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How to Dry a Mattress (Step-by-Step Guide)

Man using a vacuum to dry a mattress

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This guide takes you through the mattress drying process in simple steps so that you’re ready if an accident happens, be it spilled water or bedwetting. Time is extremely important here and you need to act as soon as possible – get towels, a wet-dry vacuum, and a blow-dryer or a fan.

Steps for Drying a Wet Mattress Quickly

  1. remove the bedding
  2. use cloths and towels to absorb the liquid
  3. clean stains
  4. vacuum the mattress
  5. apply absorbent (kitty litter, baking soda)
  6. use a blow-dryer
  7. air out the mattress
  8. ensure that your wet bed doesn’t get moldy

Not every wet mattress is safe to dry and reuse. If you were unable to act within 24 hours of a major spillage or if the mattress was contaminated by flood or sewage water, you shouldn’t even try to clean or dry it. Such a mattress is beyond repair and poses a health hazard.

Step #1: Remove the Bedding

Remove everything that’s on the mattress surface. If the pillows and blankets are also wet, put them up somewhere to dry, or if dryable, throw them in the dryer. You’ll remove some of the excess liquid together with the bedding.

Person removing bedding from a mattress

If you have a bed topper or a pillow top, remove it as well.

You can just put everything outside or in a well-ventilated room to dry in case you spilled water. With other liquids, including urine, you’ll have to clean/wash everything separately.

Step #2: Absorb the Liquid

Once the bedding’s gone, use dry towels to absorb the liquid. Bathroom towels are the best choice here.

Place clean towels over the wet spot and apply pressure against the mattress. Use both hands and press firmly, as if you were giving your mattress CPR.

Absorbing liquid from a mattress

Other things you could use instead of towels might be clean sheets, some clothes, cloths, and rags. Paper towels won’t help much unless it’s a really tiny spill.

Step #3: Clean Any Stains and Disinfect

If your mattress is stained, you need to resort to more than just drying your mattress. Stains can set in if you let them dry. You can always use a stain remover and a damp cloth, but there are also natural options to clean your mattress.

Most stains can be removed with baking soda, water, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and dish soap. Should it be necessary, use an old toothbrush to remove stains.

Hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and vinegar kill bacteria, so be sure to apply at least one of them in order to disinfect the mattress.

  • Urine and urine odors can be removed with baking soda with a few drops of essential oil. Sprinkle it over the stain and rub it lightly.
  • Bloodstains should be washed in cold water. You take a cloth moistened with cold water and try to pull the fresh blood from the mattress surface. Then spray some hydrogen peroxide on the surface and blot lightly with a damp cloth.
  • For vomit, remove all content into a bag and wipe with a paper towel first. Then spray with a 50-50% water and vinegar solution. Depending on how bad the color of the stain is, you can add more vinegar. After a while, blot with a damp cloth.
Spraying disinfectant on a mattress

Do your best to remove the stains at this stage, but don’t waste too much time. Your priority should be to get the whole mattress dry as quickly as possible. This is why you should go to the next step even if you didn’t get rid of the stain completely after 30 minutes – come back to it later to de-stain what’s left of it.

Step #4: Vacuum the Mattress

Use a vacuum cleaner to extract liquid from the inside layers. Check if your vacuum cleaner can endure moisture. A wet-dry vacuum is specifically made for such things. A regular vacuum mustn’t be used to pick up water (say, a glass of water spilled on the floor), but if we’re talking about minor wet areas, a small amount of moisture shouldn’t kill your regular vacuum cleaner. Use common sense to determine the type of situation and how you should act here.

Person vacuuming a mattress while wearing gloves

Step #5: Apply Absorbent (Optional)

This step isn’t crucial, especially because absorbents need time to act and you want to dry a wet mattress ASAP. However, you may still find it useful. Matter such as kitty litter or baking soda can absorb moisture from your mattress.

Sprinkle baking soda or kitty litter over the wet area and rub it in with your hands. Let it sit for a couple of hours and then vacuum the wet spot again.

