What You Need to Know About Mattress Mould

Mould isn’t only quite harmful to us as humans, but it’s quite unsettling to see it on our mattresses, or anywhere in the home for that matter.

Of course, mould is common in the wet rooms of our home like the bathroom, kitchen, mud room and laundry, though when it makes its way to the bedroom and into our mattresses, that’s when things can become unsettling.

If you’re dealing with mould build up in the bedroom, or looking to learn a little more about how to prevent it, what causes mattress mould and how to avoid it entirely, we have some essentials for you below.

Check out all you need to know about mattress mould, and what you can do to avoid it.

Understanding What Mould Is

To kick things off, we’ll take a look at what mould is and how it ends up in more places than just our bathrooms.

Mould or mold, depending on where you live, is a type of invasive and spreadable fungi that relies on moist and damp space to multiply. You’ll often find this mould or fungi in damp places like the shower and in the grout in bathrooms where there’s a grippy and dark surface for the spores to latch on to.

In the mattress, mould and mildew can be common if the area around the bed is damp or if you’re someone who sweats or spills liquids on your bed.

In most cases, the mould or mildew, rather, won’t actually penetrate beyond the outer layers of your mattress, which means you can wipe this down and essentially kill the mould before it has a chance to spread and cause issues for the rest of the bedroom or yourself as a sleeper.

Keep in mind that mildew and mould are two different things, and mould is a lot more serious than mildew. However, beds and mattresses are more prone to mildew infestations than mould.

As we mentioned, mildew can often be wiped off, whereas mould will need to be identified and very carefully removed due to its spore-based and infectious-like type of growth. If these spores escape or ‘fly’ around the room, you’re going to be stuck with mould appearing on more than just the mattress.

Mould is a fuzzy type of fungi, whereas mildew is simply spotty and flat.

Signs of Mattress Mould

When it comes to spotting either mildew or mould, it can be a little complicated and sometimes even impossible.

As you’ll already know, mould is microscopic which means you’re not going to be able to see any spores or early signs of mould growth until the fungi has grown a fair bit. That said, it could take a couple of weeks for the mould to really start to show up on the bed.

That in mind, a lot of people do begin to spot mould on the weekly sheet change, which means you should always be working to change your bedding on a weekly basis to spot signs of mould and bacteria.

The first signs of mould on a mattress, however, are small black spots or marks on the mattress’s surface.

These spots will be the first thing you’ll notice with regard to mould and are often not too serious to cause any health effects. That said, you’ll notice these spots long before you start feeling sick from the mould on a mattress.

We suggest either wiping these spots off, or having them removed by a chemical cleaning agent.

The Mould Smell

As you might have noticed in the bathroom, mould does have a rather unique and somewhat pungent smell that is easy to identify.

Although it may not be this strong coming from your mattress, there is certainly a musk or a slight odour when it comes to mould — and it’s similar to the smell you’ll experience when standing close by old or slightly off food. This smell will continue to get worse if it isn’t dealt with, which means you’re going to eventually experience and exceedingly off-putting rancid smell coming from a mattress if you’re not dealing with the mould early. 

With the above smell in mind, you should do your best to find the source of the odour and get rid of the mould right away.

In a lot of cases, the mould concentration might be small enough to simply wipe away with a vinegar-based cleaner, though in other situations the mould may be creeping along the underside of the mattress, meaning you’ll need to replace it.

The Associated Health Problems

Along with the smell of mould, another sign of mould infestation in a mattress are your own personal health problems.

It’s no secret that mould is rather harmful to humans, and this is especially true if you’re someone who already has allergies. With mould in your bed, or on the underside of the mattress, you’re going to majorly experience a spike in your allergy symptoms and be more prone to sleeping with a cough, runny nose and headaches.

To add, sleeping with mould over long periods of time can expose your body to a relatively harmful bacteria that can cause long-term health issues.

