Beds are supposed to be a safe haven. It’s somewhere to go at the end of the day and something that supports you through the night.

But—yikes!—what happens when that haven becomes a breeding ground for toxins?

No one wants a moldy mattress, but lots of people aren’t aware of the right methods of prevention. Mold might seem like an indication of an unhealthy environment in your room, but it often comes down to moisture and circulation. With the right tools and tricks, you can take big steps toward a mold-free mattress.

We’ll walk you through everything you need to know:

1. Shake Out Your Mattress

Have you ever heard of the Japanese shikibuton (also called the shiki futon)? These are small, foldable, traditional mattresses meant to go directly on the floor. People still use these minimalist beds, but if they do, they follow an important practice—airing out the mattress daily.

This is to get rid of any moisture that accumulates under the mattress throughout the night. Because the bedding goes directly on the floor or a tatami mat, there’s no airflow. And this is fine as long as you’re diligent about taking it off the floor once a day.

Now think about the mattress you have at home. It’s probably not a shikibuton, but has its underside gotten to see the light of day anytime lately?

Even if your mattress has some airflow points, if you never flip it or let it breathe, it might start to become the perfect home for mold.

When you sleep at night, especially if it’s hot and you’re sweating, the moisture can reach the mattress and stay on the underside. Don’t blame the mattress (or do, but we’ll get to that later)—that’s just how gravity works!

Counteract this phenomenon by flipping your mattress a few times per year and letting it stand on its side for a while.

2. Get a Mattress Protector

If the mention of mold and moisture accumulation in the last section grossed you out, you might not feel at peace until you create a reliable barrier between your precious mattress and the outside elements.

The good news is that mattress protectors exist! These will create a barrier around your mattress, protecting it from spills and other sources of moisture. For more on these, you can check out this resource page.

Anti-mold protection isn’t the only reason mattress protectors are handy. They also protect your bed from bedbugs, and they can keep the mattress in top condition in case you want to sell it later on.

There’s no guarantee that the mattress protector itself won’t get dirty. Things happen, and if you’re not cleaning and aerating this layer, it might encounter the same problems as the mattress. The good thing is that, if you do encounter any small surface problems, you might be able to switch out the mattress protector rather than get a whole new mattress.

If you’re not cleaning your mattress protector, you should start now. Here’s how and why.

3. Clean Your Mattress Protector

Getting a mattress protector and leaving it on all the time won’t solve your problem. Otherwise, nice mattresses would come equipped with permanent mattress protectors.

The best plan of action is to take your mattress protector off the bed once a month and give it a good spin in your washing machine. While you’re at it, clean your sheets too (ideally, on a more frequent basis than the mattress protector)!

Your sheets absorb moisture, dirt, and oils when you sleep, and washing them is a good way to make sure those unwelcome visitors don’t seep into the mattress. If it’s a hot summer night and you’re sweating on the sheets, don’t leave them there night after night. Switch them out often, both to clean them and to keep moist fabrics away from the surface of the bed.

4. Handle Spills Right Away

You might think the worst part about a mattress spill is the substance itself. Bodily fluids are gross, and coffee is annoying, but water should be fine, right?

Actually, when it comes to long-term damage, a wet mattress can be your worst enemy.

When something spills on your mattress, you should soak up the damage first, and then you can use disinfectant and sprays to clean the smell and residue. Just make sure you’re not adding tons of moisture. If you’re using towels with disinfectant, you want them to be damp, not dripping.

Don’t let these liquids sit after you apply them! Sprinkle some baking soda around or use towels and air to dry out the spot as much as you can.

Then, don’t use the mattress for a while. Several hours of time away should be fine. You don’t want to be pressing residual moisture further into the mattress before it’s done drying.

If there’s been a big spill, like one you might see after a nasty storm or case of flooding, you’re better off not trying to fix it.

Even if you dry the mattress out and disinfect the surface, you won’t know what the inside situation is.

That brings us to the next tip.

5. Don’t Try to Save a Moldy Mattress

Seeing mold on your mattress doesn’t mean it’s time to get into action. By the time you see it, it’s too late.

The best approach is mattress mold prevention. But if you can’t prevent mold from happening, the second-best thing you can do is to notice when there is mold, and get a new bed right away.

Mold can come in a few different colors, and knowing these colors can help you learn how long the mold has been there. White fuzz is usually newer, and black mold means it’s been there for a while.

This is because the white stuff is likely mildew, which might mean a smaller infestation, while green or black residue could be Stachybotrys chartarum or ‘black mold.’ This type of mold grows in environments with consistent moisture, so it might indicate a bigger problem.

Even if the mold is new, though, there’s nothing to be done. Disinfecting might clean the surface, but if you see mold on the exterior, there’s probably more on the inside as well.

Try to figure out what conditions led to the mold so you don’t repeat your mistakes. It might have been sweat, lack of airflow, or moisture from things like showers or windows.

6. Choose Your Bed Wisely

If you’re in the market for a new bed—if, perhaps, you noticed mold on your last one—you should know that you can choose the level of mold risk you’re signing up for.

If you choose a memory foam mattress, you might be inviting mold to come and stay. It’s a comfortable material, but it’s not so breathable, so it’ll be more prone to mold than other mattress types.

You might also want to avoid bed frames that require a box spring below the mattress. With a box spring, the whole bottom surface is touching another surface, and there isn’t much room for air to flow. Instead, you can get a bed frame with slats for the mattress.

Don’t take these warnings to mean that the wrong mattress or frame will spell moldy doom for you. It just means they’re a bit riskier in this area. If you’ve got your heart set on a memory foam bed, you’ll have to prevent mold in other ways.

7. Do a Deep Clean

You might’ve heard that you should disinfect your mattress using the powerful UV rays from the sun. It seems a little fake, but yes, it does work in theory.

In practice, all the good you’re doing by giving your mattress some sun might not do that much. But a sunny day is a perfect time to remember that your mattresses need care, too.

You should start a deep clean by taking your mattress from where it usually hangs out. Check out the underside and any sides that were up against a wall, and clean off any dust that was trapped on the surface. You can use a vacuum attachment to get into small crevices.

Then you can use a disinfectant product to kill any bacteria that may have been hiding out in your mattress. And remember our tips about moisture while cleaning. Don’t introduce more liquid to the situation than you need to, and dry the mattress well afterward.

Get Started on Mold Prevention Today!

A moldy mattress can be a bit of a nightmare, but the good news is that there are steps you can take to make sure it never reaches your life. If you practice these tips, you can go to bed at night with added layers of protection and a renewed peace of mind.

For more tips on home living, check out the rest of our site!