Submerging the mattress in water, spraying it with soapy water and dumping baby powder on it may help you find an air mattress leak, but these methods also leave you with a mess and potential damage to the mattress. Some holes are so tiny you can barely see them, so you may need a little help locating the source of the air leak in order to patch it. Ditch the mess with alternative ways to find a leak in an air mattress.
Common Leak Locations
It's a good idea to check the entire mattress since holes can happen anywhere, but starting with the most common spots for leaks can help you narrow down your search. Edges and seams are common leak locations, as those areas may split apart. The pump or valve area may also start leaking on your air mattress, so pay close attention to those areas when looking for leaks.
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Look at the Mattress Closely
If the hole is on the large side, you may be able to spot it visually. Start at the areas where leaks are most common. Work methodically around the mattress, inspecting each area for holes. A magnifying glass may help you find the holes, especially the tiny ones that are the size of a pinhole.
Press and Listen
Even if you can't see the hole, you may be able to hear it if you listen carefully. Move the mattress to a quiet room so you can hear the hissing or whistling sound when the air exits the hole. This method is easier if you have someone to press on the mattress for you while you put your ear close to the surface. The pressure forces air out of the holes faster, which may make the leaks easier to hear.
Find a Hole in an Air Mattress With Your Hand
Quieter leaks may require other methods of finding the source. One option is to dampen your hand with water and move it slowly over the surface of the mattress, holding it about 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the surface. This method works best if you have someone pressing on the mattress to force the air out faster. The dampness of your hand makes it easier to feel the air as it hits your skin.
Using the back of your hand may also work. The hairs on the back of your hand may pick up on the rushing of the air as your hand goes over the hole. Your lips are also a sensitive area, especially when you pucker up and moisten your lips. You can place your lips close to the mattress to find the leak.
Hold Up Paper
Another method is using a piece of tissue paper, foil or a similar thin paper to spot the leak. Because the paper is light, it should move when air from the leak hits it. You'll need to work in sections to use this method to find the hole in the air mattress. Don't forget to cover the top, bottom, edges, seams and sides to find the leaky spots.
Start at one end of the mattress, placing the paper directly on top of the mattress. The larger the sheet of paper, the more ground you can cover at once. Press on the mattress to push the air toward the spot with the paper. Watch for the paper to move slightly to indicate that you've found the hole. You may also hear the air hitting the paper.
Mark the Holes
As soon as you find a hole in the air mattress, mark it so you can easily find it again when you're ready to apply the air mattress patch. You can use a permanent marker to circle the hole or simply place a piece of tape on the spot to make it easier to find when you start the repairs. Sometimes, the mattress may have more than one leak, so it's a good idea to continue checking for more holes even if you find one.