Not only is mold disgusting, but it can also be dangerous to you and your family. While we might be more accustomed to hearing about mold in the bathroom or kitchen, it can also occur in the bedroom, especially underneath your mattress. To prevent mold, you need to understand what it is, what causes it, and how you can adjust your room to avoid it.

What Is Mold?

Mold is a type of fungi that are commonly found in homes and which thrives in moist environments. There’s also another type of fungi that you should be aware of, mildew, which is often confused with mold. In the case of your mattress, mildew is far more common, but most of us refer to it as a mold because we don’t understand the differences.

Mildew is a specific type of mold that has flat growth, and which remains on the surface of your mattress, allowing it to be easily removed. Mold, on the other hand, tends to creep deep into surfaces and pollutes them with mold. Fortunately, mildew can be quite easily removed, whereas mold will require much more serious treatments.

Mildew is typically easy to identify because it appears as black dots, spread out, and can be quite easily wiped off. Mold, on the other hand, has a fuzzier appearance like what you might see on old food and can be difficult to remove from the surface of your mattress. In almost all cases, the “mold” that you’re dealing with is mildew.

Mold In Mattress Symptoms

Mold on edge of bed Mold or mildew is microscopic, to begin with, meaning that you won’t be able to spot the early signs until it has grown to become visible to the naked eye. This problem is especially prevalent among those who don’t regularly turn and check their mattress when they are changing the sheets.

Typically, the earliest symptoms of mold under the mattress is a visible appearance of small black dots, which you can notice far before you have any health problems or notice a stench. Keeping a close eye on your mattress is an essential tactic to guarding against the growth and occurrence of mildew.

Smell

The spores from the mold have a particularly persistent and strong smell which you might not associate with mold. Typically, when you think of it, you associate it with rotting food, which tends to smell rancid, whereas spores on your mattress can have a damp or dank smell which you might notice over an extended period.

If you start to smell this, you should continue to search for the spores so that you can solve the issue. Depending on where they are and how dense the concentration of mold, you may notice the scent before you see any large density of mildew on the mattress.

Health Problems

Spore exposure can cause serious health problems, especially for those who are already sick or suffer from severe allergies. Mold under your mattress is particularly harmful because you spend long periods in bed and are therefore exposed to the danger for far longer than you might be in another part of your home.

Exposure to mold for this extended period will typically become evident through allergy-like symptoms such as headaches, itchy eyes, congestion, and exhaustion. If you’re feeling these symptoms, especially shortly after waking up, it could be the exposure to mold or mildew that is causing the symptoms.

Usually, you’ll start to feel better shortly after leaving the infected area, whether that is to leave the house to go to work or even to another part of the house without mold. This sudden change in feeling is a common symptom of mold that is on your mattress as opposed to throughout your home.

Appearance

Moldy mattress One of the earliest signs of mold is tiny black spots that will appear along the mattress, typically on the underside, which either touches the ground, bed slats, or box spring. This black mold is mildew, and if left it will progress and begin to cover the mattress, causing damage and releasing spores, which can have a severe impact on your physical health.

Mold tends to appear as a fuzzy layer in large segments, often in white or black color. While mildew is evident because of its dotty and black appearance, which is unique to this type of fungus. Mildew is far more common under mattresses, and you can identify it by seeing how easy it is to wipe off with a wet cloth.

While mildew will slide off the surface of the mattress with very little pressure or effort, mold tends to be more stubborn and can require further treatment to remove. Check our mattress cleaning tips and more help and advice on this.

What Causes Mold?

For mold to grow, it needs a dark and wet environment where it can thrive without being disturbed. The underneath of your mattress provides this by guarding it against direct light and transferring the moisture from your bodies you sweat through the night. This combination of dark and sweat causes mold to grow quickly and abundantly.

Usually, your mattress won’t hold that moisture in large quantities or for long. Your bed sheets absorb much of it, and when you’re washing them regularly, it’s removed before any issues can develop. Similarly, the circulation of air underneath your bed should dry it out quickly and prevent mold from appearing.

However, when your mattress is close to the ground, directly touching it, or lays on a solid box spring, air circulation is limited, and this adds in little extra heat and prevents it from drying out. Both of these factors allow the mold to increase quickly, causing severe problems.

