How to clean and store your sleeping pad: Avoid mould

Types of sleeping pads for camping

Good sleeping pads are expensive, but we often roll them up and place them back into their bags without much thought.

Nothing is worse than realising you have a mouldy, smelly sleeping pad just before you go on your next trip. You can do several quick and easy things to keep your sleeping pad clean and stored correctly.

Sleeping pads are waterproof. However, they must be dry before storing to avoid mould growth. Dirt can be removed by cleaning with warm water and opening the values to allow the inside to dry. Dry either on a washing line with the valves facing the ground. Do not use harsh chemicals as this will damage the material and adhesives. Store in the original bag, and inside, place Silica Gel packs to remove any moisture over time.

How to store your sleeping pad

Self-inflating sleeping pads with foam should be stored partially inflated with the valve open to prolong their life in a dry ventilation room. This will allow the air to circulate and keep the sleeping pad fresh. If it is stored deflated, the valve is closed and rolled tightly in a bag. The inner foam may lose its loftiness over time.

Sleeping pads inflated fully by air, with no foam, can be stored in the supplied storage bag. However, it needs to be dry and cleaned before storing. It is not only the outside that needs to be dry but also the inside.

For sleeping pads stored in bags, I always place 2g sachets of Silica Gel inside as I roll. They will help remove any moisture and any possibility of mildew build-up. Amazon sell packs of 50 for £5.62, although the price may vary. I also use these for my tent, air mattresses and any other camping gear that may be damaged due to temperature variations.

How to clean a sleeping pad without damaging

Over time your sleeping pad will become dirty, smell from body odour, or may start to smell damp. After each trip, remove debris and gently clean stubborn marks with warm water and a soft sponge. Do not use harsh chemical cleaners; this will damage the material treated with a special water agent.

Revivex has an odour eliminator called Gear Aid from Amazon to remove any stubborn odours. It is costly; however, it works with other camping gear. I place my sleeping pad in a large bowl and dilute the Gear Aid, leaving for about 3-4 hours. Make sure that you do not submerge the air inlet valve so water seeps into your sleeping pad.

The state of your sleeping pad will determine the length of time you will need to soak your sleeping pad in the diluted mixture. The recommended time is 72 hours, but I have not had to leave my sleeping pad any longer than 4 hours. For more potent-smelling items, you will need to leave longer. It is available in a spray or bottle from Amazon.

Other odour-eliminator brands are available, but I have not used them. For waterproofing and cleaning, I always use Nikwax Spray. I purchase a 2.5L bottle and a £1.99 spray bottle from local stores. However, I try to clean my gear with lukewarm water and do not use chemical cleaners every time.

How to remove moisture from the inside of a sleeping pad

To remove moisture from the inside of a sleeping bag, fill it with cool air. Filling a cold sleeping pad with warm air can cause condensation. Place outside in a shaded area or a warm area inside your house. Allowing the air inside can warm naturally. Don’t allow it to overheat, which will happen if left in direct sunlight.

When the sleeping pad feels warm, hang it upside down on a washing line with the valve at the base. Or from a door frame to allow the inside to dry.

Can sleeping pads go mouldy inside?

The build-up of mould inside a sleeping pad is unavoidable. However, depending on how you inflate your sleeping pad and the maintenance will help reduce the amount in the future. Small amounts of mould are not always visible; only over time will you notice darkness, stain or a shadow on the outside wall.

Removing mould from the inside is impossible, and buying a new sleeping pad is the best option. The designs make it impossible to turn inside out and scrub. Neither can you place any chemical combinations inside to try to remove mould. Harsh mould removal chemicals will damage the material.

How to avoid mould in a sleeping pad?

The best way to avoid mould growth inside a sleeping pad is to inflate using a foot pump, pump bag or a self-inflation sleeping bag. However, don’t be tempted to inflate by breathing in if it is not inflating quickly. Electrical or battery-operated pumps will pump warm air into your sleeping pad.

Always clean and dry your sleeping pad thoroughly before storing it. After using, open the valves and leave the sleeping pad in an area to dry; ideally, hang it from a washing line during a warm day so the value faces the ground. This will allow any moisture residue to escape.

Why does my sleeping pad feel damp?

Damp sleeping pad – Trekology Sleeping Pad UL80

Sleeping pads can become damp during the night from condensation or moisture trapped between the sleeping pad, mat and sleeping bag. However, this has only happened to us once.

A sleeping pad is placed on top of a sleeping mat to prevent heat loss, reflecting the heat to the body. Heat is trapped between the sleeping mat and a sleeping bag which can cause the sleeping pad to become damp on both sides, plus the underside of the sleeping bag.

Condensation can cause a sleeping pad to become damp due to a lack of airflow and outside temperatures dropping below the dew point. It is important to ensure that the thermal sleeping pad is inflated correctly.

In this instance, my son and I were both sleeping on camp beds, a camping roll mat, a sleeping pad and the Colemans Basalt sleeping bag. Nick’s sleeping pad is a Trekology UL80 R-rated 1.6 and an aluminium foil-backed sleep mat. My sleeping pad is BRGOOD R-rate 5 and a Trail Contour Camping mat.

The difference between both sleeping pads is the rating, Nick’s sleeping pad was not inflated fully, and mine was. Plus, with the different sleeping mats, Nicks’ is a flat foam base with an aluminium backing, whereas my Trail has a rubber backing and ridged top, allowing airflow.

Related questions

How long do sleeping pads last?

Sleeping pads will last so long as they are maintained and cared for correctly. If they are not cleaned and dried after camping trips, they will begin to smell damp, and mould may grow inside. Although for this to happen, it does take some time.

Over time valves can start to leak. It is because after continuous usage and the valve becomes weak. Sleeping pads can also get a puncture which can be repaired by the puncture repair kit supplied when purchasing. However, this is difficult if you are camping and unsure of where the hole is.

How to check if your sleeping pad has a puncture

If your sleeping pad starts to deflate and you are unsure if it is a puncture or valve leakage, there are two easy ways to check.

Inflate your sleeping pad and lay on a flat surface. Mix soap and water, and spread over your sleeping pad. Bubbles will form where the air is leaking.

Another way is to fill a bath with water and submerge your sleeping pad. Check for bubbles; this is a lot easier and quicker way to check large areas at once.

On locating the leaking area, dry and mark it ready for repair. The marker can be a waterproof marker or tape.

If neither of these shows any air leakage from the main body of the sleeping pad, it may be a leaking valve. Ensuring the valve is fully closed, submerge or coat the valve in soapy water and check for escaping air.

How to repair a puncture on a sleeping pad

Sleeping pads are easy to repair.

  • Locate and mark the leak area.
  • Mark with a waterproof marker or tape
  • Dry area
  • Spread seam sealer over and around the area
  • Cut patch to size – Circle shape and larger than the area with the whole
  • Once the glue is tacky, place the patch over the area, and smooth it out carefully.


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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