How to Prevent MOLD from Growing on Your Mattress in Your RV
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Why is mold growing under my RV mattress?
According to Mold Remediation, “An ideal temperature for mold growth is between seventy-seven to eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit, especially when there is a lot of humidity in the air. Temperatures have to rise above one hundred degrees or below freezing to effectively kill mold spores.”
As we discussed in our article, How to Stop Condensation in Your RV, mold and mildew occurs when moisture is trapped in dark places where there’s little ventilation or air movement. RVs are prime targets for mold growth because there is little air exchange in places like corners in your closet, behind cabinets and of course, under your mattress.
Your RV bedroom is even more susceptible to mold because when you sleep, your body heat increases the temperature of the mattress. At the same time, your body emits moisture through breathing and perspiration. And where does that moisture go? Yep, you guessed it. All that warm moisture radiates all the way through your mattress!
Another explanation of why mattresses mold in RVs (and other places), if the surface your RV mattress is positioned on is colder than the mattress itself, that temperature difference can cause condensation to form. And if the condensation can’t evaporate, it can lead to mold or mildew buildup on or in your mattress.
What MOLD on your mattress looks like?
On a visual note, Black mold is just as it implies. Toxic mold appears as round black, dark brown or dark green spots. And, it can have a furry appearance. Sometimes, it may have flecks of orange, yellow or white in it.
Another huge tell-tale sign is if you and/or your travel companions experience sneezing, coughing, throat or lung irritation after prolonged exposure to black mold spores. Be aware that people who are at higher risk, like infants or family member with existing respiratory issues, could experience long-term health consequences.
If you ignore these indications, you increase toxicity by exposing yourself and your companions. But, if you see mold, do not touch it or disturb it with your bare hands. We’ll get to that later in this article.
RELATED: How to Stop Condensation in Your RV
Why is mold so dangerous?
As one who has personally experienced health issues originating from toxic mold poisoning, I’m living proof of why you need to take mold seriously. There are over 100 varying symptoms that occur when humans and even your pets are exposed to mold. Just to name a few:
- Severe headaches
- Burning and/or watery eyes
- Head and chest congestion
- Respiratory issues
- Lung damage
- Sleep apnea
- Kidney and bladder dysfunction
- Neuroinflammation and neuropathy
- Bowel dysfunction
So, these are reasons enough to keep an eye on and under your mattress. If you, your family members and even your pets show symptoms of toxic mold poisoning, get to the doctor asap!
Can I remove mold from my RV mattress myself?
While I’m not a professional mold mitigation specialist, I can tell you what doesn’t work to remove mold from any surface. Many believe you can remove mold can be cleaned and removed using simple antibacterial household cleaners. However, those do not have mold inhibitors that actually kill and remove the mold.
Others believe using chlorine bleach will get rid of mold. NO! It actually bleaches the mold and releases mycotoxins which is like a gas that hovers and keeps you sick.
Besides, “Bleach only kills surface mold, not the membrane underneath,” according to ServiceMaster. “That means the mold will grow back. In fact, recognizing the bleach as a ‘threat,’ the mold will grow back even stronger.”
As many have sought into seeing of vinegar will kill mold, according to Family Handyman, “Vinegar truly is better than bleach at killing mold. The EPA does not recommend using bleach to kill or remove mold, except in special circumstances. In most cases, “a background level of mold spores will remain” after the application of bleach.”
High-proof vodka or Everclear may be more beneficial. But therapeutic tea tree oil is a great mold inhibitor out there. It smells very strong. A strong word of caution though, do not use tea tree oil around pets; especially cats.
You must air out your home and make sure they do not have contact with it. Please understand though, I am absolutely not advocating killing mold with those methods. While it works, it still leaves mycotoxins.
Removal by killing it is the best way to solve a mold issue. Even baby wipes to wipe it off followed by cleaning with tea tree then a preventive layer. It lasts as a preventive for a minimum of a year.
How do I know if I mold is growing on my mattress without moving it?
Without even lifting your mattress, you may suspect presence of mold through its’ distinct mildew odor.
The smell of mold is unpleasant and rather foul. The pungent odor grows stronger over time as the mold starts to spread and sporulate. Most describe mildew odor as earthy, musty, and stale. Have you ever had the pleasure of smelling days old wet socks or decaying wood? Those are similar to what mold smells like.
If you can smell mold, it means the mold is already airborne and you and your family, including your pets, are being exposed to toxic mold. Mold spores can attach to any surface it lands on; from walls, carpets, countertops, pillows and your bedding. It can even hitchhike on your clothing. But even if you can’t smell it, doesn’t mean mold isn’t present. It may be that the mold infestation has just started.
Mold Prevention and/or Mold Removal Products for Mattresses and Beds
There are commercial mold prevention and mold removal products out on the market that may work on mattresses as well as your bed platform and headboard .
Best Mold Preventative
Inhibits the growth of new spores on a wide range of solid surfaces in and out of your RV.
