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An undeniable favorite on Instagram, tufted fabric headboards appeal to people who want the coziest possible sleeping space. They’re soft, they’re easy to lean against, and they come in tons of cute colors and patterns. If not properly cared for, though, upholstered headboards can leave your bed vulnerable to germ buildup, dust accumulation, and, worst of all, dust mites and bedbugs.
You want your bedroom to be a peaceful place that supports your overall health and well-being — so are upholstered headboards the right choice? Apartment Therapy asked experts to weigh in on the problems presented by fabric headboards and the best ways to keep these decorative pieces as clean as possible.
Upholstered headboards attract germs, dust, mold, and pests.
“Upholstered headboards are stylish and are generally customized to suit your preferences. However, no matter how beautiful they look, they are germ magnets,” says Edward Jones, home improvement expert and founder of HomeCareHow.
While wooden headboards and metal headboards can be easily wiped down and sanitized, fabric headboards don’t come with easy cleaning processes. Fabric tends to accumulate dust more quickly than harder surfaces, so people with allergies may find that upholstered headboards cause irritation. Plus, anyone who’s ever dealt with bedbugs knows that those pests prefer soft, plush homes like mattresses and pillows, and a cushy fabric headboard falls into that category. Should your headboard become infested with bedbugs or other insects, professional treatments will be necessary.
When shopping for headboards, consider these alternatives to upholstered versions.
Wood and metal headboards. These two materials are among the simplest to clean and sanitize, making them a smart choice for anyone who wants easy maintenance from their bedroom decor.
Leather headboards. Leather and faux leather headboards offer the luxe appeal of fabric headboards while also being less likely to attract dust and vermin. Regular vacuuming to remove dust buildup will allow you to keep your leather headboard clean, and if stains should arise, treating the spots with gentle soap, water, and white vinegar will work.
Rattan headboards. Made from woven vines, rattan is a super stylish middle ground between a wooden headboard and a fabric version. Any sprays or solutions that you’d use to clean a wooden headboard can also be used on rattan.
Washable draperies. If you’re determined to get the look of upholstery on or around your bed but want an easier-to-clean alternative to a fabric headboard, interior design expert David Mason of The Knobs Company suggests trying drapery panels instead. “They’re beautiful, simple additions that can tie the look of your bedroom together.” If you pick a material that’s machine-washable, these draperies will be both visually appealing and low-maintenance.
If you love upholstered headboards and don’t want to replace them, here’s how to keep them as clean as possible.
Vacuum on a regular basis. “Your best bet for keeping your headboard fresh and in good condition is preventive maintenance,” says Kathy Cohoon of Two Maids & A Mop. “Vacuum your headboard when you change your sheets. Use an attachment to remove pet dander and other dry debris. You can also lint-roll the headboard to ensure every inch is wiped clean.”
If you use a humidifier, keep it away from the headboard. Humidifiers can do a great deal to ensure bedroom comfort, but they also introduce moisture that might have a negative impact on your upholstered headboard. “If you use a humidifier, place it away from the headboard — [at least] several feet from the headboard — and keep it turned off when you don’t need it. Excessive dampness can cause mold, which can create a whole host of health issues,” says author and cleaning expert Tricia Holderman.
Steam cleanings can reduce the likelihood of mold, stains, and vermin. One of the most effective ways to ward off headboard mold — and to keep your upholstered headboard clean in general — is to invest in professional-grade steam cleanings a few times a year.
Small stains and marks can be treated with spot removers. If you notice small stains on your upholstered headboard, spot treatments can be an effective way to tidy up. “If it’s something like an organic stain such as chocolate or wine, then you can definitely give it a shot. I suggest using Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover to treat any stains or discolorations on most fabrics,” says Jennifer Rodriguez, chief hygiene officer at Pro Housekeepers. “You just need to soak the spot and let it sit for about five minutes. Then, with a clean white cloth, just rub away with some pressure in all directions. This should be enough to remove most stains.”