How to clean a mattress
Don’t let your bed become a haven for dust and bacteria. Find out how to keep your mattress looking and smelling clean with our expert guide.
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Cleaning your mattress probably isn’t that high up on your list of chores. But there are many reasons why you should spend a few minutes every few months making it cleaner. For one, the average person spends roughly a third of their life in bed, so it pays to keep it as hygienic as possible.
After all, your mattress may well be among the most expensive and long-lasting items in your home, so it makes sense to look after it.
Whether there’s a particular stain or smell you want to remove, or you just want to give your mattress a regular refresh, our expert tips below will help you keep it in top condition.
Or, if yours is already past its best, head to ourBest Buy mattressesto find your next one.
In this article:
Why you need to clean a mattress
No matter how often you change your bed linen, you still need to go the extra mile every so often and give your mattress a thorough clean.
While you may think that your mattress isn’t dirty, especially if you normally shower before going to bed and if the mattress is stain-free, that’s unlikely to be the case. According to The Sleep Council, the average adult loses 285ml of fluid each night. We also shed around 454g of dead skin over the course of a year, much of which ends up nestled in your bed.
That’s not all. The average bed contains 10,000 dust mites, produce more than two million droppings, which can aggravate allergies. It’s no wonder The Sleep Council say that a dirty mattress can contain worrying levels of staphylococcus, enterococcus, norovirus and even MRSA.
How often should you clean a mattress?
There’s no hard and fast rule for how often a mattress needs to be cleaned. It all depends on the mattress and the person sleeping on it.
If you suffer from allergies, you should clean your mattress whenever the tell-tale symptoms of a runny nose, an itchy throat and dry eyes start to worsen.
It also depends on how breathable the mattress is. Every mattress we review is tested for how well moisture passes through it, and the more breathable a mattress is, the less likely it is to stockpile sweat. Head to our mattress reviews to buy a breathable mattress.
While there’s no right or wrong answer to the question of how often a mattress needs cleaning, every six months is advisable. If you’re in the habit of flipping or rotating your mattress every three to six months (as you should be), its worth taking a little extra time to clean your mattress while you do it.
How to clean a mattress
If your mattress is stain-free, cleaning it should be a quick process. Simply follow the six steps below:
- Strip the bed and wash your bed linen. Follow the instructions on the labels and remember that stains on your sheets are more likely to be removed with a Best Buy washing machine.
- Check for new stains on the mattress. If you find any, scroll down for tips on how to tackle them.
- Gently vacuum the surface of the mattress. For this, you should use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner, making sure the attachment is clean before you begin. Once you’ve given the mattress the once over, go back and focus on any nooks and crannies in the surface to make sure you pick up every last bit of dust and dead skin. It’s a good idea to vacuum under the bed to remove dust at the same time, especially if you suffer from allergies.
- Rotate your mattress from head to toe if it’s one-sided, or flip it if it’s two-sided. If it’s the latter, make sure you vacuum both sides of the mattress.
- Air your mattress for a few hours to let the fabric breathe. Unless you need to get rid of an unpleasant smell (see below), opening the bedroom window to let fresh air circulate around the room and pass through the fabric in your mattress should be sufficient.
- Remake the bed. We recommend using a mattress protector beneath your sheet to protect your mattress from dust and sweat, as this means you won’t have to clean the mattress so often.
How to remove mattress stains
Scrubbing stains out of a mattress is no one’s idea of fun, but it’s essential if you want to keep your mattresses clean and odour free for years to come. Before you get going, there are three golden rules to follow:
- Try to attack stains as soon as possible after they occur.
- Check the mattress label before you apply any cleaning products.
- Test any cleaning solution on a small part of the stain first to ensure it won’t damage the mattress.
Read on for advice on how to target specific stains, or scroll down to find out how to get rid of unpleasant mattress smells.
How to get blood stains out of a mattress
To get blood stains out of your mattress, first dab at the stain with a little cold water. Be careful not to soak the mattress and don’t rub the stain as this could spread the blood further.
