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How to Clean a Crib Mattress?- A Must Read For Parents

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How To Clean A Crib Mattress

Since making sure that your kids get and stay healthy is one of your priorities, it’s important that the surfaces your kids spend quality time on are as clean as possible. Of course, dirty surfaces contain bacteria and other nasties, therefore posing a risk to your child’s health. This is especially true of crib mattresses since, after all, this is one of the places in which kids spend the most time. Also, as many parents know, babies come with mess and spills as part of the package, so no doubt their mattress is going to get dirty at some point. Regardless of how the mattress got dirty, there are a number of important things to keep in mind when it comes to crib mattress cleaning.

It’s true that there are plenty of strong cleaning agents that can be used to clean a crib mattress. However, because your child will place his or her skin and face on that surface, it’s best if you don’t use a harsh chemical. Instead, use a mild soap and a damp cloth. So, what is the best way to get that crib mattress sparkling clean? Read on for our handy guide.

Things To Get Together For Your Crib Mattress Cleaning Adventure

Here are the absolute must-haves to get together before starting to clean a crib mattress:

laundry detergent (hypoallergenic if your baby has sensitive skin or allergies)

  • a vacuum cleaner
  • baking soda
  • scrubbing brushes
  • rubbing alcohol
  • spray bottle
  • lemon or vinegar juice
  • disposable gloves
  • a sponge
  • paper towels
  • a small bucket or basin
  • small wash cloths

Now you’ve got your crib-cleaning kit to hand, follow our step-by-step guide for getting that mattress looking (and smelling!) like new again.

Step 1: Vacuuming

Start by vacuuming your mattress thoroughly. This will help get out a large amount of the dust and dirt form the mattress before you even start scrubbing, which can trigger allergies and induce irritation in the little ones. Make sure to vacuum each side of the mattress, as well as the edges. Also, for the most effective results, use narrow-necked upholstery attachments in order to get any loose particles hiding away in seams or crevices.

Step 2: Scrubbing

Now you’ve got the worst of the dust out, it’s time to get scrubbing. In a large tub or bucket, mix together a few gallons of water and about one quarter cup of hypoallergenic laundry detergent. Next, scrub the surface of the mattress using the fragile-surfaces scrubbing brush (this is important as you don’t want to damage the mattress in the process.) Afterwards, refill the bucket with warm water without detergent and use it as a rinsing station. However, whatever you do, don’t pour either the water or the detergent on the mattress.

Step 3: Rinsing

With the use of a damp, clean cloth, scrub the crib mattress’s surface, being sure to rinse and wring the cloth repeatedly in order to remove all residue and detergent from the cloth. It’s important that you rinse vigorously and thoroughly so that you don’t leave behind any detergent since it can irritate the delicate skin of your baby.

Step 4: Disinfecting

If the mattress is heavily soiled with an acidic liquid such as fruit juice, or it is likely to contain bacteria following soiling with bodily fluids, then it’s important to disinfect thoroughly to protect your baby from infections. Using your spray bottle, gently spray the surface with rubbing alcohol—do this in particular to visible stains. The advantage of using alcohol is that the mattress doesn’t need to be rinsed following the disinfecting process—the alcohol will simply evaporate.

Step 5: Odor & Stain Removal

Should stains or any odor remain after the first cleaning phase, then you will have to take additional steps to make these go away. Using your trusty spray bottle, mix equal amounts of vinegar, lemon juice and water. Next, spray this concoction on the mattress, focusing your attention on any areas that are heavily stained or the are smelling bad. Spread small amounts of baking soda on the parts of the mattress needing the most cleaning—let this sit on the mattress for about 30 minutes in order to address odors. As soon as the mattress dries, vacuum the mattress thoroughly.

Step 6: Drying the Mattress

Use a dry towel to gently absorb as much water as possible to make drying-out quicker. As a rule, crib mattresses cannot be placed in the tumble dryer because the heat and vigorous tumbling can cause severe damage. Before you consider doing this, check carefully with the manufacturer to make sure the mattress is dryer-safe.

