We would like to send you notifications

Enable notifications to get the best news on sales and special offers


Save big on our best deals

Select Store

Mould vs Mildew: How to Remove Mould From a Mattress Before it Spreads

Author imageThe Mattress Warehouse

Does your room smell a bit musty? Are you reluctant to go to bed because you think you might have mattress mould? Well, we have some good news. The Mattress Warehouse cares about the quality of your sleep, so we put together a guide on how to get mould out of your mattress. Moreover, when you keep reading, you’ll also find out the differences between mildew and mould. So go ahead, and find out how to remove mould from a mattress.

What is mattress mould?

Mould is a fungus that thrives in hot, humid, and dark conditions. So a mattress in a warm country like South Africa, especially in the rainy season, is a prime spot for mould colonies to grow.

Mattress mould is similar to the mouldy blotches you see on stale bread. You might notice dark spots on your mattress with a very fine hairlike growth surrounding it. These spots are normally accompanied by a musty odour that may remind you of rotten wood or wet newspaper.

How does mould get into a mattress?

One wonders what causes mould. It’s simple. Mould spores are minute and they are commonly found in the air. And if you’ve had mouldy bread in your house before, chances are there are some mould spores floating around.

When the right criteria are met, mould can start growing in and on your mattress. What are those conditions, you might ask?

  • High humidity: If you have an en suite bathroom or a leaky roof, it forms the perfect breeding ground for mould in mattresses.
  • Bad ventilation: No windows or keeping your bedroom windows closed all the time is a good way to encourage mould growth.
  • Having your mattress lie directly on the floor: No ventilation for your mattress from below can add fuel to the fire.
  • Not cleaning spills: Letting fluids soak into your mattress creates a moist environment for mould to thrive in. Clean those spills immediately!
  • High heat: Dry heat is okay, but as soon as you add moisture, mattress mould is likely to follow.

Are some areas of a mattress more prone to get mould?

Yes. The underside of your mattress will more likely have mould than the rest of the mattress. This is because the bottom of the mattress gets less air circulation and practically no light.

Does mattress mould spread?

If it goes untreated, mould in mattresses can spread at alarming rates. And more often than not, by the time you see mould on your mattress, it has already spread considerably.

What kinds of mould infect a mattress?

There are thousands of species of mould. But in your house, especially on your mattress, you’ll commonly find allergenic moulds (they trigger allergies) that are green or black in colour and have a faint odour.

How do you recognise mould?

  • Smell: The first hint you might get is a musty, rotten kind of smell in your bedroom.
  • Spots: If you take off the sheets and you see dark or discoloured blotchy spots on your mattress, it may be mould.
  • Warped surfaces: If the paint starts flaking or peeling next to your bed or if your nightstand has blotches on it and the surface starts to deform, it is probably because of mould.
  • Allergies: Do you experience respiratory symptoms such as throat irritations and runny nose all the time or itchy eyes and skin? It is
    not definitive, but these symptoms can be because of mould in your mattress.

Tip: If you suffer from constant allergic reactions like those described above, it is recommended that you see a healthcare practitioner.

Can mould make you sick?

If you are exposed to it for a long time, mattress mould can make you sick. It will start off with common allergic reactions, like red eyes, a runny nose, sneezing etc. Over time, these allergies may become more pronounced and in the end, they can lead to asthma attacks and other breathing-related ailments.

Difference between mould and mildew

Indeed, these two terms go hand in hand, and yet they are not the same. Many people talk about mildew and mould as interchangeable fungi, but it is not. Mildew is a specific type of mould, whereas not all moulds are mildew. Here are some easy ways to discern which is which:

What is mould?

Mould is a fungus that grows in dark, damp, and humid places. It occurs in various settings in nature and feeds off dead or dying organic matter. Mould spreads by spores and can grow into the object that it is feeding on.

Mattress mould feeds off dead skin cells and sweat. It can be seen as dark green or black spots on your mattress and feels slimy if you rub it with your hand.

Tip: Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap after touching mould. Do not touch your face after touching mould, as it may cause a rash or respiratory allergies.

What is mildew?

