Mold on Mattresses: Symptoms and Everything You Need to Know

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Written by: Alex Savy
Read 8 minLast updated April 3, 2021

Believe it or not, but you’re sharing space with the mold even if your home looks crispy clean.

Mold spores are present in all indoor environments (1), so it’s only a matter of time when they find a suitable spot to grow.

And your mattress can easily become this spot, which isn’t a great perspective for your health.

In this guide, we’ll tell you how to find out if you have mold on a mattress before it grows onto its surface. Plus, you will get some tips on how to clean the mold and prevent it from happening.

So, get cozy and read on.

Reasons for Mold Growth

Mold is a type of fungus, and like all fungi, it thrives best in warm, dark, and damp environments. Your mattress can easily turn into such an environment because of the following factors:

  • High humidity. Mattresses are made of porous materials, and if you live in humid regions, the excess moisture can soak inside the layers of your mattress and then condense inside foam pores. This makes even long-lasting mattresses with cooling or natural materials susceptible to mold growth.
  • Low aeration. Normally, air should circulate through the whole mattress, but some things, such as laying your mattress directly on the floor, keeping it away from fresh air, or using synthetic bedding, can decrease the air circulation and make the mattress more prone to mold growth.
  • Liquid spills. Liquids can quickly reach deep layers of the mattress and trigger the growth of mold spores. In this case, when the mold becomes visible on the surface, it will probably infect the whole mattress, and you will have to replace it.
  • Mattress type. The chances of seeing mold on a memory foam mattress are a bit higher compared to other mattress types. That’s because memory foam has a spongy structure that can soak in moisture. Plus, it’s a temperature-sensitive material, which retains heat, thus creating perfect conditions for mold growth.

Also, RV mattresses are susceptible to mold growth because RV bed frames typically have a solid and flat support system which limits air circulation. In this case, it’s better to wrap your mattress in a waterproof protector since day one, to minimize the chances of mold growth and prolong its lifespan.

The Main Signs of Mold Infestation

The mold is a fungus, you need to know about it one thing:

The black or pink spots you see on the mattress surface are fruiting bodies. These are reproductive organs of the fungi and contain spores needed to multiply further. 

However, there’s also mycelium — a branched network of threads, and this network can take way more space than the visible part.

That’s why it’s important to spot the early signs of mold infestation before it becomes obvious. Here are the things to look for:

  • Smell. The most prominent symptom of mattress mold is the smell. Mold has a musty, stale odor, which can develop slowly or be pretty pungent, depending on the kind of mold that grows inside your mattress. If you spilled something on your bed, you can notice this smell pretty quickly.
  • Frequent allergies or troubled breathing. Exposure to mold makes you inhale its particles, whether spores or mycelium. These particles can irritate your lungs and trigger hypersensitivity. Some strains of mold are proven to cause asthma (2) or worsen the breathing condition that a person currently has.
  • Visible moldy spots. The Final symptom of the mold in the mattress is visible dark gray, red, or black spots on the mattress surface or near the seams. This shows that the mattress is completely infested with mold and needs a chemical treatment or replacement.

Also, some types of mold can produce mycotoxins, which can directly impact a person’s health and are associated with liver or kidney damage if someone gets exposed to them in the long run. That’s why you should monitor the condition of your mattress for the first signs of mold infestation and treat it as soon as possible.

How To Prevent Mattress Mold Growth?

Since it’s impossible to remove mold spores from your house, you need to take a different approach, which is creating an environment where it will be difficult for mold to thrive. And here’s how you do that:

