Perhaps the most flexible piece of furniture available is the wonderful futon. Do not underestimate the comforts of a good night’s sleep on one! You may never want to go back to a bed. It's adaptability, however opens up a big problem-how to keep it clean. Every futon goes to sleep at night fearing its two greatest enemies, moisture and time (which we  can’t do anything about). But, don’t throw it out yet.

Rakuten FutonCredit:

How It Happens

People tend to like to put their futons on or near the floor. This is of course where the moisture problem comes in. The material the futon is made of will soak up even small amounts of water. Your floor may be completely dry but the contact with the floor in combination with our body heat creates the moisture problem.

The next step in the degradation process occurs when that moisture turns to mold.  Once the mold takes hold, if not treated quickly, black spots appear and get larger. These spots are hard to remove. If we follow a few easy tips we may be able to limit and reduce the damage to its material and substantially extend its usability.


Step 1 - Eliminate the contact

Whenever possible keep the futon elevated off the floor. The main reason why people buy a futon is because they don’t take up space, are cheaper than a bed, and can be put anywhere. As is the case with anything in life a simple change in our habits is all we need. The best way to do this is to use what the Japanese call a すのこ (Sunoko) or a “drainboard”. Sunoko VersatilityCredit: AmazonThey are made of wood and look very similar to a warehouse pallet. Each time you want to use the futon put the drainboard on the floor and lay it on. This will allow for a constant air space between the bottom of the material and the floor. The heat your body creates will have a space to cool down, eliminating any moisture creation. If the sunoko gets wet that’s okay. It is much easier to dry and is coated to prevent damage.

Step 2 – Elevation

Keep it dry and maintain its thickness

Hang It InsideCredit:

In addition to the previous step, this step has a twofold effect. First, it lets the futon dry and second it allows it to maintain its thickness making it more comfortable to sleep on for a longer period. If the mattress is left on the floor all the time gravity will take over and the fluffiness you enjoyed when you bought it will disappear sooner than you'd like.

The drainboard (sunoko), mentioned before, can also used to lay it and hang it on inside your house. The picture on the right shows how to set the sunoko up. The mattress will just be hung over it like the towel in the picture is. Ideally, it will be rotated at least once, maybe when you come home.


Hang it on your clothesline. Special heavy duty clips can be bought because the futons are pretty heavy when suspended in such a manner. The sunlight plays another key part. Futons are made from fibers like polyester, natural fibers like cotton, feather, and wool. The sunlight will kill any small organisms or bugs (they are everywhere, even in our beds) that are attracted to those materials. 

Lie it on its sideRoll it on its sideCredit: finwin

An easier solution is curl the futon up in a loose circle  and set on what is usually its longest side. Alternate the ways you curl it up. For example, the “bottom side” will be on the outside of the curl, and vice versa, the next day. Be wary of the humidity in the area you are storing it. Humid areas will put you right back where you started with small black marks forming. This “dry area” should have adequate air flow, as well. It does not take much, just a constant movement of the air around the material, near a window, for example. 

Time To Clean It

You have mold growth. It can be contained and cleaned. 

What you will need:

  • 2 bowls (both filled with clean, hot water)
  • Dish detergent
  • White vinegar (no other kind because it will stain the futon)
  • In one bowl mix about ½ cup (120ml) of vinegar
  • 2 small, clean pads (non-abrasive to prevent fraying damage to the material)
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Do it on a sunny day

1. Put the futon on a clean surface and vacuum the surface (when it’s dry) to get off as much of the dust, small hairs and mold as possible.  

  • Do not vacuum the futon when it’s wet because this will damage your vacuum cleaner. Regular vacuum cleaners are not made for this.

2. Keep the two pads separate and the two bowls of water separate. 

3. Use a VERY SMALL AMOUNT OF DISH DETERGENT and mix it with some water in one of the bowls. Very little water is needed because we don’t want large amounts to soak into the interior. Scrub the mold areas and wipe off the excess soap. There should be very little because a little does a lot.

4. Clean the pad in one of the bowls.Heinz VinegarCredit:

5. The second pad will be used with the second bowl which has vinegar in it. Scrub the mold. As you do you should start to see the vinegar breaking down the mold spots.

6. Alternate the SOAP-VINEGAR process about 3 times. Try to get as much as the vinegar and soap off as possible. The vinegar smell will go away when it dries.

7. Hang the futon out to dry. A full day is best and don't forget to do it on a sunny day.

You may notice that the spots may still be slightly visible but as the futon dries it will look completely different. If the futon is taken care of in such a manner cleaning may never be needed again.

Many people are tempted throw out their futon mattress but try to retain what you have for as long as you can. A little bit of elbow grease and some patience is all you need and your mattress will be use yours, longer.