With the above said, we highly suggest taking note of your body’s response to the mattress. If you’re noticing that itchy eyes, headaches, congestion and even signs of exhaustion and lack of sleep are becoming common — then it’s worth taking a look over your mattress for signs of mould.

There’s a good chance that it’s either mildew or mould causing these symptoms.

If you do find that there is mould on the mattress, it might be worth sleeping in another area of the home whilst you work to clean the bed or have the mattress replaced. You’ll notice that in this new sleeping area your symptoms do recede and you can, again, sleep normally.

The Visual Appearance of Mould

As we mentioned above, one of the easiest ways to spot mould is simply by looking over the mattress.

We will say that mould doesn’t become visible until after it’s ‘too late’ so to speak, though you’re always able to clean and sanitise a mattress that has a mould infestation.

The first place we would suggest that you look for mould is on the sides of the mattress and the underside of the bed. That means, the area of the mattress that sits on the bed frame’s platform base or the slats.

If you lift up your bed or flip it over and you see a tonne of small black spots in one area, or even covering the entire underside of the bed, then it’s time to move to clean this off as soon as you can. This is because mould will begin to develop and spread from the underside of the mattress, up through the core and into all of the layers in bed — causing severe health issues.

For mould that has been left untreated for a long period of time, you might be noticing that there are fuzzy spots on the bed, rather than just black dots. These will be rather large pieces of mould and they will have a very strong odour to them.

For this mould, we would suggest either a professional cleaning agent or a replacement mattress. In the time it took for this mould to appear, there could be spores spreading across the bed.

To end, mildew may be apparent on your mattress, which will simply be light black spots and dots you can just wipe away. These aren’t generally spreadable, so wiping them off with a vinegar soaked towel or cloth should do the trick.

In all, it isn’t too difficult to deal with mildew or mould and you can wipe most of this away with a damp cloth with a mould-killing agent on it.

The Cause of Mould

When it comes to the underlying cause of mould, we’re happy to say that there are only. A few causes — and they can be quite easy to deal with.

To start, mould can only appear and ‘take off’ in a dark and moist environment with little disturbance. If there’s a lot of movement and plenty of foot traffic or motion in the area, the mould won’t be able to get a solid hold on a surface to grow. Virtually any movement, dry air and sunshine will kill off mould without issue.

Where mattresses are concerned, these are generally in dark spaces and are dampened and warmed by body moisture and heat — which creates an environment that is ripe for mould growth.

This can generally be dealt with by investing in a moisture-wicking mattress that reduces its ability to stay damp throughout the evening.

To add, bed sheets will absorb a lot of your body’s moisture, which means these have to be washed on a routine basis to kill off any potential mould spores. In keeping with this, your sheets are going to be one of the primary barriers between you and your mattress becoming mould-infested, so be sure to keep these as clean as possible.

One other thing to keep in mind is air circulation.

Your mattress likely came with a recommendation to keep it well-ventilated and in a frame that allowed moisture and heat to be expelled, and that said, your mattress should not find itself on the floor or on a solid bed frame.

To end, all mattresses that are sitting directly on the floor and have reduced ventilation and aren’t wrapped with sheets that are washed routinely and are rather moist will be a haven for mould and you’re putting yourself at a far higher risk of seeing mould build up. 

Spotting Mould Beneath The Bed

As we outlined above, mould will typically appear first at the base of the mattress rather than the top layers of the bed. This is down to the fact that this area of the mattress is far darker, damper and less prone to experiencing movement than the upper layers.

That said, you should make the base of your mattress the first place you look to when it comes to spotting mould.

You might have guessed, the top layer of the mattress experiences daylight, artificial light and a lot of movement when you’re asleep as well as sees the cleaning agents coming from your sheets after a wash, so there’s little chance mould would like this area of the mattress.

For our readers looking to reduce their chances of mould growth beneath the mattress, we have a few tips for you.

