How To Clean A Pack N Play Mattress (And Prevent Mold)?

How To Clean A Pack N Play Mattress

A pack and play has so many uses: as a travel bed, a play mat and more. But, a brand new pack-n-play can be expensive, so if you have the chance to snag a used one at a great price – why not?

Oh, but then how to clean a dirty pack-and-play? Many parents may be concerned with how to effectively clean and sanitize a pack and play; not just the frame, but the dirty mattress, too?

While you can baby’s bedding can be machine washed, you cannot put a pack-n-play in the washing machine. What’s more is that some pack and play mattresses cannot get too wet.

While a pack-n-play mattress will easily be the dirtiest part of the pack and play, but some cannot be submerged in water or sprayed with a shower head or hose. This means throwing everything in a bathtub to get your pack and play clean isn’t going to cut it; you need to be careful.

This article looks at how to clean a pack-n-play mattress, four different ways and the importance of ensuring it is completely dry before using or packing away to prevent mold.

This article is not a substitute for medical advice or consultation.

Why It’s Important To Keep The Pack N Play Mattress Clean

Babies are messy. All parts of your pack and play (the mesh walls, padded rail and mattress pad) will get dirty, sticky and soiled at some point, so you’re going to need to take some time to clean your pack and play to ensure proper clean environment for your little one.

There are two approaches for a clean pack-n-play: regular cleaning and the occasional ’emergency response’.

Regular cleaning ensures your keep your baby’s environment clean (kill those bacteria that will make your family sick). This can be spot cleaning or scheduled deep clean to maintain a clean pack-n-play1.

Major messes, on the other hand, have to be dealt with soon after they happen – leaky diapers, spilled food, spit up or worse. Depending on the ’emergency’ event, you may need to sanitize the area as part of your cleaning method.

In most cases, this means a serious deep clean of your pack-n-play mattress (or the entire pack-n-play) before you can use it again.

And remember, it’s essential that your pack and play mattress be all the way dry before it’s ready for your baby to play safely again.

Can I Wash Pack N Play Mattress

Examples of when you should clean your pack-n-play:

  • You’ve purchased or been given a used pack-n-play
  • Your child had an accident or spit up
  • Has been in storage for a long time
  • After camping/outdoor use
  • After using as a travel crib
  • Your pack-n-play mattress has an odor
  • Baby’s diaper blowout or leakage
  • Lending or giving away your pack and play

4 Methods Of Cleaning Pack N Play

There are four basic approaches to cleaning a pack-and-play, depending on how soiled it is, and if you’re trying to clean just the pack-n-play mattress (which is often visibly dirtier than the rest of the pack-n-play), or the entire frame, too.

1. Spot cleaning

This means treating visibly dirty areas on the pack and play and not soaking it. The pack and play with air dry quickly with this method.

Spot Clean Your Pack And Play

I recommend daily spot cleaning your pack-n-play daily with a damp cloth, or as frequently as needed to deal with immediate spills. However, you should schedule a deep clean for your child’s pack-n-play as part of your cleaning routine, to tackle those illness-causing germs and ensure it is effectively clean, not just free of stains.

2. Wiping Down

A more thorough clean pack n play with this approach; using warm water and a soapy solution, rub down the complete pack and play and scrub the inner play mat, too. It should not be saturated, but should kill germs and treat any simple spills your baby may have made.

3. Basic Rinse

Remove the inner mattress, then spray down the whole pack and play to remove dust and grime. This can be don in a bathtub or outside with a hose.

The pack and play may take a full day or two days to air dry completely.

4. Deep Clean Of Entire Pack-n-Play (Mattress And Frame)

The most aggressive cleaning approach, involving disinfectant, detergent, scrub brushes and elbow grease. But, if you have received a used pack-n-play, you must start with some method of a deep clean before using with your baby.

Here, it is important to read the manufacturer instructions regarding how to clean the play mat, if you can soak it or not.

Either way, you will need to remove the play mat, and wash it differently than you wash the frame.

How Do You Deep Clean A Pack And Play Mattress

Spot Cleaning Instructions For Pack N Play Mattress

Spot cleaning means gentle scrubbing with warm, soapy water.

Spray the area or wet it with a sponge and scrub at a stained or soiled area until it comes up. You likely won’t make the mattress soaked, just dab or scrub at one specific area on the mattress, or padded rail.

Soap To Use For Spot Cleaning

Household soap is fine, or dish soap. Some mom’s choose baby-safe laundry detergent, too.

Remember, the scrubbed areas will air dry on their own, but likely won’t be completely rinsed out, so your child could come in contact with the soap (or chemicals in the detergent used).

