Pretty soon after getting our first bounce house we noticed it was wearing out rather quickly. I jumped on fixing this as a bounce house isn’t a cheap investment for us. Here’s what I learned about cleaning a bounce house the right way to prolong it’s life.
To properly clean a bounce house, you will first dry sweep or vacuum all the debris out of the jump area while the bounce house is inflated. Next, you will have to disinfect the bounce house with a cleaning solution and dry it completely to prevent any mildew or mold from growing.
If you already have mildew or mold starting to grow, there will be some extra steps needed, but you can still save your bounce house. Let’s go through this cleaning process step by step, I’ll give as many pointers as I can and tell you how we do things as an example.
Why Cleaning A Bounce House Is Important
The number one reason for cleaning your bounce house regularly is to extend it’s lifespan. Bounce houses can be expensive, ranging from a few hundred bucks, up into the thousands. I want to make that bounce house last as long as possible to lower the need of buying a new one as often.
Dirt left on the bounce house surfaces and stitching will slowly wear away at those materials as the bounce house is used. You won’t notice it right away, but eventually dirt and mold will lead to the bounce house material breaking down or fading, increasing the chances of rips and tears.
Keeping your bounce house cleaned and in good condition can more than double its lifespan.
You may not have as tight of a budget as me, but there are other good reasons to keep the bounce house clean, like safety and health reasons. A dirty bounce house can grow mold which is harmful for kids to play in.
Even if you dry the bounce house completely, the dirt within the stitches or left on the material will hold small amounts of moisture that will spread mold while the bounce house is stored.
Unclean surfaces could also cause a slipping hazard in the bounce house. Injuries from slipping in a bounce house are very minor, but why add the extra chance of it happening.
Here’s a quick video from a bounce house manufacturer about cleaning from start to finish. They don’t cover mold or mildew removal and just briefly cover the cleaning steps, so I will cover each of these steps in more detail later on.
Cleaning Set Up
To start cleaning the bounce house, you will need it set up and inflated on a large water proof tarp. Setting up on the grass will work in a pinch, but I prefer to use a Large Tarp (link to Amazon) the same one I use to set the bounce house up on for jumping.
The easiest time to clean the bounce house is before we put it away after a day of jumping.
After having the bounce house set up properly for a good cleaning, you will also need to have some cleaning supplies and equipment.
- Vacuum cleaner or shop vac (with enough extension cord)
- Leaf blower (optional)
- Rags or towels
- Soft bristle brush
- Cleaning solution
- Surface lubricant (for slides only)
Avoid using strong cleaners, like bleach and tough kitchen cleaners and solvents, unless you find mold.
Typically everyone will have a vacuum cleaner or shop vac they could use, but you could also use a leaf blower in a pinch. I prefer to use a shop vac myself. Make sure you have enough extension cord to reach the cleaning area or you may need to move the bounce house closer to an outlet.
For a cleaning solution, I use this Odoban Disinfectant Spray found on Amazon because it works as a disinfectant and cleaning solution in one.
I’ve also had good luck using Lysol Disinfecting Wipes (link to Amazon) when I only needed to do a light cleaning, and they eliminated the need for rags, which was nice. You could also make your own cleaning solution if you need to. I don’t do this myself, but it’s a viable option so here’s how you make it.
Combine the following:
- 3 Cups warm water
- 1 Cup white vinegar
- 3 drops dish soap
Shake this mixture up real good and use it as your cleaning solution. It doesn’t work very well as a disinfectant though, that’s why I prefer the Odoban spray.
That just leaves rags, a soft brush, and slide lubricant if you have a slide. For slide lubricant I’ll just use Armor-All Original, it will help protect the slide and make it slick for the people using it. They do make specialty bounce house slide lubricants, but I’ve never found them worth the money, especially when Armor-All works so well.
Most people have rags on hand, if not, you can use old clothing cut into rag sized strips. The soft brush will be used to get stuck on dirt and mud off the bounce house material. You don’t want to use a rough brush that will damage or wear away at the material. You also might not need the brush if you can get all the dirt up with a rag.
Clean Out Dust And Debris
This step is best done with a shop vac or vacuum cleaner. You can use a broom or something similar to get most of the dirt and debris out of the bounce house, but I’ve found the shop vac to be much more thorough and easy to use.
The shop vac will also allow you to get into the creases and cracks where the stitching is. You’ll want to get as much dirt and debris out of those areas as possible.
Dirt is abrasive, and over time will wear down the stitching, leading to rips and tears.
