How to Clean an Air Mattress in 4 Simple Steps

October 10, 2019
How to Clean an Air Mattress in 4 Simple Steps

Whether you’re going camping or having relatives over for the holidays, air mattresses provide an easy-storing, lightweight alternative to cumbersome traditional spring or memory foam beds.

Setting up in a jiffy, variations of blow-up beds have been around for centuries, helping establish temporary sleeping arrangements or serving as a fun floating device for many families. But whatever your use, air mattresses, while incredibly convenient, have always been prone to issues such as dirt collection and mold.

How to Clean an Air Mattress

So, how do you clean an air mattress to avoid stains, mold and mildew? Good news! It’s a lot easier than you think!

Are you wondering: What's the Difference Between Mold and Mould?

Why You Should Clean an Air Mattress

Before we dive into how to clean an air mattress, let's first look at the reasons why cleaning is required.

Stemming from the nature of these temporary sleeping solutions, owners will often look to store airbeds as quickly as they were setup. Usually, they are stowed away without the care and attention needed to avoid odors, mold and stains.

Coming in contact with skin, sweat, dust mites and moisture, air mattresses are a haven for the production of microorganisms. Often stored in a dark basement or storage unit, the potential for a moldy air mattress is only made worse when it is put away for the season.

Oversights like these mean that many airbeds will develop odors over months to years (dependent on frequency of use) and won't serve their lifetime’s usefulness.

To ensure you get the most out of your air mattress and you’re not wasting money purchasing a new one, owners should make a habit of washing them after every use or at least once a season.

Here’s how to clean an air mattress and prevent the growth of mold or mildew while doing so.

How to Wash an Air Mattress

While there are many different textiles and plastics used in the manufacturing of air mattresses, most employ a combination of materials including polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane plastics (PU), and varying rubber compounds. Even antimicrobial velour and velvet mattress tops can be spotted on more expensive airbeds (see more on this down below).

Given these variances in material, it is advised to use gentle or mild cleaning solutions when cleaning your air mattresses. This will help avoid deteriorating surfaces and reduce the future potential of holes and/or perforations.

Step 1: Dirt and Dust

As with most air mattresses, there is almost a certainty that they are being used on a floor or in a tent. And for this reason alone, dirt and dust collection are downright inevitable. So, before you break out the water and cleaning solutions, it is important to vacuum away any loose debris and trapped dust.

Start by inflating the mattress so that wrinkles are released, and surfaces are evened out by the pressure.

You will want to use a powerful vacuum to remove trapped debris, however, a handheld unit will work just fine if you don’t have the option. A more powerful vacuum prevents owners from potentially embedding loose dirt or dust in soft fabrics or non-woven textile surfaces.

Scrubbing dirt, unfortunately, pushes particles further into the material making it harder to remove stains and other messes.

Step 2: Odor Removal

If your air mattress has started producing dingy or musty odors, chances are that you have been storing it with moisture. In this case, look for signs of active mold or mildew.

If you find any visible microorganisms, you’ll want to leave this odor removal step until after drying.

If there is no growth found during an inspection, owners will want to sprinkle a layer of baking soda on the mattress. While you don’t have to cover the airbed completely, using too little baking soda can result in lingering aromas.

Let the baking soda sit for 3-5 minutes before vacuuming it clean.

Step 3: Cleaning Solution

As mentioned before, you will want to create a mild non-damaging cleaning solution. Luckily, this can be completed with widely available household items.

Most commonly used mixtures are mild soap with warm water; rubbing alcohol diluted in warm water (great for mildew); or a half-and-half, vinegar-to-water mixture (perfect for mold).

Branded disinfectants can also be purchased to clean your mattress; however, it is best to consult your user manual or contact your airbeds’ manufacturer for recommended products.

After finding the best solution for your mattress’ material, it is recommended to complete the cleaning process in a warm, dry, and well-lit area. This will not only reduce drying times but will also help in the prevention of more mold or mildew.

Using a clean cloth dampened with your mixture, wipe all smooth plastic or rubber surfaces clean. Don’t be scared treating stains in these areas vigorously, as air mattresses are built to withstand higher than average abuse.

