The summer is here, and it’s time to break out the water guns and the inflatable toys for a day of fun in the sun. You’ve rummaged through your garage to find the bounce house, dusted it off from winter’s hibernation, found a safe place to play, and begun setting it up so that the kids can use it.
Then you notice that it’s just not staying inflated. Congrats, you’ve got a leak on your hands! It’s ok. We’re going to walk you through what to do next. You see, early detection of holes and tears can help prevent the inflatable from being completely ruined. There are several different methods which can be used to patch a hole or tear, and each one depends on the size of the hole and the material that the house is made from.
How to Find a Hole in the Fabric or Leak in a Seam
The three easiest ways to find a hole or leak in the inflatable are:
- To listen for the sound of air escaping
- To cover the suspected area(s) in soapy water and look for bubbles
- To feel around the side walls and fabric for air being released
Listening for a leak
Listening for the sound of air escaping is a bit impractical. There will invariably be noise that is out of your control, like a car driving by or the sounds of kids playing (and not on the bouncy castle you hold in your hands). Your best bet here is to return to your garage or someplace super quiet, run the blower to fill it up, then kill the power. A major leak should expose itself. For minor leaks, you might need to use one of the other methods.
Feeling around for a hole
Feeling around the side walls and the entire structure is tedious, but effective. What you are looking for are underinflated areas that just don’t seem to be keeping up with the rest. Once again, this is best to do inside a windless area, like your garage or basement. Make sure to shut any open doors as you don’t want a draft rolling through.
Using soap and water
If all else fails, you’re going to want to turn to soap and water. Some folks recommend mixing in some glycerin, which is useful for retaining the effectiveness of the bubbles you’re about to create - using a detergent helps to lower water’s surface tension, which in turn enables bubbles to last longer.
The downside of glycerin is that you may not have some on hand. If a store is close by, it may be worth a short drive. If not, some water and dish soap, such as Dawn, Joy, or eco-friendly brands, like Ecos or Seventh Generation, should do the trick.
What you want to do is mix the dish soap and water and begin lathering up the bounce house. Much like patching a car or bike tire, you should be able to see bubbles forming where the air is trying to escape. Your visual inspection should give you a clue as to where you should start adding the soap and water. After you’re done, hose off the bouncy castle and either let the kids play with it, in which case it should dry out over time naturally, or, put it unused in the sun for a spell.
If you are going to use glycerin or corn syrup (also an option), make sure you take a moment to give a vigorous stir or shake to get it evenly mixed with the dish soap and water. You will want to properly clean your bounce house if you’re going to add in a third party adjunct (ie - the glycerin, corn syrup, or other substitute).
How to Patch a Hole or Leak
There are two ways to patch up a kid’s bouncer. The first is what we all do, we add tape. Tape fixes everything, right? Especially duct tape.
Slow down, MacGuyver. It may (or may not) work, but it won’t be a permanent solution. Over time, the repeated jumping and bouncing of the Gummy Bears you call kids will wear down the adhesive seal of even the strongest tape. Perhaps you could add some Gorilla Glue, but feels a bit too much like overkill.
Yes, you could go down the Vinyl Repair Tape route, and that could/should work well. Or, you could be the adult in the situation and acquire yourself an Inflatable Vinyl Patch Kid built specifically for bounce houses and other denizens of jumpy jump land.
You know what, go down the tape route first. Experience it. See first hand what happens when the two hours of pre-birthday cake fun turns into two minutes when 17 little tikes are slam dancing around that plastic jumper.
And the second path down bounce house repair lane is a kit.
The Vinyl Patching Process
Patching up a vinyl bouncer takes some time, but it is at least a straightforward process, considering that over half of your effort is often spent just finding the leak. For starters, you’re going to need a Vinyl Repair Kit. And, maybe some lemonade to cool down some of the frustration from locating the hole to begin with.
