How To Inflate An Air Bed – Step By Step

An air bed is handy when you have guests staying overnight, or when you are camping. While air beds are convenient and comfortable, a problem arises when it comes to inflating them. There are a variety of air pumps for air beds, each with a unique inflation method. We’ll discuss how to inflate an air bed in this article and go through the different types of airbeds. 

To inflate a modern air bed use the built-in pump. No external equipment is necessary to inflate the air mattress. To inflate an air bed without an internal pump, use external pumps such as electric pumps or manual foot pumps. It is also possible to inflate an air bed by using a vacuum in reverse, a hair dryer at low heat, or a garbage bag if there is no electric socket nearby. 

Air mattresses are not only a convenient way to provide a comfortable sleeping space for surprise guests, but they can also be adjusted to accommodate a person’s firmness preferences. Read our article on whether air beds are good for your back and how to choose the best one for your requirements. Additionally, check out our comprehensive guide to air bed benefits for more detailed information.

If you’re looking for a more permanent guest bed in your home, however, be sure to check out our ultimate list of guest bed ideas as well as our comparison guide to Murphy beds vs daybeds, sofa beds, and futons for additional information.

Inflating an Air Bed with a Built-In Pump

One of the easiest and most convenient ways to inflate an air bed is to get an air mattress with a built-in pump. A built-in pump is an internal pump that is built inside the air mattress and can be either battery-operated or electrically powered. Either way, you won’t have to struggle with fitting any external equipment into the valve, and you won’t end up with sore leg muscles from manually pumping up the air mattress. 

To inflate an air bed with a built-in pump, lay the air mattress out on a clear area, connect the power cord to an electrical outlet, set the controls to inflate, and turn on the pump. 

When you get your air bed, look for the built-in pump located in one of the side walls of the mattress. Flip on the switch, and, provided the pump is receiving power either from an outlet or batteries, it will start to inflate the mattress. Some internal pumps offer the option to control the inflation level of the mattress, so you can adjust the firmness of the bed to your liking. 

Use a built in pump to inflate an air bedThis air mattress features a built-in pump that lets you inflate the air bed easily and quickly. Image source: Amazon.

Step 1. Lay the Mattress Down on a Clear Area

First, take the air bed out of its box and move it to where you want to sleep. Clear the area in which you will be using the air bed and make sure there are no sharp objects before laying out the air mattress on the floor. This will help protect the air mattress from damage and keep it from deflating in the middle of the night. 

Step 2. Pull out the Power Cord 

To use the built-in pump, look at the end of the mattress and locate the pump. You’ll notice that the power cord is hidden inside its own compartment next to the pump. Pull out the power cord and plug it into a power source. Use an extension cord if the power cord is too short to reach the outlet. However, since you might not always have access to electricity, especially when you are camping, you should consider using a battery-operated air mattress. The downside is that you will have to either keep buying new batteries or make sure that the batteries are fully charged before each use. 

Step 3. Set the Controls to Inflate

Once you have the pump plugged in, choose the inflate option on the outside of the pump. Fill up the mattress with enough air for a comfortable sleep but avoid over-inflating it. After you have finished using the air bed, you should use the deflate option, which will reverse the pump and draw all of the air out of the mattress. Once the deflation process is finished unplug the pump and place the power cord back into its compartment. Finally, carefully roll the mattress up and place it in the storage bag or box that it came with for safe keeping. 

Inflating an Air Bed with a Foot Pump 

A foot pump is a manual pump that takes the form of a foot pedal attached to a hose and nozzle. This type of pump is practical as it doesn’t require electricity to function, but is quite tiring, as you’ll have to pump your foot on the pedal repeatedly to force air into the mattress. until you reach your desired firmness. Foot pumps are also very handy for camping because you will be able to inflate your mattress inside a tent. Read our article on comfortable truck camping beds for more ideas to increase the comfort level of air mattresses. 

To inflate an air mattress with a foot pump first open the valve cover on the mattress, next insert the pump nozzle into the valve opening, compress the foot pump by stomping on it, and finally screw the protective cap back onto the valve opening when the mattress is fully inflated. 

