How to Clean and Care for a Foam Mattress Pad

A close-up of mattress foam
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Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

A foam mattress pad provides an extra layer of comfort on a hard or thin 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 within it.  

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 or dryer. 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'll end up with hundreds of little pieces.

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.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

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

Materials

  • High-efficiency laundry detergent
  • Cool water

Instructions

How to Wash a Foam Mattress Pad
Detergent High-efficiency
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
  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 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.

  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 eight 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). Add an oxygen bleach to the borax cleaning solution to help lighten stains.

  5. 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.

  6. 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—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. Place an electric fan nearby to help circulate air and speed up the drying time. Turn the topper a couple 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.

Repairs

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 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 at least 24 hours before placing it back onto a mattress. Drying time may need to be extended if the stain removal was extensive.

Blood

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.

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.

Tips for Washing Foam Mattress Pads

  • 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.
  • Never use a hair dryer on any kind of foam mattress pad.