How to Clean and Care for a Foam Mattress Pad

Close up of Mattress Foam
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A foam mattress pad provides an extra layer of comfort on a hard or thin bed mattress. However, because it’s used daily, it needs to be cleaned from time to time to rid it of the dust mites, bacteria, and allergens that build up.  

Washing a large foam pad can be a bit awkward and time-consuming, but it can be done. Just remember to never put foam pads (either plain ones or those encased in fabric) in a washing machine. Even a large front-loading machine, known for being gentle on fabrics, is a bad idea. The spinning and agitation are too much for the delicate structure of the foam, and you will end up with hundreds of little pieces.

How to Wash Foam Mattress Pads
Detergent High-efficiency detergent
Water Temperature Cool
Cycle Type Do not machine wash
Drying Cycle Type Do not machine dry
Special Treatments Hand-wash only
Iron Settings Do not iron

Project Metrics

The key to keeping a foam mattress topper in great shape is to spot-clean and remove stains as soon as possible when they happen. This will make a thorough cleaning less difficult and needed less frequently.

Working time: 30 minutes

Total time: 24 hours (mostly for drying time)

Skill level: Intermediate

What You’ll Need

Supplies

  • HE laundry detergent
  • Cool water

Tools

  • Vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment
  • Spray bottle
  • Water hose
  • Bucket
  • Cleaning cloths

Instructions

  1. Remove the Mattress From the Bed

    Place the mattress pad flat on the floor, preferably outside near a water hose. If you’re cleaning it on a carpet or wood floor, place a tarp under the mattress to protect the floor.

  2. Vacuum the Foam Pad

    Begin by vacuuming the topper well on both sides. If possible, use a powerful handheld 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 get out of the debris.

  3. 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 8 hours or overnight. Vacuum up the excess powder. 

  4. Treat Stains

    If the foam pad has stains, spot clean them with a solution of laundry borax and water (follow package directions) or, in the case of bloodstains, hydrogen peroxide. You can add an oxygen-based bleach to the borax cleaning solution to help lighten stains.

  5. Spritz With a Detergent/Water Solution

    Fill a spray bottle with one part liquid laundry detergent (preferably HE detergent, which will produce 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. 

  6. Rinse the Pad and Remove Excess Moisture

    If you have access to an outdoor hose, rinse away the detergent solution. If not, wipe down the surface of the pad with a clean white cloth dipped in plain water. Rinse out the cloth often as detergent is transferred.

    Gently squeeze—never wring or twist the foam—to remove excess water.

  7. Air-Dry the Foam Pad

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. An electric fan will help circulate air and speed drying. 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 is nearly dry so there is airflow around all surfaces. Never place the pad back on the bed until you are certain it is completely dry.

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 soak through. Move it to a nonporous floor area (tile, vinyl, or sealed concrete) to clean.

Once you have removed as much moisture as possible, dampen the stain with plain water and sprinkle 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 is absorbed. Allow the borax to sit for at least 15 minutes. Then, use a handheld vacuum or the brush attachment on a standard vacuum to remove the residue. Repeat if necessary.

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 yellow and discolor but will remove the blood without crumbling the foam.

For tough odors from urine or vomit, clean the area with laundry borax then sprinkle the entire surface of the stain with baking soda. Allow the baking soda to sit on the mattress 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.

Tips for Washing Foam Mattress Toppers

  • 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 topper.
  • Vacuum the mattress topper regularly, at least monthly to remove dust mites.