool liner repair kit? If not, what else can I buy today in the SF Bay area to repair very it with?

Other stuff:
-East Bay stores are preferable. I have a car.
-I know patch kits for mattresses are available, but I only see them sold online and I need to fix this today.
-The tear is big enough that it needs a patch, not just sealant.
-Tape does not hold securely.
-If you have an alternate idea, please let me know if you've actually tried it or if it's a guess.
posted by needs more cowbell to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
Water-tight is not necessarily air-tight. Water molecules are larger than air.
posted by dobi at 8:26 AM on December 13, 2012

I'd give a bike tube patch kit a shot, if you can find a patch that is large enough. You should be able to find a bike tube patch kit locally.
posted by dobi at 8:29 AM on December 13, 2012

I'd try calling Bed, Bath, and Beyond. They sell Aerobeds and they might have a patch kit for sale as well. Additionally, IIRC, patches comes with new Aerobeds, so maybe they have an extra or something around.
posted by Flamingo at 8:43 AM on December 13, 2012

If you do use a bike patch kit, make sure you use one that comes with glue, none of the sticker BS. Coat the patch and the area it should stick to well and let the glue dry before mashing the parts together.
posted by advicepig at 8:44 AM on December 13, 2012

Response by poster: Bed, Bath & Beyond said they don't carry them. (I just called.)

A lot of the bike tube patch kits seem to come with the pre-glued patches, which I am doubtful about too.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:51 AM on December 13, 2012

The pre-glued bike patches are actually pretty good. I've used them on air mattresses and they're basically the same thing as the ones specifically for mattresses. The difference is the mattress ones are usually larger. If it'll hold pressure in a bike tire, it'll be fine on an air mattress, which has much lower pressure.

Surface prep is the key - you want the area you're patching to be totally clean, dry, free of oils and dust. If it's got the fuzzy textured stuff around it you'll need to scrub that off first. Some patch kits recommend scuffing the surface with a bit of sandpaper, which is usually included.

My experience with patching mattresses hasn't been great, though - if you do the patch right it'll hold, but once the mattress gets to the point it's springing leaks, they start popping up all over. It's worth fixing the first leak or two if the mattress isn't too old, but you'll need more and more as time goes on.
posted by echo target at 9:07 AM on December 13, 2012

Does the mattress have a fuzzy surface? I tried a bike repair kit on my air mattress that had this very subtle fuzzy, kind of suede-like surface, and it did not hold at all.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:45 AM on December 13, 2012

Best answer: I'm quite proficient in repairing outdoor gear. I would repair this the same as I would for an inflatable sleeping pad.

Go to an outdoor retailer and pick up some SeamGrip + Tenacious tape (or just get their field repair kit)

Repair the tear like this.

It'll cost you around $10 and be ready to use very quickly. It'll be good as new.
posted by zephyr_words at 9:49 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The tear is on the non-fuzzy part, fortunately. It is along the line of the (for lack of a better word) sculpting, though. It's along what looks like some sort of internal seam (for the channels inside the mattress.)

What have people used to clean the surface? My first thought was rubbing alcohol but somewhere on the internet someone said that dries out vinyl.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:49 AM on December 13, 2012

I'd find an outdoor supply store like REI and get a vinyl patch kit. They're for inflatable boats, and can usually be cut down to size. Follow the instructions which will have you sand, prep, etc.

I did this to a similar brand bed and it worked great for about a month. Then another hole popped in a internal channel area place where it couldn't really be reached.

BTW, the experience of being dead asleep, hearing a giant bang and suddenly sinking onto the floor was one of the scariest reality-melting experiences of my life.
I don't know what I was dreaming about but I assumed the bed was falling, because the house was falling, because global thermonuclear war...
posted by fontophilic at 10:38 AM on December 13, 2012

I'd patch it like a bike tube except using vinyl cement instead of the usual rubber cement that you'd use on an inner tube. Basically you clean the area really well, scuff it a bit, then apply a thin layer of cement to both the surface and the patch (if it's not a preglued patch) and wait for it to nearly dry. Then peel off the backing on the patch and stick it on.

I've done this to patch air mattresses (not AeroBeds in particular but older camping ones), using some stuff called "Household Goop" as the glue, and it worked fairly well.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:47 PM on December 13, 2012

Response by poster: How do you stop the goo or glue from getting inside the mattress and sticking to the other side of the mattress?
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:37 PM on December 13, 2012

You could probably slip a small piece of paper or similar in through the slot to prevent gluing the mattress together. It'll either get glued to the patch or just float around in there.

Maybe waxed paper? Eventually it might find its way to somewhere near the inflation point and you can fish it out but until then it probably won't hurt anything to have it hanging around in there.
posted by chazlarson at 5:49 PM on December 13, 2012

Response by poster: I was not able to find vinyl boat repair kits at either of the two outdoor stores I went to or at Home Depot. The bike repair kits at REI had patches that were too small to cover the tear adequately.

I ended up buying the Field Repair Kit (SeamGrip gluey stuff and Tenacious Tape patches) linked above at REI.

I applied a bunch of SeamGrip last night. I was going to cover it with one of the patches afterward (which the instructions say make it usable immediately, whereas just SeamGrip needs to sit overnight to cure) but it said the patches should extend 1/2" beyond the SeamGrip so they make sufficient contact with the actual surface of the mattress, and I'd gone overboard with the SeamGrip so the patches wouldn't have been big enough to do that. I didn't slip a piece of paper in or anything, and the SeamGrip didn't ooze into the mattress and bond the two internal sides together like I'd feared--not sure if that was just good luck or what.

I let it sit for almost 12 hours and inflated the mattress--it seems to be holding well. The mattress still loses some air, but I don't think it's leaking at the spot where I fixed it. It's usable now, whereas before (even with tape over the rip) it leaked too much, too fast to be usable.

Thanks Metafilter! I'll update later in case anyone is curious about how long the repair holds up.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:20 PM on December 14, 2012

Response by poster: Update the Second:

-The second night I slept on it the patch made of SeamGrip itself got a small tear along the same line as the original tear. I put a bunch more SeamGrip on it and let it sit for 36 hours before inflating, and now it seems to be holding up very well.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:01 AM on December 18, 2012

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