Mold Under The Bed

Mold under the bed Mold typically occurs on the bottom of your bed, but it is possible for it to appear elsewhere first. The reason why the underneath of your bed is the most common spot for fungus growth is that it gets practically no light exposure and the air circulation is limited. While the top and sides of a bed see sunlight and artificial light, as well as receiving air every time, you lift your bedsheets.

To prevent this fungus from growing on the underneath of your bed, try to make a conscious effort to allow airflow under the mattress and bed. Open the window in your room as well as your bedroom door and a window in a different room, causing airflow throughout the home.

Similarly, ensure that there is a sizable gap between your mattress and the floor and preferably opt for bed slats rather than a box spring which completely prevents air from reaching the bottom of the mattress.

As always, it’s wise to lift up the mattress periodically to check for early signs of mold both visually and with your nose. When you do this, perhaps leave it leaning against the bed for a few hours, this will dry it out substantially, reducing the risk of fungus developing.

The Mattress-On-Floor Mold

The most likely circumstance for mold to develop on your mattress is when it is in direct contact with the floor. Regardless of whether your floor is carpeted or hardwood, the moisture is going to sit against the mattress, and no air can get to it to dry it out. Over time you have the perfect environment for fungus; warmth, dark, and moisture.

It’s unsurprising then that unless you are careful about regularly washing your sheets, minimizing moisture, and drying out the underside of the mattress, mold will inevitably develop. Ideally, you should purchase a raised bed that uses slats to allow significant airflow, but if this is impossible, you should lean the mattress against a wall for at least a few hours each week to let it dry out.

Mold On Popular Mattresses

Innerspring Mattresses

Regardless of all the fascinating and incredible technology that is used in spring mattresses, the mold is still possible. As long as there is a warm environment underneath the mattress where light can’t reach, and moisture begins to settle, the fungus will eventually grow and spread.

To prevent this, it’s essential to raise the mattress up from the ground as much as possible to allow greater air circulation. To promote dryness, you can also use dehumidifying machines and open the windows occasionally to create a flow of air throughout the home which can help dry it out.

Memory Foam Mattresses

These mattresses are made using a variety of different foams. The problem with foam is that it absorbs moisture and holds it incredibly well, meaning that the sweat and liquid from your body can be held in the mattress for a long time. This moisture can get to the bottom of the bed where it can facilitate the growth of mold.

Memory foam mattresses are arguably more susceptible to mold than traditional coil or spring mattresses because memory foam lays flat against the ground and holds moisture well. These two factors ensure that there is less air flow against the bottom and there is plenty of moisture, both of which encourage the growth of fungus.

38 thoughts on “All About Mold On Mattresses”

  1. I have a Tempurpedic mattress and boxspring and they have brown blotches all over. I suspect mold and I wish someone could inspect it for me as I have physical problems.

    1. Hi Tina,

      If your mattress is still within its warranty period perhaps you should make contact with Tempurpedic directly for further help and advice on their product.

      Many thanks

      1. Good morning Lindsey, my husband and I have a resnick’s support posture, cloud comfort queen size futon mattress. Recently over the past year especially during the summer season we noticed that there were small white spores developing on the bottom side of our mattress, concluded that due to the fact that the mattress couldn’t breathe was developing these spores. I unfortunately have a terrible allergy to mold and we were curious if the white spores are being seen on the outside if the padding on the inside of the mattress is also infected. Looking forward to hearing your two cents on the matter 🙂 thank you for your time

  2. I also have a tempurpedic – mold started in the center of its bottom box spring (which is on their company adjustable bed, and is spreading to the top mattress. I was getting ill for no apparent reason. Get rid of the mattress. NEVER by a tempurpedic!!!

  3. My boyfriend has mold on the mattress and in pillows too. Whenever I visit I get sick and I can’t even be able to sleep? Whenever I wash his blankets and comforters they just smell fast and I’m always sick coughing. Please help I don’t know what to do anymore.

  4. Mimmy,

    Sounds like your boyfriend needs to replace his mattress AND pillows. If he doesn’t want to replace the blankets and comforters, wash them with baking soda in addition to the detergent. If they still smell, re-wash and use white vinegar.