Best Natural Mold Inhibitor
Natural mold inhibitor products that avoids chemicals that can cause irritation and require ventilation by picking a plant-based mold remover, like this Thymol formula.
Best for Wood Bed Platforms and Headboards
Penetrates wood surfaces to kill mold and mildew, without requiring any scrubbing or rinsing after application
Best for Mattress and Fabric Covered Padded Headboards
The mist of this mold remover allows you to evenly cover soft surfaces without the worry of damaging fabrics with bleach products.
Works on nearly any surface, including wood, fiberglass, concrete, and tile.
Can I salvage the mattress in my RV if it has been exposed to mold?
Not seeing your mattress, no one would be able to answer that question. But, if you feel like you want to try to salvage your mattress that may have mold on it, that’s entirely up to you. You can try any of the mold removers or inhibitors listed above. That said, make certain you wear proper PPE (personal protective equipment) and ventilate the room properly. Also, make certain your pets and children are far away from mold mitigation.
If you were to ask me personally if I would salvage my own mattress that has mold on it, I’d take extreme caution and eliminate the source of the mold entirely. That means destroying the mattress so no one else could get sick from it. And then, disposing of of the mattress safely and properly. Remembering that if I set it out to the trash, waste management employees will be exposed to handling it.
How can I prevent from mold from growing on my RV mattress?
There are a few things you can do to prevent mold from growing on your mattress and your bedding platform your mattress rests on. We actually use some of these ideas or have in the past even in our sticks and bricks home. These useful mold prevention tips can be used in your RV, boat or even tiny home which will help mitigate mold and mildew from even starting or taking foothold.
Insulate your RV better
Insulating the exterior of your slides with foam insulation board (I recommend 1″ thick) sealed with HVAC tape helps alot. Insulating under the travel trailer and fifth wheel section also helps create a moisture barrier.
Also, using that silver reflective bubble wrap (Reflectix) over your windows provides insulation while not detracting from light inside.
Protect the platform under your mattress
Now, you don’t have to do this but we found that protecting our fifth wheel’s bed platform, we eliminated the chance of moisture intrusion into the wood. So, we stood our mattress up so we could work on the platform. Dan installed cheap peel-n-stick vinyl floor square tiles onto the top of the wood bed platform; just the same technique as if he were tiling a floor.
This created an added layer of insulation. Plus, it also added a moisture barrier between the mattress and the wood bed platform. While you don’t have to do this, we found at least our wood platform top didn’t mold or stain from moisture.
Dehumidify your bedroom
The best way to prevent mold growth on your mattress and anywhere else in your RV is to ensure the humidity is at a healthy level.
One of which is to regulate the humidity by using a small dehumidifier. In fact, get two; one to keep in your bedroom at all times (and run it!) and one for your main living area.
Dehumidifiers are a necessity in RVs because they remove unnecessary humidity from your bedroom. When we had our much larger fifth wheel, we kept a small portable dehumidifier running anytime we were plugged into an electric pedestal. And, we kept our closet doors open to allow ventilation. Just make sure the humidity level in your RV stays below 50%.
RELATED: Best RV Dehumidifiers for Motorhomes and Campers (and apartments, home offices a nd tiny homes!)
Get a mattress protector
Mattress protectors aren’t just for bed wetters or accidental spills from morning coffees or late night cocktails. In fact, anytime we’ve purchased a new mattress, we’ve always put on a waterproof encasement-type mattress protector before making it up with our favorite linens. A simple mattress protector will help keep the moisture away from the mattress itself.
But hypothetically you notice mold growing on the mattress cover. You’ll need to gently and carefully (with mask, gloves and eye protection) remove the mattress protection cover; trying not to disturb or stir up the mold spores. Wrap it up with the mold inside and then place in a plastic bag, secure it tightly and discard in the trash. I highly recommend tagging it with a note “mold enclosed” so aste management employees knows what to do with it.
Air out your mattress
One thing you should do is periodically air out your mattress. By doing airing out your mattress, you’re allowing air to circulate completely around the mattress.
Simply strip off all bedding and stand your mattress up that both sides are exposed to the air. Running a dehumidifier in the bedroom will double the moisture mitigation.
If your mattress can be removed easily from your RV and you have a clean place to set it out in the bright sunshine, that can actually help your mattress.
According to Blackmon Mooring and BMS Cat, “Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun kills most mold and spores, which is why you don’t see it growing outside in the open. … Those are the ones that need to be kept dry and free from mold food sources more than areas that get natural sunlight.”
Insert silica gel packets
Place several silica gel packets between your mattress and the bed platform your mattress rests on; about a foot apart. These desiccant packs (also known as desi packs) absorb moisture which will help prevent mold from growing on your mattress and the platform it sits on. Don’t forget to place a few where your mattress meets the headboard and in corners where mold can spontaneously grow.