Mildew is a type of mould that grows on flat surfaces. An important aspect separating mould from mildew is that mildew does not grow into objects. It only spreads on the surface of the object that it is feeding on.

You will often find mildew on rotting wooden surfaces, like window sills at a rarely visited seaside cabin or on a shower wall. Mildew is normally lighter in colour than mould, often appearing as light yellow or white growth with a powdery feel.

Tip: Once again, do not touch anything until you’ve thoroughly washed your hands after touching mildew.

The best way to remove mould from a mattress

Person holding a bucket full of cleaning agents such as soap, cloths, and spunges.

It’s always a good idea to wear protective gear when working with strong detergents.

There are three ways to remove mould from your mattress:

  1. Rubbing alcohol
  2. Hydrogen Peroxide
  3. Expert help

There is not much to say about number three, apart from doing your homework properly before just getting anyone to clean your mattress. So we will take a more in-depth look at methods one and two. Both of these methods make use of fairly potent chemicals, so be sure to work safely.

1. How to remove mattress mould with rubbing alcohol

What you’ll need:

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Washcloth or rag
  • Safety mask
  • Sunlight

How to do it:

  1. Vacuum your mattress thoroughly, on all sides to remove any excess skin cells, dust particles and mould spores.
  2. Put on your safety mask before you start working with the alcohol.
  3. Mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and warm water in a disposable container.
  4. Soak your cloth or rag in the alcohol/water mix and wring it out (you don’t want excess fluids in there, because that can help the mould grow).
  5. Making a circular motion, scrub away all the visible mould. Make sure you scrub all around the mouldy area as well to remove spores that might be lurking around.
  6. Place your mattress in direct sunlight to dry out (sunlight also kills mould).
  7. If you have mattress or upholstery disinfectant, spray your entire mattress with it.
  8. Leave the mattress to dry in the sun again before placing it back in its place.

2. Hydrogen Peroxide

What you’ll need:

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Plastic cleaning brush
  • Clean spray bottle
  • Rubber safety gloves
  • Safety mask
  • Sunlight

How to do it:

  1. Vacuum your mattress thoroughly, on all sides to remove any excess skin cells, dust particles and mould spores.
  2. Put on your safety mask and -gloves before you start working with the hydrogen peroxide.
  3. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide with three parts water.
  4. Using your cleaning brush, dip it into the solution and thoroughly scrub the mouldy areas on your mattress.
  5. Scrub around the mould-infected areas as well, to ensure that you kill all stray spores.
  6. Put some of the cleaning solution in a spray bottle and lightly spray the entire mattress with it.
  7. Move your mattress to a sunny spot where it can dry in direct sunlight.
  8. For better results, it is recommended to repeat steps three to 7 once more before using your mattress again.

Tips to prevent mould from growing in a mattress

There are quite a few methods to prevent mould from growing in your mattress.

  • Aerate your room on regular basis. If you don’t sleep with open windows, open them wide in the morning and make sure there is a draft, so that fresh air can replace the stale, humid air.
  • If you have an en suite bathroom, consider getting an extractor fan. Alternatively, open the bathroom windows once you are done in the shower and keep your bedroom windows open if possible.
  • If you can’t keep the windows open, a dehumidifier might do the trick because, as its name suggests, it keeps humidity levels down.
  • Another option might be to get an air purifier for your bedroom. These machines help with air circulation in your room and can actively filter mould spores from the air, which will prevent the fungus from spreading.
  • Regularly aerate your mattress. Toss off the sheets and remove the fitted sheet in the morning after bed. Leave it like that while you get breakfast and only make your bed right before you leave for work. You can also flip and/or rotate your mattress (if it is not a no-flip mattress) once a month to help with the aerating process.
  • Get a waterproof mattress protector to keep fluids out of your mattress.

Mattresses for sale online or in-store

If you’ve tried to get the mattress mould out, but it doesn’t want to go, you may have to replace the mattress. Check out our great mattress deals and remember to also get a mattress protector to keep that mould out from the word go.

Reviewed by Andri Papaloizou | Microbiologist

Select a Category
Select a Category