Winter Camping + Condensation = Yucky Mattress Mold

Airstream mattress platform - moldy from condesation

Airstream mattress platform - moldy from condensation

We just returned from a 3100 mile trip to the Florida Panhandle with our DWR Airstream, and to our dismay, we discovered that our mattress was starting to develop mold on the bottom. Moisture sans air flow is a breeding ground for mold. This was bound to happen if one looks at the construction of the mattress platform. Airstream decided to use two plywood sections to lay the mattress onto.  There is no air flow to the center of the mattress, therefore in cold and damp weather, the colder storage compartment develops condensation between the mattress and the plywood platform.

Airstream bed platform - with moldy panels removed

Airstream bed platform - with moldy panels removed

This is certainly a design flaw. We have discovered that our DWR Airstream trailer is an interesting combination of great design and somewhat shoddy carpentry. So, my brother Mark Thomas from Thomas Design/Build and I created a solution, so that we can get out of town without creating more mold build-up. We purchased pine slats for $8.50, an aluminum strip to complete the rear support structure, a box of screws and a galvanized metal sheet to isolate the heater compartment from direct contact with the mattress.

Mark Thomas - replacing ply-wood mattress platform with pine slats to improve air circulation below mattress

Mark Thomas - replacing ply-wood mattress platform with pine slats to improve air circulation below mattress

Three hours later we had replaced the plywood panels with a breathable wood slat system that lets air circulate under the mattress between the storage compartment and the rest of the trailer. My brother is an architect who actually has the skills to build a house himself. Due to his excellent upgrade, we’re ready to travel mold-free!

Airstream with slat system for mattress breathability

Airstream with slat system for mattress breathability

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10 Responses to “Winter Camping + Condensation = Yucky Mattress Mold”

  1. Mattress April 13, 2009 10:03 am
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    This was a great idea!

  2. rick savage October 23, 2009 10:14 am
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    I also have a similar problem. How did your solution work this year? Thanks. Rick Savage

  3. martylama October 25, 2009 6:23 am
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    I haven’t gone through another winter yet but did some cold weather camping and so far so good. It definitely keeps moisture from building up below the mattress in our DWR Airstream. Good Luck. Martin Thomas

  4. Melani April 15, 2010 11:33 am
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    Did you have to replace the mattress itself? If so, do you know where I can order one? We lived in the desert for the first few years we owned our CCD Airstream, and so we never had this problem. Four months in Washington State…different story.

  5. martylama April 15, 2010 2:01 pm
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    We did not have to replace the Mattress. I just washed it down with diluted bleach in water and let the sun dry it. But ours wasn’t too bad. If your Mattress is really bad then I would replace it. I don’t know of any places where you could get a replacement, but I would buy a solid latex mattress and cut it to fit. I like latex mattresses more and since there are no springs inside you can cut the corners off to match the Airstream.

    Good luck. Martin

  6. Andrew Denton October 22, 2010 11:10 pm
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    Thank you for this information. We have been living in an Airstream since June in Vancouver, BC during a house renovation. As expected the weather has cooled and the other day while changing the bed linen we were shocked to see the amount of moisture under the mattress. I didn’t even consider condensation until I did a little bit of internet research. In the absence of mold, I wonder if drilling 2″ holes in the plywood would accomplsh the same thing as installing the slats as suggested? Another 6 weeks of renovation, so more cold and wet weather ahead.

  7. martylama October 24, 2010 12:51 pm
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    I’m sure drilling 2″ holes will help if you don’t have mold already. If you have mold I would put fresh cedar slates in. Make sure you check below the mattress regularly though, since the mold build-up can happen quite quickly. Good luck.

  8. scott February 2, 2011 2:01 pm
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    I am wondering if super-duty peg-board (cut in 2 sections) would create enough air circulation? Thoughts?

    …this will be my second summer with my ’05 16′Bambi – found mold the first time I flipped the mattras and have been wondering how and why – great dialog

  9. martylama February 2, 2011 2:12 pm
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    I wouldn’t use peg board. It seems to porous. Just drill holes into your existing bed board and be careful not to hit anything below. Or do the replacement I did in this blog post. I haven’t had a mold problem since. Hope this helps. Martin

  10. AnnaMarie October 28, 2011 4:22 pm
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    May I suggest a layer of cork tile under the mattress. (Or over the slats etc.) I have read that it resists mold growth. Perhaps this will offer some level of insulation as well. Any feedback would be appreciated as I want to address this issue as a preventative measure.

    Thank you for your important blog post. Mold is something to be taken very seriously. We recently discovered a LOT of black mold growing under the entire bed area. Trapped by the carpet and plastic layers – growing ON the Marine Grade Plywood floor. Very difficult and expensive to remediate. This is a ’99 – very young to require such an extensive renovation of the flooring.

    We still love you, Airstream.

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