How can I best clean my mattress after a stain?
July 21, 2016 11:13 PM   Subscribe

I came home tonight to find a 2 foot square wet spot on my mattress. I have allergies and sensitivity to mold and odors.

My housemate was moving my window A/C around and mentioned there was liquid in it; maybe she set it down and it leaked. She also had guests over; maybe someone else used my bed and spilled (?). It's been at at least 4 hours since it happened, but maybe closer to 7.

The stain doesn't smell but it's tan around the edges. I ran my (cheap) hair dryer at it on High for 10 minutes and it feels more dry, but not totally dry. I now have a fan oscillating over it but I hesitate to keep hair dryer-ing it because it's very hot in the house and using the hair dryer means I have to close my bedroom door, which means my housemates don't benefit from the cooling of the A/C.

Can you give me advice?

My breathing will be impacted by being around anything that's not fresh and spotless. I can smell mold and mustiness in rooms when most other people don't smell anything.

My plan is to bring it outside and let it sit in the sun tomorrow morning, although we're in a heat wave and the heat index will be 100+ with very high humidity.

We have 2 fans (one box, one oscillating) and the A/C.

1. What is this? Is water likely even with the dark edges?
2. How do I prevent mold? How will I know if I failed?
3. What's the time window in which I can act?
4. Is my "bring it outside" plan good? Should I try the fans? Something else?
posted by ramenopres to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have a dehumidifier you can put in the room to run as well? Or grab some of those giant packets of silica dessicant? Maybe set some of those right on top of the spot and let them suck the moisture out. It'll be less effective because it's humid, but if your a/c is running and dehumidifying the room that should help.

Once you're done, and you're sure it's dry, you might put the mattress in one of those anti-allergen protective covers just to be safe (optionally with a waterproof cover underneath, to prevent future issues).
posted by sldownard at 12:10 AM on July 22, 2016

First line of remediation for a wet patch on any absorbent surface is to blot up as much as possible by transferring it to some other absorbent surface.

If that were my mattress (and it has been; we have a very old dog whose bladder control is not what it once was) the first thing I'd do is get a big fluffy towel, fold it up until it's the same size as the wet patch, lay it over the wet patch, then stand on it and knead it with my bare feet for a minute or two. Then I'd throw the damp towel in the wash and do it again with another dry one. And then do it again. Only after that would I start using less effective techniques like desiccants and hot air.

Turn the mattress over for tonight, with another folded towel pressed between the mattress and the bed base, and sleep on it. Then take it outside for a sunbathe all tomorrow. That's a good plan. Sunlight > mold spores.

Tan around the edges is pretty typical for spills on mattresses. Mattress surfaces don't get washed very often, so if you spill water on them, the water carries a bit of a load of dissolved you-probably-don't-want-to-think-about-it as it wicks outward from the spill zone, then leaves it behind as it evaporates. If the water came from the drip tray of an air conditioner, as seems likely, it probably had a fair bit of you-probably-don't-want-to-think-about-it pre-dissolved as well; that's another reason why you probably want to blot it up before trying to dry it out.
posted by flabdablet at 1:39 AM on July 22, 2016 [7 favorites]

By the way, the cheapest way to acquire enough silica gel desiccant to make any kind of difference to two square feet of spill would be to dump a whole bag of crystal cat litter into a pillowcase and spread it out.

You can re-activate wet silica gel by spreading it out on a baking tray and putting it in a very low (90°C) oven for a couple of hours.
posted by flabdablet at 1:42 AM on July 22, 2016 [8 favorites]

My plan is to bring it outside and let it sit in the sun tomorrow morning, although we're in a heat wave and the heat index will be 100+ with very high humidity.

I fear that the high humidity is just going to add more moisture to the rest of the mattress. I'd keep it inside and follow the suggestions from the posters above.
posted by belladonna at 6:23 AM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you sit a mattress in the blazing sun for a couple of hours, it's going to get hot. Bring a hot mattress inside where an air conditioner has been keeping the air dry, stand it up on one edge, and any moisture it's absorbed due to outside humidity will disappear pretty damn pronto.
posted by flabdablet at 8:28 AM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, the humidity your mattress experiences in the hot muggy air outside will be as nothing compared to the humidity your sleeping body pumps through it every single night. Don't worry about tomorrow's outdoor humidity rating. Expose your blotted-up spill to the searing goodness of the sun's heat and ultraviolet and you can pretty much guarantee that your mattress will end up with less viable mold in it than it has right now.
posted by flabdablet at 8:34 AM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

After it's dry, consider buying an allergen-barrier mattress pad.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:56 AM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

For emergency fast drying, there's always your hand-held hair dryer, which I would try after absorbing as much liquid from the mattress as possible, using the methods described above.
posted by Lynsey at 10:41 AM on July 22, 2016

Head to Ikea and buy a GOKART sheet. Rubber on one side so it's waterproof, terry cloth on the reverse so it doesn't feel sweaty, machine washable, $30. Keep those dead skin cells, moisture, spills, and gunk off your mattress in the first place.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:04 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd blot it up as well as possible and then douse it with Nature's Miracle. I think that would prevent anything further in from getting moldy if it doesn't dry right away.
posted by metasarah at 12:38 PM on July 22, 2016

I'm allergic to mold. I'd make a mixture of anti-bacterial soap and a drop of tea tree oil (they both kill mold) and swish a wash cloth in it, wring it out and scrub at the stain. Dry off the spot with a towel but you want it slightly damp from the mixture. It should help kill any mold trying to grow.
posted by stray thoughts at 3:11 PM on July 22, 2016

When the moving company got black nasty all over my mattress, I called a carpet cleaner guy who came and steam cleaned the nasty away. Then I just let it dry.
posted by jeffamaphone at 6:28 PM on July 22, 2016

The nasty can be cleaned effectively with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Google it, will make a mattress look and smell brand new.
posted by raisingsand at 2:03 PM on July 24, 2016

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