Mattress Mold: Causes, Cleaning & Prevention (Explained)

Getting a new mattress is an exciting purchase – whether you are moving into a new home, or discarding an old mattress – as sleep is an important part of our lives and in maintaining good health.

It is an expensive investment expected to last a good number of years. Along the way though, there are bound to be issues that could occur threatening to reduce the lifespan of the mattress. One of them being mold growth.

This article seeks to explore not just the causes of mold, but also how to clean mold off mattresses, and how you can prevent it.

What causes mold on mattresses?

Regardless of the type of mattress you own, mold can grow when the conditions are right. From spring to memory foam, hybrid mattresses, and everything in between, foam is a material that is typically used in one of the layers within them.

Mold growth on and within mattresses require a combination of the following conditions:

  • Moisture
  • Darkness
  • Warmth

Unfortunately, the mattress is often a conducive environment for mold to grow. The places on the mattress most susceptible to mold growth are the bottom surface and the side that butts against the bed frame.

How to identify mold on a mattress?

Mold growth is not something that is visible when it starts. However, getting rid of it is not a lost cause if you can detect it early in other ways.

There are certain indications that would suggest you have a mold problem on the mattress. Keeping a lookout for these signs will give you the opportunity to address the problem sooner:

  • Smell

Mold spores have a musty, pungent smell to them. To those who have a sensitive sense of smell, the change in smell is unmistakable.

For the rest of us, if it doesn’t smell right, something isn’t right.

  • Appearance

There are different variations of colors to mold – black, gray, and brown are the most common ones, although occasionally you may also find it in yellow, green, or pink.

As an easy guide, if you see random patches in colors different from your mattress color, that is probably mold.

  • Health problems

When you start developing health-related issues, you have a serious problem in hand that warrants immediate action.

Exposure to mold can result in a number of respiratory issues such as asthma, wheezing, or difficulty breathing.

You could also develop rashes in areas of your skin that come into contact with mold. On the less serious side, even if you feel skin irritation it is a sign either there is mold growth or the sheets need changing.

Although these problems will usually subside once you leave your bed, do not take it lightly as the bed is where you spend a third of the day in and you depend on it for your health.

How to clean mold on a mattress?

Cleaning mold on a mattress involves the following 7 steps:

1. Use a soft bristle brush to scrape off the mold (as much as possible)

This is just the first step that will help remove the mold that is literally on the surface of the mattress. Mold growth extends below the cover material of the mattress, so there is more to be done.

2. Vacuum the mold on all sides of the mattress.

Stand the mattress against the wall, and flip and turn it so you can thoroughly vacuum all 6 sides of the mattress.

Thereafter, make sure that you clean out the vacuum cleaner’s dust catcher to avoid spreading mold spores in other areas of the house when it.

3. Mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and warm water in a spray bottle.

How much of this alcohol solution to mix depends on how extensive the mold problem is. But making more is fine.

4. Spray the affected areas thoroughly.

You would want to evenly spray on the affected areas that are visible, and beyond.

Remember that once you can see mold on the surface of the mattress, chances are mold has grown extensively within the mattress.

Do not worry about getting the mattress wet as you will need to dry it later anyway.

5. Use a cloth, dipped it in the alcohol solution, and rub the mattress in a circular motion for stubborn stains.

Rub and scrub with a considerable amount of force.

6. Dry the mattress using an electric fan, or under the sun.

Should weather permit, it is preferable that you dry the mattress in the sun.

As such, when you plan to clean the mattress, do it in the early part of the morning so that the mattress gets as much time as possible in the sun to ensure thorough drying.

Flip the mattress halfway through this step so the entire mattress gets equal love from the sun.

If you cannot dry the mattress under the sun for whatever reason, drying indoors can be done with an electric fan. Ensure the room you’re drying it in gets as much natural ventilation as possible.

You can use a hairdryer to assist in the drying process. But the dampness on the mattress would probably be so extensive that it does not make sense to risk blowing the hairdryer.

Use a dehumidifier together with the fan instead.

Ensure that the mattress is thoroughly dried. When in doubt, dry it for longer.

7. Vacuum and clean the place where all the steps above were carried out.

Mold spores can spread easily. Therefore, it is important that the surfaces that have come into contact with the mattress and the cleaning process be cleaned as well.

Not to be missed is the bed base and/or bed frame. You do not want the mattress to be “re-infected”.

When all of the above is completed, you can place the mattress back on the base and new, clean sheets on it.

How to prevent mold on a mattress?

The nature of mold growth is such that once it starts growing it can spread very quickly. Further, once mold growth is apparent to the eyes, it is often too late to stop it.

That is why it is important to take preventive steps from the onset of your mattress ownership so mold does not grow.

The 5 ways to prevent mold growth on a mattress are as follows:

1. Place the mattress on an elevated bed base.

If you’ve been placing the mattress directly on the floor, it is time to re-think and do something about it.

You would want to get airflow on the underside of the mattress because that is the side that moisture would usually find hard to escape.

The base that the mattress rests on should be breathable or made from a breathable material.

2. Make use of a dehumidifier.

Mold thrives in damp conditions. Using a dehumidifier regularly helps to keep the humidity level down.

