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How to Clean a Mattress Topper

Mattress toppers are extra layers of cushioning material that rest on top of a mattress, but below sheets and other bedding. Toppers can provide extra support, cushioning for comfort, and act as an extra layer protecting the mattress.

As toppers are typically exposed sheets of material, cleaning them using a standard washing machine setup is not advised. Toppers are much more fragile than other pieces of bedding, and using a washing machine can quickly wear them down.

Since washing machines are not usable for most toppers, general rules apply to caring for your mattress toppers to keep them clean and fresh. Much of the work in cleaning a mattress topper lies in proper care and maintenance rather than direct washing.

Signs You Need to Clean Your Mattress Topper

Odor

Many brand-new mattress toppers made from synthetic materials will have an odor at first that needs time to air out, usually about a day. This kind of odor is perfectly normal and can be thought of similar to a “new car” smell.

Other odors such as sweat, urine, or food are a sign that a mattress topper could use a clean. A mildewy or moldy smell coming from a topper could be a sign of something more serious. In that case, consider skipping a clean and just getting rid of the topper.

Spills and Accidents

Mattress toppers are best kept clean and dry. Spills and liquids can soak into a mattress topper and do damage to it in a variety of ways. If a mattress topper comes into contact with a liquid, it should be dealt with right away.

Stains or Discoloration

Stains in a topper are an obvious sign that a topper needs a clean. If you notice a new stain in a mattress topper, try and take care of it as soon as possible. Large patches of discoloration can be due to a number of causes.

Mattress toppers can fade in color after consistent exposure to sunlight, which is relatively safe. But discoloration can be due to some sort of fluid coming into contact with the topper. Whether it’s water, sweat, or something else, give the topper a clean.

If there’s enough liquid to discolor a topper, it could eventually develop into something worse, such as mold.

How to Clean Mattress Toppers

Different types of mattress toppers will require different styles of care. As a default, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best practice.

Generally speaking, most mattress toppers are exposed pads of cushioning material that will not stand up to a traditional washing machine cycle. Using a washing machine to clean a mattress topper can quickly wear down or even break most toppers.

Mattress toppers do not require frequent deep cleaning. They are typically protected by layers of bedding, much like a mattress. Regular maintenance and spot cleaning are typically all that’s needed. Since toppers are difficult to deep clean, preventing messes is much more important.

The general technique for cleaning mattress toppers is as follows:

Prepare the Topper

Remove all bedding from a topper and set it alone in a well-ventilated area.

Remove All Debris

Use a gentle vacuum or hose attachment to suck up any loose hairs and particles from the outside of the mattress topper. If you do not have access to a vacuum, try brushing and very gently shaking the topper to remove debris.

Inspect the Topper

Look for any stains, unpleasant odors, or signs of wear and tear.

Treat Stains and Odors

Stains on mattress toppers can be spot cleaned for the most part. Spray stains with a gentle cleaning solution and gently rub them. Blot the liquid out with a towel or paper towels. Repeat until the stain is removed.

Odors that arise from natural causes (such as sweat) can be aired out or treated with powdered baking soda. Smells left over from spills or accidents may need a gentle scrubbing as if treating a stain. It is best to allow mattress toppers to air out regularly.

Consider airing out a topper whenever you are washing your sheets and other bedding. In-depth techniques for managing both stains and odors are detailed further in this article.

Air-Dry

Hang the topper in a well-ventilated and sunny area for a few hours, if possible. Never put a mattress topper back on a bed until it is completely dry.

Some mattress toppers are a little different than a standard memory foam topper. Some mattress toppers are pads of cushioning material that are encapsulated, or surrounded by a case of fabric.

These toppers are typically made mostly from natural materials, such as cotton or wool. The regular cleaning technique also generally works for these toppers, but they may have additional care options as some encapsulated toppers are machine-washable.

Wool Mattress Toppers

Many wool mattress toppers are the encapsulated style and are machine-washable. Double-check the manufacturer’s instructions for proper care. Washing wool is best done with cold water. Use a gentle washing machine cycle or wash your wool topper by hand with a gentle soap or detergent.

Do not use a dryer when cleaning wool. Instead, hang the topper on a drying rack or clothesline. Allow the topper to air dry, usually for about half a day. Taking the topper to a dry cleaner will also effectively clean wool.

