How to Clean a Bounce House: It’s Easier Than You Think

We’re just going to come right out and say this point blank: children are dirty. That’s not meant to be insulting … it’s just a fact. And those sticky fingers, mucky chins, and filthy shirts all add up to you wondering how to clean a bounce house when the literal dust from your recent birthday party or other event has finally settled.

A bounce house is pretty large, with lots of surface area that needs cleaning. And if you’re like most of our commercial party rental customers here at Tent and Table, chances are you’re obligated to clean it more thoroughly than a typical consumer might. If not by local or state laws, then in the very least as an act of basic human decency. You don’t want your bounce house getting your customers or their children sick, right? Or injured? Or both? 

Knowing how to clean a bounce house isn’t just a liability issue, but an ethical and moral one, too. And despite its large size, cleaning a bounce house is a lot easier than it seems at first glance. In fact, once you really get into the groove of cleaning them regularly, it becomes easier than most other aspects of your business.

Knowing your preparations is a vital first step in how to clean a bounce house

Step I - Initial Preparations

Before we begin cleaning our bounce house, we first need to take on a few critical preparatory tasks that will make our actual cleaning go by faster, safer, and more thoroughly.

Roll out your bounce house on a waterproof tarp and inspect it for any loose debris. Take off removable components like steps, modular art panels, ladders, netting, or side rails and clean those separately. Some consumer grade bounce houses may have their own suggested cleaning steps, so this is a good time to read those. They should usually (but not always) be the same as these steps, though.

Next, inspect the bounce house thoroughly and give yourself a strong sense of how much work needs to be done. Be patient, too; preparing yourself with a thorough visual inspection can save you lots of time and headaches down the road. It’s better and more time-efficient to be methodical. People who go racing through their work make more mistakes and do a poorer job than those who take their time and do it all right the first time. Knowing how to clean a bounce house patiently isn't instinctual for some people. It might take a little practice to slow down.

You should be visually inspecting the full bounce house two or more times. Focus more heavily on high traffic areas, too; those will end up being the areas you'll end up cleaning the most. After having cleaned a few bounce houses, you'll have a much stronger understanding of where those trouble areas tend to be. But out of the gate, just do your best to guess the highest traffic regions of the bounce house.

Step II - How to Clean a Bounce House "Dry"

Our careful visual assessment provided us with a road map that will help us clean our bounce house quicker and more efficiently. So, with that understanding in hand, it’s now time to go about the initial “dry phase" of cleaning our bounce house.

Walk through the bounce house and remove loose items such as sticks, crayons, jewelry, toys, and big clumps of dirt. If you do find any personal items, be sure to return those to your customers immediately. Also, check crevices and behind flaps to make sure you get everything. Loose items can damage your bounce house during later steps!

Next, use a broom or handheld brushes to sweep out the bounce house. It’s okay to use a shop vacuum, too. In fact, we encourage it if that’s an option. Just be sure to brush out as much as possible, and don’t forget to flip it over and do the underside, too. Remember, your goal is to clean the whole bounce house, not just those areas where kids are playing.

Make your own bounce house cleaner at home, rather than spending a fortune on expensive vinyl cleaners

Step III - Clean it "Wet" with Homemade Bounce House Cleaner

Thoroughly look your bounce house over again. Do you see any areas that are still dirty after brushing and vacuuming? Were there spills or other messes? If not, you can possibly skip ahead to step IV. Otherwise, you’ll need to do a “wet cleaning” using a bounce house cleaner we’ll make from scratch using everyday household items.

As a rule, you should ALWAYS “wet clean” your bounce house (entirely or just affected areas) in the following circumstances:

  • Your commercial bounce house hasn’t had a full “wet clean” in the past five uses
  • Someone has made a mess inside the bounce house (spills, being sick, etc.)
  • Parts of your bounce house still visibly look dirty after brushing/ vacuuming
  • The bounce house has irregular odors or smells 
  • You plan to store the bounce house for a long period (an off season or some other extended length of time)

In these instances, you’ll need to create a bounce house cleaner using three parts water to one part vinegar, to which you’ll add a sensible amount of bleach-free dish soap. We strongly recommend using original Dawn dish soap. It doesn’t contain any bleach and it’s used to clean animals in oil spills, so you can be confident it’ll clean your bounce house well.

