How to clean a Burke & Wills swag mattress cover

My Burke & Wills Ironbark swag is easily my favourite piece of camping equipment. I have stuffed a queen sized cotton doona and full size pillow into it. The swag is so comfortable, I have been known to leave my bed and sleep in it at home when my partner is sick – perhaps a little too willingly at times! While I use my swag in a tent, it is rugged enough to be used under the stars.

In fact, I liked my swag so much, I bought my wife a pink Ironbark swag for her birthday.

Recently my youngest daughter was not feeling well and had to stay home from childcare. I was working from home, but still needed to get work done. I set my laptop up in the kitchen and rolled out my wife’s swag beside me so that the kid could lie down.

Sick child in swag

Sick child in Burke & Wills Ironbark swag

My problems began a little while later when my daughter vomited in the swag. It was not a technicolour yawn, but more of a phlegmy gooey chuck. I managed to get her out of the swag before the full vomit came up – I guess it could have been a lot worse, but I still had to clean it up.

After sponging down my daughter, I then had to clean the swag. The swag itself was easy. The Burke & Wills instructions state, “Clean it [the swag] with cold water and a brush, do not use soap or detergents, likewise do not expose it to oil, petrol or other solvents and finally only store it when completely dry.” I proceeded to remove the mattress, take the swag outside and hose it off. I did not use any chemicals or detergents. I left the swag in the sun for a couple of hours and it was as good as new.

The sheet and pillow inside the swag were machine washable, so they went straight into the washing machine. But how to clean the mattress?

There are no washing instructions on the mattress, but the Burke & Wills web site advertises the mattress as, “75 mm convoluted high density foam mattress with removable full cover.” That implies, to me, that the mattress cover is washable. What is the point of being able to remove the cover if you can’t wash it?

To make sure, I e-mailed Burke & Wills, as well as the foam mattress manufacturer, Dunlop Foams. Following are the responses I received.

“Yes you can machine wash your mattress cover, Maybe on the gentle cycle.” Australian Country Outfitters  (manufacturers of the Burke & Wills swags).

“We only recommend sponging in warm soapy water, not machine washing.”  Dunlop Foams Victorian Sales.

“Please read  the care instructions on your product. It’s not recommended to remove the cover from the mattress. You should only use a damp cloth to remove stains from the cover. You will find more information on” Customer Service – Dunlop Foams, Queensland.

Three different answers from three different people! And no, there are no care instructions on the mattress! I did check first.

I had already removed the mattress cover by the time I received these answers, so opted to dip the affected end of the mattress cover in a sink of warm water and then hang it out to dry.

I have put the swag back together and it seems to be no worse for wear.

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