A foam mattress topper can provide an extra layer of comfort on a mattress that you find too hard or thin, or otherwise unsuitable to your sleeping experience. But there's nothing comfortable about sleeping on a foam mattress pad that is full of dust mites, bacteria, and allergens. Because humans shed about 1 1/2 pounds of skin cells per year, and because dust mites feed on dead skin cells, the conclusion is obvious. Vacuuming the foam mattress pad minimizes this food source for the dust mites that cause allergy misery to many people. And a mattress topper soaked with sweat or other bodily fluids can be a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause unpleasant odors or even health problems.
Although foam mattress toppers may offer unsurpassed comfort, they’re also challenging to keep clean. You can't put foam pads in a washing machine or dryer since the spinning and agitation are too much for the delicate structure of the foam. And the foam material used in these toppers can be damaged by bleach and other harsh chemicals used for many cleaning products.
What is the best way to clean your foam mattress topper? Here's an easy, foolproof method that will work.
Equipment / Tools
- Vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment
- Spray bottle
- Water hose
- Cleaning cloths
- High-efficiency laundry detergent
- Cool water
|How to Wash a Foam Mattress Pad|
|Cycle Type||Do not machine wash|
|Drying Cycle Type||Do not machine dry|
|Special Treatments||Hand-wash only|
|Iron Settings||Do not iron|
|How Often to Clean||Light cleaning at every bedding change; deep cleaning every few months.|
Remove the Topper From the Bed
Remove the mattress topper and place it flat on the floor, preferably near a water hose. It's perfectly acceptable to perform the cleaning outdoors on a smooth clean driveway slab, or on a laundry room floor with a convenient floor drain nearby. If you’re cleaning the topper on a carpet or wood floor, place a tarp underneath. If the topper has a removable fabric cover, take it off and toss it in the washer.
Vacuum the Foam
Begin by vacuuming the topper well on both sides. If possible, use a powerful hand-held vacuum with a soft brush attachment. If not available, use a standard vacuum's upholstery brush tool, and work in a circular motion to dislodge dust and dust mites that have accumulated on the surface. For foam pads with eggshell-style crevices, dig into the notches to remove the debris.
Do this vacuuming very thoroughly; it is key to removing allergents, dust mites, or other insects that might be hiding in creases.
Treat Strong Odors
Cigarette smoke, urine, and other odors tend to linger on foam mattress pads. To get rid of them, sprinkle the pad with baking soda, and let it sit for at least eight hours or overnight. Vacuum up the excess powder.
Spritz With a Cleaning Solution
Fill a spray bottle with one part liquid laundry detergent (preferably high-efficiency detergent, which produces fewer suds) to two parts water. Lightly spray this solution over the surface of the pad, and allow it to sit for at least 45 minutes.
Rinse the Pad and Remove Excess Moisture
If you have access to an outdoor hose, use it to rinse away the detergent solution. If not, wipe down the surface of the pad with a clean white cloth dipped in water. Rinse out the cloth often as the detergent suds are transferred. Gently squeeze the foam—never wring or twist it—to remove excess water.
Air-Dry the Foam
Allow the topper to dry flat for several days on a waterproof surface. Keep it away from direct sunlight, which may break down the foam. Place an electric fan nearby to help circulate air and speed up the drying time. Turn the topper a couple of times each day to help it dry more evenly. If possible, stand the topper on its edge or elevate it on risers when it's nearly dry so there's airflow around all surfaces. Don't place the pad back on the bed until you're certain it's completely dry. A damp topper can foster the growth of mildew and other molds.
How Often to Clean a Foam Mattress Pad
Since a foam mattress pad must be cleaned by hand, the key to keeping it in great shape is to spot-clean and remove stains as soon as possible when they happen. Vacuum the pad when you change your bed sheets, as well. This makes a thorough cleaning less difficult and less frequently needed. A deeper cleaning for a foam mattress pad can be done every few months.
If you have a tear in your foam mattress pad, try a specially formulated foam spray adhesive. The spray can bond the foam back together. It may be a quick fix until you can replace the pad.
Treating Stains on Foam Mattress Pads
For any wet spills or stains, use a spatula or spoon to lift away any solids from the surface. Next, use white paper towels to blot up as much moisture as possible. If the spill is large, remove the topper from the mattress to prevent it from soaking through. Move the pad to a nonporous floor area (tile, vinyl, or sealed concrete) to clean.
Once you've removed as much moisture as possible, dampen the stain with water, and sprinkle it with laundry borax. Working from the outside edge of the stain toward the center, work the borax into the stain with a sponge or clean cloth until it's absorbed. Allow the borax to sit for at least 15 minutes. Then, use a hand-held vacuum or the brush attachment on a standard vacuum to remove the residue. Repeat if necessary.
After any stain removal process, allow the topper to air-dry for at least 24 hours before placing it back onto a mattress. Drying time may need to be extended if the stain removal was extensive.
For bloodstains, dampen a sponge or clean white cloth with 2 percent hydrogen peroxide. Blot the stain from the edges toward the center to prevent spreading. Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred. Hydrogen peroxide may cause the foam to turn yellow but will remove the blood without crumbling the foam.
Urine and Vomit Odors
For tough odors from urine or vomit, clean the area with laundry borax, and then sprinkle the entire surface of the stain with baking soda. Allow the baking soda to sit for 24 hours, and then vacuum away. This will also help with cigarette smoke odors.
After any stain removal process, allow the topper to air-dry at least 24 hours before placing it back onto a mattress. Drying time may need to be extended if the stain removal was extensive.
- A commercial odor removal spray, like Febreze or Ozium, can help refresh a foam topper.
- Every six months, flip and rotate the mattress pad top to bottom to create even use and wear.
- Change bed sheets and mattress covers often, especially during summer months, to prevent moisture from remaining in and on the pad.
- Vacuum the mattress topper regularly, at least monthly, to remove dust mites.
- If using a hair dryer on a foam mattress pad, make sure it's set to no-heat and held at least 6 inches away so as not to damage the foam.
How often should I replace a foam mattress topper?
A foam mattress topper that gets every-night use will usually last three to five years. But if the topper has stains that refuse to come out, or if you notice that the foam is beginning to break down, it's time to replace it.
Can I use a bleach spray to disinfect a foam mattress topper?
No. Bleach and other strong chemical cleaners can damage foam mattress toppers. The use of vacuuming and ordinary detergent and/or borax, combined with lengthy air drying, is generally enough to kill any viruses and bacteria that might be in your mattress topper. However, other disinfectant sprays that contain no bleach can be sprayed over the mattress topper to disinfect it. Make sure the topper is fully dry before putting it back on your bed.
What about steam cleaning?
A handheld steam cleaner can work to clean and disinfect a foam mattress or mattress topper, but it works best with short bursts of steam. And take care not to saturate the topper with water.
What if I'm worried about bedbugs?
The same techniques used for general cleaning of a mattress or mattress topper—especially thorough vacuuming—will usually remove bedbugs. However, it's important to also thoroughly clean other areas of the bedroom, including dismantling and cleaning all wooden furniture. Unless you do this, there is a good chance that a bedbug infestation will return.