A Comprehensive Guide to Cleaning a Crib Mattress and Baby Bedding


Soon-to-be parents spend a lot of time learning everything they need to know about preparing for a baby, and taking care of one as they get older. All the books, classes, videos, online research, and questions asked (and answered) definitely help new mothers and fathers to be better prepared for the early stages of parenthood; however, there are some related responsibilities that come with taking care of a baby and yet, you rarely find them in a book. We’re talking about cleaning your baby’s crib mattress and bedding on a regular basis.

While there may be a lot of parents out there who have already undertaken this responsibility, there are some who aren’t aware of how important it is to do so. Read on to know more.

Why You Should Clean Your Baby’s Crib Mattress

When it comes to your baby’s crib mattress, regular cleaning is a must for a number of reasons. Just like their clothes and spit-up cloths, their surroundings must be cleaned with baby-safe products to maintain a sanitary sleeping space.

Here are a few reasons why a crib mattress should be cleaned regularly:

    • Like any type of mattress, a crib mattress may get infested with dust mites
    • Mould/mildew are commonly found on mattresses, especially if exposed to moisture for long periods of time
    • They encounter bodily fluids that may cause rashes and skin allergies
    • They are prone to bacteria and thus, make your baby’s crib an unhealthy sleeping space

Things You’ll Need to Clean a Crib Mattress

Before you start cleaning the crib mattress, make sure that you have everything you need for the task as listed below:

      • Gentle scrub brush
      • Vacuum cleaner
      • Clean microfibre cloths
      • Baby soap (if needed)
      • White distilled vinegar
      • Baking soda
      • Rubbing alcohol
      • Hypoallergenic laundry soap
      • Bucket 
      • Spray bottle

Wash the Bedding First

In just six steps, you can clean a crib mattress thoroughly to remove dust, bacteria, and stains; but first, you need to wash the bedding. Bear in mind that while the mattress can be cleaned once a month, the crib bedding must be washed weekly. 

The safest way to clean baby bedding is by washing it in the machine using unscented, hypoallergenic laundry detergent. This type of product will not cause skin irritation and/or allergies in babies which are quite common with scented laundry products. A hot water cycle is also advised as high water temperatures are more effective in killing bacteria and dust mites. Of course, it’s important to check the labels for washing symbols to ensure that you are using the correct cleaning methods for the fabric in question.

Be sure to air-dry washed baby bedding in the sun to kill off any lingering bacteria or dust mites that may have survived the wash. The bedding should be completely dry before being stored or used again as damp linen in a closet promotes mildew while sleeping on a moist/damp bed is bad for your baby’s health.

Steps to Clean Your Baby’s Crib Mattress

If the mattress has a covering, take it off and observe whether it needs to be replaced or cleaned. For the latter, hand wash it separately with baby soap and water or check the label for machine-wash instructions. Now, for the main task, follow the steps below to fully sterilise and clean the baby crib mattress.

Step 1: Vacuum

Even with a cover, a crib mattress is prone to dirt and dust; therefore, regular cleaning every few weeks is necessary to get rid of the buildup. The most effective way to remove dust and dirt from a mattress is by vacuuming every inch of it! This includes both sides, edges, and corners. 

Vacuuming a crib mattress will also remove dust mites that are resting close to the surface. Bear in mind that mites typically hide in corners and under the seams and therefore, paying minute attention to detail when vacuuming is important. Use a narrow head attachment for the seams and corners, and vacuum the rest of the mattress with a soft brush attachment.

Step 2: Treat Stains

While a cover will help prevent stains on a mattress, some stains are inevitable. Over time, dust and dirt will leave mild stains and discolouration which can be treated with a natural stain remover. To make this solution, combine 1 cup water, 1 white vinegar, and ¼ cup lemon juice; pour the mixture into a spray bottle and shake well (this can be used to clean and remove stains from any mattress).

Use the mist setting to spray the mattress stains; there is no need to saturate the area. Once dampened, spot clean the stains by gently scrubbing them with a microfibre cloth. If needed, dampen the cloth with the same stain remover, and proceed to rub at the stain until it vanishes. Use a fresh side of the cloth as the stains begin to lift. 

Flip the mattress over, and spot clean stains on the other side. 

Step 3: Scrub the Crib Mattress

To clean the rest of the mattress, a cleaning solution with the same hypoallergenic laundry detergent used to wash the bedding is recommended. Simply mix ¼ cup of the detergent in a bucket of ¾ water, and stir it up to create a sudsy solution.

Dip a gentle scrub brush in the cleaning mixture, shake off the excess water, and scrub the mattress in circular motions. Try not to saturate the material while you do this as excess moisture may damage the stuffing. Scrub both sides of the mattress including the sides, corners, and along the seams. Be sure to rinse the brush every now and then for a thorough clean.

Step 4: Rinse the Cleaner Off

Since you can’t rinse the mattress under running water, it will need to be wiped repeatedly with a damp cloth to remove the cleaning solution. For this, use a clean microfibre cloth soaked and wrung properly; rinse it out as and when you feel the soapiness transferred to the cloth. Continue this process until the cleaning solution has been thoroughly removed from the crib mattress. 

During this step, observe the mattress for any missed stains, and spot treat them as needed. Once you have rinsed the mattress, dab it with a dry towel to soak up as much moisture as possible.

Step 5: Sterilise the Crib Mattress

Deep cleaning your baby’s crib mattress does not guarantee the removal of bacteria (at least not entirely). Therefore, you must disinfect the mattress separately using a baby-safe product such as rubbing alcohol. 

To apply the disinfectant, spray a fine mist directly onto the mattress and let it sit. There is no need for wiping, scrubbing, or rinsing as rubbing alcohol evaporates on its own. 

Step 6: Leave it to Air-Dry

Just like your baby bedding, it’s important to allow the crib mattress to dry completely before it is used again. In some cases (depending on the weather), it takes a few days for the moisture to dry up completely, however, there are a few things you can do to speed up the process.

During the day, leave the mattress out in the sun; pick a clean area where dust is not an issue, and place the mattress on a plastic table to air-dry. Flip it over every 2-3 hours. When the weather starts to cool down, bring the crib mattress inside and leave it to dry under a high-speed ceiling fan. Again, flip it over every few hours. To ensure that the mattress is completely dry, leave it in a closed room for about an hour (without a fan or HVAC system running), and touch it with the back of your hand thereafter; if it feels cool, there is moisture trapped inside. On the other hand, if the outer material feels similar to the temperature of the room, it is dry and safe to use again.

Nothing is more important than your baby’s health so while you continue to take care of his or her every need, be sure to maintain a sanitary sleeping space by washing your baby’s bedding once a week, and deep cleaning the crib mattress every month.

Karen Saunders


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