  • Tweak the humidity in the room. If your bedroom is too damp, use a dehumidifier. There are a lot of different models that can efficiently combat humidity without abusing your electric bill.
  • Aerate the mattress frequently. Another good option is to aerate your mattress. Open your windows, use an AC unit, and just remove the bedding completely from time to time and let your mattress breathe.
  • Choose mold-resistant mattresses. Mattresses made of natural materials, such as latex or plant-based foams, tend to be more resistant to mold growth. Models with coils, on the other hand, are perfect no-sag mattresses and have better air circulation thanks to the coil unit.
  • Encase the mattress in a mattress protector. Waterproof encasement will prevent the moisture from reaching inside the mattress and keep the mold spores away, which prolongs the mattress lifespan.
  • Don’t place a mattress directly on the floor. First, the floor isn’t a sanitary surface, and it can have some spores spread around. Second, the floor surface limits air circulation, which contributes to mold growth. Use bed frames, plywood sheets, or thick rugs to minimize the contact between the mattress and the floor.
  • Vacuum and rotate the mattress regularly. Vacuuming the mattress every two months removes mold spores and prolongs its lifespan. Rotating (and flipping the mattress, if your mattress allows that) will help the air circulate more evenly and repel the moisture in the layers.

How to Clean Mold on a Mattress?

Finally, if your mattress has signs of mold infestation, don’t worry:

You can efficiently clean it if it’s in the early stage of mold infection. However, be aware that it’s a temporary measure, and you will have to replace the mattress sooner or later.

General recommendations on how to treat the moldy spots are the following:

  • You will need a rag or cloth, warm water, and one of these cleaning agents: Lysol, rubbing alcohol, bleach, or white vinegar.
  • Make a cleaning mixture. For bleach, use a 1:32 ratio (and don’t use bleach for cleaning a memory foam mattress because it can damage the foam). For white vinegar and rubbing alcohol, use a 1:10 ratio. Lysol can be generously sprayed on the moldy  area and then left for 10-15 minutes.
  • After you’ve made the mixture, soak the cloth and then wring it out — you don’t want any excess liquid into your mattress. Blot the moldy spots, applying some pressure until they vanish. Thoroughly rinse the cloth after each blotting to prevent mold spores from spreading.
  • Dry the mattress out and encase it in the mattress protector.

F.A.Q.

Can a moldy mattress make you sick?

Not immediately, but yes. Exposure to mold spores can trigger allergies, asthma, breathing problems, migraines, and other health conditions.

What mattresses are immune to mold growth?

No mattress is immune to mold growth, but certain materials, such as natural latex or plant-based foams, can slow down the infestation.

How quickly mold spreads inside the mattress?

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, mold starts growing on surfaces after 24-48 hours (3) and spreads pretty quickly, especially if the humidity is high.

Conclusion

Mold is a difficult and annoying issue, especially if it grows inside your bed. However, you can effectively treat it and prevent mold infestation with the simple tips we explained in this guide. 

Just make sure to act fast and create conditions that will be difficult for the mold to thrive.

Have you dealt with the mattress mold before? What was your experience? Share in the comments!

References:

  1. James McIntosh (medically reviewed by Vincent J. Tavella, MPH) (2019, August 20). Is mold in your house a problem? What you need to know. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288651 
  2. Päivi M. Salo, Samuel J. Arbes Jr., Michelle Sever, Renee Jaramillo, Richard D. Cohn, Stephanie J. London, Darryl C. Zeldin (October 2006) Exposure to Alternaria Alternata in US homes is associated with asthma symptoms. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17030243/
  3. Federal Emergency Management Agency. Dealing With Mold and Mildew in Your Flood Damaged Home. Retrieved from https://www.fema.gov/pdf/rebuild/recover/fema_mold_brochure_english.pdf

References:

  1. James McIntosh (medically reviewed by Vincent J. Tavella, MPH) (2019, August 20). Is mold in your house a problem? What you need to know. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288651 
  2. Päivi M. Salo, Samuel J. Arbes Jr., Michelle Sever, Renee Jaramillo, Richard D. Cohn, Stephanie J. London, Darryl C. Zeldin (October 2006) Exposure to Alternaria Alternata in US homes is associated with asthma symptoms. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17030243/
  3. Federal Emergency Management Agency. Dealing With Mold and Mildew in Your Flood Damaged Home. Retrieved from https://www.fema.gov/pdf/rebuild/recover/fema_mold_brochure_english.pdf

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