Step #6: Use a Blow-Dryer

A blow-dryer is best used with spring mattresses and hybrids but you should avoid memory foam mattresses. The first two have better air circulation, but memory foam traps heat and can easily become so hot that it ruins the material.

You should be careful not to overheat any mattress that you’re blow-drying, regardless of the materials. This is easily done when you stick to the following tips:

  • Ideally, prop the mattress up so it’s in a vertical position and place it close to a window. This will increase the air circulation inside and around the mattress and speed up the drying process.
  • Keep the fan a few inches away from the mattress (let’s say, 7-10″) and alternate between hot and cold settings (or use a medium temperature if this option exists). You want to make use of the blowing force of air, not so much of the heat.
  • After every 5 minutes or so, take a break, let the mattress cool off a bit, and touch to see if it’s still wet. This way you’ll avoid accidentally damaging your mattress or your blow dryer from overheating. It’s important to wait for the mattress to cool off before checking it because a hot mattress may easily give you a false impression that it’s completely dry.

Step #7: Air Out the Mattress or Control Humidity

After blow-drying, leave it next to the window and have a fan on. Ideally, leave it outside if the weather is warm and dry enough. Try not to leave it in direct sunlight around noon, but later in the day – you don’t want the sun to damage your mattress.

If this is not an option for some reason, try to lower the humidity in the room as much as possible. This speeds up drying time a great deal. Use a dehumidifier or the AC – both can help.

Woman using a fan to air out a mattress

Step #8: How to Prevent Mold Growth

The last thing you want is to have mold develop in your mattress.

Put some hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle and spray all over the area of your bed that was wet. Wipe it with a cloth and repeat the process after a few days, just in case.

The inside of the mattress might be slightly damp even after it feels completely dry, hence the repetition. Also, make sure the room stays well ventilated for a couple of days, and you can even leave the mattress propped up when you’re not sleeping on it.

Pay attention to the smell of your mattress – a musty smell is a red flag. It means that you hadn’t dried your mattress properly or that the excess moisture has penetrated into the deeper layers and the mold has formed.

Black mold on a mattress

Here’s Why You Need to Act Fast

When your mattress is soaked for a long time (we’re talking hours), moisture might cause permanent damage to mattress materials. The fibers can swell up and end up disfigured while metal springs can rust and become squeaky and non-springy, leaving you with improper support and non-restorative sleep.

Alarm clock

About a day or so after a major untreated soak, your water-damaged mattress will develop mold and help dust mites increase in number. Moisture inside a mattress breeds bad smells and unwanted microorganisms.

This is not only a problem for hypersensitive and allergic people – it can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, and nose. On top of that, mold in your house is known to produce toxins that cause a litany of symptoms which can worsen sleep and day-to-day life.

When It’s Unsafe to Dry and Reuse a Wet Mattress

Consider the source. Burst pipes, floods, or another contaminated source of water will make your mattress unusable. You just can’t get that kind of filth out of the mattress – it’s not safe and even if you try, you’ll soon realize that those bad smells aren’t worth it.

When a mattress has been soaked for over 24 hours, even if it’s just plain water, mold and mildew will start to form. You’ll recognize them by a musty odor. At this point, it’s pretty much impossible to get it back to its previous state.

If your situation is complicated or you’re not sure what to do, call a professional restoration company and ask them for advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get the moisture out of a memory foam mattress?

Follow the steps from above, but skip the hair dryer because memory foam might easily overheat and get damaged. After that, keep the mattress in a well-ventilated room or use a dehumidifier to help extract the moisture. Dry air helps with the drying process.

How to avoid getting the mattress wet?

A waterproof mattress protector is the way to go if you have a toddler or if you simply want to ensure that your mattress doesn’t get dirty or wet.

How do you dry a wet mattress fast?

Dry a wet mattress fast using a combination of the following techniques: wet-dry vacuum, blow dryer, lowering humidity and increasing airflow, and leaving the mattress outside.

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