A manual foot pump can be used to add air to an air bedA manual foot pump is a convenient way to inflate an air mattress when camping. Image Source: Amazon.

Step 1. Open the Valve Cover

First, locate the air valve on the side of the mattress and remove the protective cap. The valve opening is the hole that will be connected to the pump to allow the air to enter the mattress.   

Step 2. Hook the Pump’s Nozzle into the Valve 

Insert the pump’s nozzle into the hole or valve opening. The pump should make a tight seal with the material around the valve. Otherwise, the air will escape, making it harder to inflate the air mattress. If the pump is loose, try putting duct tape around the pump to make a tight seal with the valve.

Step 3. Start Pumping 

Once the nozzle is connected to the valve opening, step on the pedal repeatedly to force air into the mattress until you reach your desired firmness. 

Step 4. Screw the Protective Cap Back on

Once you reach your desired inflation level, take off the pump and screw the valve cap back on to keep the air inside. Note that air mattresses with one-way valves will automatically trap air inside, whereas mattresses with simple air holes (and no valves) will immediately begin to deflate as soon as the pump is removed. So, screw the cap back on for all mattresses to protect them against deflation. 

Inflating an Air Bed with an External Electric Pump

Most modern air mattresses come with an external electric air pump. An external electric pump is going to require an electrical source. Electric pumps work great for inflating air mattresses for home use, but they are not ideal for camping situations. However, note that they are usually quite loud, so you may want to be careful about running them while others are sleeping.

To inflate an air mattress with an external electric pump, first insert the pump nozzle into the open air valve, next plug the power cord into an electrical outlet, and then turn on the power. 

Most post-market electric pumps have adaptors for different air mattress valves.Most external electric pumps come with various size nozzle adaptors to ensure a snug fit into the air mattress valve. Image Source: Amazon.

Step 1. Insert the Pump Nozzle into the Valve

First, locate the air valve on the side of the mattress. Then, remove the protective cap and insert the pump’s nozzle into the air valve while creating a secure seal to trap the air inside. 

Step 2. Plug the Power Cord into an Electrical Outlet

Plug the power cord into an electricity source. Usually, the power source is a standard 120V outlet. Use an extension cord if the power cord is not long enough to reach the electrical outlet. 

Step 3. Turn on the Power  

Once the power cord is plugged into the electrical outlet, turn the power button on. The mattress should immediately begin to inflate. Once the air mattress is firm enough to hold your weight, remove the nozzle and quickly close the valve cap to prevent it from deflating.  

How to Inflate an Air Bed Without a Pump

If you have an air bed without a pump, you will be able to inflate the mattress with the help of common household items, which can blow air similar to the way regular pumps do. Most air mattresses are made from plastic or vinyl, which can sometimes melt or deform if exposed to high heat, so make sure to use a cool air setting if possible. 

To inflate an air bed without a pump you can use a vacuum in reverse, a hairdryer at low heat, or a garbage bag if there is no power. 

Use a Vacuum in Reverse

A vacuum cleaner with a reverse option, like this 2-in-1 vacuum, can blow air instead of sucking it up. With an appliance like this, all you need to do is remove the internal dust bag, then hold up the narrow cleaning nozzle against the air mattresses’ inflation valve. Use duct tape to secure the nozzle to the valve and create a tight seal. Turn on the vacuum cleaner until the mattress is inflated.    

Use a Hair Dryer on Low Heat

Hair dryers work almost as well as electric pumps. They require electricity but there are cordless hair dryers, like this one, that run off of batteries and use cool air. Either way, switch the hair dryer to blow out air at low heat because the plastic and vinyl in your air mattress could become deformed if exposed to high heat. Hold the outlet nozzle of the hair dryer against the open valve of the air bed to inflate the mattress. Wrap duct tape around the hair dryer and the valve in order to create a tight seal. Keep the hairdryer on until the mattress is fully inflated, then turn it off and seal the air inlet of the mattress.  