  5. The protective cover for my memory foam mattress had mold on the inside and outside. I replaced the cover but could the mattress still be compromised?

    1. Christopher Riddick

      I have a mattress in my big rig. Saw some black spots, used white vinegar and bleach and let it set outside. Is that going to get rid of it? I still see faded black marks is this safe to use?

  6. I have had night sweats for over a year now, sometimes so bad that I have to get up in the middle of the night and change my gown. Recently, I have noticed a peculiar smell and not sure where it is coming from. I suspect it might be mold. So far I have seen no signs of mold . The smell is not especially “bad” but a really odd odor. Is it possible there is mold on the inside of the mattress that maybe has not surfaced yet. Not sleeping well either. The mattress is a regular boxspring and mattress, no kind of memory foam. Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Irene, as you mentioned, yes it could be mold beginning to form due to damp conditions caused by frequent night sweats. If you have a spring mattress it could be forming within the inner chambers, out of sight. Depending on the type of mattress, you may be able to see it under the cover. If the cover is removable and washable in any instance I suggest removing and washing in the laundry. Also, if the mattress is reducing your sleep quality, perhaps it’s time to change it, especially to keep on top of your health. If budget is of concern, consider a mattress topper with a removable and washable cover. That way you can replenish your comfort, and wash the cover once a week/fortnight to remove the sweat from the fabric, thus reducing odor and bacteria build-up.

    2. Hi. We have a memory foam mattress bought I guess 4 to 5 years ago. Recently just discovered a 30 inch by 30 inch mold or mildew underneath the mattress. I cleaned it with pure white vinegar but the stain still there. I air dried it with the heater and put on the fan and air purifier. What should I do? It’s a king-size bed. Should I toss it out or cleaned it again, and with what? Is getting a professional reasonable? Please help. Jen

      1. Hi Jen, 30 x 30 is a big patch. And if it’s not going, considering your mattress is circa 5 years old, it may be time to invest in a new mattress. You could get a quote from some professionals, but considering the mattress is degrading and is only a few years away from the recommended ownership timeframe, it may be more cost-effective to buy a new mattress, even if it is a budget one.

  7. I have a memory foam mattress that was on a bed that was pretty infested underneath (platform bed w/drawers). I don’t see signs of any mold. Should I assume it’s there anyway?

    1. The chances are it may have become moldy. If the mattress is quite old perhaps you should consider replacement

  8. Lindsay,

    I just bought a truck camper and ripped out the old mattress and everything that was under it. We installed our new mattress on top of new low pile carpet. Will this be okay to prevent moisture from building under the mattress?

    1. Hi Cindy, I can’t say for sure as I haven’t seen the underneath of your mattress. Provided it was nice and dry when you laid the carpet you should be fine.

  9. Hi ,

    I have a memory foam matress on the floor and recently noticed a patch of mould on the underside. Thankfully the matress cover is removable and i managed to remove it and the mould just seems to be on the outside (which is in contact with the floor) rather than the inner side too. Does that mean that the foam mattress has been spared ?

  10. Hi Lindsay. I’m curious if you could share more on how to identify mold on memory foam. My apartment is quite damp, and I had my mattress on the floor for a few months (moved to a damp environment from the desert, so not accustomed to this). There are not parts of the memory foam that appear gray (originally it was cream). There are not mildew patches, and I can’t tell whether the gray is fuzzy, but it is present in various parts of my mattress. Is this mold, or could it be something else? Thanks!

  11. Hi Lindsay. Thanks for your informative post. I have a Design Mobel cotton, wool, latex and pocket spring mattress. It has synthetic dream foam supporting the pocket springs around the whole edge of the mattress. Since buying it 17 yrs ago, it has been stored for over half it’s life. Part of its time in storage it was flat but for 3-4 years it was on its side, in a plastic bag showing no visible signs of moisture but with its edge (in plastic and on carboard) on a concrete floor. The storage shed was dry, no windows but not black-out dark, and the corrugated iron got hot in the sunshine. I have now brought the mattress out of storage and lent it to my daughter who has need of a comfortable, dust-free and mould-free mattress as she is sleeping long hours and recovering from a long illness (which possibly began due to a mite or a mould overseas). I cleaned mildew (and maybe a very small amount of mould that left discolouration) off the wool bottom but I think the edge that was resting on the ground is generally yellowed or darkened and I can smell a faint dusty or musty smell. The mattress has mould resistant fabric and latex except for the cotton around the springs and the dream foam packing along the edges (which rested on the concrete floor). Is there a way I can ensure the mattress is free of mould and safe for her to sleep on? (Many thanks in advance).

