Discovering mold on the surface of a mattress is unsettling, as it can be an indication of a much deeper problem within the core. Mold appears on a mattress if the conditions in and around the mattress are too warm and humid. If the mold is discovered quickly and treated properly, small colonies may be suitable for safe removal. However, the mold should be identified before attempting to treat the mattress.
The molds that most homeowners encounter can be classified into three categories: allergenic, pathogenic, and toxic.1
Allergenic molds can require removal by a professional, but most allergenic molds can be removed with home disinfecting products.
Pathogenic molds can be controlled with disinfectants but large colonies require professional removal.
Toxic molds are the most harmful and require a professional to kill the mold and dispose of any affected materials.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mold can cause many side effects. For some people, mold can cause a stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing or wheezing, burning eyes, or skin rash. People with asthma or who are allergic to mold may have severe reactions. Immune-compromised people and people with chronic lung disease may get infections in their lungs from mold.2
Learn the best way to get rid of mold on a mattress surface and when you should dispose of the mattress.
How Often to Clean a Mattress With Mold
When mold is discovered on a mattress, it should be cleaned away immediately, or the mattress should be disposed of following the guidelines of the local municipality. As long as there are spores present and the mattress is at an optimal temperature and humidity level, they will continue to grow. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends that if a porous item like a mattress has been wet for less than 48 hours, it may be able to be cleaned and disinfected.3
Once the mattress is cleaned and dried completely, it should be monitored for several days for any fungal growth or musty odor. If they reappear, the mattress should be discarded.
A mattress that is wet (with or without visible mold) from contaminated floodwaters should be immediately discarded.4
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What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
Powerful hand-held vacuum
Floor vacuum with hose and an upholstery brush attachment
Pine oil disinfectant
Wear Protective Gear and Improve Air Quality
To reduce your chances of an allergic reaction to the mold spores, wear eye protection, a mask, and rubber gloves. Wear clothing that can be tossed in the washer.
If possible, place an air purifier in the room to help capture mold spores that will become airborne.
Remove All Bedding
Remove all of the bedding, including the mattress protector, and wash them in the hottest water suitable for the fabric. Add a disinfectant—chlorine bleach, pine oil disinfectant, or phenolic disinfectant (Lysol Laundry Sanitizer)—that is safe to use on the fabric.
Dry the bedding at the highest heat appropriate for the fabric as a final step to be sure any mold spores have been eliminated.
Vacuum the Mattress
Use a powerful hand-held vacuum or a floor vacuum with a hose and upholstery brush. Start at one end of the mattress and vacuum the entire surface—even the areas with no visible mildew. Don't forget to vacuum the sides of the mattress.
If possible, turn the mattress over and inspect the other side for mold growth and repeat the vacuuming process.
When the vacuuming process is over, take the vacuum outside to reduce chances of spreading the mold spores and empty the disposable bag or dust bin into a trash bag. Tightly seal the trash bag and dispose of it in an outdoor trash bin.
Treat the Mold Growth
The areas with mold growth must be cleaned with a product that will kill the spores. You should not saturate the mattress with an excessive amount of a wet solution because that can damage the mattress. The cleaners will not address any mold spores deep in the core of the mattress.
To kill mattress surface mold, mix a 50:50 solution of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and water. Dip a clean cloth into the solution and gently rub the moldy surface of the mattress in a circular motion.
When the area is free of visible mold, dip a cloth in clean water and "rinse" the area.
Use a Fabric Sanitizing Spray
After cleaning and rinsing, spray the area with a fabric sanitizing spray like Febreze Fabric Antimicrobial that prevents mold growth on soft surfaces for up to 14 days.
Add a circulating fan or move the mattress into direct sunlight to help it dry as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
Tips to Keep a Mattress Free of Mold
Clean up spills and accidents on a mattress immediately.
Reduce humidity in the home with the use of air-conditioning or a dehumidifier.
Remove bedding frequently, especially during hot seasons, to allow the mattress to air out and dry.
Check the mattress platform frequently for mold that can transfer to the mattress.
If a mattress must be stored, use a climate-controlled space with low humidity.