Back Button

How to Clean Foam Rubber

Gail Cohen

If you’re under the age of 65, you’ve never lived in a world without foam rubber. Its invention - around the time we were fighting World War II - revolutionized the furniture industry, offering a resilient filling for pillows, mattresses, bench cushions and more.

Given its’ ability to stay in shape and hold up for the long haul, it’s no wonder we take it for granted - until Junior dumps Kool-Aid® on the couch or Dad spends so much time in his favorite recliner, it begins to take on a distinct aroma! If you’re struggling to keep your foam rubber-filled household items free of the agents everyday living deposits onto them, it’s easier than you think if you follow these simple instructions.

    1. It makes good sense to check the tags on your foam rubber-filled items before you start the cleaning process, because not all foam rubbers are created equal. Some types of foam call for special cleaning agents and can’t be subjected to soap and water remedies. No tags on the offenders? Dig up the paperwork that came with the couch, chair or other product and you’ll likely find information there.
    1. If, after doing your homework, you learn that soap and water are the right mix for your foam rubber-filled pieces - and if they are of a manageable size (no mattresses, please!) - thoroughly vacuum all sides of the foam piece to remove the dust you can see and the dust mites you can’t. Transfer the foam to a cool water bath. If your foam won’t fit in your tub, take a tip from the savvy mom who suggested using the kid’s swimming pool to handle tough jobs like these.
    1. Once you’ve soaked the foam in cool water to dislodge any particles your vacuum failed to capture, squeeze out the foam and check it for stubborn stains. Treat these with your favorite stain removal product, or choose from one of these: An enzyme-based laundry detergent, an oxidizing product with stain-removal properties or make a paste of water and granular laundry detergent and brush it on with an old toothbrush. The key, at this stage of the cleaning process, is to introduce stain-removing enzymes to the foam to trap and extract stains and odors that cling to this highly-receptive material.
    1. Time for your foam piece’s next bath. Mix liquid dish washing soap with water in the tub to create a sudsy mix, then pretend you’re kneading bread! Vigorously squeeze the soapy mix into the foam to ferret out the deepest soils. Drain the tub, refill with fresh cool water and continue to knead the foam, extricating soapy water from the cells of the foam piece several times. When the water in which your foam is bathing runs nice and clear, you’ll know that all of the soaps have been removed.
    1. Due to the chemical composition of foam rubber, its biggest advantage is its dense nature. This also happens to be its biggest disadvantage. For this reason, approach the next step - the drying process – as probably the most important of all. Leave even a tiny bit of water trapped within the core of your foam cushion and you’re inviting mold and/or mildew to move into the nooks and crannies you just cleaned out! To avoid this, hand-squeeze the foam vigorously, making sure you’ve wrung everything you can out of the foam. Next, roll the piece in towels or take a tip from the experts and use chamois cloths to do the most thorough job. Finally, put the foam outside in the sun and let nature take a turn at ridding your cushions and pillows of the last bit of grime and odor. If sun is a problem in your neck of the woods, recruit your blow dryer or use a fan to help speed the process, turning the foam over continually to get at all of the surfaces.


Getting your foam cushions and pillows back into shape has many benefits. It helps to keep your family healthy, perks up your home and even satisfies the environmentally conscious part of your soul. Foam rubber takes forever to break down so refurbishing yours helps keep this sturdy material out of landfills. Since all it takes is a little time and some of the household products you already own to do the job, you can take pride in your efforts - and give Dad back his sweet-smelling recliner!


If the item you wish to clean is a shredded foam cushion rather than one made of a solid block of the material, never remove the foam shred from its outer casing. This is a situation that calls for washing the entire item in a washing machine filled with cold water. Follow up by tumble drying the piece using a low setting on the dryer.

Can’t find a washer big enough to handle your foam project? Try the local laundromat. Their oversized washers and dryers can tackle the biggest job.

Drying a shredded foam-filled cushion requires innovative thinking so try this handy tip: Throw a clean sneaker into the dryer with the foam piece. As the sneaker bangs and crashes against the walls of the drum, it keeps shredded foam from clumping and settling into wads that cause newly-cleaned pillows to look lumpy.

Never machine dry foam-based products on high settings. You risk breaking down the foam’s molecular properties and could ruin the piece forever.

Call upon a professional carpet and upholstery care technician to handle your big foam jobs. Professionals can analyze your foam rubber pieces and offer you just the right type of cleaning options – including environmentally sound, natural cleaning products that take extra care of families dealing with allergies.

Consider using a stain-resistant spray on your foam rubber when the cleaning job is done. There are many protective spray products on the market that can be applied to both the foam itself and to the outer covering. You’ll wind up with twice the protection.