One of the things I wish someone had told me about when I got to Japan was how to properly take care of my Japanese futon. I won’t go into the horrific mold-and-mite-ridden details of what happened to my very first futon (for now), but the little extra work I put in my futon care is completely worth the effort. So, onto the most essential advice on how to take care of Japanese futon: airing out your futon.
Airing Out Your Futon
The most important thing you can do to maintain your futon is to dry it outside regularly. Airing out your futon should be on your regular chore list.
Why is it important to air out a Japanese futon? As I’ve been told many times by Japanese friends, co-workers, and even people I barely know, you sweat at least one liter of water a night. If this only meant that my futon was going to be mildly moist, I could probably live with it. However, with moisture comes two terrible, awful “bedmates,” if you will:
Mold is fairly self-explanatory. It’s not surprising that a fungus that enjoys damp places would love a humid place like Japan and would doubly like sweaty futons located in Japan.
Dani, on the other hand, I had never heard of until I moved to Japan. “Dani” is a Japanese word that refers to mites or ticks. Dani are tiny, almost invisible mites that live indoors, flourish in moist places, and, most disturbingly, sometimes bite and drink the blood of humans.
In addition to battling these two big menaces, regularly airing out your futon also keeps them fresh-smelling and maintains the fluffy texture.
How often you should dry your futon depends a lot on the type of futon you buy. Below is a break-down of how often to dry futons based on the material type, along with how long and where to air the futon.
Feather: 1-2 times per month; 1-2 hours each side; in the shade, or if you use a cover, in the sun
Wool: 3-4 times per month; 1 hour each side; in the shade or, if you use a cover, in the sun
Cotton: everyday is okay, but at least 1 time per week; 2 hours each side; in the sun
Synthetic fiber: As often as possible, but at least 1 time per week; 2 hours each side; in the sun or the shade
The best time to dry your futon is between 10am and 3pm, when the sun is the strongest and the humidity is the lowest. Try not to put your futon out too early in the morning or at night. Humidity is relatively high during these times. It is a bad idea to put a futon out, obviously, when it looks like it will rain or when it is raining, but also the day after it rains.
Using these guidelines, It is also important to keep in mind the season. In winter the sun is weakest, so leave it out longer than in summer, when sun is strongest.
Please be sure not to dry your futon for too long, either. This will damage the material, weaken the fibers, and make the color fade.
As mentioned in the drying suggestions above, it is a good idea to use a drying cover over your futon when you put it outside. A drying cover is a sheet you put over your futon to protect it from pollen and other particles, as well as from fading. Black is the best color for a drying cover, since it will help the futon heat up. They can be bought at places that sell futons and most department stores.
Once you are done airing out your futon, bring it inside and lay it out on the floor for a while to let it cool down. A warm futon may feel nice, but letting it cool releases moisture and is better for the futon.
Don’t Beat It
Don’t beat your futon! It has been tradition to use a stick or other implement to beat the futon after drying, as it was believed that this would get all the dust out. However, while beating the futon may relieve stress, it will spread dani and allergens along with damaging the futon.
Instead, it is better to dry the futon in the sun to kill dani, use a cover to prevent allergens from getting on the futon, and then use a vacuum on the futon to remove surface dust and particles. Some vacuums even have a special nozzle to use on futons. It is worth mentioning that it is good to clear or throw out the vacuum bag after vacuuming, since yucky dani and mites can escape.
Lastly, don’t forget to air out your pillow too! I was able to find some pillow holders specifically made to hang pillows out in the sun on a clothes line. However, for the more thrifty among us, it is perfectly fine to lay some newspapers down on your veranda or balcony and then lay your pillow on top, letting it dry for one hour in the sun, and then flipping it, letting the other side dry for an hour.
I hope this article helps you in your futon-owning adventures!
Also, be sure to check out:
I am not a futon expert — I just use a futon! I have gathered, translated, and arranged these care instructions from the following sources.