I call this the dry cleaning phase, you’re simply getting all the big pieces of dirt and gunk out of the bounce house so you can thoroughly clean it. Look for problem areas during this step as it will help you later to identify areas that need a deeper cleaning
Clean Dirt Spots And Stains
Now that you’ve dry cleaned the bounce house, you’ll want to go around and tackle those problem areas you’ve identified. Any where you noticed dirt is caked on or the material looks stained and dirty. This is where the cleaning solution and a soft brush come in handy.
You may need to really scrub some areas that have been dirtied up pretty badly. But now is the time to do it. You don’t want to store the bounce house with that dirt on there. That’s what causes mold to grow and can ruin a perfectly good bounce house.
Storing a bounce house while still wet or dirty is the number one cause for mold growth and damage done to a bounce house.
Disinfect The Bounce House
You’ve completed the dry cleaning, and taken care of the problem areas already. Now it’s time to do a once over with some disinfecting spray and some rags. I call this the wet cleaning step, where you just want to completely disinfect the bounce house to prevent any germs, mold, or mildew from growing on the surfaces.
You really want to focus on the jumping surfaces and areas where the jumpers come into contact with the bounce house material. Especially anywhere kids are putting their hands or faces. This step is crucial to protecting the jumpers from getting sick from germs.
At this point, you are done with the cleaning steps. Now you just need to completely dry the bounce house and store it properly. If you are seeing mold, mildew, or have concerns about that, read this next section, if not, skip down to the drying and storage steps.
Removing Mold And Mildew From A Bounce House
If your bounce house was stored with dirt or water still on it, you may see mold starting to grow and spread on the bounce house material. Mold doesn’t take that long to start growing, so after a long period of storage, the problem areas could be pretty severe.
Mildew and mold will develop within 24-48 hours of water exposure.Fema (source)
Mold and mildew will cause fading and diminish the strength of the material. So depending on your bounce house condition, it may be too damaged to be used again. But, if you think it can be salvaged, here’s what you need to do.
Create a mixture of half bleach and half water and scrub the affected areas with a soft brush. You may find it useful to let the bleach water sit on an affected area for while and then continue scrubbing. The bleach will most likely fade the material, but mold would have been a lot worse if left untreated.
Bleach should only be used on a bounce house in the case of mold growth, this isn’t a normal cleaning step, and should not be done every time you clean your bounce house.
Another option is this 30 Seconds Outdoor Cleaner (link to Amazon) in case you’re not comfortable using bleach. They call it 30 seconds outdoor cleaner, but they should really call it 10 minute cleaner, because that’s how long you let it sit to remove algae, mold, and mildew.
Here’s a video on the product and how to use it, as you can see they use it on anything outside, but it’s also safe for a bounce house.
Can You Pressure Wash A Bounce House?
Yes, you can pressure wash a bounce house to clean it. Set the pressure washer to its lowest setting and be careful not get the pressure washer too close to the bounce house material. A high powered pressure washer on a high setting can rip or tear bounce house material.
You could also use a hose to clean off a bounce house. Keep in mind that getting a bounce house wet to that extreme will require a longer drying time before putting away for storage.
You will only want to spray water on a bounce house if it’s inflated and the blower is running. Check out my article on Can A Bounce House Get Wet for more information on why that’s important and the right way to do it.
Completely Dry The Bounce House
After you’ve thoroughly cleaned the bounce house, you need to let it completely dry before packing away for storage. The amount of time the bounce house needs to dry directly correlates to how wet it got when in use or cleaning.
To dry the bounce house after a cleaning, simply leave it running for a few hours. you want to make sure, all the moisture is out of the bounce house seams as well as any that is inside the bounce house. Letting the blower run for an extended time will ensure any moisture has made its way out of the interior of the bounce house.
Open a couple zippers to allow the air inside to escape more easily. Let the bounce house run for 3-4 hours. No one should be jumping on the bounce house while it is drying out.
If your bounce house has gotten sprayed with lots of water or rained on, check out my Can A Bounce House Get Rained On article for more detailed drying instructions. Properly drying out the bounce house is the most important step of the whole cleaning process.
All this effort of cleaning and sanitizing the bounce house will mean nothing if you store it in a wet damp location. Store the bounce house in a clean and dry area to keep it clean and free from mold.
We store our bounce houses in large totes inside our garage. It doesn’t hurt to wipe the inside of the tote with a disinfecting wipe and air dry before storage.
Many bounce houses come with a vinyl bag or something to store it in after its been rolled and folded up properly. That can work great, but for us, the totes were so much easier to fit the bounce house into.
That’s it, with proper cleaning, drying, and storage, your bounce house will last you for years to come.