Keeping Your Mattress Topper Fresh

Keeping a mattress topper fresh largely comes down to regular maintenance and protecting the topper itself.

Perform Regular Maintenance Cleaning:

Get into the habit of regularly inspecting your mattress topper for stains, wear, and odors. A good rule of thumb is to check a mattress topper once every week or so, or every time you wash your sheets. Treat any new stains as soon as possible.

If the mattress topper does not have a top side, consider flipping the topper after every clean to distribute wear on more than one side. Most foam toppers only have foam on one side and should not be flipped. Other types of toppers such as wool are more versatile and can benefit from flipping and fluffing.

Air Out Your Mattress Topper:

Regularly allowing a mattress topper to air out will go a long way toward keeping it fresh. Consider airing out your mattress topper for a few hours every time you wash your sheets.

Allow the topper to sit out in a clean and well-ventilated space. If possible, providing exposure to direct sunlight can help with neutralizing odors in the topper.

Protect Your Mattress Topper:

Soiled mattress toppers are much more difficult to deal with than other soiled bedding. Avoid leaving a mattress topper on a mattress bare, even when washing sheets. Investing in other items to help protect your mattress topper from harm can go a long way.

Fabric mattress topper covers are available for bare toppers, such as many memory foam toppers. Consider also using a mattress protector to cover the pad and serve as another layer between you and the topper.

Waterproof mattress protectors can also help prevent spills and liquids from seeping through and contaminating the mattress topper.

If you sweat while sleeping, consider looking into ways to either prevent nighttime sweating or reduce the effect it can have on the mattress topper. Excessive sweat can seep through sheets and mattress protectors, potentially discoloring and contaminating a mattress topper.

Certain types of sheets are more breathable and moisture-wicking, which can reduce the amount of sweat produced and help keep it from reaching the topper.

Cleaning Stains, Fluids, and Odors

Stains, fluids, and odors are three of the main issues when it comes to keeping a mattress topper clean and fresh.

Cleaning stains

Mattress toppers are delicate, and stains can quickly lower a mattress topper’s lifespan if left untreated.

  • Spray Solution: Take an empty spray bottle and fill it half with gentle detergent and half water. Using distilled white vinegar instead of detergent can help with breaking down odors, but may leave a vinegar scent behind. Mix the solution well and spray the stain. Gently press the stain and soak up the solution with a towel. Repeat until the stain disappears. Consider using a toothbrush to gently scrub the solution in for stubborn stains.
  • Baking Soda: A baking soda solution can be used to help remove set-in stains. Mix two parts baking soda with one part water in a bowl. Absorb the solution with a towel and gently massage it into the stain. Allow the solution to set for about an hour before soaking it back up.
Managing Fluids

Dealing with fluids on a mattress topper is a multi-step process. Soak up as much of the liquid as possible using towels or paper towels.

Never attempt to wring liquid out of a mattress topper. Wringing a foam topper can tear or destroy the material. Although wool is a durable material, wringing a wool topper can break down its fibers. Wool toppers can be gently squeezed or pressed to remove excess liquid.

Once the majority of the liquid is dealt with, take stock of the type of liquid. If the liquid will stain or produce an odor, treat the area immediately with a spray solution scrub. If not, allow the topper to air dry.

Consider covering any type of mattress topper with a waterproof mattress protector. A mattress protector will help prevent liquids from seeping into the topper.

Removing Odors
  • Air It Out: Some odors are not deeply set and just need time to air out. Remove all bedding from the topper and hang it up in a clean, well-ventilated area. If possible, consider placing your mattress topper in direct sunlight to help kill odors. Keeping your bedroom well-ventilated can also help prevent any new odors from setting.
  • Baking Soda: Powdered baking soda can also be used to combat set-in odors in the topper. Set the topper aside in a well-ventilated area. Remove all bedding from the topper and allow it to lay out flat. Sprinkle powdered baking soda across the top of the topper, covering it in a thin layer. Allow the baking soda to sit undisturbed on the topper for a full twenty-four hour period.