    1. Hi Krystyna,
      Although it sounds like you took the best possible storage methods, based on your description, it sounds like you may have mold set in, possibly due to years of condensation building up in the plastic packaging or some other means. Unless it was completely sealed airtight, there’s no guarantee of keeping the mattress 100% fresh during storage. Given your daughter’s health concern, I wouldn’t second guess and would opt for a new mattress, even if it’s a relatively low-cost type that you opt for.

  12. I have a leather couch that contains a mattress. The couch has visible mold on the outside and the inside edge beside the mattress. Does this mean the mattress has most likely been compromised? The couch was supposedly cleaned by a mold remediation company, but I’m afraid to use it now.

  13. Hi, I have a very expensive box spring new mattress, I bought a waterproof terry towelling mattress cover to protect it and keep it looking new. My mattress sits on top of a leather slatted base but the base has no legs on so it is quite low down. Recently I have noticed a musty odour around the bed since putting the cover on, could this be damp or something else? The mattress is only a few months old and has never got wet, I only noticed the smell since we have had the waterproof sheet on?

    1. It could be some form of condensation or moisture building up somewhere under the bed. Perhaps somehow raise the whole bed and increase the airflow for better ventilation, or try testing without the cover.

  14. I recently discovered white mold growing on the underside of the draws under my bed (a kind of cardboard/wood composite). I’ve since cleaned and treated the whole bed and vacuumed and aired the mattress. There was never any sign of mould or mildew on the mattress itself but still smells pretty musty. Do you think the smell lessen over time (with lots of airing)? Anything I could do to speed things up?

    1. Sounds like you’ve taken all the right steps. I think the smell will dissipate quite soon with good ventilation.

  15. We are thinking about purchasing a tempur Cooltouch mattress.

    It’s to go on a solid base which is on a French iron bed frame but I am worried about mold. Are they more susceptible to mold than the spring traditional mattresses? We have had no trouble with our old one.

    1. The Tempur Cooltouch is an excellent mattress. Most all-foam mattresses are more susceptible to mold compared to traditional innerspring. However, this shouldn’t put you off. If you keep the mattress well ventilated and use a mattress protector you will significantly reduce mold occurrences.

  16. I have a sleep number bed that is 15 years old. Recommended ownership is 20 years. It is the type that is filled with air inside. I have had night sweats for over 7 years. I have not noticed any mold, but a recent mold test due to digestive issues, showed me positive for mold. I live in a 3 year old house, so I doubt it is the house. Can mould grow in these air filled mattresses ? If so, how would I know ?

    1. Not to my knowledge, but that’s not to say it isn’t being well-hidden on the surface. 7 years worth of night sweats can have a detrimental effect on the exterior of any mattress.

  17. Hi I have a igel mattresses with storage bed. 2 year’s old we lifted it up about a month ago and it was fine but now the underside is full of circle mould and we haven’t a clue why. We have no mould anywhere else. Any ideas appreciated.

  18. I am looking for a mattress to buy for my 3 season cottage. We live in northern Ontario, so the temperatures get to -40. I originally wanted a foam (boxed) mattress such as the Endy, but after further thought I’m not sure it is a good idea as it will be in the cold weather for about 6 months out of the year. What are your thoughts – should I purchase a spring mattress or do you think a foam mattress will hold up to the temperature changes ?

    1. Hi Raeanna,

      I think an innerspring mattress would be best for such extreme cold. Memory foam would’ve been good for keeping you warm, but may not be great for mold long term.

  19. What about mold on air beds. I sleep outside 6 months of the year and I noticed a urine smell.when I looked under the foam pads there was black mold. Help. What can I do to prevent this from happening

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