For this reason, I do not recommend using disinfectant for spot cleaning, because your child could get it in their mouth, and that is unsafe.

If you decide to use disinfectant, then go for a deep cleaning method and adequately rinse your pack-n-play afterwards to ensure your child does not get in contact with chemicals.

Scrubbing Pack N Play Mattress

You can scrub a pack-n-play mattress with just warm water mixed with a cleaning solution or regular (baby-safe) soap.

The soapy water will work best if you use warm water, and allow it to sit for a few minutes before scrubbing.

Use a gentle bristled brush, a sponge or other scrubber to get that agitation needed to remove gross spit-up or stuck-on food from the mattress or padded rails. However, I would not use a brush on the netting sides of the pack-n-play (more on that, below).

Spot Cleaning Instructions For Pack N Play Mattress

How Do You Deep Clean A Pack And Play Mattress?

Deep cleaning a pack-n-play involves cleaning everything: the entire mattress, the frame and sides, too. While deep cleaning the frame is pretty easy (I prefer submerging in hot water and a cleaning solution), it’s the pack-n-play mattress that you have to take great care with.

There are two approaches for deep cleaning a pack-n-play mattress: Spray and scrub (for particle-board mattresses) and soak (for foam mattresses or ones with plastic panels).

Some pack-n-play mattresses cannot be soaked – this is important because too much moisture could ruin your mattress and make it unsafe to use inside the pack-n-play ever again – so do your research! and if in doubt – do not soak.

1. Different Types Of Mattresses For Pack-n-Plays And Travel Cribs

It’s vital that you read the manufacturer’s instructions before cleaning a pack-n-play mattress pad. This is because some mattress pads are made of particle board, while cheaper ones might have panels of thick cardboard inside.

If particle board gets drenched with water, it can fall apart or warp. As you probably know, soaked cardboard will just fall apart and render the mattress useless.

You can deep clean some pack-n-play mattresses. Ones with foam or plastic panels can be soaked. It all depends on the material used inside.

Safety Issues With A Ruined Mattress

A warped pack-n-play mattress may:

  • Not fit inside the pack-n-play
  • Be inappropriate as a sleeping surface for your baby
  • Be too damaged to use at all.

That is why it’s important to follow the cleaning instructions provided in the owner’s manual (or listed on the sticker at the bottom of the pack-n-play) to avoid accidentally making a warped mattress.

It’s important to only use the pack n play with original mattress and avoid adding any extra items in the sleep area – to avoid the risk of suffocating and SIDS (in this article I talk about making pack n play more comfortable for the baby in a safe way).

2. Spray & Scrub

If the pack-n-play mat is not able to be soaked, then you need to use the ‘spray and scrub’ cleaning method. This means you allow your cleaning solution (or soapy water) to fully soak through the cover, into the material of the mattress.

You spray, scrub and wipe off before the inner mattress can get wet. It’s a little different than regular spot cleaning, because you’ll likely want to use stain removers and repeat the cycle of spraying and wiping several times, until you notice the grim or gross stains lifting off.

3. Soaking

If your pack-n-play mat is of a material that can be soaked, then you’ll have easier work to clean it, but likely need much more time, not only for soaking but also to ensure your mat gets completely dry.


I recommend using a wash tub or bathtub for the soak.

For a mattress that is stained, stinks or has discoloration, start with spraying all over with stain remover or sprinkling with baking soda, first. Wait 5-7 minutes before soaking.

Use hot or very warm water, laundry detergent or safe cleaners (borax is a mom-favorite for this task) and soak your mattress for approximately 1 hour.


Next, rinse thoroughly. Alternatively, if you have an upholstery cleaner or powerful vacuum, it can be really helpful to suck out the dirty water before rinsing.

4. Dry

This step can take the longest, and is pretty important because if you don’t allow your mattress to fully dry, you risk mold growth.

In warm, summer months: set the mattress in direct sunlight and ensure it is dry completely (no damp spots, and when you press or fold it, nothing feels wet) before putting back in your cleaned pack-n-play.

This could take or or two full days.

In cooler months, drape your mattress on an indoor clothes line (over top some drop cloths) and allow to drip dry for a day. Then, prop up before fans to air dry completely. It’s a bad idea to only let a pack-n-play mat drip-dry, because it could dry with lumps or still be damp at the corners (which would lead to mold, later on).

The important piece to remember is that your mattress should be dry completely before you replace it in the pack-n-play.

What’s The Safest Way To Clean A Pack N Play Mattress

What’s The Safest Way To Clean A Pack N Play Mattress?