When to Replace Your Mattress Topper Instead of Cleaning

  • Signs of Wear and Tear: Holes, tears, or wearing in the material of the topper are an obvious sign it is becoming too worn. Consider replacing the topper soon.
  • Set-In Odor: Odors that persist after multiple tries of the techniques above may be a sign a topper has gone bad. If a topper has a mildewy or moldy scent, then get rid of it immediately. Sleeping on mold and mildew can be bad for your health. Mold and mildew can also spread to your mattress and bedding, contaminating it. Having to throw out a mattress topper is a much smaller loss than having to throw out a mattress.
  • The Material Has Become Too Thin: Thinning of the material is more common with foam toppers. As a mattress topper is slept on or used, the foam material will eventually break down over time and thin out. Once the topper has become too thin to serve its intended purpose, replace it with a new one.
  • Cleaning No Longer Seems to Be Effective: With time and use, a mattress topper will inevitably get dirty. If stains and odors in the topper seem unaffected after multiple rounds of cleaning, they may be too set to do anything more. Once a mattress topper is relatively covered in deep set stains, it is probably worth it to just buy a new one.

How to Keep Your Mattress Topper Lasting Longer

Generally speaking, a quality mattress topper can last about half the lifespan of a mattress. Lower-quality mattress toppers may last roughly a year or two. A mattress topper’s lifespan is going to vary depending on the material’s quality and durability, how the topper is used in everyday life, and how well the topper is maintained.

Purchase a Durable, Quality Topper

The materials a topper is composed of will directly determine its durability. Generally speaking, toppers made from thicker, tougher materials such as wool are the most durable and will last the longest, while toppers made from more fragile materials such as feather/down are the least durable and will likely need to be replaced faster.

If you use a foam topper, consider purchasing a model with thicker, denser foam. The foam in a mattress topper will break down over time with use. Once the foam has broken down too much, it is no longer usable for its intended purpose. The thicker and denser the foam is to start, the longer it will take for all of that foam to break down.

Since mattress toppers can last a long time, consider thinking of the purchase of an everyday mattress topper as an investment. Look into higher-quality models with trusted ratings for durability.

Reduce Activity on and Direct Contact with the Topper

Using your bed for sleep and sleep alone is one of the best ways to reduce wear and tear on a mattress topper. Especially with foam toppers, extra activity on a topper will wear it down over time.

Consider always using a mattress protector and sheets over your mattress topper, as the extra layers will keep most hazards from reaching the topper. Thoroughly and effectively cleaning a mattress topper is much more difficult than cleaning sheets and a mattress protector.

If you are cleaning your bedding and need to use your mattress, consider removing the mattress topper. Place the mattress topper in a safe location. Cover the mattress with a thick layer like a clean blanket.

Clean Your Mattress Topper Consistently and Regularly

Regular cleaning and maintenance is one of the best things you can do for a mattress topper’s lifespan. Consider giving your mattress topper a once-over every time you wash your sheets and other bedding. Vacuum up any debris, treat stains and odors, and hang your topper in a sunny and well-ventilated area for a short while to air it out.

Mattress Topper Cleaning and Warranties

Generally speaking, mattress topper warranties tend to be limited in terms of replacing toppers. Most warranties only cover the replacement of a topper due to unintended physical flaws and manufacturing defects in the product. If a mattress topper breaks due to a defect, it will typically be covered by warranty so long as the topper has been used for normal use and treated with proper handling.

Spills, stains, and odors often fall under misuse of a mattress topper by warranties. As a general rule, many warranties for products are voided by misuse. Since signs of dirtying a topper are treated as misuse, a dirty topper may not be considered replaceable even if it were made with a covered flaw or defect. Keeping a mattress topper clean may help if you need to return it later under warranty.

Conclusion

Using a washing machine to clean mattress toppers, especially foam mattress toppers, is not advised as it will quickly wear toppers out. Vacuuming, spot cleaning, and deodorizing are typically all that is needed to maintain a mattress topper.

Much of the work in keeping a mattress topper fresh and clean does not actually lie in cleaning itself. Protection, prevention, and regular maintenance will keep a topper lasting fresher for longer.

Cover a mattress topper with a mattress protector and sheets. Try to keep mattress toppers away from liquids and out of harm’s way. Treat spills and stains as soon as possible. Wash sheets and other bedding regularly. Inspect, clean, and air out mattress toppers regularly to keep them fresh and dry.

When trying to make sure a mattress topper will last, consider making your topper a serious investment. Look for a thick, durable, quality mattress topper that best suits your personal needs. Consider using accessories like a mattress protector to keep your topper clean and dry. Properly caring for a mattress topper will make sure that it lasts a long time.

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