That said, this method isn’t a set it and forget it. It’s wise to lift your mattress each time you change your bed linens to inspect the platform and mattress. Also, you’ll need to replace your desi packs.
The cool thing is these particular silica gel packets that we use are reusable. So, while you are changing your linens out, take your RV mattress off the platform, take up the desi packs and microwave them for seven minutes to reactivate them. Then, place them back on the bed platform and put your mattress back. They typically can be reused about ten or more times. As we have first hand account of using these dehumidifying packets, they are well worth the money than replacing your mattress or worse, getting sick from the mold.
Mattress Moisture Barrier Ideas
As I was researching to write this article, I found a plethora of ways RVers can prevent mattress mold by either building topical platforms or simple cheap alternatives. Some of these multipurpose items may help prevent moisture from getting between the mattress and bed platform.
Wood Slat Bed Platform
If you have a saw, drill, wood screws and enough 1″ x 2″ wood slats, you can make a wood slat mattress platform that provides ventilation beneath your mattress. However, as of late, wood may be a bit more expensive. So, if you’re on a budget, this may not work for your situation.
Pre-Constructed Slat Platform
If you’d rather not mess with building your own, this pre-constructed wooden slat platform provides an excellent surface foundation for any platform beds, bunks and daybeds. It adds support to any mattress type and will keep mattress stay in good shape thus extending the life of your mattress These wooden slats are made out of Black Spruce wood are linked to prevent movement during use and they effortlessly extend your mattress’s life span and prevent sagging.
Hypervent Aire-Flow™ Mattress Moisture Barrier
The first mold prevention is an actual moisture barrier made specifically for mattresses. Sold by the linear foot, Mattress Insider’s Hypervent Aire-Flow is designed to prevent moisture build-up underneath mattresses, bunk pads, and cushions.
It provides unobstructed airflow by elevating the mattress off the sleeping surface. When the mattress is elevated, warm air is able to circulate under the mattress which minimizes conditions necessary for condensation. If condensation does occur, the Hypervent Aire-Flow material allows that moisture to evaporate.
Simply place the cellulose looking material underneath your mattress or cushions to minimize moisture buildup.
Check out their video to show how it works in your RV and mattress:
Floor Tile Mats
Another clever method to preventing mattress mold us to install modular interlocking floor tile mats on top of their mattress bed platform before setting their mattress on top. They come in different colors. And, by looking at the prices, they are much cheaper than wood and take less time and tools to install.
Landscaping Paver Grids
If you’re in really humid locations prone to mold growth, you’ll want to install a moisture barrier between your mattress and platform. These allow air to circulate under the mattress; thus not allowing mold to find it’s way to even start growing.
Paver grids are great for placing between your mattress and your bed platform. While they’re really made for landscaping, you could essentially use them to give your mattress a little breathing room underneath. The grids come in different sizes. So, you’ll have to measure your mattress to ensure it fits properly. They connect to each other to create one complete system.
Pool noodles or pipe insulation
Inserting pool noodles (with holes through the middle) or pipe insulation tubes along the edges of mattresses vertically keeps your mattress from touching the camper walls.
Also, laying pool noodles or pipe insulation tubes between your mattress and platform surface will help to keep your mattress and surface dry. Simply slice each pool noodle in half lengthwise and lay each half ‘flatter side down’ about 3″ to 4″ apart. Gently place your mattress on top and make the bed.
Den Dry Mattress Underlayment
Camper and RV beds can trap a significant amount of moisture underneath the mattress. Thus, a well ventilated underlay is necessary. The cool thing about this anti-mold remedy is the Den Dry mattress underlayment is not pre-cut. They left the custom sizing and shaping to the mattress owner as most RVs have uniquely shaped and sized beds. You can alter it according to your need with ease and precision with just a pair of sturdy work scissors.
The mattress moisture barrier underlayment comes in three sizes: king, queen/full, and twin XL. Your RV mattress does not have to sit directly on the bed. Instead, the spun polyethylene elevates the surface and provides much-needed air circulation.
What do I do if I’m storing my RV with the mattress in it?
Almost wrapping up our article here, another question we get asked is “what if I have to store my RV with my mattress in it?”
Even when you put your RV into storage, your mattress can still become the ultimate breeding zone for mold spores to multiply and literally take over. When your motorhome or camper is stored, moisture can get trapped inside the RV. Thus, helping to feed the mold growth. Humid storage facilities or being parked even under a warm cover or tarp are incubators for mold and mildew.
This is why you should protect your mattress or remove your mattress entirely even when you’re not using your RV.
Final thoughts on preventing mold from growing on your mattress
RVs pose atmospheric challenges that most homes don’t endure. Because of that, RV owners need to really pay attention to humidity and condensation as not only will they damage your RV but pose serious health consequences. I hope this information is instrumental in keeping you, your family and your pets safe and healthy while enjoying your RV adventures. This includes getting a restful nights sleep without worrying about getting sick down the road.
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