Apply your homemade bounce house cleaner to dirty or soiled areas, then scrub using a soft bristle brush, a sponge, or a rag. Be careful not to scuff the vinyl, but do scrub vigilantly to make sure you get a full clean. If you’re washing the whole bounce house, focus your scrubbing efforts on dirtier areas. 

Once it’s been scrubbed, rinse thoroughly with a garden hose. You can use a power washer, but only on its lowest setting. Power washers can damage the vinyl so be extra careful if attempting to use one.

Step IV - How to Disinfect a Bounce House

Your bounce house is almost entirely clean, but this next step is absolutely vital in protecting the children using your equipment: we need to disinfect it to ensure it isn’t spreading cold or flu viruses, MRSA, or other viruses or infections.

To disinfect a commercial bounce house, we strongly recommend using bleach-free disinfecting wipes. Lysol makes great wipes that come highly recommended by most industry insiders.

DO NOT use bleach or bleach-based products to disinfect your bounce house. Bleach causes color fading and can damage the vinyl. Bleach should ONLY be used if mold and mildew are present (click here for our guide on removing mold and mildew).

Use the wipes to wipe down areas where hands or faces go. Be sure to include landings, railings, sidewalls, ladders, and netting. If you believe a child has touched that area of your bounce house, you need to wipe it down, or at least give it a solid once-over.

One final note about disinfecting: do not rinse disinfectant away unless instructed to do so by the manufacturer. It’s sort of like using mouthwash. Don’t rinse it out, just let it sit and do its thing.

Step V - Dry Your Commercial Bounce House

You almost know how to clean a bounce house, except for one vital final step: we need to let it dry. And for this, all we really need is a couple of towels and some natural sunlight.

If you gave the bounce house a “wet cleaning,” use your towels to mop up excessive buildups of water. Otherwise, we’re going to let the sun dry the bounce house itself. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a full day or two to complete. If you’re in a hurry though, you can use a leaf blower to speed up the process and hand-dry with more towels.

Natural sunlight IS NOT a disinfectant and WILL NOT disinfect your bounce house AT ALL. Don’t believe urban legends. UV rays are great at stopping water pathogens, but will do nothing at all to fight most forms of bacteria. Drying in the sun is helpful, but you still need to do the fourth step and disinfect the bounce house properly. Do not gamble with child safety, folks!

Ensuring your bounce house is completely dry before attempting to store it is critical in helping prevent mold and mildew, both of which can irreversibly damage your bounce house. Removing mildew and mold from a bounce house is challenging and not something you ever want to have to deal with, so preventing them from developing in the first place is vital.

Knowing how to clean a bounce house is knowing how to ensure your customers and their guests are having the best time possible.Knowing How to Clean a Bounce House can Save Lives. Really!

Knowing how to clean a bounce house properly can make all the difference between children getting sick or injured, or having a great time using your rental equipment. The fact that your company’s reputation can be irreversibly damaged by using dirty or sickening equipment is secondary to the fact that a dirty bounce house endangers children. We all got into this line of work to entertain people, right? They can’t be entertained if they’re sick!

It may seem like a lot of work, but cleaning a bounce house is pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Knowing how to clean a bounce house and having experience doing it will make the whole process considerably easier. You'll know where to focus your efforts, and which areas require less work as well.

A clean bounce house is better for your business, for your employees who have to handle that equipment daily, for your company's reputation, and most importantly, for your customers and their children. Your cleanliness and safety procedures can literally make or break your party rental business. Knowing how to clean a bounce house can save your business, and even save lives. We're confident though that you'll always do your best to take it seriously.

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