If you’re not sure of the material inside your pack-n-play mattress, don’t soak it.

Get a spray bottle and spot clean repeatedly until discoloration and stains come off. Even if the mattress has a waterproof cover, if the inside is particle board or cardboard, you could destroy your mattress.

Extra Tips For Cleaning Pack N Play

  • Hot water

Hot water is your friend when cleaning the entire structure of the pack-n-play. Go ahead and let this part (sans mattress) soak for 45 min – 1.5 hrs to make it easier to lift off dirt and grime.

You may still need to scrub some areas, but it will be easier if the pack-n-play has had some time to sit in soapy water before you start.

  • Mesh sides

Be gentle when scrubbing the mesh sides of a pack-n-play; a thick-bristled scrub brush could tear or stretch the mesh holes.

Consider using a sponge and detergent as your cleaning method on the walls, instead.

  • Padded Rails

The padded rails can be cleaned with a soft bristled brush, just scrub-scrub-scrub with warm water. Ensure these pads get in contact with soapy water when you place your folded pack-n-play in a bathtub for cleaning.

How Often Should You Clean A Pack And Play?

This depends on how often you’re using it. Does your child use a pack-in-play a few times a week at grandma’s house? or only as a travel crib for road trips?

You should clean your pack-n-play mattress based on how often it’s being used.

My suggestion is, that if you’re using your pack-n-play mattress on a regular basis, try to spot clean regularly and deep clean it once a month.

If you’re only using a pack-in-play seasonally or for travel, then you could clean your pack-n-play before returning it to storage.

What Cleaning Products Should I Use To Clean A Pack And Play?

Most household cleaning products should be appropriate to use with your pack-and-play, such as:

  • Detergent
  • Stain remover
  • Baking soda
  • Dish soap
  • Borax

Other items to help with the cleaning process:

  • Water (preferably warm water)
  • Spray bottle
  • Scrub brush
  • Sponge
  • Cloths
  • Towels
  • Cup
  • Upholstery brush or vacuum to suck up excess water

Some moms suggest cleaning the mattress with baby-safe laundry detergent, because your baby’s face will be right up against it as he or she sleeps, but if you rinse it well, it shouldn’t be necessary.

Some baby-safe soap products are not strong enough to get out those nasty stains and make your pack-n-play properly clean.

For this reason, it’s important to rinse well if you do use strong cleaners or design a homemade cleaner.

However, if it’s just for a spot-cleaned pack-n-play, then yes, use a baby safe cleaner because that won’t be adequately rinsed.

How Do You Get The Smell Of Pee Out Of A Pack And Play?

Baking soda or stain removing gels work great to get out odors, including stinky pee.

If you cannot soak your pack-n-play mattress, make a paste of baking soda and water slather it over the mattress, allow to sit for 30-45 minutes, then scrub off. It should remove the bad odor.

When To Replace A Pack N Play Mattress?

A damaged mattress should be replaced. This includes ones which have warped, are broken, torn or lumpy. If it’s a question of it being a dirty pack and play mattress – just clean it!

But for ones that are beyond repair, look into purchasing a replacement mattress.

PRO TIP: Your replacement mattress must be the exact same: same manufacturer, same size, same material, etc to be suitable in your pack-n-play, for safety reasons.

Can I Add Mattress Cover To Prevent Stains?

Can you use a waterproof mattress cover over the manufacturer’s mattress as a way to help keep your pack-n-play looking clean and unstained? Yes, you can – but only use a mattress cover that is specifically designed for that pack-n-play2.

For example, if you’re using a Graco pack and play, then you must use a mattress cover that is designed for that make and model Graco pack n-play, and no other.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it must be tight-fitting and have no chance of pockets of air, or pulling off and becoming a suffocation hazard for your infant.

Never place anything between the mattress and the mattress cover to make it softer (this includes cushions, pillows or folded towels. The mattress of a pack and play is intentionally firm as a safety precaution.

If you cannot find a suitable mattress cover, then it’s best to spot clean your pack and play on a regular basis and deep clean your pack and play once a month, instead.

The purpose of this article is informative. It’s not a substitute for professional medical advice or medical care. Remember: safety first! Consult your doctor/pediatrician in case of any doubts. The author of this article does not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here.

Source of the picture at the top: Second picture belongs to


About Me - Zooey BarnettHello Moms! I am Zooey. I am a wife and a mother of three amazing kids: almost 5-year-old Haley and 2-year-old twins Jesse and Matthew. I am a jogger, cooker and blogger.

If you have a question or a comment, do not hesitate to write to me! 🙂

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