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 Wash a Mattress Protector and Topper
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When it comes to protecting our mattress, using a mattress protector is a must. However, do you know how to wash a mattress protector and how often you need to?
Can You Wash a Mattress Protector?
First of all yes, you can definitely wash a mattress protector like you would your new set of sheets. That is the main reason for having one, since you are unable to wash your mattress.
While sleeping, we lose fluid, skin cells and any dirt on our bodies will rub off in the sheets. These tiny particles will push tough the fibers as we toss and turn, eventually making their way down and into the mattress.
Once inside of the mattress, it is almost impossible to pull it all back out, even with spot cleaning and vacuuming the top of your mattress.
Instead of having to worry about what’s falling through the cracks of your mattress and degrading its lifespan, opt to own and use a mattress protector.
A mattress protector is a thin fitted sheet that goes on your bare mattress and sits underneath your fitted and flat sheets. Most of the top rated mattress protectors are 100% waterproof and can hold more than a liter of liquid before you need to change it.
They are also engineered to be breathable through a cotton/terry blend that absorbs yet allows air to flow through so that you are not sweating due to the extra layer underneath you.
How to Wash a Mattress Protector
Whether you need to spot clean or completely launder your mattress protector then follow these steps to take care of spills, stains and regular refreshing.
If you catch spills or accidents in time, you can spot clean your mattress protector instead of having to wash it between scheduled washes.
The best way to be able to spot clean is to do it as soon as the accident occurs or as soon as you notice it. Putting off spot cleaning may result in set in stains or permanent yellowing of your mattress protector and needing to wash it instead.
- Use a paper towel to blot up the excess moisture. (A paper towel will pull most of the liquid out)
- Do not rub the area, this can damage the mattress protector fibers and spread the stain further.
- Mix a little mild detergent with water to make it thinner and pour it in a spray bottle. (always use a spray bottle for spot cleaning since it controls the flow and keeps you from over soaking a spot)
- Agitate the detergent a little with your fingers to help awaken it. (Again, don’t scrub or rub)
- Use a clean cloth dipped in water to blot up the detergent
- Dip the soapy cloth in clean water and squeeze out the excess and repeat until there is no more soap on the mattress protector.
- Follow up with using paper towels to blot out any excess moisture to help your mattress protector dry faster.
- Allow it to air dry by hanging it up.
- Once fully dried replace and continue to use
It is important to control how much water you are using to spot clean. You don’t want to over soak the area with detergent or water, this won’t clean it any better and will take a longer amount of time to dry.
Less is better, because you can always work up to using more if needed. You cannot work backwards from over soaking the area or adding too much soap.
Also spraying too much detergent or not watering it down a little can cause too much soap residue to get into the fibers and be difficult to remove it all. More soap does not mean cleaner, it just equals out to more work needed to rinse it.
You should strive to wash your mattress protector once a month. You can stretch it to once every two months if your sheets are changed regularly and you don’t have many spills or accidents.
Your mattress protector needs to be laundered regularly due to the buildup of dirt, dead skin cells, dust mites and odors. Washing your mattress protector will also restore the freshness of it to keep allergens under control.
- Set your washer to the cold water and gentle/delicate cycle.
- Add in a bleach free laundry detergent or a natural one you can create at home. (Bleach can damage the waterproof backing)
- Place your mattress protector in the washer with your sheets or alone.
- Let the washer run through the entire cycle and skip the fabric softener, this will reduce the absorbency of the mattress protector.
- For the best drying results hang up your mattress protector to dry. If you need it quicker then you can place it in the dry on a no heat or low heat setting. (place damp towels in with it to help dry and fluff it up.)
The best thing you need to remember about washing your mattress protector is that you need to avoid high heat settings. Similar to washing wool, and other sensitive materials, washing or drying with heat can damage the waterproof backing, shrink it and reduce it’s ability to protect your mattress.
Can You Wash a Mattress Topper?
If you have a mattress topper, it is a little different from a mattress protector. A mattress topper, sometimes referred to as a pad, is a padded cushion that fits on your mattress like a fitted sheet would.
The main difference between the two is that a topper is used to add a layer of cushion to your mattress where as a mattress protector adds little to no cushion and offers waterproof protection.
A good mattress pad will make your night’s sleep a lot better. It doesn’t provide any protection for your mattress though.
You can wash most mattress toppers. Cotton and polyester blends are able to washed and dried following the same instructions as above. Since it is a thicker version of a mattress protector it may need to be dried a little longer.
