Easy tips for cleaning foam pillows, toys and more

The nice thing about foam — whether it's the old rubber used from the 1940s to the 1960s or polyurethane, the preferred material since the 1970s — is that it's porous. That means all you have to do to keep the foam in your cushions, pillows or mattresses or even toys fresh is to vacuum it. However, spills require a bit more elbow grease.

Easy tips for cleaning foam pillows, toys and more

1. To clean surface spills or marks

  • Remove any covering (clean it separately), then use a rag dampened with dishwashing liquid and water and rub the surface.
  • Never put soap and water directly on the foam, because it will absorb the liquid.
  • Let the foam air dry thoroughly before you put the cushion cover, sheet or pillowcase back on, to avoid the growth of micro-organisms.
  • Heavy spills that have seeped into the interior of the foam require special attention. Run water — only water — through the foam, then squeeze out as much excess as you can.
  • If you use soap or other cleaning agents, you'll just have to rinse those out, too, or you run the risk of creating a breeding ground for bacteria.

2. To clean a deep stain

  • If it’s on a small cushion or pillow, place the foam in the bathtub or sink and run water over it.
  • For larger cushions, use a shower nozzle or garden hose. However, don't try this on a mattress, which can only be surface cleaned.
  • Even when you're dealing with a very difficult stain, keep water use to a minimum, because it will take 24–48 hours for the foam to dry completely. And there's nothing you can do to speed up the drying process, either.
  • Above all, don't ever place foam near a heater or heat source to try to dry it more quickly or put small pieces in a clothes dryer — foam is highly flammable.
  • No matter how good your attempt is to clean your foam objects, some kinds of odours and stains — such as pet urine and saliva — may not come out if they seep into the interior of the foam rubber. You might just have to bite the bullet and replace it.

3. Fast method

  • To quickly and thoroughly clean a foam rubber pillow or cushion, all you need is a plastic bag and a vacuum cleaner.
  • Remove any attachment from the end of the vacuum cleaner's hose.
  • Put the pillow in a plastic bag and stick the end of the vacuum hose in the bag, twist the top of the bag closed and hold it in place, then turn on the vacuum. The foam will become condensed as the vacuum sucks the air and dirt out of the foam.
  • When you turn off the vacuum, the foam will return to its original shape. This nifty technique cleans both sides of the pillow at the same time.
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