Your kids just got done using your bounce house and you’re realizing that the thing needs a nice cleaning before putting it away.
If you’ve never cleaned an entire bounce house before, then you have nothing to fear. We’ll show you exactly what to do in the following maintenance guide.
By the way, why should you care about cleaning a bounce house? It’s important because it will increase your bounce house’s longevity. You put out good money for it. Let’s make sure it lasts a long time.
Cleaning the dirt, dust, and other debris off your bounce house prevents mold and mildew from growing. The dirt also causes damage to the stitching and the vinyl fabric due to its abrasive nature.
You can avoid damage or mold when you learn how to clean a bounce house. Here we go.
Gather the Right Materials and Supplies
Get all the required equipment to do the job properly. Here’s your list:
- Vacuum cleaner or leaf blower
- Small brush
- Soft bristle brush, wash rags, or sponges
- Garden hose
- Dishwashing soap (Dawn or something like it)
- Bleach-free disinfectant wipes
- Rubber gloves
- Empty spray bottle or two
- Dry rags or towels
Make sure you don’t pull out chemical cleaning products or anything with bleach because that will damage the vinyl fabric. That stuff also inevitably comes into contact with your children as they play in the bounce house.
Take out a spray bottle and mix a few drops of the Dawn with one part vinegar and three parts water. That’s your main cleaning solution.
You might want to blast some Van Halen, Billy Joel, Coldplay, Maroon 5, or Stone Temple Pilots to keep you company during the process (c’mon now Mom & Dad, no matter how old you are, you gotta like at least one of those).
Inspect Your Bounce House Before Cleaning it
Don’t do any cleaning until you’ve inspected the bounce house fabric for weird odors, tears, holes, rips, mold, mildew, dirt, and dust.
You don’t need to take all day doing this. However, make sure you give every inch of the bounce house the proper look-over. It’s surprising what you can find when doing your inspection:
- Sticky juice residue
- Bird or other animal waste
- Pizza crumbs
- Vomit residue
How does all that stuff get in there? Who knows, but it does! Use your eyes, hands, and nose to inspect all the gaps and crevices.
Conduct this inspection with the bounce house fully inflated.
Sweep or Blow Away the Dirt and Grime While it’s Inflated
Your broom and small brush will come in handy here. With the bounce house still inflated, get rid of any dirt, grime, and debris. Don’t rub the vinyl down too vigorously or you risk causing damage to it.
You might also need to get out the vacuum cleaner during this step to remove any loose stuff like the crumbs or other small food leftovers. Use the broom and brush first so that you find anything that shouldn’t end up in the vacuum cleaner, such as jewelry, toys, stones, or big food chunks.
Do you have a leaf blower? Get it out during this stage because it can help blow all the twigs and loose dust out faster than anything else.
Dig deep into the seams because dirt and grime build up there the most. The result is usually mold and mildew if you don’t get that stuff out as soon as possible.
Spray it Down with Cleaner
It’s time to spray down the structure with your vinegar, soap, and water mixture. Move along your bounce house by going over one panel at a time. Spray the mixture and then scrub the area with the soft bristle brush. We’ll give you more scrubbing instructions in the next step.
Don’t spray the entire structure with the cleaning mixture all at once. It’s better to go panel by panel. Spray and then scrub. If you spray the entire thing at the same time, then you risk pooling the cleaner inside the seams as it drips down each side. You’re inviting mold to develop by cleaning your bounce house in this manner.
Do you see mold on the fabric? We advised against bleach above. However, you’ll need some bleach whenever mold is present. Grab an empty spray bottle and mix up a solution of half water and half bleach. This will dilute the bleach to lessen its abrasiveness and toxicity.
Keep the application of this mixture to the moldy area only to limit your use of it, as well as its tendency to fade the fabric’s color.
Time to Scrub!
You could use a rag for this part. Using the soft bristle brush is more effective. Find a brush with a handle long enough to avoid hurting your hand and arm while working. If you use a brush without a handle, then you’re inviting fatigue to enter the equation. The result of that is always a job not well done!
Scrub vigorously, but not hard enough to damage the vinyl surface. Work your way over the entire structure without missing any parts. It’s just as important to hit the no- or low-traffic areas as it is to wash down the areas most used by bouncers.
Take time to completely inspect your bounce house after you’re done scrubbing it down. Look for any areas you missed on the first run-through. Did you get all the dried vomit out? Yuck, right? You need to get that all out so you don’t end up with a bigger problem later on.
