How to Air Your Futon

Our Japanese-style room in Zenkoji shukubo

Japanese futons; Photo by Maarten1979

My Crash Course to Japanese Futon Care

One of the things I wish someone had told me about when I got to Japan was how to take care of my futon. I didn’t know you were supposed to air your 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, on to the most essential advice on how to take care of Japanese futon: airing out your futon.

Air 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”:

MOLD and DANI

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.

Airing out your futon

Airing out futons; Photo by Jim Epler

How Often to Air Your Futon?

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

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Drying Times and Season

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.

Drying Cover

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 air your 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!

Related Links

Also, be sure to check out:

Disclosure

I am not a futon expert — I just use a futon! I have gathered, translated, and arranged these care instructions from the following sources.

Air Your Futon Sources

16 thoughts on “How to Air Your Futon

  1. April says:

    If I use a waterproof mattress cover (that zips), do I still need to air out the futon in the sun? Thanks.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous Person says:

    I don’t understand why all these western people who want to use futons in places that are NOT Japan, keep asking how they can dry the futon without using the “hang it on the line” method. The only reason why Japanese people dry their futons on the line is because they dry everything on the line. Dryers are not used domestically in Japan. But many households in the west often have large capacity dryers. Even if you don’t have one I’m sure you can visit a laundry service. Before I moved to Japan I lived in a rather inconvenient apartment that had a washer but no dryer. There was a very thick, polyester, semi double sized comforter that I only used in the winter that I often needed to clean. I would wash it at home then haul it over to the laundry service and pop it in the dryer and it would come out all toasty warm, dry and undamaged (after about 45 mins, some people think drying synthetic comforters and blankets in a dryer will damage it, but I have never observed this). I think you can do the same thing with a futon. They are thicker and more dense than comforters but they probably won’t be dripping wet when you put them in. The objective is just to let the hot air circulate around and heat them up for a while. For large size futons such as double, king or queen size you may be screwed as I don’t know how well these can fit in a dryer but it’s worth a try and even though this is an old post I just had to make this comment. I don’t know why the author didn’t just tell all of people asking how to dry futons in their western apartments to just dry them in the dryer.

    Reply
  3. M says:

    Thank you for your insightful information on futons.

    I moved into a new place in NYC and am going to get a full-size futon to maximize space. As what another user has mentioned, I will not have a balcony, rooftop or any space to allow my futon to soak in the sun. I have a few questions..

    01. Would getting a futon cover that is washable work? If not, would layering bed sheets on top of the futon work on preventing sweat/perspiration/mold getting to the futon?

    02. Also, as far as storing my futon in my closet, what sort of de-humidifying agent would you recommend? Would charcoal work?

    03. If I left it folded up in my room, would an air-purifier work?

    The futon that I will be getting is quite pricey, so I want to maximize the use I get out of it before anything potentially bad (mold, sweat, it building up dirt, etc) can get to it.

    Thank you!
    M

    Reply
    1. L. says:

      For 02., charcoal dehumidifiers are quite popular in Japan for closets/futon storage. There are also dehumidifying mats that are sold to be put under futons. The two “downsides” of these mats are that they have to be dried in the sun when the sensor indicates such and I’m not sure if they can be used in place of drying the futon itself. Also, I don’t know how easy it would be to buy in the US.

      You might want to double-check with the futon company about 1 and 3, as I couldn’t readily find info on those questions.

      One thing to keep in mind is that much of Japan is super humid in the summer, even indoors. For example, receipts I leave laying out on the table get all curly and wilty in a few days from the humidity. If you live in a typical apartment in NYC, I feel that you won’t have as much of an issue with mold and dust mites. However, a cover will of course help prevent stains. Granted, I’m just a random person on the internet who can read info in Japanese about futons, so definitely double-check with an expert.