You may find this technique to be surprisingly effective, especially if the stain is recent, but if not, try adding a little baking soda to the water. Apply to the stain, leave it for 30 minutes, and then dab with clean water and leave to dry.
If the stain is still there after the mattress has dried, try following the steps below for removing urine.
How to get urine out of a mattress
To remove bodily fluids such as urine from your mattress, try diluting washing-up liquid in water and then gently dabbing at the stain with a cloth or sponge. Remember that mattresses aren’t waterproof, so it’s best to clean slowly and steadily. If the stain still isn’t lifting, use an upholstery cleaner, but always read the label. We recommend erring on the side of caution, so it’s safest to dilute it and avoid spraying it directly onto the mattress.
Removing other mattress stains
For food and drink stains, such as tea and coffee, your best bet is to try the baking soda and cold water mix mentioned above. For bodily fluids and sweat stains, try using diluted washing-up liquid. If in any doubt, though, contact the manufacturer to find out if they have any specific advice.
How to stop your mattress from smelling
Regardless of how comfortable your mattress is, you’re unlikely to get a good night’s sleep if you’re unable to escape an unpleasant smell when you put your head down.
There are two reasons your mattress might smell. The first is because it’s new. It’s not uncommon for mattresses made with synthetic materials such as memory foam to have a strong chemical smell when you first unpack them. But even if your mattress isn’t synthetic, you may find that it smells a bit when new as a result of the flame-retardant chemicals that manufacturers are required to apply by law.
The smell should disperse gradually, but you can speed up the process by leaving it near an open window to air. Or, if the smell is especially strong, you can try air the mattress outside if you have a patio and the weather is good.
The second reason a mattress might smell is if something has soaked into the material. Bodily fluids are obvious examples, but drinks such as tea and coffee can easily be spilt if you’re enjoying breakfast in bed. Even spilt water can give the mattress a musty smell if the fabric hasn’t been properly dried out.
After you have removed any stains (see above), air the mattress for as long as possible to allow the smell to fade. If the smell is especially strong or unpleasant, though, you will need to resort to stronger measures. Sprinkle baking soda over the entire mattress surface and leave it for as long as possible – ideally overnight. Next, vacuum up the baking soda and leave the mattress to air by an open window – you should find that the smell has gone.
Cleaning memory foam mattresses
Memory foam mattresses often come with a removable mattress cover that’s machine washable. This can make cleaning a lot easier, but there are a couple of things to be aware of.
Always check the manufacturer’s instructions and the details of your mattress warranty before cleaning. Some mattresses have removable covers but the manufacturer actually advises against taking the cover off and washing it, while others allow this but say to avoid cleaning the foam after the cover has been removed.
If you are putting your cover in the washing machine, follow the washing instructions carefully to be sure you don’t inadvertently invalidate your warranty or shrink the cover so much that it then doesn’t fit back over the mattress.
If you’re tempted by memory foam, take a look at our top memory foam mattresses.
Is it time you bought a new bed?
There are a few things you can do to maximise the lifespan of your mattress. Cleaning it regularly is certainly one of them, but flipping or rotating your mattress according to the manufacturer’s instructions, using a mattress protector and not sitting on the edge of your bed will help, too. A good mattress topper can also give an ailing mattress a new lease of life.
Even so, mattresses don’t last for ever. When you’re sleeping on it every night, it’s all too easy to convince yourself that your mattress is as good as it was when new. But just because a mattress is comfortable doesn’t guarantee that it’s providing good support for your back.
We’ve tested mattresses that will remain supportive without sagging or softening for up to 10 years. But if you’ve had you mattress longer than that, you may want to consider buying a new one.
Take a look at our Best Buy mattresses if you’re due an upgrade.
