Ripped or Damaged Inflatable? Start Here
Sunday, 10 February 2008

My inflatables have been vandalized or otherwise damaged!  Help!

Inflatable yard decorations are the fastest growing segment of the holiday decorating market.  They are easy to set up, and command attention with their large size.  Unfortunately, sometimes the attention they draw is from the wrong type of person - the vandal.  To the vandal, the inflatable is the perfect target:  It can be quickly and silently taken down with a knife and the impact is immediate. 

It's not easy to look out your window and see your inflatable decorations puddled on the ground when they should be inflated.  With some of these decorations costing up-wards of $300 each, the monetary impact is also large.

Whatever you do, do NOT simply throw them away!  With a little work, they can be repaired -- the articles here will show you how.  If you decide not to repair the item, and live in the Tampa Bay FL area, please use the contact me button on the left.  I'll be more than happy to repair them and give them a new home in my display.

Whatever you do, DON'T panic.  Your item can most likely be fixed, but you don't want to add to the problems.  Before you start to pull and tug, take a look at the deflated areas and see if you can see the damage and how extensive it is.  For snowglobes, carousels, and other 'rotating' type items, the damage is typically only to the outer shell.  Items inside are usually not damaged unless they are close to the surface of the outer shell.

Unplug the item and CAREFULLY bring it into a large indoor area, like a garage.  For snow globes and whirlwind globes, try to keep the snow pellets or other 'small' moving items inside the globe.  Be sure to remove all the stakes and tie downs.  Be careful when picking the item up - the damaged areas are now very weak and you don't want to make the tear/cut worse.

For snow globes/etc you may now have thousands of pellets in your lawn.  You MUST save as many of these as possible.  A shop vac with a filter is the best tool to use.  Clean your shop vac well and allow it to dry.  Then vacuum up as many of the pellets as you can.  Keep those pellets separate from the ones still in the snow globe.  You'll be re-using them, but first you may need to clean them.

Since they are so light, cleaning snow pellets is quite easy.  First, ensure that they are completely dry.  You may need to spread them over a large area, like a garage floor overnight.  Now, pick out the larger debris noting that it may be easier to sift the pellets to get rid of the garbage.  I've used a large BBQ pan - it looks much like a large frying pan, but has holes in it to sift.  Loading it with pellets and giving it a shake allowed the pellets to drop out while holing back the larger debris.  Once you have the large debris out, put the pellets into a box and give them a shake.  That should allow all the dirt/sand/whatever to go to the bottom.  Your pellets are now clean, don't forget to add them back to your inflatable once it's repaired!

Once indoors, you'll need to completely evaluate the damage on the inflatable.  For damage to fabric areas, use large spring clamps to temporarily close the cut/tear.  Clothes pins won't work.  For damage to vinyl areas use clear packing tape.  At this point, you don't have to get the repairs air-tight.  The fan has enough capacity to do the job even with some holes.  The idea here is to simply close up the cuts/tears and get the item re-inflated to check for additional damage. 

Note all the damage (cuts/tears/broken tethers/broken bulbs or bulb protectors/etc) and collect your repair materials.  If you do have damage to items INSIDE the inflatable, typically it's easier to repair that damage first by using the cut in the shell for access instead of going through the zipper(s).  Please note that the bulb protectors in inflatables are very important.  If you run the inflatable without them, you risk scorching/burning the fabric, or melting the vinyl. 

Depending on the damage that your inflatable has, you'll need one or both of these articles to do the actual repair:

Repairing Inflatable Decorations - Vinyl Repairs
Repairing Inflatable Decorations - Fabric Repairs

Need parts?  Contact the nice helpful people over at Gemmy Industries.  I've sent several eMails to them and they have always replied in a timely manor.  I know that they do sell replacement snow pellets, and most likely also sell the bulb protectors.

Once you have repaired all the damage, plug the item in and admire your work.  Don't be alarmed if the repair doesn't look as good as the new item.  Once you are 10-20 feet away from the item the repair will disappear, and your visitors will NEVER know!