Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Restoring Mattresses and Box Springs

Continuing with his series on “soft” contents restoration, Jeff Bishop addresses bedding units --mattresses and box springs -- and the cleaning/restoration techniques involved.

Bedding units are usually made of two distinct types of materials or “ticking”: the gray striped material is normally durable, colorfast cotton; and patterned (usually floral) materials are normally durable, colorfast polyester—reasonable quality assumed! The durable, colorfast nature of both materials means that we can get fairly aggressive with pre-conditioning agents and can expect reasonable restoration, even in severe soot contamination situations.

Fortunately, most mattresses are protected from direct soot contamination by mattress covers, sheets, blankets or spreads. Box springs, if not protected by dust covers or spreads, may not be quite as easy to restore. Therefore, usually you may anticipate finding the worst soot staining along the edges of box springs only.

Inspection and Evaluation

Careful inspection of bedding units is required, and it’s important that insureds be aware that pre-existing discolorations from age or body fluids cannot always be removed during cleaning. Our primary objective is to remove soot staining and odor, and to eliminate any unsanitary conditions that may exist, along with microscopic particles of dander (skin cells) that serve as a food source for dust mites.

When light soot damage exists, mattresses and box springs may be cleaned on-location just like any other soft furniture. In most moderate to heavy soot damage situations, cleaning and deodorizing in a restoration facility may be the most practical alternative.


Unfortunately, much of the soiling on bedding units takes place when careless restoration personnel remove them from the premises. Thus, the first order of business involves proper transport of bedding units from the contaminated structure, to avoid dragging them on sooty flooring or against soot-stained doorframes. This saves time and later cleaning efforts.

Proper transport of mattresses and box springs is accomplished by laying out an eight-foot (11/2 x 3 meter) drop cloth on the floor beside the bed unit (stained commercial table cloths available from linen rental companies or retail outlets work well). Then, stand the mattress or box spring unit on its side, centered within the drop cloth. With workers on either end of the mattress, and while balancing the unit on its side with one hand on each end, the mattress or box spring may be transported in the “sling” formed when the four corners of the drop cloth are lifted.

Of course, leaving soot contaminated sheets or mattress covers on the unit during transport provides an additional margin of protection from soot staining during transport.

Dry Soil Removal

As always, technicians should attempt to remove as much soil as possible in a dry state. Vacuum each bedding unit carefully, concentrating on sides (particularly the unprotected sides of box springs) where soot contamination tends to be the heaviest. Also, give careful attention to dust covers on the underside of box springs. Dust covers usually are constructed of black or gray, woven or spun polypropylene materials (olefin) that are unaffected by blown soot or by virtually any chemical application.


Next, uniformly apply a mild alkaline pre-conditioner to all areas of the fabric being cleaned. For heavy soot contamination along the edges of bedding units, a heavy-duty alkaline pre-conditioner may be required; but fortunately, bedding fabrics or colors normally are unharmed by this application. Test if you’re unsure. Of course, follow chemical application by agitation with a nylon bristle brush for even chemical distribution, along with maximum soil suspension. After a few minutes of chemical dwell time, thoroughly flush the soil from the fabric with hot water extraction with a deodorant additive in the rinse water. And, as a minimum, don’t forget to lightly spray and extract dust covers on the bottom of box springs.


Following the removal of physical soil through cleaning, make an application of a federally registered disinfectant to eliminate odor causing microorganisms and much of the odor that may be associated therewith. Simply spray the disinfectant onto the fabric liberally, agitate quickly and lightly for uniform distribution, and then, lightly final-rinse with extraction cleaning once again.


After cleaning and sanitizing, additional wet vacuuming (suction only) is highly recommended to speed drying, since mattresses and box springs may have cotton stuffer materials that could retain moisture for prolonged periods. This moisture could result in sour odors, cellulosic browning (circles, discoloration), or eventually, even mold growth. Also, metal springs might rust if excess moisture isn’t removed within a reasonable time. Stand bedding units on their sides with spacers in between them to allow for air circulation during drying. Air movers directed at mattresses and box springs expedite drying considerably.


Even with all the effort we’ve expended so far, smoke odor may remain in mattresses and box springs. Thus, confine them to an ozone room and subject them to a combination of thermal fogging and ozone gas over a 24-48 hour period or even longer if odor is severe. With all the modern deodorization technology available today, there is little reason for persistent odor in mattresses and box springs to be a recurring problem.

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