How to Clean a Bounce House

Cleaning a bounce house is one of the most important parts of bouncy castle ownership.

Cleaning supplies for your bounce house
The type of stuff you will need

We all know kids can struggle with hygiene, even in ideal circumstances. If you’re in the event planning or commercial bounce house rental business, or, you're simply throwing a birthday party and you’re looking for the most effective way to clean an inflatable bounce house, then you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve put together this handy step-by-step resource that will show you how to do just that. Best of all, you can get all the necessary materials at any hardware store or big-box retailer. Or, go online and grab them from Amazon.

If your bounce house is exclusively used indoors, then it may be a bit easier to clean. Yes, you can use bounce houses indoors.

Pre-cleaning Checklist of (Potentially) Useful Items

Depending on how you want to tackle the problem, you want want to use one of the items below to help you get the grime and build up off your inflatable. Always exercise caution and always take the time to understand what happens when you mix any grouping of chemicals.

  • Waterproof Tarp
  • Power Washer
  • Soft-Bristle Brush
  • Vinegar
  • Disinfecting Wipes
  • Lysol
  • Cleaning Solution (ex. Odoban)
  • Dish Soap
  • Bleach

Step One: Do A Complete Visual Inspection

The first step toward a proper bounce house cleaning is to do a thorough visual inspection of the entire unit. After you’ve removed your inflatable bounce house from storage, unroll it completely in a properly-lit and properly-ventilated space. When your inflatable bounce house is completely unrolled, it should be able to lay completely flat on a dry and level surface.

Once it’s been unrolled, remove any component or part of your bounce house that is removable. The parts will vary depending on if it's a bounce house for toddlers, an inflatable pool with water slides, or, something in-between. The list of parts includes ladders, decorative artwork, side rails, stairways, water slides, and wire mesh.

You’ll need to carry out visual inspections not only of the bounce house but any detachable parts as well. At this point, your primary goal should be to take everything apart to get a clear idea of the work that needs to be done.

You’ll want to keep an eye out for visible dirt and grime, but also tears and other noticeable damage. Finally, while you’ll want to follow the process we’ve outlined in this article, you’ll also want to make sure you’ve familiarized yourself with the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions for your inflatable bounce house.

When completing your visual inspection, be thorough, be methodical, and make sure you inspect every square inch of your bouncy castle and all of its detachable components. If your bounce house needs a repair, a good visual inspection should let you know.

Step Two: Do A “Dry” Cleaning

If you’ve done your initial visual inspection properly, then by now, you should have a clear idea of the work that needs to be done before your bounce house is ready to be used again. Now you’re ready to make your first pass over all the grime and loose debris that has built up.

If you’re cleaning your inflatable bounce house after being used at a party or an event, this is the time to look for items such as keys, wallets, retainers, crayons, and wallets. At this stage, make sure you look everywhere, including behind flaps and in all the hidden nooks and crannies.

After you’ve removed any dropped personal effects, it’s time to start cleaning. If your inflatable bounce house has an excessive amount of debris or grime, it’s not a bad idea to start your dry clean by vacuuming the inside of your bounce house with a regular vacuum or a shop-vac. After you’re done vacuuming, use a soft-bristle brush or a broom and sweep the entire interior of the bounce house manually.

Doing a thorough “dry” cleaning of your bouncer is important because it will save you time as you move through all the later steps in this process. Make sure you repeat the “dry” clean steps on the underside of the bounce house and all of the detachable components.

At this point, if your bounce house is still noticeably dirty with build up or there are lingering odors, don’t panic because we’ll deal with all of this in the next step.

A person wearing rubber gloves scrubbing algae from an inflatable pool with a sponge
The same principles that apply to a dirty inflatable pool apply to a bounce house

Step 3: Do A “Wet” Cleaning

Now we’re going to do a deeper clean. While you don’t have to do a deep clean such as this every single time your bouncer is used, a deep “wet” clean like this is a good idea if your bounce house still has visible dirt, grime, spills, or vomit on any of its surfaces, or if there are still any lingering odors after you’ve done a dry clean. For this stage of the “wet clean,” we’re going to use a non-official bounce house cleaner.

Our non-official bounce house cleaner is a DIY cleaning solution made from mixing three parts water with one part vinegar with Dawn liquid dish soap. The amount of Dawn you’ll need might vary depending on how much work needs to be done. With a soft-bristle brush, apply the solution liberally to every inch of your inflatable bounce house, not forgetting about the underside and the detachable components. This includes the sidewalls, the railings, the art panels, and what not, make sure to give them a wipe down.

