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Many people find a mattress alone is not enough to provide a full night of comfort and choose to add a topper to their sleeping arrangements. This extra cushion has evolved from the simple “egg crate” styles to high-end cooling gels, but the most popular versions of mattress toppers are memory foam.
Nearly one-third of your life is spent using your mattress and, consequently, the topper upon it. More than just for sleeping, many people relax and read or watch television while lying on the bed – add in binge-watching on weekends or sick time over a span of years and that mattress topper clocks in some serious hours of use. As a reward for its hard work, give that topper a cleaning session roughly every six months to keep it free of odors and allergens.
Before starting on the path to a good cleaning routine, let’s address one question directly – memory foam mattress toppers are not machine washable. It can damage the washing machine and will more likely ruin the topper too. Never place a foam pad in a standard tumble dryer. The foam literally cannot take the heat. Without further ado, let’s show you how to clean your memory foam topper.
Why Bother With Cleaning?
Maybe something has spilled, leaving a stain on the mattress topper? Perhaps the toddler or new puppy has not figured out exactly when and where to use the potty? There are always reasons to clean specific spots, but allergens such as dust mites and skin cells collect over time, especially underneath the sheets.
Going through a regular maintenance routine can extend the life of the mat and keep it smelling nice despite those sick days or sweltering nights when the air conditioner has retired without permission.
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Before cleaning can begin, have a checklist and several hours ready. The task is not difficult but is time consuming and cutting corners while cleaning a foam mattress or topper can lead to mildew or even ruin the item you are trying to preserve. Here is an example checklist for reference:
- Mark the calendar and make the time to do it right
- Get the supplies for cleaning ready in advance
- Have a clear, open space for the topper to dry flat (drying may take a few days)
- Spot cleaning may only take 30 minutes to an hour, but the drying process can take several hours. The topper should not be covered or used until it is thoroughly dry; trapped moisture can quickly cause mold growth or lead to unpleasant odors.
Supplies In Hand
Here are the tools and cleaning supplies you need to have available so cleaning can happen start to finish in one session:
- Cold water – can be straight out of the tap
- White vinegar – works great for spot cleaning, and the smell will dissipate more quickly than more pungent versions such as apple cider vinegar. As a bonus, the vinegar will also neutralize the odor of stains from urine.
- Mild liquid detergent – dilute it and place it in a spray bottle for easy scrubbing without saturating the memory foam. Harsh, gritty, or abrasive detergents (including powders) can damage the topper.
The topper needs to dry flat to avoid getting lumps or moisture pooling in some areas. For spot cleaning, this may be on your bed directly, but do not put sheets or blankets over the pad or use it until completely dry. Be prepared to sleep on the couch if you decided to wash the topper on your bed. Smaller cleaning jobs and where you live may offer the option of putting the topper outside to dry as well, but plan for the drying phase to take place in the shade.
Step By Step: How To Clean A Memory Foam Mattress Topper
The National Sleep Foundation provides a variety of tips and tricks to improve your night’s rest, but nothing replaces a good old-fashioned clean. Here are the steps for a basic cleaning session of your memory foam mattress topper:
Phase I – Vacuuming
While the topper is dry, the first step is to vacuum up the dust and crumbs gathering from everyday use. This can be done more often than the rest of the cleaning cycle since no drying time is required. Make your life easier and use a vacuum with attachments such as an arm or hose. However, bear in mind, dragging the entire vacuum over the pad can damage the topper.
Phase II – Spot Clean
Use white vinegar to tackle individual spots. Take a cloth and dampen it with vinegar – do not pour the vinegar or any liquid directly on to the topper.
Phase III – Detergent
A mild detergent diluted in a small spray bottle is perfect for cleaning the rest of the mattress topper. Diluting the solution is vital – keeping the cleaning power without increasing the time needed for a thorough rinse. Using a different cloth than the one with vinegar, spray a light layer over the pad, scrub gently, then let it sit for about 30 minutes. Do not saturate the foam.
Phase IV – Rinse
When some time has elapsed, rinse the topper with cold water. Again, use a spray bottle, and there is no need to pour water directly on to the pad. Wipe up the water as you spray and rinse off the detergent. Blot any excess water up with a cloth.
Phase V – Dry
Drying is the most challenging step for one reason – patience. The mattress topper needs to dry in a flat area and dry through and through. Any moisture retained will lead to musty odors and mildew or other allergen growth. When drying outdoors, the pad cannot be in full sun as it may cause discoloration or damage the foam.
Step By Step: The Deep Clean
In addition to the steps above, during Phase III clean one entire side of the mattress topper with the diluted detergent in the spray bottle, then flip the mattress and repeat the process on the opposite side. There is never a good reason to dunk it in water, pour liquids directly on it, or place it in the washing machine.
Roll the topper to remove excess water – squeezing can cause deformations in the foam and may not be fixable. Dryers should flow warm air over the topper and not be placed directly against it as the foam is not designed to handle high temperatures. They literally cannot take the heat; it will ruin the topper. Drying time could be days after a deep clean, so be prepared accordingly. Do not cut corners by putting it in a tumble dryer.
Tips and Tricks
Baking soda is an alternative to the detergent as a cleaning reagent, but hydrogen peroxide is discouraged. The latter can cause discoloration and ruin the outer texture of the topper’s cover. Be aware that it is sensitive to heat – this includes heating blankets – and no cramming the mattress topper into the dryer!
Consider covering your foam topper with a machine washable cover that zips over the entire pad. This inexpensive investment can protect from sweat stains and be a valuable barrier for quick cleanups after accidents and spills. Reducing the need to deep clean the mattress topper will help extend its lifespan, keep away smells, and reduce the need for long drying times after removing stains.
The Final Say
Most of us enjoy our memory foam toppers and all of the comfort and support they bring, but to maintain them, it’s important to keep them clean. By using the methods outlined above, you’ll be able to maximize the lifespan of your mattress topper and enjoy it for years to come.
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Lindsay is a contributor and the senior editor of all content posted on this site. She is in this role due to her somewhat unrivaled expertise through previous retail experience in the mattress and bedding industry.