I hate to tell you this, but there may actually be a “boogieman” under your bed. (Your 8-year-old self wasn’t entirely wrong.)
The problem is your mattress. Airstreams come with foam mattresses, and in humid conditions moisture can collect under the mattress and encourage the growth of mold.
Yes, mold. Take a look at the photo. This was the mattress of a couple of Airstreamers who came through our shop in Tucson. They discovered this disturbing life form growing on the bottom of their mattress while trying to search for the source of a funky smell. And this is only one of several examples we’ve seen this year.
This can happen to any Airstreamer, even if you don’t live in a humid area. When you sleep, your body gives off moisture through a process called “insensible perspiration” and this moisture gets caught in foam mattresses. It settles toward the bottom and helps form the ideal conditions for mold: damp, warm, and dark.
An 8″ block of foam (which is what probably came with your Airstream) has millions of tiny air pockets and cells, each of which is a lovely home for mold spores, and doesn’t breathe. That’s why many people find foam mattresses to be too warm on hot nights.
I’ve heard all sorts of solutions to these problems. Some people use electric mattress warmers underneath to drive off the moisture. That sounds good, except when you’re boondocking and have limited electricity, or on hot nights.
Another possible solution is to buy a special extra layer to encourage air flow underneath the mattress. I don’t know if these work but I’ve seen them available for about a hundred bucks. If you don’t want to replace your existing mattress, it might be worth a try.
To my mind, the best solution to all of these problems is to go old-school. Innerspring—not foam—mattresses are great for RV’ing: they’re lighter than the equivalent foam, they breathe, they can be made “flippable” so you can even out the wear, and they stay much drier.
What’s more, you can customize an innerspring mattress in ways that are impossible with foam. For example, by adding extra springs on one side, the mattress can accommodate two adults with different weights, or when one person likes the bed a bit firmer than the other. So you can get a more comfortable night’s sleep than you could on a single-layer slab of foam.
We teamed up with a local Tucson mattress company to develop our own line of custom-made mattresses. Not only is each one made specifically to your specifications (thickness, springs, firmness of the top layer) but they are made to fit your Airstream exactly.
The best part is that they are a bargain. We’ll build an exact-fit replacement for you, exactly the way you want it, in about a week, for a really affordable price. You can pick it up when you’re passing within 50 miles of Tucson (I-10), or we’ll ship it to your home in the 48 states for just $75.
Whatever you choose to do, just be sure not to let moisture build up under a foam mattress. Once it takes hold, there’s really no way to undo the damage.