How to Clean a Mattress (and Why)
Tackling this five-step chore a couple times a year can help keep things fresh in the bedroom
You spend about a third of your life on your mattress. When was the last time you gave it a good, deep clean? The seldom-used living room sofa probably feels the bristle of a vacuum brush more often than your trusty mattress. It’s time to change that. Besides promoting a more pleasant and productive night’s sleep, a clean, cared for mattress can last longer—and it might even help prevent nasty, not to mention costly, pest infestations.
Back when most mattresses could be flipped over, the conventional wisdom was that you should turn it twice a year, and take that opportunity to clean it as well. These days, a lot of mattresses, including the pillow-top variety, can’t be turned because they have a proper top and bottom. But cleaning your mattress two times a year remains a good rule of thumb. (Check the mattress label for instructions since the manufacturer might recommend rotating the mattress head to foot to ensure even wear.)
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Start the cleaning process by stripping the mattress of all sheets and bedding and tossing the items in the wash. To remove tough stains, always use a Consumer Reports top-rated laundry detergent and the hottest water setting on your washing machine; dry on high heat as well to zap any surviving critters.
Next, vacuum the entire mattress surface with the upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner. Pay attention to seams and crevices, where dirt, dust, dead skin, and other icky stuff collect; switching to your vacuum’s crevice attachment can help get in deep.
Our tests have found that a normal vacuum cleaner provides capable cleaning, but if you’re fastidious, consider investing in the Dyson V6 Mattress Handheld Vacuum, a $250 device designed specifically for the job. In a Consumer Reports at-home mattress test, we cleaned half of a foam Tempur-Pedic mattress with a top-rated canister vacuum and half with the Dyson handheld. The Dyson sucked up 3 grams of material, including dead skin cells that dust mites like to nosh on, compared with the 1 gram that our regular vacuum removed.
Once you’re finished vacuuming, check for stains and spot treat them with an appropriate cleaner. An upholstery cleaner or enzyme-based pet-odor remover can do the job on many bodily fluids. You can also try a simple solution of 1 teaspoon mild dish detergent and 1 cup of warm water.
Next, deodorize the mattress by sprinkling baking soda over the entire surface. Especially if this is your first cleaning, don’t be afraid to empty an entire 1-pound box onto the mattress. For best results, leave the baking soda there for 24 hours. That means you might need to plan the project around an overnight trip—or be willing to sleep elsewhere in your home. If you can place the mattress near a window, the sunlight will add its sanitizing power.
After the baking soda has had a chance to tackle odors, go back over the mattress with your vacuum’s upholstery attachment. If you don’t already own a mattress cover, we recommend buying one. And adding a mattress pad between the cover and bottom sheet will help absorb moisture. Along with the periodic deep cleaning described here, these extra layers of protection will help prevent mites, fleas, and other pests from sharing your bed. That should really help you sleep tight.
How To Clean A Mattress and Get Rid of Stains
Knowinghow to clean a mattresscan help you sleep better at night. This guide explains how to clean your mattress and get rid of stains, odors, and allergens. It also covers how to protect your mattress, so it stays clean and fresh.
Why You Should Clean Your Mattress
Dead Skin Cells and Dust Mites
Of the estimated 1.6trillionskin cells on our bodies, roughly 30,000 to 40,000 of them fall off every hour. Multiply that by the eight hours we’re supposed to get, and we’re shedding around a quarter-million dead skin cells in our sleep.
Sure, your sheets catch most of the skin cells. What they don’t protect your mattress from are the dust mites that feed on those dead skin cells. And, there arehundreds of thousandsof those dust mites in your bed.
Or, Glen Needham, a retired professor of entomology at Ohio State University, says, “Every mattress is a crime scene in terms of how it gets inoculated with mites.”
Moisture, Mold, and Mildew
When we sleep, our bodies lose moisture. Some of that is simply the result of us breathing. Some of it is also sweat.
If you’re a person who “sleeps hot” or who suffers from hot flashes or night sweats, you know how damp your bedding and mattress can get. Combine the two, and our bodies produce over a pound of moisture each night!
While much of that evaporates in the air, plenty soaks into your mattress. There, the dense materials and warm, dark environment provide the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew spores.
