What Does Mold on a Mattress Look Like?

Everything you need to know about mattress mold.

Let’s be honest — mold is one of the last things homeowners want to find in their homes. This disgusting fungus can be dangerous to you and your family, as it’s known to cause a variety of health problems. However, while mold tends to be a common occurrence in bathrooms and kitchens, it can also find its way into your bedroom, particularly your mattress. What’s worse is that you might not even notice that mold has taken over your mattress, as some symptoms are more obvious than others.

In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about mattress mold, including possible symptoms and causes. And at the end, you’ll learn a few tips that can help you deal with mold and prevent it from returning. But first, let’s see what mold really is.

What Exactly Is Mattress Mold?

Mold is a type of fungi that thrives in damp environments and can be found in most homes. However, there is another type of fungi that people often confuse with mold, called mildew. When it comes to your mattress, mildew is much more common than mold, but people refer to it as mold because they don’t know the difference.

On the one hand, mildew is a type of mold that has flat growth, meaning that it remains on the surface of your mattress, making it easily cleanable. On the other hand, mold creeps deeper into the mattress and requires a more serious treatment. Another way you can distinguish mold from mildew is by appearance. The former is fuzzier, similar to what you might see on old food. In contrast, the mildew appears as spread-out black dots.

What Causes Mold on a Mattress?

Generally speaking, mold requires a dark and wet environment to be able to grow. The underside of your mattress can provide such conditions, as it protects mold against direct sunlight. Your mattress also collects moisture, particularly if you sweat during the night. The combination of sweat and darkness allows mold spores to spread through the material and develop quickly.

It’s important to note that, usually, mattresses don’t retain much sweat for long periods of time. In fact, the bedsheets absorb most of it. So, if washed regularly, mold won’t have enough moisture to develop. However, mattresses that are close to the ground or directly touch it have limited air circulation. That creates extra heat and prevents moisture from drying, allowing mold to spread and thrive.

Symptoms of Moldy Mattresses

Mold and mildew start as microscopic spores, meaning that you won’t be able to spot them until they’ve grown enough to become visible. Another factor that makes finding mold harder is that most people don’t turn over and check their mattresses when changing sheets. Fortunately, there are a couple of signs that can help you determine if your mattress is infested with mold or mildew.

Foul Odor

There’s a big chance that you’ll be able to smell mold before you actually see it. Mold spores have a pungent odor that only gets stronger over time. Interestingly, most people associate the smell of mold with rancid odors like rotting food. However, spores on the mattress will have a damp or dark smell, similar to wet wood and stale water.

If you notice a strange odor, make sure to look for mold spores underneath the mattress. With a bit of luck, you might find the infestation before it spreads and compromises the inside of your mattress.

Stains and Discoloration

As noted earlier, you’ll only be able to notice mold after it has developed and spread through your mattress. It will appear as discolored or fuzzy spots that only become bigger over time. Keep in mind that not every type of mold is black. As a matter of fact, mold comes in a variety of shades, including green, purple, orange, pink, and off-white. So, if there are any stains or discolorations on your mattress surface for no reason, you might be dealing with a mold infestation.

Health Problems

Mold exposure can cause severe health problems, especially for people who already suffer from allergies. Mattress mold is particularly hazardous, mainly because of the long periods you spend in bed.

Exposure to mold spores becomes evident due to allergy-like symptoms, such as itchy eyes, congestion, headaches, and exhaustion. Usually, you’ll feel better shortly after leaving the infected part of the house. That can help you pinpoint the exact location of the mold. So, if you’re feeling any of these symptoms, particularly after just waking up, your mattress is probably infested.


Although mold and mildew are off-putting on their own, they can also attract bugs. In fact, the smell of mold is known to attract gnats, ants, and mites. Eventually, you might even find spiders all throughout the room, as they will feed on the small critters that run under your mattress. As a result, any sudden appearance of bugs or spiders is a potential sign of mold.

What Should You Do If Your Mattress Has Mold?

If you discover that your mattress is infested, you might be tempted to throw it away immediately. However, you may be able to salvage your favorite piece of furniture. While you can easily handle mildew by giving your mattress a few good scrubs, mold requires a different approach. Here are a few methods you can use to get rid of mold, no matter how stubborn it is:

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is an effective substance that can combat most types of mold. But before you use it, make sure to read the mattresses’ label, as this chemical is a bleaching agent and might damage your mattress. If the manufacturer specifically advises against the use of bleach or hydrogen peroxide, then you should avoid this method.

Otherwise, you need to start by vacuuming the mattress to remove dust or dirt. Then, make a three-part warm water and one-part hydrogen peroxide solution. Dip a nylon brush in the mixture and use it to scrub off the mold. Once you’re done, leave the mattress out in the sunlight. After it’s dry, you can repeat the procedure as many times as you’d like to get rid of leftover spores and bacteria.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is one of the most popular methods of removing mold. Similar to hydrogen peroxide, first vacuum your mattress to remove dirt. Proceed by preparing a mixture using equal parts warm water and rubbing alcohol.

Use a clean cloth dipped into the solution to scrub the mold in a circular pattern. Then, rinse the area using another clean cloth dipped in warm water. Keep scrubbing and rinsing until there is no sign of mold anymore. Don’t forget to place the mattress in the sun to dry out and eliminate foul odors.

Mattress Cleaners

Last but not least, you can try to use a commercial mattress cleaner. Just make sure that the product you choose is specially designed for mattresses or upholstery. And always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, preferably by testing the cleaner on a small part of your mattress first.

Preventing Future Mold Infestations

Unfortunately, even after getting rid of mold, you can’t completely remove mold spores from your home. Therefore, you should create an environment that makes it hard for mold to grow and take over your mattress again. The following tips should help you keep mold at bay in the near future:

  • Adjust the room’s humidity: Use a dehumidifier to reduce your room’s humidity and moisture.
  • Vacuum and clean the mattress regularly: By vacuuming your mattress, you remove spores before they can attach to its surface. You also allow air to circulate, further reducing moisture.
  • Avoid placing the mattress on the floor: Placing the mattress on the floor reduces air circulation, which promotes mold growth. You should use plywood sheets or a bed frame in order to minimize floor contact.
  • Use mattress protectors: There are dozens of waterproof protectors that won’t allow moisture to reach the inside of your mattress, protecting it from infestations.

To Sum It Up

Keeping your home clean and safe should be one of your top priorities. And while mold might invade some parts of your home, including your bedroom, there are many ways you can get rid of it. By being proactive and searching for early signs of infestations, you too can protect your home and say goodbye to mold and mildew.

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