If you have a memory foam or egg crate mattress topper then you may not be able to wash it as easily. You can vacuum the top to pull out any debris or dust and spot clean as needed
Now that you know more about how to wash a mattress protector and the best schedule for taking care of it, you can begin to work it into your cleaning routine. Keeping your mattress protector clean and functioning will help extend the life of your mattress underneath since it is catch all of the daily wear and tear.
How to Clean a Mattress in 9 Simple Steps
A mattress is a serious investment, so you want to make sure it lasts—and that means learning how to clean a mattress. Mattresses can harbor dust mites, dead skin, dirt, and other debris, which means they need to be cleaned regularly—particularly if you suffer from allergies, have pets, or are just an avid midnight snacker.
The good news is that cleaning a mattress is far easier than you might think. Read on to discover the nine simple steps that will help you keep your mattress clean and ready for years of snoozing. Thanks to expert insights from Ed Curry, president of mattress company Duxiana, and Neil Parikh, cofounder of Casper, here are some pro tips for taking good care of your mattress so you can sleep easy.
1. Gather your mattress cleaning supplies
To deep clean a mattress, you’ll need certain materials on hand. Gather up:
- a vacuum with an upholstery attachment
- an enzyme cleaner or dish soap to get stains out
- laundry detergent
- baking soda
- cleaning cloths
- cold water
2. Strip the bed and wash all the bedding
Remove sheets, pillowcases, and mattress covers and let them take a spin in the washing machine while you work on cleaning the mattress. Washing all the bedding in hot water will help get rid of any dust mites. Depending on the type of pillows you have, you may be able to wash them as well. (Double-check the care label.)
3. Vacuum the mattress
Grab your vacuum cleaner’s upholstery attachment and go over the entire surface of the mattress, including the sides. Pay special attention to seams and break out the crevice attachment to get any hidden dirt or dust.
4. Spot-clean your mattress with a stain remover
Now it’s time to focus on getting stains out of the mattress, and that means spot-cleaning. Never soak your mattress or apply water or cleaning solution directly to it. Memory foam, for example, isn’t supposed to get wet at all. For that reason, it’s important to proceed with caution and operate on the principle that less is more.
So, spot-cleaning with a stain remover it is. The stain remover you choose will depend on the type of stain and the type of mattress. For biological stains, reach for an enzyme cleaner. Spray the cleaner onto a clean white cloth, and then blot the stained area with the cloth. After that, you can apply cold water to a different clean cloth and continue blotting until the stain lifts. The goal here is to use as little product and moisture as possible. This method is ideal for blood, sweat, vomit, urine, and other related stains.
As an alternative to an enzyme-based cleaner, you can make your own DIY solution by mixing dish soap with water and applying just the resulting foam to the stain. You can also make a DIY solution of equal parts cold water and hydrogen peroxide.
5. Sprinkle baking soda all over the entire mattress
If you can’t put your mattress out in the sun and fresh air, baking soda is the next best thing. Sprinkle a layer over the entire top of the mattress and leave for several hours (or better yet, apply before an overnight trip). Baking soda will break down acid and absorb any remaining moisture or odor. The longer you can leave baking soda on the mattress, the better it will work! As the mattress sits with the baking soda, open any windows in the room to let the light and sunshine in. The sun’s UV rays will actually help kill any mold or bacteria on the mattress.
6. Vacuum again
Once the baking soda has worked its magic, thoroughly vacuum it up. (If you have a fabric headboard, now’s a good time to vacuum that, as well! Might as well get a fresh start with everything bed-related.)
7. Flip the mattress
Now that side one is spotless, flip the mattress and repeat steps 1-5 so both sides are equally fresh and clean. Flipping, of course, should be done at regular intervals, whether you’re deep cleaning the mattress or not. The conventional wisdom has been that people should flip their mattress every three months, but that rule of thumb only applies to spring mattresses because they compress over time. As mattresses get more specialized, your best bet is to check with the model manufacturer. (The foam Casper mattress, for instance, only needs to be rotated 180 degrees every few months, while only the top pad of Duxiana’s Dux mattress needs to be flipped and turned.)
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 Wash a Mattress –>
Consideringthat the average person spends roughly a third of their lives sleeping, mattress cleaning is a necessary ritual. Although admittedly awkward and time-consuming, following this step-by-step procedure can make the task less daunting.
