A Japanese futon is supposed to be laid out at night and put away in the closet in the daytime. But it is not a good idea to put futons in the closet right after you woke up because futons may be damp from night sweats. It is said that adults produce glassful of perspiration per night. If you put such dampened futons in the closet, not only futons but also other stuffs in the closet might become moldy. Furthermore, futons become less elastic and hard like a ‘senbei-futon.’
So, make sure to put them out on the balcony to expose them to the sun as often as you can. Drying futons in the sun have the effect of moisture removal and killing dust mites. Drying futons outdoors is a part of daily life here in Japan, although it would be an unusual thing overseas.
We often see futons hung on balcony handrails in the apartment areas. There is also a laundry pole designed for a futon available.
When you can’t put your futon out because of the bad weather, landscaped grounds, air pollution or a pollen season, use a laundry drying stand to dry futons in the sunshine indoors. Various goods such as a futon drying machine or a futon cleaner are recently available, so it might be good to use such handy tools.
Anyway, be sure to dry futons completely before putting them in the closet.
Some Notes on Drying a Futon Outdoors
1) Be sure not to expose a futon to the sun too much.
Exposing a futon to the sun too much may lead to the deterioration of the futon fabric. So, it would be fine to dry the futon outdoors for 1 or 2 hours between 10 o’clock to 15 o’clock.
2) Turn over a futon while drying it outdoors.
Even if you dry one side of your futon in the sunshine, the reverse side would be still damp and mites can also move to the reverse side. So make sure to turn it over to expose the both sides to the sun while drying it outdoors.
3) Be sure not to beat your futon.
There are some people beating a futon with the banging sound. Actually, beating the futon might cause the deterioration of the cotton batting or the futon fabric, so be sure not to do it. When you want to remove the dirt and dust from the surface of the futon, shake them off with your hand or remove them by a futon cleaner.
4) Don’t put your futon out on the balcony early in the morning or after rain.
The humidity level is high early in the morning or after rain, because water evaporates from the warm ground into the air. So make sure to wait for the ground to dry completely and put your futon out on the balcony.
5) Stain Prevention
Futons might be contaminated by animals such as a crow, or air pollution while drying them outdoors. So keep the sheet or cover on the futon while drying it outdoors so that you can wash only the sheet or cover later. Or you can use a cloth or cover designed for a stain prevention for futons.
How to Store a Futon in the Closet
If you put futon directly on the wooden board in the closet, the moisture tends to stay on the surface of the wooden board, which might cause the mold growth.
In order to improve airflow, you can use a duckboard called sunoko, which is made of slatted thick bars, in the closet. You can also use handy goods such as dehumidifying agents which absorb humidity in closets.
It might be good to leave the closet door partly open to improve airflow. You can also use the electric fan to remove moisture from the closet with the strong winds in the summer when it is humid and hot.
Various Methods to Keep Futons Soft and Comfy
People often say, “Initially, futons are soft and comfy, but later they become flat and less soft.” Even if your futon became flat and less soft, don’t throw it away. Because flattened futons can go back to the original soft and comfy state as long as you take a proper care of them. Here are various tips on taking care of futons.
There is one thing to keep in mind. These methods listed below are available only for 100% cotton futons. Be sure to check out the stuffing material before using the methods. Even if you bought a futon in Japan, less expensive futons are usually mass-produced overseas and synthetic fibers are often used for stuffing. If non-cotton material is used for stuffing, be sure not to use the methods here.
(1) Air out your futon outdoors on a regular basis.
It is important to dry the bedding in the sun on a regular basis. This is because cotton can absorb moisture easily and dampened cotton becomes less elastic. So air out the bedding outdoors on sunny days. For more details on this method, please see the article, ‘How to Store a Wafuton.’
(2) Try a traditional method called yotsuyu-boshi.
‘Yotsuyu-boshi’ is a kind of special method to make your futon soft and comfy. People in the past used to practice this method around the doyo-no-hi, the period between late July and the beginning of August, when the sun is strongest.
On a clear night during this period, leave futons out overnight and expose them to night dew and furthermore, leave them out in the daytime and expose them to the strong sun. You can leave them out for a couple of days to expose them to night dew and the strong sun alternately.
Moisture is usually considered a natural enemy of cotton futons, but there is an exception like yotsuyu-boshi. The night dew soaked into the futons evaporates into thin air as the sun rises higher, and any stains or bad odor also disappears into thin air by the evaporation of night dew. As a result of it, futons become clean as if it were washed. If your children wet the futons at night, you can get rid of the ammonia odor by doing yotsuyu-boshi.
Note that both nighty dew and strong sun light would be possible causes of deteriorating the futons fabrics. So it might be good to put a large cloth or a cover on futons during yotsuyu-boshi to prevent the color fading.
If it rains during doing yotsuyu-boshi, be sure to take in futons quickly. The superfine waterdrops like night dew can evaporate quickly, so futons don’t get wet. If futons get wet from rain, the inside of futons won’t dry easily.
The next method is ‘washing of the futon.’ It is recommended for those who don’t feel like doing yotsuyu-boshi.
(3) Wash your futons.
Washing a futon is one of the effective methods. You can’t remove dead dust mites entangled in the cotton batting or oil stains from your futon easily even if you did yotsuyu-boshi, so it might be good to wash the futon once or twice a year especially when the seasons change. Make sure to wash seasonal futons before you store them in the closet for a long time.
However, most households don’t have a large washing/drying machine designed for futons. The easy way to wash futons would be to have them washed by a laundry. In Japan, many commercial laundries offer a futon-washing service and some futon shops also do. Furthermore, some laundries offer a cleaning pick-up and delivery service.
(4) Use the cotton re-fabrication service.
When your futons never go back to the soft and comfy state even if you dry your futons in the sunshine or washing them, the cotton-remanufacturing service called uchi-naoshi would be necessary. Uchi-naoshi requires several mechanical processes to renew the damaged cotton. In the uchi-naoshi process, the damaged or aged cotton mass can be loosened up and any impurities can be removed from the cotton. And eventually, the renewed cotton batting can be available. The right timing for uchi-naoshi would be at the 3rd year from first use for a kake-buton and at the 5th year for shiki-buton.
This uchi-naoshi service is available only at a futon shop where professionals work. Every time the cotton batting is mechanically loosened up by uchi-naoshi, the cotton fibers will degrade. So, you had better not use the uchi-naoshi service beyond the uchi-naoshi limit which is within a range from 3 times to 5 times. However, this limit may change depending on the skill of those who handle the uhi-naoshi process, the type of machines and the uchi-naoshi process.
In the process of uchi-naoshi, the proper amount of new cotton fibers are added to the original cotton fibers so that you can obtain a reborn clean cotton futon with new exterior fabric by uchi-naoshi.