For this cleaning stage, your top priority should be removing any lingering odors, caked-on grime, or noticeable stains. Scrub as hard as you need to while taking care not to damage the vinyl or any other decorative elements that will need to be re-attached to your bounce house. Again, be thorough and methodical as you’re scrubbing and sanitizing your inflatable bounce house.

A rubber-gloved hand holding a bottle of Lysol spray disinfectant
Rubber gloves have enough grip to not make the plastic bottle slip

Step 4: Do A Final Clean With A Non-Bleach-Based Disinfectant

At this point, your inflatable bounce house should look noticeably better. Any noticeable stains or lingering odors should be gone. By taking the time to properly disinfect your inflatable bounce house after you’ve cleaned it with bounce house cleaner, you’ll be protecting children and other party guests from hazardous viruses such as the flu or the common cold, or even infections such as MRSA.

To properly disinfect your inflatable bounce house, you’ll need a disinfectant such as Lysol. Please do not use a bleach-based disinfectant; they can damage the vinyl and cause fading or color loss. Whether you’re using a spray with cloth rags or disposable wipes, the key at this stage is to disinfect every inch of the bounce house, including the underside and any detachable components.

The logic at this stage is that if there’s a reasonable chance human hands have touched any part of your bounce house, it needs to be disinfected. Finally, do not rinse away your disinfectant unless your manufacturer’s instructions explicitly tell you to do so. After you’ve gone over your inflatable bounce house, let the disinfectant dry. Make sure to repeat this process for the underside of the bounce house and any detachable components.

Step 5: Dry Your Bounce House Properly

By now, you should have made it through all of the previous steps. You’ve done a thorough “dry” clean, a “wet” clean, and you’ve sanitized and disinfected the entire surface area of your inflatable water slide with cleaner (see step three) and a non-bleach based disinfectant such as Lysol. Now the final step for cleaning your inflatable is to let it dry.

The drying process for your inflatable bounce house is straightforward; you’re going to let it air dry. How long this process takes can vary, depending on the size of your bounce house, but you should plan for your inflatable bounce house to take anywhere from a few hours to a day or more to dry properly. If your bounce house has wet areas, it’s ok to use some towels or even a leaf blower to get rid of them.

Note: If you're running a generator for your bounce house, you can use it for your leaf blower too, provided it's electric-powered.

At this final stage, the most important thing is to make sure your inflatable bounce house is completely dry, especially if you plan on returning it to storage. Storing a bouncy castle while there’s still residual moisture from the cleaning process can lead to mold and mildew. Be advised that letting your bounce house air dry in sunlight is not an acceptable substitute for the disinfection process outlined in step four, as sunlight is not a disinfectant.

A mother with her daughter and son on the bounce house they just cleaned together, all having fun
Having fun is what a bounce house is all about

A Clean Bounce House Means Safe And Healthy Children

Knowing how to clean a bounce house properly is crucial for protecting the health and safety of children. Setting COVID concerns aside, an improperly maintained equipment could cause injury and even death in extreme cases. Cleansing your equipment of germs is doubly important if you're in the party rental / bounce house business.

Inflatable bounce houses that have been improperly cleaned can expose children to mold, mildew, and dangerous infections such as MRSA. Most of the required materials (dish soap, disinfecting wipes, a leaf blower) are readily available at major hardware stores or from commercial distributors.

So stay safe out there and always always always clean your equipment.

What is the best cleaner to remove mildew off a bounce house?

A mix of water, vinegar and dish soap works really well, say 3-4 parts water to 1 part vinegar. Stay away from bleach, it will mess with the coloring of the vinyl.

Will vinegar remove mildew stains?

Safe and natural, vinegar is effective as a mildew remover.

A bottle of vinegar with a scrub brush, sponge and cloth ready to clean out mold
Mold fighting 101

How long does vinegar take to kill mold?

It will take vinegar a couple of hours to kill the mold on a bounce house. You can spray it on (using a spray bottle) or dip a soft-bristle brush into a bucket full of a water/vinegar cleaning solution and scrub it on the affected parts of the vinyl. You will be scrubbing off the mold later, so go gently the first time, as the purpose is just to coat the mold with the vinegar solution.