Pets, Kids, and Other Messes
If you have young children, the chances are that at least one mattress in your home bears the results of a nighttime accident. Even house-trained pets can leave your mattress damp if they spend much time licking their paws or hop on your bed right after a bath. And, of course, full-grown adults can soil a mattress several ways, too.
So, you can put up with a stained mattress that stinks of sweat and body oils, or you can set aside an afternoon to deep clean your mattress and get it looking — and smelling — new again.
How to Clean Your Mattress
You need to strip the bed before you begin cleaning your mattress, so this is a good time to launder your bed linens, too.
- Using the hottest setting allowed on the manufacturer’s label will kill dust mites on your sheets and blankets.
- Go ahead and wash your pillows and fabric mattress toppers.
- You can even wash an electric blanket if you use one.
While the washer and dryer are doing their thing, follow the steps below to clean your mattress.
1. Vacuum the Top and Sides
Your vacuum cleaner’s upholstery attachment is the best tool for mattress cleaning. Start at the top and work your way down in overlapping, narrow paths.
Vacuum the sides the same way. Don’t worry about the other side of the mattress just yet — we’ll get there in step 5. For now, we’re clearing away dead skin cells, pet hair, and surface dirt to make the next step more effective.
2. Remove Odors with Baking Soda
S prinkle your mattress well with plain baking soda (bicarb for UK readers) andgentlyrub it in, so it bonds with surface moisture. Let it sit for 10 minutes to continue neutralizing odors.
What about adding essential oils?
Several readers have asked about mixing essential oils with the baking powder before sprinkling it on their mattresses. I don’t recommend it for a couple of reasons.
- Essential oils are stilloils.Rubbing any oil into a fabric is never a good idea — it attracts dirt and can make the bond between the material and soil permanent. That’s pretty much the exactoppositeof what we’re trying to achieve when we clean a mattress.
- It’s a waste of time.By the time you’ve cleaned the mattress, removed stains, and protected it from future problems, you won’t be able to smell the essential oil. So why bother?
3. Vacuum Again
After giving the baking soda time to bond with surface moisture and odors, it’s time to vacuum it out of the mattress.
Using the upholstery attachment, vacuum the top and sides of the mattress with slow, overlapping strokes. Donotpress too hard — it interferes with your vacuum’s suction and may snag your bed’s fabric.
4. How to Remove Mattress Stains
Mattresses typically acquire three types of stains: blood, urine, and what we’ll call “other bodily fluids.”
While it’s best to treat stains immediately, sometimes sleep is more important. Fortunately, you can still clean stains on your mattress even after they’ve been there a while.
You can often get fresh blood stains out of mattresses with just a rag, some cold water, and a little soap. For fresh blood stains, it’s important to usecoldwater, since heat causes the proteins in blood to bond with the mattress material.
If cold water and a bit of soap didn’t do the trick, use the dried blood remover for mattresses below.
How to Clean Your Mattress
Follow this tutorial on how to clean your mattress for a healthy night’s sleep. General mattress cleaning tips, stain removal guides and mattress maintenance ideas included.
Why should you clean your mattress?
Cleaning your mattress on a regular basis is important to prevent dust mites and dead skin cells from building up. A clean mattress also helps to promote a good night’s sleep
How to Clean Your Mattress
Before you get started on your mattress, strip all of the bedding and mattress covers off of the bed and wash them in hot water (over 130 F). This will kill any dust mites. Add 1/2 -1 cup of vinegar to your wash to remove any extra odors and soften your sheets. If possible, open up the windows to let in some fresh air and light while you clean.
Late winter/early spring is generally the best time to clean your mattress for dust mites as it will kill the dust mites that survived the winter and reduce their numbers in the summer months. If you use and launder a mattress cover regularly, cleaning your mattress once per year should be sufficient
Cleaning Option #1
- Sprinkle baking soda over the mattress and allow it to sit forat least30 minutes
to absorb any odors. Using the upholstery attachment on your vacuum, vacuum the mattress paying extra attention to any stitches and crevices.
