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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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Step 1

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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

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.

Step 4

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.

Step 5

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

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Check for new stains on the mattress. If you find any, scroll down for tips on how to tackle them.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:

  1. Try to attack stains as soon as possible after they occur.
  2. Check the mattress label before you apply any cleaning products.
  3. 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 Get Stains Out of a Mattress

You can’t throw a mattress into the washer, so how do you clean mattress stains? Here’s a few simple ways to get stains out of a mattress, including blood & urine!

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Your mattress is used every single day, and so naturally stains and spills will happen. You can’t just throw a mattress into the washer, so what’s the best way to clean it? Here are a few simple tips on how to get stains out of a mattress.

Need to freshen up your entire mattress? Here’s how to deep clean your mattress.

How To Clean Mattress Stains

Whether it’s a new spill or an old stain you just noticed, follow these simple steps to remove the spot.

  1. Soak up liquid.
    If the stain is still wet, soak up the liquid with a clean cloth by gently blotting. Do not rub or scrub at this point, or you’ll just help the stain penetrate further into the fabric of the mattress.
  2. Spray-on cleaner.
    Once all the liquid has been absorbed, spray on a cleaner of your choice. For a good general mattress cleaner, add the following to a spray bottle: 1/2-cup warm water, 1/2-cup white vinegar, and about a teaspoon of dish soap.
  3. Blot stain.
    With the cleaner applied, blot the stain until it is removed. Spray on more cleaner, and blot again if needed. Let the area air dry before replacing your bed linens.

How to Get Urine Stains Out Of a Mattress

Urine stains can be a bit more stubborn than other mattress spots, and so removal requires a little more effort. Here’s how to clean mattress stains.

  1. Pre-treat the spot with vinegar.
    If the urine stain is new, blot away excess liquid. Then bring out the vinegar which helps clean and neutralizes the odor. Spray straight vinegar onto the stain and blot again.
  2. Spray on homemade urine cleaner.
    This DIY cleaner is a lifesaver when it comes to urine stains. In a spray bottle, combine 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide, 3 tablespoons of baking soda and 2 to 3 drops of dish soap. For an extra scent boost, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil like lemon or lavender. Spray this cleaner on the spot and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle with baking soda.
    Once you’ve allowed the cleaner to do its job. Sprinkle the spot with baking soda, this will soak up any remaining moisture and odor. Allow the baking soda to sit for another 10 minutes, then vacuum it away with the upholstery attachment.

How To Remove Blood Stains From a Mattress

There’s one thing to remember when it comes to blood stains, stay away from hot water. Hot water can actually set the stain into the mattress fabric and make it impossible to remove. With that in mind, here’s how to get rid of a blood stain.

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.)

Shop Mattresses on Amazon

Step 1

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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

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.

Step 4

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.

Step 5

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.

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