This is particularly true if you live in a place with relatively higher humidity.

You only need to run the dehumidifier during the night.

3. Allow natural ventilation into the bedroom regularly.

It is good for the mattress and the bedroom to keep the windows open whenever possible during the day and as long as the weather allows.

Both the mattress and the room need to “breathe” at least once in a while, if not every day.

4. Avoid drinking on the mattress.

Accidental spillage can happen at any time. When it happens, it can be a real chore trying to remove the stain together with the odor that comes with it.

Some stains are tougher to remove than others. Avoiding that risk altogether is probably the best policy to adopt.

5. Dry and clean spillage immediately.

Any water spillage on the bed should be attended to quickly.

Place layers of paper towel on the wet area so as to soak up as much water as possible.

If it is plain water, dry the damp area with an electric fan or a hairdryer.

If it is another type of liquid, use 1-part laundry detergent and a 2-part warm water solution to clean the stain. Thereafter, let it dry.

6. Use a mattress protector.

Although the bed sheet can soak up moisture and lessen the amount of it that gets to the mattress, the sheets are designed for comfort and protection from dust and dirt.

A mattress protector protects the mattress from moisture more effectively.

7. Change and clean the sheets periodically.

Dust, dirt, and bodily fluids can stain the bed sheet and pillowcases. Changing and cleaning them as often as you can provide good maintenance for the mattress and make it last longer.

Whenever you wash the linens, include the mattress protector as well.

8. Wear breathable sleepwear.

Particularly for a hot sleeper, wear sleepwear made from breathable materials such as cotton.

This helps you sleep cooler and avoid perspiration. If you start to see yellow stains on the area of the bedsheet where your shoulder lays, it is a sign of sweating.

Employ temperature control if it feels too warm for sleep.

9. Ensure no water leakage in other areas of the room.

Moisture can come from places that are not so obvious to most people.

These are some of the potential sources of water leakage/seepage:

  • Roof leakage
  • Breakage in the air-conditioner piping system.
  • Water pipe leakage – especially if the bedroom is next to a bathroom.

Having mentioned all of the above preventive steps, most important of all is the need for you to identify the cause of mold growth on your mattress.

If the source of the problem is not addressed, the same problem will still occur when you buy yourself a new mattress.

The root cause of mold growth is always going to be moisture. Find the source of moisture, plug the hole (so to speak), and mold would not have a chance to grow.

Other FAQs

Can you sleep on a mattress with mold?

When you start to notice mold on the mattress – whether visually or through smell – it is easy to put off trying to address the issue as it is not something life-threatening.

The answer is pretty straightforward.

No, it is not healthy nor hygienic to continue sleeping on a mattress with mold. You should not, especially once the problem has caught your attention. Considering the number of hours spent sleeping on the mattress, the associated health issues include skin problems and respiratory illness which are not to be taken lightly.

Can mold on a mattress make you sick?

Mold on a mattress in itself may not be a huge problem. However, you could be wondering if mold can make you sick.

Yes, mold on a mattress can make you sick. The continued exposure to mold and mold spores can cause the skin to develop rashes or, in rare cases, respiratory problems like asthma. Even if those issues do not immediately affect you, continued sub-optimal sleep quality will eventually jeopardize your health and put in it into a tailspin.

Is mold on a mattress dangerous?

It is easy to brush aside an issue that does not present an immediate risk to your life.

Exposure to mold on mattresses is not dangerous nor life-threatening. But it can result in a host of respiratory and allergy issues. The bed is where one spends a third of the day in and where the body rejuvenates itself every day contributing to overall health. It should be treated as such.

Can you get rid of mold on a mattress?

As with most material things, dust, dirt, and stains can be removed – so can mold on a mattress.

You can get rid of mold on a mattress by vacuuming the surfaces of the mattress, spraying on the affected areas with a solution made from equal parts alcohol and warm water, and letting the mattress dry completely before putting it back on the bed base.

Will bleach kill mold on a mattress?

An alcohol solution is commonly recommended to clean mold on a mattress. But it is not the only solution available to you.

Bleach can be used to clean mold on a mattress by applying it on a cloth or sponge and scrubbing it against the moldy spots. It is often used when dealing with stubborn mold that you cannot completely get rid of using alcohol. However, beware that bleach will give the mattress an awful smell that you may find very hard to get rid of. White vinegar would be a better option in this regard.

What causes mold on a memory foam mattress?

If you own a memory foam type mattress, the causes of mold are pretty much the same.

As with any type of mattress that contains foam, the following conditions can cause mold on a memory foam mattress:

  • Moisture (the prime cause)
  • Warmth
  • Darkness

How to prevent mold on a memory foam mattress?

Memory foam mattresses are not any different from other types of mattresses from the point of view of susceptibility of mold growth given the right conditions, thus the mold prevention steps as well.

You can prevent mold on memory foam mattresses by ensuring the prime cause – moisture, and anything or action that could lead to the presence of moisture in the mattress – be eliminated. The preventive ways include using a mattress protector, ensuring the mattress sits on a bed base that allows moisture to escape, allowing the bedroom to be naturally-ventilated, and changing the bed sheets regularly.

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