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How to Choose an Air Mattress
While all air mattresses serve a similar function, they are not all created equal. The materials from which the mattress is made, the type of stitching used to construct it, even the internal structure of the air mattress all make a big difference when it comes to comfort. When shopping for an air mattress, there are a number of things you need to be looking for to make sure you don’t waste your money.
What to Look for When Buying an Air Mattress
Look for an air mattress made from thick, sturdy material but consider the material on the top and bottom of the mattress. Suede-like material is generally best for comfort and it will help keep the mattress from sliding on hardwood floors.
Air mattresses generally come with some kind of pump, though you should be sure to do your research to make sure you don’t need to buy one separately. Pump options for air mattresses include manual pumps, battery-operated pumps, and internal pumps.
No one wants to spend an hour inflating an air mattress, so look for a model that inflates (and deflates) within a few minutes. This is usually listed on the packaging.
Think about what you’re planning to use the air mattress for. Low-profile air mattresses are easier to roll up and carry for camping but high-profile air mattresses (at least 18 inches high) are generally more comfortable.
Inexpensive air mattresses (typically camping air mattresses) may consist of a single air chamber, but this design is not ideal for larger air mattresses. The most supportive air mattresses have both vertical and horizontal chambers then help distribute your weight more evenly to prevent compression and leakage.
Air mattresses offer an inexpensive alternative to buying an entire bed set – they’re also great for camping. While air mattresses are more affordable than traditional mattresses anyway, you want to avoid skimping when it comes to cost. A cheaply made air mattress will deflate more quickly and won’t last as long as one that is durably constructed from high-quality materials.
How to Inflate an Air Mattress
If you’ve slept on an air mattress before, you’ve likely woken up in the middle of the night only to find that it deflated around you. No air mattress is completely airtight, so you should expect to lose a little bit of air when you lie down and throughout the course of the night. That being said, a high-quality air mattress has tight seams and a sturdy plug to minimize overnight deflation.
Though no air mattress is perfect, there are a few things you can do to make sure the mattress is fully inflated before you lie down to sleep. Here are some tips for inflating and air mattress using different methods to ensure a comfortable night of sleep:
Most modern air mattresses come with a pump, either battery operated or a manual pump. Some of the luxury models even come with an internal pump that does all the work for you. If you’re using an external pump, all you need to do is insert the nozzle of the pump into the inlet valve and start pumping.
Inflate the blow-up mattress until it is firm enough to hold your weight. Remove the nozzle and quickly seal the valve. If you struggle a bit and lose too much air, reinflate the mattress and try again.
If your mattress doesn’t come with a pump, you can try using a household vacuum cleaner or wet/dry vacuum instead. First and foremost, make sure the vacuum is clean – remove the dirt bag or container and run it for 15 to 20 seconds to clear any debris from the hose.
Next, attach the vacuum hose to the inflation valve — you may need to use one of the smaller attachments that came with the vacuum or make some adjustments with tape to create an airtight seal. From there, turn the vacuum on to exhaust mode so it pushes out air instead of vacuuming it and let it inflate your mattress.
In a pinch, a hairdryer can be used to inflate an air mattress, though it may take longer than either of the above two methods. The first thing you need to do is find a way to seal the connection between the mouth of the hairdryer and the inflation valve. If you have no other options, you can try making a cone out of heavy paper, wrapping one end around the hairdryer, and inserting the other into the valve.
Once you’ve created your connection, turn the hairdryer on – just make sure to keep it on the coolest setting possible. Blowing hot air into your air mattress could damage it. If your hairdryer starts to heat up, turn it off for a few minutes and let it cool down before resuming.
If you don’t have a battery-operated pump, a manual pump, or any electricity to run a pump for your air mattress, there’s still an option. It’s a little unconventional and may be time-consuming, but you can use a plastic bag to inflate your air mattress.
Start by unrolling your air mattress so it’s nice and flat. Next, take a large plastic bag (like a garbage bag) and hold the mouth open while swinging it through the air to collect air in the bag. Gather the mouth of the bag to seal it then fit it over the mattress’ inlet valve, holding it as tight as you can with your hands or using a rubber band. Then, squeeze the air from the bag into the air mattress and repeat as needed.
How to Fix a Leaky Air Mattress
If you suspect your air mattress has a leak, you’ll want to locate it and plug it up. The easiest way to locate a slow leak in an air mattress is to fill a spray bottle with water and dish soap then spray it around the exterior of the air mattress when it is fully inflated. Take a close look at the seams and sides of the mattress, looking for bubbles that form from the escaping of air. If you don’t see anything right away, try putting a little pressure on the mattress to force air out of the leak.
Once you’ve located the leak, mark it with a marker so you can find it later then fully deflate the air mattress. Give it a good scrub, focusing particularly on the area around the leak, so your patch will hold. Check the original packaging the air mattress came in to see if it comes with a patch kit. If it does, follow the instructions that come with the kit to install it.
If your air mattress didn’t come with a patch kit, you can make your own using a piece of shower curtain or similar material. Cut the material large enough to cover the leak entirely with an extra inch on all sides. Use acetone to degrease the surface of the air mattress around the leak then apply the patch using superglue. Hold it down tight (or place something heavy on top of it) for several minutes or overnight to be safe. For very small leaks or puncture holes, you may be able to simply apply the superglue directly to the hole in several layers.
While an air mattress might not be your first choice of bedding, it’s better than sleeping on the floor and some air mattresses are surprisingly comfortable. If you’re in the market for temporary bedding, the air mattresses we’ve reviewed above are all worthy of your consideration.
Other Products We Considered
The Fat Kid Deals editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.