- If you have any particular stained areas that you are needing to treat, do this prior to the above cleaning options but do vacuum the mattress to remove any loose dirt or dust before working on the stained area. Remember that the quicker you can treat a stain, the easier it will be to remove! See below for specific stain treatments.
- After you have cleaned your mattress, ensure that the mattress isCOMPLETELY DRYbefore putting the covers and sheets back on. Any moisture will encourage the growth of molds, mildew, and bacteria. Let your mattress dry out in the sun or run a fan over it for at least several hours until dry. A blow dryer works too if you just spot treated stains. If you can’t get your mattress outside, you can pull it off your bed and prop it up by an open window to get more air circulating.
Cleaning Option #2
- If you really need an extra deep cleaning
take the mattress out in the morning on a sunny day to allow it to air out. Place a clean tarp or drop cloth down on the ground and place your mattress on top. The sun has a natural cleaning ability and can kill off bacteria hiding in the mattress.
- Now the fun part… Grab a bat, golf club, 2×4, etc. and give your mattress a good beating for 10-20 minutes. This will get rid of dead human skin cells, dust mites and their feces, and dander and will also give you a good workout!
- Let your mattress sit in the sun for the day remembering to turn it around to the other side half way through the day. You might want to give it another quick beating before bringing it back in at the end of the day.
How to Remove Stains from your Mattress
If you have any stains on your mattress, follow these general stain removal guidelines. For more persistent stains, check out the specific stain tips below.
- When you’re treating mattress stains, keep your cleaning fluid use to a minimum to avoid over-saturating the mattress. You do not want the interior padding of the mattress to become wet as it can develop mold and mildew or damage the wood inside of the mattress.
- It is important to get to mattress stains as quickly as you can . To avoid spreading the stain, blot
up any excess liquids or moisture moving from theoutsideof the stain inwards. Use pressure to remove as much of the liquid as possible.
- For general stains, you can use an upholstery cleaner and follow the directions as indicated on the bottle. Again, ensure that you do not saturate the mattress too much.
- To help remove odors, sprinkle baking soda over top. For a light, fresh scent, you can add some drops of your favorite essential oil to the baking soda and mix it in prior to sprinkling . Let it sit for a couple of hours. Vacuum up any residual baking soda.
Apply hydrogen peroxide <3%>to the blood stain. . You can spray it on with a spray bottle if you are treating a larger area or put it on with a Q-tip for small spots. Blot while it is bubbling with a clean, white cloth. Once it has stopped bubbling, leave it on for an additional 5-10 minutes. Spray lightly with COLD water
Blot excess fluid with a clean, white towel. Make a cleaning solution of 2 tbsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. dish soap, and 1 cup 3% hydrogen peroxide
If the odor from your mattress is not removed by the general cleaning instructions above, you can purchase a plastic mattress bag
Mattress Maintenance Tips
The following tips are easy to do and can help to prolong the life and health of your mattress. Just work them into your regular routine when you typically clean your sheets.
Vacuum your mattress when you change the sheets
Use a mattress cover.
These can help to protect against dust mites and other allergens and are easily removable and washable. It will also reduce the need to vacuum the mattress as often.
Invest in a mattress pad.
These are placed over the mattress cover and under the sheet of the bed. In addition to improving comfort, they also provide an additional barrier between you and the mattress and can be easily removed and laundered. If you have young children, using a water resistent mattress pad is always a good idea for all of those night time “accidents” that can happen.
Wash bedding regularly.
Wash bedding and mattress covers frequently in hot water (above 130F) to kill dust mites. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to remove any odors and soften the sheets. Strip your beds if you are going on a vacation. This provides a great opportunity to really air your mattress out.
Rotate your mattress.
Rotate your mattress about once every 3 months This allows for more even wear and tear of your mattress and can help prolong the life of your mattress. <NOTE:Rotating your mattress refers to turning it 180 degrees
Set your bedroom environment.