Nonetheless, it is important to treat velvet or velour surfaces with a bit more finesse. When attempting to clean fabric surfaces, it is best to use small circular motions and work from outside inward when fighting stains.

PRO TIP: Avoid wetting your cloth too much. It is best practice to wring out as much liquid as possible before wiping down a surface. This helps prevent moisture build-up and ultimately mold and other microorganisms.

Step 4: Drying Your Mattress

Drying your mattress is most easily handled outside on a warm and sunny day. While UV rays can potentially be damaging to materials if exposed over long periods of time, the ambient outdoor temperatures and moisture dispersal are unbeatable.

If it's not possible (due to weather or living arrangements) to leave an air mattress outside, the next best solution is to place the airbed near a dehumidifier to dry. It is incredibly important to ensure your mattress is completely void of moisture before storing away.

Preventing Mold on Air Mattress

Now that you have cleaned your mattress and it is all dried and ready for storage, you’ll want to start thinking of ways to prevent future growth of mold and mildew.

Bacteria and fungi thrive in moist and dark environments, so storing and cleaning your air mattress outside of these areas is important for preventing the growth of pesky microorganisms.

Simple additions to ventilation, such as dehumidifiers, are perfect to help cycle air through small storage areas. This makes it less likely for humidity to build up and will help remove any leftover moisture from cleaning.

Installing vapor barrier, charcoal or desiccant are also fantastic preventative measures to moisture in storage spaces. While vapor barrier can be applied to basement walls to stop humid air from entering, charcoal and desiccant materials absorb, and trap odors or humidity already present in a room.

If it is at all possible, store your air mattress in areas such as linen closets. Often, temperatures are even and humidity is low. This is your best option for preserving your airbeds life span.

Hopefully these tips and tricks on how to clean an air mattress have gotten your air bed looking like new!

How Ultra-Fresh Can Help an Air Mattress Stay Cleaner

Ultra-Fresh is a range of safe and effective antimicrobial treatments used to prevent odors, staining and degradation caused by the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew.

Ultra-Fresh is incorporated into products during the manufacturing process. The materials used to make air mattresses such as the PVC, PU, velour - along with the adhesives used to seal the seams, become much less appetizing food sources for mold and mildew when an antimicrobial technology is incorporated.

Microbial growth, and their resulting unpleasant odors and unsightly stains, don't have an opportunity to take hold.

Air Mattresses Using Ultra-Fresh Technology

Both Coleman's Aerobed® and Sea-to-Summit's® sleeping bag mattress add Ultra-Fresh directly into the material during the manufacturing step. We've tested these products in our lab using standardized test methods to ensure they can withstand conditions that are optimal for microbial growth. Visit our "Who We Work With" page for more information about other brands we've partnered with.

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aerobed with Ultra-Fresh antimicrobial technology

Aerobed with Ultra-Fresh antimicrobial technology

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Sea to Summit sleeping bag mats with Ultra-Fresh antimicrobial protection

Sea to Summit sleeping bag mats with Ultra-Fresh antimicrobial protection

Example of Antimicrobial Protection

The photos below demonstrate the benefit of adding antimicrobial additives to air mattress material. Under the right conditions, mold and mildew can flourish, especially when moisture becomes trapped during storage.

Both material samples were tested using the ASTM G21.

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Air mattress fabric treated with Ultra-Fresh antimicrobial

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untreated air mattress material

The untreated air mattress material supports heavy amounts of fungal growth after the 28-day incubation period.

Alternatively, the Ultra-Fresh treated material remains free from mold growth after the same amount of time.

Antimicrobial treatments keep the areas you don't see cleaner and fresher.

In addition, Ultra-Fresh has been proven to be effective in controlling dust mite populations (see regulatory information).

Read more in our blog titled: Dust Mites: What They are and How to Prevent Them

Note: Ultra-Fresh is not intended to create a healthier environment or to mask an existing moisture issue in your home. Antimicrobial product protection prevents odors, staining and deterioration of the product itself, leading to increased longevity of the material goods.

Learn more about us or contact us for more information.

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