What you will need:
- Vacuum with upholstery attachment
- Cold Water
- Mild DRY Laundry detergent
- Upholstery shampoo
- Electric fans (optional)
- Shop vac (optional)
The Cleaning Process:
- Move your mattress away from walls, furniture, etc. and make sure it is accessible from all sides.
- Using the upholstery attachment, vacuum the mattress thoroughly on BOTH sides. Some vacuums have attachments specially designed for mattress cleaning which are especially effective in removing dust and other particles because of their vibrating action.
- Next, you want to tackle any soiled or stained areas.
- Mix about 1 tablespoon of laundry detergent with about 1 quart of cold water and mix vigorously to form thick suds (a hand-whisk may help in this regard).
- Wet sponge with cleaning solution (using plenty of suds) and rub soiled areas in a firm, circular motion until stain disappears, rewetting sponge as necessary (for stubborn stains, see cleaning methods listed below). Be aware that this method will only work for superficial (surface) stains, and that if the stain has soaked into the mattress padding, it may be impossible to remove entirely.
- To remove general dirt and grime from the mattress, apply upholstery shampoo to the mattress as per the manufacturer’s direction. (NOTE: Always test a small, inconspicuous area of the mattress first to make sure the fabric can tolerate the cleaner without damage). Remember to clean both sides of the mattress.
- Mattress will be damp after cleaning. Allow to dry completely before using. The mattress can be allowed to air dry in a warm location. Placing a couple of fans around the mattress may hasten the drying process. As an alternative, a shop vac can be used to pull excess moisture from the mattress.
- When mattress is completely dry, vacuum again to remove any residue
Removing Mattress Stains
Some stains are more stubborn in nature, and are therefore harder to remove. Try these methods to treat stubborn stains, such as urine, vomit and sweat.
What you may need:
- Spray bottle
- Distilled White Vinegar
- Baking Soda
- Boric Acid (i.e. Borax)
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Enzymatic Pet Stain remover
- Sponge or cloth
- Using a spray bottle, spray the stain with distilled white vinegar, and allow to set for approximately 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle on baking soda (enough to cover the vinegar spot), and leave on until the fizzing stops and the spot is dry.
- Blot the area and vacuum up the baking soda. Hopefully the spot will be gone.
- If not, dampen the spot with plain water and sprinkle with dry boric acid (20 Mule Team Borax, usually found in the laundry aisle of the grocery store).
- Blot the spot with a sponge or cloth in circular motion until the stain disappears.
- Wipe dry and vacuum the area to remove residue
- If the stain still remains, dampen a sponge or cloth with hydrogen peroxide and blot the stain in a circular motion (NOTE: hydrogen peroxide can have a bleaching effect, so test a small, inconspicuous area first to make sure it will not damage the fabric of the mattress).
- If stain still remains, spray the stain with an enzymatic pet stain remover (such as Petzyme™, available at most pet stores), and let set for 15 minutes. Wipe area with a damp cloth and vacuum when dry.
- If these methods fail, you may consider contacting a mattress cleaning professional. Also, check with your mattress retailer as they may carry products specifically designed to assist with stain removal for your particular mattress.
NOTE:For stains that have soaked into the mattress padding, for health and sanitary reasons (i.e. bacteria can continue to grow inside the padding even after the surface stain is gone), it may be necessary to replace to mattress.
Removing Mattress Odors
Odors from stains (especially urine or vomit) and from the air (such as cigarette smoke) can linger in a mattress. To remove odors, try any one (or more) of the following methods:
- Sprinkle the entire mattress with baking soda, and allow to set overnight. Vacuum thoroughly.
- Using a citrus-based cleaning product, spray the mattress lightly and allow to dry. Vacuum thoroughly.
- Using a spray bottle, spray the mattress down with a mixture of ½ water, ½ white distilled vinegar, and allow to dry completely. NOTE: While the initial odor may be gone, the mattress will have a slight vinegar smell to it, which should fade in a couple of days.
- Try a commercially available product such as Febreze (Proctor & Gamble) or FreshCare(Clorox), which are often effective at eliminating or reducing odors.
Additional Hints and Tips
- To extend the life of your mattress, it should be flipped and rotated (bottom to top) every six months. NOTE: If your mattress is a pillow top, it should not be flipped, but it can be rotated.
- To prevent stains and keep your mattress clean and fresh longer, change your sheets often and vacuum your mattress regularly.
- Before cleaning, always check the manufacturer’s tags on your mattress for additional cleaning tips, and make sure to follow all warnings and cautions on the tag to avoid damage to your mattress.