Assuming, as in the majority of cases, that your mattress cannot be tumble-dried, then the only answer is air-drying. Ideally, the mattress should be placed in a light and airy space and allowed to dry out naturally for several hours.

If it’s taking a long time, you could consider putting on the heating to speed the evaporation process or use a hair dryer to dry out the wettest area. It’s absolutely vital to make sure that the mattress is completely dried up before putting it in the crib again; even a slightly wet mattress can succumb to potentially disease-inducing mold and mildew infestation.

Why Using A Used Crib Mattress May Not Be A Good Idea

One of the reasons people consider buying or accepting a used crib mattress (other than for the sake of saving money) is because they think that they can always clean the mattress well enough to make it as clean and ready-to-go as a brand new mattress—if only that were true! Make no mistake, using a secondhand mattress comes with a long list of potential dangers.

Then again, even new mattresses come with some risks—i.e., toxic chemicals, manufacturing defects, etc. Having said all this, in general experts recommend that you don’t buy a “used” crib or bed mattress—whether made from foam or with coiled springs. The reasons they give include:

  • They have no doubt been subjected to feces, urine, vomit and, therefore, may be carrying a whole host of infections and staining—perhaps in unseen places
  • They may be harboring bed bugs, dust mites, cockroaches, viruses, mold, bacteria, and other nasty, unhealthy organisms.
  • They may have problems and deficiencies that may not be visible, such as mold growing on the inside from moisture that sank in and couldn’t be dried up appropriately or bed bugs that dug their way deeply into some small crevices.
  • They may tend to sag too much after more extended use or if a certain weight is placed on them (something you might not detect simply by just pushing on it).

Best Practices, Reminders & Caveats To Keep In Mind Regarding Mattress Buying & Cleaning

Whether you have decided to clean a mattress that you already own or one that someone gave you or even one that you bought used, then there are a number of things to keep in mind and be aware of. These tips can prevent trouble, make things easier and may even extend the life of the mattress. It also doesn’t matter whether the mattress is a foam mattress or a coil spring mattress—both can be cleaned well enough to be reused safely:

  • Just as there is no such a thing as a perfect new mattress, there is no such a thing as a used mattress made perfect by cleaning it thoroughly—your goal should be to find the product with the features you want/need, whether the mattress is used or new.
  • Having a higher price tag doesn’t necessarily make a mattress better than a lower priced one—it’s the features and qualities of the mattress that you should concentrate on, regardless of the price.
  • Make sure the mattress you select has a set of border rods going all around the top and the bottom of the mattress. These not only help the mattress keep its shape, add to its durability and keep it from sagging prematurely but they also help improve its edge support tremendously, making it less likely that kids will fall off the bed or into a gap between the mattress and the rails.
  • Whereas foam mattresses often weigh less than 10 pounds, coiled spring mattresses can weigh, on average, between 15 and 25 pounds. You should keep this in mind if you have back problems or would prefer to not deal with these heavier mattresses.
  • Coiled spring mattresses are sometimes used like impromptu trampolines by naughty kids and their older siblings when no adult supervision is at hand—since this can be dangerous for kids and bad for the mattress, always take precautions against this possibility.
  • Although some coiled springs mattresses are environmentally-friendly, hypoallergenic and lacking in any of the toxic chemicals and manufacturing substances, it’s hard (if at all possible) to find “organic” coiled spring mattresses—for the record, you don’t have to buy an organic mattress in order to keep your children safe while they sleep.
  • Make sure that the mattress you select fits snugly into your crib or toddler bed—in other words, make sure that the crib/bed and the mattress are standard sized products. If you get an odd sized mattress, then most likely it was made in a country with a different perception of “standard size”.
    You may have to spend more for a mattress, whether new or used, if you need the mattress for a specialty or “designer” crib or bed.


Cleaning a crib mattress isn’t necessarily a complicated process but it does need to be done right. There are plenty of cleaning agents around that can just about take out any stain or odor from a crib mattress—the problem with that, though, is that they might leave behind dangerous chemical residues. By keeping the process simple and ingredients perfectly natural, however, you can not only get your mattress cleaned properly but also protect the health of your little ones.

  • How To Clean A Crib Mattress

  • How To Clean A Crib Mattress