The first is to ensure you have a lot of ventilation at all times. Without correct ventilation, mould will be able to grow without experiencing any drying out of the air below the bed. For this, all you’ll need to do is generally open a window or keep your ceiling fan going.

The second tip is to choose a bed frame that keeps your mattress off the floor and not entirely covered at the bottom. If you have a high platform bed frame, make sure it has cut outs for ventilation. For the slat bed frames, you’re already well-covered as there’s a lot of ventilation space.

Thirdly, box spring frames will be a rather detrimental frame for you as these are going to block a lot of the airflow and light that we mentioned above. It might be worth considering another type of frame.

To end, we always suggest doing your best when it comes to keeping watch of the bottom of your mattress. Mould will almost always start here first, so do your best to get on top of it early by lifting up your mattress and taking a peek at the base every now and then.

What About Mattresses Designed for the Floor

Although we mentioned not placing your mattress on the floor, some models are designed to be used on the floor on a routine basis. That in mind, there are a few small things you can do to keep the mould at bay.

As you’ll know from the information above, floor-set beds don’t have any light or ventilation on the base of them, which means mould has a perfect dark, moist and warm area to grow in.

There are a few things you can do to keep on top of the mould here though, it just takes a little more effort, but it’s totally worth it.

Our top tips for dealing with mattress mould on floor beds include:

Routinely changing and washing your sheets, at least once a week or sometimes more often than this simply to make absolutely sure there aren’t any mould spores making moves to grow all over the underside of your mattress.

Keep your mattress free from any spills or liquids and ensure the bed is wrapped in a moisture wicking or waterproof protector.

Consider raising the bed just a little with a platform base or low-rise bed frame that allows just a little extra airflow on the underside of the bed.

Once a week, stand the mattress up against a wall or by a window to get some extra sunshine and ventilation to prevent the ideal mould conditions from occurring.

That said, for the on-floor beds, there are still a few things you can do to keep control of mattress mould here.

The Type of Mattress and Mould

To end our article on what you need to know about mattress mould, we’ll take a quick look at the common types of mattresses and how mould responds differently to the materials used.

As you might know, some materials do wick away mould faster and more effectively than others, so you might have to work harder to keep mould from taking over your mattress depending on the bed you have.

The Memory Foam Mattresses

One of the mattress types that can be a little detrimental in your fight against mould is memory foam.

As you’ll already know, these beds are made up with a few layers of different foams, all of which will absorb and hold moisture unless there is a technology integrated within them to wick away water.

That in mind, both sweat and liquids that enter these mattresses will stay inside the core of the bed for a long time and create a warm, damp and dark area for mould growth to take off without issue.

To end, memory foam beds can be a lot more prone to mould growth than innerspring models due to those density problems we mentioned above. Of course, a lot of manufacturers have begun to integrate anti-mould and anti-bacteria technologies to assist with mitigating this, though if you do have an old-school foam mattress, you’ll be out of luck when it comes to the fight against mould.

The Innerspring Mattresses

To one of the other most popular mattress types out there, the innerspring models are going to be a little more helpful when it comes to fighting off mould build up on the interior of the mattress.

Unlike foam, innerspring beds are typically hollow on the inside, apart from the springs, and this means there’s plenty of room for ventilation and the drying out of a moist mattress.

If these beds are set on the floor, however, there’s still the chance of mould build up given that the area is going to be dark, moist and not seeing a whole lot of movement.

For the spring mattresses, we stand by our suggestion of standing the bed up every now and then to facilitate in airing our the innerspring’s core and shining a little extra light on the exterior of the bed. This will kill off the mould spores and keep you sleeping a mould-free mattress for a lot longer.

The Takeaway

Now that you know just about everything there is to know about mattress mould, we’re sure that you’ll have the tools and knowhow to fight it off the bed.

It might seem like it’s impossible to deal with a mould infestation, however, with a mould cleaning agent and a little sunshine and ventilation you’ll be on the right track to killing off any and all mould that finds its way into your bed.