It's safe to say that when most of us see an inflatable bounce house up close for the first time, we find ourselves thinking the same things. That looks fun is probably one of the first ones to cross our minds. The kids would love that is another one. And that must be a pain in the rear to clean is surely up near the top of the list, too. And questions about how to remove mildew and mold from a bounce house might just be enough to turn some people off from buying one entirely, though it really shouldn't.
Cleaning a bounce house probably seems daunting. A large bounce house exposed to the elements and sticky children is going to get filthy. There's just no getting around that. But it's something you definitely want to take seriously, because mildew and mold removal is never fun.
We know a lot of our customers want to know how to clean a bounce house properly and effectively. They want to reduce their customers' exposure to dangerous or even deadly bacteria. And these small business owners hope to be careful with their investments, avoiding unsightly fading or patchwork. Left unchecked, you may end up having to replace a bounce house entirely, and nobody wants that.
Thankfully, the process of cleaning a commercial bounce house is actually fairly simple, and it won't increase your company's overhead by huge margins, either. Removing mildew and mold from a bounce house is easy, too. So without further ado, Here's what we believe is the best way to clean a bounce house.
We can't start cleaning our bounce house until we've gone through a few important preparatory steps, the first of which is to lay your bounce house down on a large, clean waterproof tarp and get it inflated with your bounce house blower. If there are removable components like guide rails, steps, modular art panels, or netting, take those bits off now as well; you should clean those separately, and having them removed will let you clean the full bounce house more thoroughly.
Next, take a few minutes to visually inspect the bounce house and establish a strong sense of trouble areas early on. You should be assessing the inflatable for all of the following:
Mildew and mold
Dirt or grime build up; dirty or filthy areas
Physical damage (tears, rips, scuffs, etc.)
This visual inspection is a critical step, but it's not one that should take a long time to complete. It might take ten minutes or so the first few times you do it, but in due time you'll knock this down to a three to five minute process.
Having said that, do not rush your inspection. Take your time and look at everything more than once. You can add to physical damage accidentally by cleaning your bounce house hastily, not realizing there's already damage.
With your visual assessment out of the way, it's now time to "dry clean" the bounce house. No, we don't mean you should take this to the same place you take your jackets. We mean you're going to clean the bounce house without water or cleaning solutions.
First, walk through the bounce house and remove any loose items you find. It's quite common, especially when children are involved, to find all sorts of items inside a recently used bounce house. Crayons, toys, jewelry, flowers, leaves, sticks ... you name it, and someone has found it in a bounce house at some point. You'll need to find and remove all of these loose items, and any other debris you find. Be mindful of customer property and do what you can to return things like rings and necklaces in a timely manner.
Next, use a broom and/or handheld brushes and sweep out the full bounce house from top to bottom. Use a shop vacuum to clean up whatever your can't remove by hand.
The sweeping, brushing, and vacuuming you did in step two was probably enough to clean most of the bounce house thoroughly already. And there will be many times where step three can be skipped entirely, too, or at least postponed until later. But particularly grimy spots will need a deeper cleaning.
A "wet cleaning" will require three fluids: a bounce house cleaning agent, some water, and some elbow grease. Okay, that third one isn't really a liquid. Or is it? I don't work in health care, how am I supposed to know? Anyway, I digress.
In our opinion, the best bounce house cleaner isn't something you'll get off the shelf. We recommend making your own cleaning solution from three parts water to one part vinegar, and then blending in a sensible amount of dish soap. Just be sure the dish soap doesn't have bleach in it, because bleach will almost always cause color fading.
Original Dawn dish soap is strongly recommended. They use it to clean animals in oil spills, so it's safe to assume it'll do the trick on your commercial grade inflatables, too.
Apply your homemade bounce house cleaner to dirty areas, then scrub it with a soft bristle brush, a sponge, or a rag. Don't use anything that might scuff the vinyl, but do scrub particularly gruesome areas vigilantly to ensure they get properly clean.
Once you're done scrubbing, rinse the bounce house thoroughly to ensure there's no soap or residue remaining. Try not to get too much of the rest of the bounce house wet, either. You can probably rinse most of what you had to clean with a rag, but if you had to clean up a particularly big mess, you could use a hose or even a power washer set to its lowest setting.
