Shortly after moving into my first college dorm, a gift arrived for me in the package room. Dissatisfied with the wafer-thin mattresses she’d observed when helping me move in, my mom sent me a luxurious, fluffy mattress topper. It zipped around my mattress, adding inches of foam on top that my body could sink into after a long day of studying (or procrastinating on studying). Since then, I’ve never been without one.
Mattress toppers are a great, cheap way to upgrade any sleeping situation. But like anything that has close contact with your body—especially when you’re sweating and rolling around—they get dirty. Think of how much sweat and gunk is embedded in that foam. That foam, for as wonderful and comfortable as it is, is also the reason these are so hard to clean.
How to get a stain out of a mattress topper
First, there is one exception to everything outlined below about cleaning a mattress topper: If yours is stuffed with feathers rather than foam, it can be popped in the wash, just like a standard pillow. Double check the instructions on the tag, but you should be good.
In the event of a stain, dab at it with vinegar or another gentle cleaner. Don’t get it too wet; just your rag should be damp. Excess wetness will sink into the foam and could cause mildew growth, according to Gold Bond Mattress CEO Bob Naboicheck. Let it air dry completely for at least a day.
How to fully clean a mattress topper
When it comes to a fuller clean, you still don’t want to get it wet. Instead, lay it on a flat surface and sprinkle baking soda over it, according to the Sleep Foundation. Let it sit for eight hours, then vacuum it. Use your vacuum’s handheld attachment or a small vacuum if possible, as aggressive suction can damage weaker or thinner foam. If you have a really thick one, flip it over and repeat the process on the other side. You should clean it like this two to three times a year, or as needed.
If a major spill happens or the topper gets extremely dirty, consider a dry cleaner. Soaking that amount of foam in the washing machine is a disaster waiting to happen, as foam can feel dry to the touch but still be quite wet inside. Attracting mildew and its associated stench is pretty counterproductive here, so let’s let the pros handle anything too serious.