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

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Since making sure that your kids get and stay healthy is one of your priorities, it’s imperative that the surfaces your kids spend quality time on or touching be as clean as possible—ostensibly, because dirty surfaces often have disease imparting microorganism on them.  This is especially true of crib mattresses since, after all, this is the surface on top of which kids spend the most time.  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.

The good news is that there are plenty of strong cleaning agents that can be used to clean a crib mattress; the bad news, however, is that, 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.  Then again, it depends on the circumstances and the type of mattress in question.

Things To Get Together For Your Crib Mattress Cleaning Adventure

Here are the things to get together before starting to clean a crib mattress: laundry detergent (or a milder, natural ingredients alternative), 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, and small cloths.


Start by vacuuming your mattress; this will help glean any embedded the dust and dirt which can trigger allergies and induce irritation in the little ones.  Do vacuum each side of the mattress, as well as the edges.  For better effect, use narrow-necked upholstery attachments in order to take away any loose particles.


Put together warm water and about one quarter cup of hypoallergenic laundry detergent.  Next scrub the surface of the mattress using the fragile-surfaces scrubbing brush; afterwards, use the bucket filled with warm water as a rinsing station.  Whatever you do, don’t pour either the water or the detergent on the mattress.


With the use of a damp, clean cloth, lovingly scrub the crib mattress’s surface, being sure to rinse and wring a cloth repeatedly in order to remove all residue and detergent from the cloth.  It’s imperative that you rinse vigorously and well so that you don’t leave behind any detergent since it can inflict sickness and irritation on the little ones.


If bacteria and other germs are your main concern or if this mattress has been subjected to stains from spilled juice, intestinal accidents or urine, it’s imperative that you thoroughly disinfect the entire mattress.  With the spray bottle you were told to get, gently spray the surface with rubbing alcohol—do this in particular to visible stains.  The advantage to alcohol is that the mattress doesn’t need to be rinsed following the disinfecting process—the alcohol will simply evaporate.

The Odor & Stain Removal Part

Should stains or any odor remain perceptible after the first cleaning phase, then you will have to take additional steps to make these go away.   Using the spray bottle, mix equal amounts of vinegar, lemon juice and water; strategically and carefully spray this concoction on the surfaces that are discolored, have stains remaining, or from which an odor is still emanating.  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.

The Drying Process

Use a dry towel to gently tamp/absorb water away.  By all means 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.  If necessary and feasible, use a hair dryer to make sure that the mattress is indeed completely dry; or you can place the mattress where the wind and the sun can naturally help dry it—this can also help clean the mattress further.

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:

  1. They have no doubt been subjected to feces, urine, vomit and, therefore, may be carrying many germs or, at possibly, nasty-looking stains—perhaps in unseen places;
  2. They may be harboring bed bugs, dust mites, cockroaches, viruses, mold, bacteria, and other nasty, disease-promoting living organisms.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 or on the end not experiencing the most problems).

Best Practices, Reminders & Caveats To Keep In Mind Regarding Mattress Obtaining & 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—things that 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 doesn’t really matter, as long as you examine it thoroughly and clean it as well as possible.
  • 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, would prefer to not deal with these heavier mattresses, or simply cringe at the idea of changing sheets or turning over such “monstrosities.”
  • 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, by all means take precautions against this possibility.
  • Although some coiled springs mattresses are environmentally-friendly, hypoallergenic and lacking in any of the best known 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 (although the crib and bed can also be odd-sized, especially if you got it from 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 the little ones.

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