- Use a mattress pad to help protect your mattress—it’s easier to throw a mattress pad in the washer than it is to clean a stain directly from the mattress.
- Always clean a stain as soon as possible for easier removal and to avoid having it soak into the mattress padding.
Filed Under: Furniture Tagged With: mattress
Was This Guide Helpful?
Please be aware that in some countries, mattresses have to comply with flammability regulations.
Wet cleaning a mattress can impair the flammability performance by washing away the flame-retardant treatment.
Very well explained, step-by-step guide on how to clean the mattress. I had some problems with removing a stain from my mattress but after reading your article and using the tips provided here, I was able to finally get rid of it. One thing that I didn’t find here though, can this cleaning be easily applied to foam memory mattresses as well? I have read somewhere that they might get damaged when they get any liquid inside them and that it’s hard to get rid of the liquid from it. Any opinion on that?
Yes, washing a foam mattress is a different process because they are so difficult to dry. With slower drying time, that also allows them the opportunity to become moldy, so it is important to try other cleaning options first and only wet wash as a last resort. Here are some guides that can provide more information on foam mattresses:
How to Wash Memory Foam
How to Clean a Memory Foam Topped Mattress
Super Dad jase says
After years trying different ideas without ever being anywhere near satisfied, I finally developed this self-made recipe which totally blew me away…Mattress WHITENER process: dampen area with “Vanish spray” 10 minutes beforehand. Then, into a plastic measuring jug, put: 1/3 mug of “1001 Shampoo for carpets and upholstery,” 1 emptied out sachet of “Dylon (2 in 1) Ultra Whitener + Oxi stain remover,” and ½ mug of boiling water. Whisk with a teaspoon and allow a think white foam to develop and rise. Use a sponge to repeatedly dab the foam into the stained mattress; do this for 10 mins. Leave a foamy coating on top of the mattress to soak in – 2 or 3 hours later it will be seriously whiter than it was when new.
Oh dear, oh dear! No matter how many times you say that boric acid and Boraxo are the same, they are NOT. They are completely different chemicals. What you want to clean with is Boraxo, and their web site explains how to use it. If you want to kill cockroaches, then boric acid is what you want. But please, do not substitute boric acid for Boraxo any time; you will be very unhappy with the results.
Never use vinegar on your bed unless you want your bed and room to smell like vinegar for two weeks.
Even a light layer from a spray bottle is way too much.
The mattress needs to be dry completely before you can make up the bed and sleep on it. When do people normally clean the mattress this way to make sure they don’t need to sleep on a wet mattress that night?
Washing your mattress in the morning would give it the most amount of time to dry before the evening. You can also use some of the suggestions in step 7 of the General Cleaning section to dry the mattress more quickly, or sleep somewhere else until the mattress dries completely.
The roof leaked in my rental apt. and dirty water spilled onto a corner of the mattress and box springs. I washed with water and detergent within a couple of hours, but I don’t know if it soaked through. The stain was only in the corner of the mattress, but along the width of the box springs. It appears to have removed the surface stain at least. How would I know if it is sanitary to keep the mattress?
Could I steam our pillow top mattress to sanitize it? Thanks.
There is a product called “Urine Gone” at pet stores. Also, “Odor Rid” from QVC to put on the exact source of the odor.
How do you remove blood stains from a pillow top mattress?
Could I give a full water wash to my spring matress, or would it get damaged?
Please read; no bleach.
I have a smelly mattress from smoke. Please help me on ways to get it clean. I have a sick newborn coming home and an air quality person to check it out.
Removing smells from a mattress can be very difficult. However, there are a couple things you can try. First, spray the mattress with a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water. Don’t soak it, just spray a good mist. You can also set a couple bowls full of white vinegar around or on the mattress for a few hours. Vinegar is a natural deodorizer. The smell of it will dissipate once it has dried, but you should not have a newborn in the area while it’s working because the vinegar fumes are strong.
Another option is to sprinkle baking soda over the mattress. Leave it on for a few hours, then vacuum it up. This can be repeated as many times as necessary.
If you can’t remove the smell and can’t afford to replace the mattress, you can try using a waterproof mattress pad, which will help to prevent the smell from entering the room.
Mattresses can be very expensive when new, but you can sometimes find a used one for cheap on Craigslist or at a thrift store. If you live in a major city and are concerned about bed bugs, you can get a bedbug detector test from a hardware store to test the mattress before buying or using it.