The same goes for dried juice or soda spills. You don’t want those sugary substances growing more weird-smelling stuff inside the structure. Look into the seams and any other crevices once more. Give those areas a nice sniff. Do you still smell anything odd in there? If so, then it’s back to scrubbing for you. Get it all out of there!
Rinse with Water and Pat the Fabric Down
Grab a clean towel or rag and drench it with water. Use this to wipe down the entire structure. This step allows you to wipe away all remnants of the cleaning solution. You must get rid of all the soap so there isn’t any residue left.
It’s good to begin with the vertical areas first. Then move on to all the flat surfaces. Get rid of any loose dirt as you rinse the bounce house down with the wet towels.
Your most important goal here is getting rid of the cleaning solution. You’ll need to periodically spray your towels or rags with the garden hose. This will get rid of the cleaning solution and make sure you aren’t simply moving it around.
Don’t use a garden hose in or on the bounce house itself. You’ll get too much water into the seams and then it will take far too long to get your bouncer dry. This rule doesn’t apply to any inflatable slides or wet/dry combos that you’re cleaning. You can safely spray them down with the hose.
Disinfect Your Bounce House Next
Get out the bleach-free disinfectant wipes for this step. Using the wipes, go over the entire bounce house structure again. Pay close attention to the heavy traffic areas during this part of the job. This includes the:
- Any other places where kids put their hands
Don’t skip this step because it’s a vital part of the process. Disinfecting helps to protect against deadly and dangerous bugs from gravitating toward your bounce house. It also goes a long way in preventing against spreading the following:
- Head lice
- Pink eye
- Cold viruses
You don’t need to rinse the disinfectant off unless you see it recommended by the manufacturer of the bleach-free disinfectant wipes.
Let Your Bounce House Dry Naturally
Now it’s time to let the bounce house dry out so that you can put it away safely. It’s best to let the bouncer dry naturally in the sun for about three to five hours. Let it go longer if you’re drying it on an overcast day.
Before you leave the bouncer alone to dry, you should do one final inspection. Look for any pools of water that exist, especially on the flat surfaces. Use your hand towels to get rid of this excess water. Get underneath the structure and dry that area. You want to remove as much extra moisture now before mold and mildew have the chance to build up.
You can even use your leaf blower to help speed up the drying process. You might choose to blow dry the entire structure after sopping up as much pooled water as possible.
By the way, you might hear some people say that leaving your bounce house in the sun to dry acts as a natural disinfectant. This isn’t as effective as using the bleach-free disinfectant wipes from the previous step. The sun’s heat adds the final drying touches but you still need to disinfect your bounce house’s structure by hand.
You’ll also hear advice from some people to deflate the bounce house for this sun-drying step. This doesn’t work as well as keeping it inflated. The sun reaches more areas when your bouncer remains inflated. It will dry faster and more thoroughly this way.
Walk around your bounce house’s perimeter after you think it’s completely dry. Look it over once more to make sure you haven’t missed any obvious stains or dirt before deciding to deflate it and put it away.
How Often Should You Clean Your Bounce House?
Use your best judgment in this area. The best option is to clean it after every use, but we all know that would be difficult to manage. You could potentially put it away without a cleaning if you got it out and your kids used it for only an hour or so.
Look it over carefully and decide whether you can skip the washing process this time. It’s unlikely that your children had enough time to get it so dirty that you need to clean it thoroughly. Inspect the inside well, though. If your kids are anything like mine, you know how much sticky stuff gets all over after 10 minutes, let alone an entire hour.
What About Repairs?
Occasionally, you’ll find an air leak in your bounce house or some other issue that you need to repair. These problems are certainly frustrating, but an easy fix depending on the severity of the issue.
Head over to our walkthrough on how to repair a bounce house for all the details on how to do it properly and when you should call a professional.
Cleaning your bounce house the first time will feel like an eternity. It’s like doing anything new in life. The first time takes longer because you don’t have the steps memorized yet. If you go into it with the understanding that it won’t always take so long, then you can keep your sanity.
The second time will go faster. You’ll knock this out within 10-15 minutes by the third or fourth try. By then, you’ll relax on the patio with a cool drink while watching the sun finish the job for you.
First time bounce house owner? Make sure to check out our guides on how to set up your bounce house and how to buy a bounce house too.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.