Step 1: Clean the area
You’re going to want to make sure that all particles and debris (dirt, sand, etc.) has been cleared from the general area of the leak/hole. Here’s a quick hint: use the dish soap if you need some extra cleaning horsepower. Drying it off is important, don’t skip that step.
The reason that you want the area as clean as possible to establish maximum adhesion of the patch to the bouncy castle.
Step 2: Cut the patch
The general rule of patch creation, well, beyond the general rule of measuring twice and cutting once, is no sharp edges, as sharp edges have a tendency to catch and get ripped off. Also, make sure you leave 1-2 inches of space beyond the hole for the patch to properly attach to the vinyl on your moon bounce.
Step 3: Apply the glue
You want to apply the glue to both the patch itself as well as the inflatable. This will help to create the strongest bond between the two. If you can work your patch into the inside of the bouncer and establish the fix there, all the better. This will help the air work for the patch and not against it. Don’t worry if you can’t, it’s not the end of the world.
Coat the surfaces firmly, but do not overdo the glue. When the cement gets tacky, make the connection.
Step 4: Firmly apply the patch to the vinyl
First, make sure the patch is flat and not stuck to another piece of itself. After that, you have two choices. One, sit there and hold the pieces together for several minutes. Or two, find a heavy object and get it to do the job of maintaining an adequate amount of pressure on the patch site. Your choice.
Step 5: Make sure all edges form a seal
Any part that is sticking up is a part that will not properly bond. Add more glue if need be, or, get a heavier object to press down upon the patched leak.
Step 6: Test out the repair
Plug in the blower and fire up the bouncer. Check to ensure that the part that wasn’t properly inflating is now fully filling up with air.
Sewing a seam
Sometimes the stitching on an inflatable pool & water slide frays from repeated soaking. Whereas other times, careless teenagers jump all over the toddler bounce house you specifically told them not to jump on because they weigh too much.
Seams tears. Kids get upset. Life happens. Only in magical bouncy bounce land, you can fix these life problems with a Sewing Awl (Repair Stitch Tool). Our clumsy hands are no good at this kind of bounce house repair. We just don’t possess the dexterity, and the calm demeanor, necessary to repair damaged stitching with an awl.
Other Questions You May Have
How do I repair any netting on the Bounce House?
You could sew the netting back together with the right equipment (needle, string, etc). Or, if you’ve ever taken the Coast Guard Boating Safety Course, you’re probably pretty handy tying ropes.
How much does it cost to repair a Bounce House?
First, you need to determine your problem and your solution. Did the seam’s stitching come undone? Did you discover a tear or rip in the vinyl? Did something puncture a hole? Vinyl Repair Kits, Sewing Awls, and other tools you may need will ultimately determine the total cost. For a rough estimate, let’s call it $10-30. If the cost of your bounce house is less than $100 and it’s a few years old, it might make more sense just to buy a new one.
How do I prevent rips and tears in my Bounce House?
Choosing an appropriate site for your bounce house is half the battle. Kids will undoubtedly roughhouse on the jumper. Well, maybe not toddlers. But kids in those mid to high single digit years will give the inflatable a good run for its money - and they should, it’s why you bought it in the first place.
What you can do to prevent rips and tears is to find a soft, grassy patch of yard that is not covered in sticks (rake first!) or sharp rocks. If you’re going to opt for a driveway, lay down a tarp first to help eliminate friction between the vinyl and the concrete.
Also, set rules for the children. Try to cut down on kids wearing sneakers when using the bounce house. Definitely no sharp objects on or near it.
When you’re storing your bouncer for any length or time, make sure it was properly cleaned, dried, and packed up and folded as best as possible. A little extra care upfront will add to its lifespan. And, keep it in the (hopefully) heavy duty bag it arrived in when you first purchased it. This advice also pairs well with bounce house rentals.
We promise that the smiles, excitement, and laughter from your children and their friends will make the tedious task of repairing a bounce house worth it in the end. It may feel like it’s just barely worth it, but you’ll be glad you did.