How to blow up an air mattress using a trash bag

Welcome to the first and final lesson of “How to get away with using a trash bag for inflating an air mattress”.

inflate an air mattressSo, an unexpected guest is staying over? That’s fine, you love having guests, right? And you don’t mind having people stay with you. There is just one thing, you don’t have an extra bed. That’s also fine, because you have an air mattress for such an occasion. You invested in one when you realized your home is going to be an epicenter of all family-related gatherings and parties. You have an air mattress under your own bed. You’ve used it loads of times.

But what about the air pump? Where is that thing?! You can’t remember or you have an air mattress that blows up manually or orally should I say.

First of all, c’mon…

I know this is not going to be of much help but if you still have an air mattress for guests without a built-in pump, I have to say “c’mon”, it’s the 21st century and this things are so cheap these days.

Also, there’s a healthy market competition so there’s always a good mattress on sale. So before we move on let me provide you with a link that might be useful, a link to cheap air mattresses we especially liked:


Moving on…

So, let’s presume that you can’t find your pump…OOr you borrowed it to someone. Or it broke and you threw it away. What are you going to do?

Let’s imagine that you are having friends over, a couple that you double-date with.

And it is getting late, you are not realizing it, it is snowing heavily outside. By the time you realize that they should get home, it is already too late and dangerous for them to drive. They need to sleep over. You take out your air mattress and you realize that you still haven’t replaced the broken air pump that you got originally with the mattress.

Are you going to blow the air mattress up all by your breath? It will take hours. And it is already too late. By the time you finish by just breathing into the mattress, it will be early morning. So, you need an alternative.

There are a few ways of dealing with such an air mattress crisis.

1. You can breathe your lungs out and inflate it just by breathing into the nozzle. This is the worst alternative, since it takes most time, and is very demanding physically. Those with heart and respiratory conditions should avoid doing this at any cost.

2. Using a hair-dryer. Well, it can turn out to be quite risky. Firstly, the hair-dryer doesn’t fit the valve as a pump would, so only some of the air blowing from the hair-dryer will actually go through the valve and into the mattress. It will take time and require patience.

But more importantly, if the hair-dryer does not have the option of blowing cool air, the hot air might melt the air mattress, or at least, the part surrounding the valve. That would be irreparable damage.

Also, to do this, you need to have a functioning hair-dryer. If you are a bald man, there is a possibility you do not own one.

inflate an air bed3. Inflate the mattress by using a vacuum cleaner. First, you need a working vacuum cleaner. Second, that vacuum cleaner needs to have a blow option. How many vacuum cleaners have that?

Even with that, it is terribly tricky to inflate a mattress with a vacuum cleaner because of the nozzle size.

4. Use a leaf blower. Or a snow blower. Again, you need to previously own these and know how to handle them. And you would still have the nozzle issue.

5. Use a bike tire pump. Well, this one is actually pretty clever. If you own a bicycle, and own a bike pump as well, you can use it the same way you would use the original air mattress pump. Most of tire pumps are compatible with nozzles of such sizes.

6. And finally, you can do the least demanding thing with the least expensive and rare object. You can inflate your mattress with a simple trash bag. What you need is, just that, a trash bag.

The method of doing this is extremely simple.

  • Take the air mattress, lay it down on the floor or a flat surface like a big dining table. It should be accessible.
  • The next step is opening up the valve. Prepare the valve, so you can fill the mattress the very moment you have filled the bag.
  • Open up a trash bag. Swing it up and down. Or you can try “catching the air” by just moving in one direction with an open trash bag. It will be filled with air.
  • Hold it at the top, and make a smaller opening, large enough to put around the valve of the mattress. But not big enough, so it wouldn’t leak.
  • Put the trash bag on the valve, directed headfirst by the opening and your grip of the trash bag.
  • Hold firmly around the valve.
  • Squeeze the trash bag, so the air goes from the bag into the air mattress. If it is a bigger bag, you can use your entire body to apply pressure. Do it slowly.
  • Repeat the process until the mattress is filled with air. After a dozen repeats or so, the mattress should be at least somewhat full, depending on the size of bag and the size of the air mattress.

There are some additional things worth mentioning.

  • If the valve of the mattress is a one-way valve, it will be a lot easier. Meaning that you won’t have close the valve for each interval of time that you use to fill the trash bag with air.
  • Also, if you have heavy-duty trash bags at your hand, they are generally preferred to their less resilient counterparts.
  • You need to bear in mind that a trash bag can burst under anyone’s weight.
  • With every try, there should be a visible difference whenever you squeeze the trash bag. If there is not, try another way, or look for a possible leak on the mattress.
  • The bigger the trash bag, the better. More air will be pumped in one try.

Our trash bag advice might sound unusual, but it is definitely not rubbish.

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James Menta

Camping Gear Reviewer at
Three things you need to know about James - he holds a degree in Materials Technology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, he is a zealot for the great outdoors and he can never find his glasses.       In brief intermissions between looking for his glasses, he is the Editor-in-chief of

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