      Reply
    2. Okami says:

      I had to use ingenuity since like you I cannot hang my futon outside. This is primarily because I’m dislike air dust and other nasty stuff touch the place where I sleep. Not to mention birds and bugs who may want to land or poop in it. So, you’ll need 3 things. 1) is a cheap clothe hanger, those that have wheels. The sell them like for 8 bucks in walmart. 2) A UV sanitising light/lamp to kill all the nasties inside (Amazon). 3) A space heater like those that are sold in walgreens. With these you can recreate what leaving it outside will do without actually doing it. Just remember to also vacuum it.

      Reply
      1. Gloria Thomas says:

        I am also looking to buy a futon in a small US apt. I was trying to find a stand for the futon to dry indoors, but I can’t find anything.

        I was afraid those wardrobe hangers would not hold the weight of a futon? How heavy do you think a futon mattress is?

        Reply
  4. Tammy says:

    I live in America and my apartment probably would not like to see a futon hanging over my balcony.
    So my question is…
    If outdoor airing isn’t an option, can I JUST vaccum the futon with an upholstery attachment?
    With maybe some Borax added to the vacuum’s
    canister (it’s the bag less type), because it’s said to kill Fleas on carpets.
    And another question for curiosity.
    When a Japanese futon is folded and put away
    doesn’t that make any buggies on it nice and
    cozy?
    My family has switched to futons because our soon to be
    new home will be small and we’re determined to
    make it fun (since we like Asian culture) and as functional as possible.
    This article has been helpful, thanks.

    Reply
    1. L. says:

      Hello,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Unfortunately, I can’t answer your questions in any authoritative manner, but I can tell you what I’ve heard and read.

      Many people, especially those who live in apartments without balconies, are unable to dry their futons outside. I have a few friends who don’t do anything at all except fold up the futon in the morning. Yes, also, some people only vacuum their futons. A few I know occasionally leave their futon leaning on its edge against the wall inside as a means of drying.
      I’m not sure about Borax, though. Definitely make sure that it is safe to use on items you will be sleeping on.

      I’m not sure if a folded futon is more attractive to buggies, but the only time I had a problem with insects (and mold) on my futon was when I left my futon sitting on my wooden floor unfolded for a few weeks — I was too lazy to fold it up in the morning, but have been doing so since, for sure! I think an unmoved futon, whether folded or unfolded, is more attractive to bugs and mold. Many households keep folded and stored futons on a higher shelf on their side (for better ventilation) with dehumidifying agents in the closet.

      Some things to keep in mind are:
      (a) it is much more humid in many places in Japan than in many places in the US
      (b) air-conditioning is much stronger/more used in most houses in the US than in houses in Japan
      I think these things would mean that bugs and mold are more of a problem in Japan, although that is just my guess.

      Again, this isn’t expert advice, just anecdotal, so please take what I’ve written with a grain of salt.

      Good luck with your futons! They’re comfy AND convenient!

      Reply
  5. Anh says:

    Hey, I recently purchased a futon and had been airing frequently. However a few days earlier my floorboards were wiped and my roommate put my futon before they were able to properly dry it seems because when I was changing my covers I found small black dots and it was a bit moist.

    http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/7/t5xq.jpg/

    The dark patch is water but am wondering if it is too late to save my futon in any way? 🙁

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. L. says:

      Hi there.

      Oh no, that’s really unfortunate. Since I’m not a futon expert myself, I’m not certain about what the dark patch is, but I looked for information about mold on futons.

      A quick look at some Japanese sites tells me that the general consensus is that it is best to just get a new futon, but there are some suggestions about trying to get rid of mold. Some include putting the futon out in bright sunlight or washing with bleach (difficult to do at home, but some cleaners may do it). I’ll try to gather some information and put together an article about futon mold as soon as I can.

      I hope your futon is okay!

      Reply
  6. Celia says:

    All my questions answered in one place. Thanks for the great info!!

    Reply
  7. lil j says:

    Thanks. This was very helpful. How would one clean a futon, once sweat turned into mold?

    Reply
    1. L. says:

      Hi there!
      Thanks for your comment.
      The #1 suggestion I’ve seen is just to get a new futon, since it seems to be quite difficult to irradicate mold.
      However, there were some methods, so I’ll work on researching and writing a post about how to get mold out of a futon this weekend.

      Reply

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