Use a Garbage Bag If You Have No Power

If you have no other options to inflate an air mattress, you can use a garbage bag to get the job done. Open a heavy-duty garbage bag and swing it around to catch plenty of air, then gather up the open end of the bag to trap the air inside. Next, hold the open end of the bag around the valve on the air bed and squeeze the bag to force the air out and into the mattress. Repeat as needed until the air bed is fully inflated. 

Summary Of Methods To Inflate An Air Mattress.

Method Product Price
Air mattress with built-in pump SleepLux Queen Air Mattress with Built-in AC Pump ~$60
External electric pump Coleman QuickPump ~$25
Manual foot pump Intex Bellows Foot Pump Series ~$15
Vacuum with reverse function Brigii Mini Vacuum, Air Duster and Hand Pump 3 in 1, Small Cordless Handheld Vacuum ~$40
Hair Dryer on cool setting Infinitipro By Conair Mighty Mini Compact Lightweight Hair Dryer ~20

Make sure to also check out our guide to air bed valve replacement in case your valve breaks or to extend the life of your air bed. Additionally, you may find interest in troubleshooting what to do if your air bed keeps losing air or deflates overnight, so be sure to check that out too.

How Long Should You Inflate an Air Bed?

You should inflate an air mattress to a pressure that is comfortable for you. An air mattress is inflated within minutes with the use of battery-operated or electronic pumps, but it can take much longer if you are using manual pumps. An air mattress can be adjusted slightly for firmness by putting more or less air into it. It is supposed to act like a real mattress and real mattresses can have different feels. Ideally, there shouldn’t be any excessive sagging when you are laying on the air mattress. 

Inflate an air mattress to a firmness that matches your normal bedroom mattress. If more than one person is sleeping on the air mattress, it should be inflated more. Do not exceed 90% of the air mattress’ capacity because this will damage the air mattress. Re-inflate the air mattress as needed to maintain firmness.

Check your air bed regularly for sagging and keep a pump close at hand to re-inflate the mattress as often as needed, because they tend to deflate over time. This manual gives you tips from Intex, an air mattress manufacturer, on how to take care of your mattress. The more the air bed is inflated, the firmer it is. You may also need to pump up the mattress several hours before you plan on going to bed, because this will allow the air mattress to adjust to the temperature of the room.

Tip 1. Consider the Number of People Who Will Be Sharing the Bed

As a rule of thumb, the heavier you are, the firmer your air mattress should be. An air mattress is more likely to sink when two people are sharing it because it carries more weight. So, if you want support and longer lasting comfort, you will need a higher level of inflation to keep the mattress firm while accommodating two sleepers. However, once you lie down on the mattress, it will feel a little firmer as you displace the air, and any more weight can cause the air mattress to burst.  

You may also find interest in our comprehensive guide to air mattress weight limits to ensure you’re using the right air bed for your needs.

Tip 2. Consider the Firmness Level of Your Regular Bed

Firmness is often said to be very subjective because what may feel comfortable to one person can be uncomfortable to someone else. The longer you inflate your bed the firmer it will be. So start by thinking about your current mattress. If you know where it falls on the firmness scale, think about whether it’s right for you or whether something softer or firmer would be better. Then adjust the level of firmness of your air mattress by forcing air in or out so you end up with a comfortable mattress that provides pressure point relief and proper spine alignment. Read our article about using a mattress topper on an air mattress for tips and tricks to help adjust the firmness to your preference. 

Tip 3. Don’t Over-inflate the Air Bed

A very firm mattress is as harmful as a weakly inflated mattress.If you over inflate an air mattress, all the excess air will move towards the middle. When you lay down, that air will move towards the sides and place stress on the seams, which could cause the seams to rip. Therefore, it is recommended that your air mattress only be blown to about 90 percent capacity, especially the first time it is used because each time you overfill the mattress, the mattress becomes more likely to rupture. If it does, make sure to check out our step-by-step guide on how to fix an air bed leak to find out how to fix it. 

You might also find interest in our related article, Air Bed vs. Waterbed — Which is Right For You, so make sure to check that one out too.