With your bounce house clean (and rinsed, if you did step three), it's time to help protect the children using it by doing some disinfecting. And you can do this with simple, cost effective off-the-shelf solutions, too.
Germs, bacteria, and viruses can and will live in your bounce house if they go ignored. Cold and flu viruses, MRSA, COVID, and scores of other types of viruses and infections can be transmitted through your bounce house to and from the children using them. So cleaning your equipment, particularly areas where hands or faces go, is a vital step toward ensuring the safety of the kids using it.
We recommend using bleach-free disinfecting wipes. They're easy to use, easily disposed of, and most importantly, they get the job done. Clorox and Lysol make really great disinfecting wipes for this purpose; you'll find that a lot of rental operators use and recommend those.
Be sure to wipe down railings, landings, and side walls. If you think a child may have touched that area, or a child might touch it later, it should be given at least a once-over with a disinfecting wipe.
We should also note that you should not rinse the disinfectant away unless specifically told otherwise by the manufacturer.
We're almost done! The next step is likely the easiest of them all: letting your bounce house sit, preferably in the sun, until it's thoroughly dried.
If there are any areas with excessive water, dry them with a clean towel. But for the most part you should let the sun do its thing and dry the bounce house naturally. The sun's UV rays are a powerful disinfectant against water pathogens. Having said that though, we need to stress that contrary to urban legend, sunlight DOES NOT disinfect your equipment on its own and that you still need to do step four to ensure child safety.
Your bounce house will probably take at least a few hours to dry. If you're in a big hurry AND if you aren't storing your bounce house long-term, you could use a leaf blower to dry it faster. But only do this if you're juggling bookings and you're absolutely certain the bounce house will be set up at another event in the next five hours or so. If you plan to store your bounce house, even just overnight, you need to let it dry naturally.
Moisture is the number one enemy of bounce houses. Mold and mildew can fade and damage your bounce house, as well as present a slew of health risks, so we strongly recommend you take the extra time to thoroughly dry your bounce house before storing it for any period longer than a few hours.
According to FEMA, mold grows in as little as 24 to 48 hours. That's all it takes to see your commercial inflatable bounce house ruined.
The only time when bleach should be used on a commercial inflatable is when you're cleaning up mold. Tried and true, bleach and water make the best mold remover you'll find.
Simply combine 50 percent bleach and 50 percent water, apply your new mold killer to moldy areas, and then scrub vigorously with a soft brush or rag until the mold and mildew are completely gone. The bleach will almost definitely cause color fading, but mold damage can cause more extreme fading as well as other damage.
Once you're done with your mold cleanup, rinse that area thoroughly and then let it dry. That should be enough to get rid of mold. From there, just use the other steps to ensure your bounce house is clean and disinfected properly.
If mold damage is too extensive, you may be forced to cut some vinyl away and then patch your bounce house. And in extreme cases, you may find yourself browsing for a new bounce house for sale here on our website. But we hope you're able to get rid of mold quickly before the situation gets anywhere near those extremes. And knowing how to actually remove that mildew and mold from your bounce house means you can tackle these issues before they become unmanageable.
Thoroughly cleaning your outdoor or indoor bounce house is not something you should ever take lightly. One bad experience in your inflatable bounce house is all it will take for a customer to never contact your company again. And you don't want people thinking your company has a mold problem or that your rental equipment is unsafe for children, either.
This may have been a pretty lengthy article, but keeping an inflatable bounce house clean isn't nearly as difficult as it may seem. The steps are easy, really: blow it up, clean it, clean bad areas more, disinfect it, and then dry it. It's really not all that different from mopping up your kitchen, when you think about it.
Ensuring your bounce house, inflatable water slide, and other equipment is clean and mold free will go a long way toward protecting your customers' health and safety, safeguarding your financial investments, and improving the local profile of your business through positive word of mouth. And it keeps your bounce house in operational form year after year, too. And that's about as good of an excuse to clean your inflatable bounce house as anyone should ever need.