Since dust mites prefer warm, moist, dark environments, try keeping your bedroom humidity levels below 50% and the room temperature below 70 degrees when possible. Vacuum and dust your bedroom regularly to reduce dust. Lightly misting surfaces with water prior to dusting can remove up to 90% of airborne dust and HEPA rated vacuums do the best job at vacuuming without blowing dust back up into the air.
Be careful of using deodorizing sprays or those that claim to reduce odors. These products often do not actually remove the odor and just cover it up with stronger chemical smells. Some of them contain chemicals that are not checked for safety and contain carcinogens. Instead, look for options that are simple, natural, and biodegradable.
So hopefully that is everything that you could want to know about your mattress! A little time cleaning = a healthier, good night’s sleep! And if you still need help getting a good night’s sleep, check out these 7 tips for a better night’s sleep.
More Cleaning Tips
For more cleaning tips and tricks, check out these posts…
The best way to clean your mattress
You already know to clean your sheets, but what about your mattress? That’s a different story. If you haven’t cleaned the one thing you sleep on every night, it’s time for a wakeup call.
Check out our need-to-know tips for cleaning and maintaining your mattress. You’ll sleep better knowing you can trust the cleanliness of your own bed!
Vacuum your mattress every month or so, or every time you change the sheets if you or family members have severe allergies. Turn off the beater bars, and run the vacuum very slowly over the mattress so it has time to inhale the dust and dust mites. Break out the crevice tool for the edges.
TIP: "If the kids want to play Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, let them do that right before you vacuum the mattress," says Mary Findley of goclean.com, a former pro cleaner and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Cleaning. "It brings dust and dust mites to the surface, where they are easier for the vacuum to inhale."
Beat It Annually
"Once a year in the spring, I haul my mattress to the patio, brace it against the back of my home, and do like Grandma used to do—beat it with a broom on both sides," Findley says. "The dust that flies is amazing." Alternatively, just vacuum both sides well, as described above.
While you have the mattress removed, vacuum the box spring, too. Lightly spritz the mattress with straight distilled white vinegar to help kill bacteria and mold and discourage dust mites.
Treat any stain immediately. The longer liquids sit in a mattress, the likelier they are to foster mold and mildew growth.
Findley recommends using foaming shaving cream for mattress cleaning, in part because of its thickness. "Liquids soak right through a mattress, not allowing sufficient time to dissolve the stain," she says. "Foaming shaving cream contains denatured alcohol, which is a stain remover, and it’s thick, so it sits on the surface to work on the stain." Wait 10-15 minutes, wipe with a damp cloth, and rinse with a 50-50 vinegar-water solution. Repeat if necessary.
Other helpful solutions for common mattress stains:
- Blood: A 50-50 hydrogen peroxide-water solution.
- Urine, faecal matter, or vomit: An enzyme cleaner, such as Bac-Out by BioClean, or Nature’s Miracle, available at pet stores. (Use before trying other methods, as residue from other cleaners will kill the enzymes before they can work.)
Good to Know
Use a mixture of cornstarch and baking soda to remove smells, says Leslie Reichert, aka The Cleaning Coach. Just shake it onto the mattress, let sit for a few hours or longer, then vacuum. "The cornstarch will absorb body oils, while the baking soda tackles odors," she says.
When laundering sheets, strip the bed in the morning, and don’t put new sheets on until evening. "Allowing the mattress to air all day discourages dust mites and bacterial growth," Findley says.
Remember, mattress pads aren’t just for comfort. They keep your mattress cleaner, too, says Donna Smallin Kuper of unclutter.com and author of Cleaning Plain and Simple. Wash monthly in hot water, and machine-dry thoroughly unless the tag instructs otherwise.
For serious stains, consider calling a mattress-cleaning professional. Look for someone who will clean with steam rather than using chemicals, Findley says, to avoid causing more problems than you solve. She also suggests pretreating stains yourself with natural products, such as vinegar or peroxide, so your pro won’t resort to commercial stain removers.