Mattress Stains, When to Worry and When to Say to Heck with It

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Dear Home Ec 101,

I’ve got a problem that I haven’t seen addressed on the blog, or anywhere else for that matter.  We have an older twin-size, leather sofa-bed; which lived happily in our library in our home for several years, did an eight-year stint as extra seating at my office, and now has been moved to its permanent home in the boys’ bedroom of our new cabin.  Taking it to the cabin was a chore; and as we’re getting older, we thought it would be a good idea to take the mattress-bed contraption out of the leather frame and take it upstairs in two trips.  No problem there, we got it apart.  Unfortunately, for the first time in probably decades, we unfolded the hide-a-bed part, only to discover rust stains on the top of the mattress!  Perhaps really cat pee stains from when it was at home?  Maybe coffee spilled behind the cushion at the office?  No clue.  I figure we can sand and paint the rusted metal hide-a-bed frame with no problem, but how do I possibly get the rust stains out of the mattress?

Any guidance would be most welcome.


Secret Stains

Heather says:

We are going to look at these mattress stains from a couple of different perspectives.

Let’s pretend you do have a cat urine issue on your mattress.  Without a doubt you will know if you have cat pee on your mattress all it will take is a quick sniff test, not even up close and personal to your mattress, to determine if urine was anywhere near your couch. Cats are quite notorious for the amount of funk (ammonia) contained in their urine. There is simply no way a sniff test will leave you confused about the source of the stain.

Get yourself some Kids’n’Pets or other enzymatic cleaner and if you don’t own a carpet / or upholstery steam cleaner, rent one.  Also find a box fan or make sure there is lots of air flow in the room where the mattress cleaning will occur. You absolutely do not want to trade your stain issue for a mildew / mold problem. Only steam clean one side of the mattress at a time and make sure the first side is COMPLETELY -got it?- dry before doing the other.

The enzymatic cleaner should take care of any pet urine issues in your mattress.

Now here’s where I believe I’m probably going to give an unpopular answer.

If the stains were caused by rust. . . Do the stains on your mattress really matter at all?

Rust stains are harmless. Sure they aren’t attractive, but they aren’t doing anything to the mattress other than sitting there and being ugly. What’s the crime in ugly, I ask? This is a hide-a-bed, the mattress isn’t ever going to serve as a conversation piece in your home, right?

On another note, it’s not even like it’s an extremely comfortable mattress. (I’m sure someone, somewhere may make a comfortable hide-a-bed mattress, but I have never encountered one.)

If you want to ensure guests never see the stains, grab yourself an allergen mattress barrier. Zipper that around the mattress and voila! No one sees the rust stains unless they are creepy weird and unzip the barrier and really, who are you inviting into your home that would do that?

For what it’s worth, I do think you are on the right track to fix up the source of the rust stains, I just don’t think the rust stains themselves matter that much.

Good luck!

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Related post: Mattress Cleaning and Other Indoor Sports

How to Clean Stuffed Animals

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Dear Home-Ec 101,

I just was wondering how to wash stuffed animals? I want to disinfect it properly, so I was thinking of putting them in the wash – with Oxyclean and detergent, inside a rubber-banded pillow case. Or is there any other way?

Fuzzy in Fulton
Heather says:

Stuffed animals are beloved by children and abhorred by those of us who actually pay attention to our allergist’s recommendations. As far as washable stuffed animals, you have the method exactly right. However, in my experience even on gentle and tumble drying on low or air drying, even washable stuffed animals are never quite the same afterward.

If your goal is to just kill dust mites and the stuffed animal isn’t washable put the animal in a clean plastic or cloth bag and put it in the freezer for 24 hours or so. Once the time has elapsed take it outside and beat the ever loving snot out of it. Seriously, you want to get rid of any dead dust mites or their *ahem* excrement which will just trigger allergies and asthma, even after they are dead.

If an unwashable stuffed animal is just generally dirty, you can put it in a large plastic bag -seal it tight- with a cup or two of corn starch. Shake the heck out of the bag and let it sit for a while. Then brush or vacuum the cornstarch -go outside for this step- off of the stuffed animal. The cornstarch usually gets a lot of the dirt and grease. Think of it like that old trick to skip a day of hair washing, by using cornstarch. Even with my long and extremely thick hair, I have never found it to be that time saving over just washing and restyling.

If there is a beloved stuffed animal that isn’t washable and the unthinkable happens to it (kid vomit or worse), pick apart one of the seams. Pull out all of the stuffing and discard it. Then gently hand wash the outer material using a detergent like Woolite and lay flat to dry.  Once the skin of the animal is dry, re-stuff with stuffing from the craft store. Finally resew the seam.

Good luck!

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