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 Often Do You Need to Wash Your Mattress Pad?
You do lay on it eight hours a night, after all.
There’s nothing that ruins the feeling of just-cleaned sheets like realizing that your protective mattress pad is looking a little. yellow. We all know you’re supposed to wash your sheets every one or two weeks, but what about this pesky thing under your sheets? Our expert is here to share her wisdom.
But first things first, when we say mattress pad, we mean a traditional protective covering like this. Pillowy toppers are a different story since they come in so many varieties (consult the care label for the best washing instructions), and the foam versions can’t be washed at all. You’ll want to replace your topper when they’re not comfortable or supportive anymore.
But here’s the scoop on mattress pads:
You should wash your mattress pad every couple months.
"It’s only necessary to wash your mattress pad several times per year," says Carolyn Forte, director of the Cleaning Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. "Sheets generally take more wear and tear than a mattress pad which is why they are washed more often."
This makes sense: You lay directly on top of the sheets, so they’re the first line of defense against body oils and dust getting to your mattress. Your mattress pad bears of that brunt, too, but not quite as much.
Forte recommends following the care label for specific cleaning directions, but in general, most mattress pads can be machine-washed in warm water and tumbled on low to dry.
But there are some exceptions.
If you have allergies, or let your dog or cat sleep in your bed, you might need to clean your pad more often. Gauge how much you should increase the frequency by considering the severity of your symptoms or how much your pet sheds. By trial and error, you might find that it’s necessary to wash the pad as often as weekly.
And if you spill food or drink, notice a stain, or find that it’s stretched out, wash the pad immediately.
Earn bonus points if you clean your mattress while the protector is in the wash.
It’s not everyday you have a bare mattress, so Forte recommends using this time to vacuum up dust (sprinkle the mattress with a little baking soda first to absorb odors). You can also spot-treat any stains, or spray the mattress with Lysol to kill bacteria. Just allow it to dry fully before making the bed again.
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 Cover
Using a mattress cover is one of the best ways to keep your mattress clean and prevents allergens like dust mites from robbing you of a decent night’s sleep. Not only can mattress covers be washed in the washing machine, but they can also prevent stains from marring the surface of your mattress and are easier to spot clean. So what is the best method for how to wash a mattress cover that has stains?
Is this the same method you use when learning how to wash a mattress protector? Your mattress protector, cover, and topper, while all mainly perform the same task of covering the top of your mattress, actually serve different functions.
As a result, these covers are often made of different materials and can be cleaned using different methods. Almost all options allow you to use a washing machine, however. For specific care instructions, follow the guide below and use the three amazing tips for spot cleaning stains.
Do I need a mattress cover, topper, or protector?
Not everyone needs a mattress cover, topper, or protector, but they are convenient. So what is a mattress cover, and how does it differ from a protector or topper? While many often use these interchangeably, the primary purpose of a mattress cover is to keep stains from ruining your mattress.
Protectors work more toward preventing major issues like allergens, dead skin cells, and bed bugs, and toppers focus on comfort.
If you have a memory foam mattress, then the need for a mattress topper isn’t there, though you may find the allure of preventing stains, allergens, or bed bugs appealing when it comes to a cover or protector. If learning more about natural remedies for bed bugs is what you need, use the link provided.
Tips for Washing Mattress Covers and Protectors without Damaging Them
Keeping mattress covers and protectors clean is essential for overall health. There are several ways to do it.
Keep Your Mattress Cover Clean
- Washing machine
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Baking soda
How to Wash a Mattress Cover in the Washing Machine
The crucial point to remember is that not all mattress covers can be machine-washed. Before you get started, double-check the care label and follow the care instructions for the best mattress cover cleaning method.
In most cases, however, there is little problem with using a washing machine, and you can clean your mattress cover the same way you would clean a fitted sheet. A mild detergent is perfect for spot cleaning before tossing it into the washing machine. When doing this, use a gentle cycle with either cold water or hot water.
The most caution to exercise when learning how to wash a mattress cover comes down to drying it. If you can air dry your mattress cover, this is the best option since high heat can cause significant damage to the cover’s protective qualities.
If you must use the dryer, use a tumble dry setting an add white tennis balls to expedite the drying process. This technique may seem a little odd, but a similar method is used for how to wash a pillow.
How to Wash a Mattress Protector with Hydrogen Peroxide
Washing mattress covers and protectors are relatively identical. Mattress protector care instructions typically involve cleaning a mattress pad that provides an added layer of protection from allergens and bed bugs. Similar to covers, these tend to be waterproof and can easily be damaged if not handled properly.
Following the appropriate washing instructions based on the material of the protector is essential, as well as paying attention to the heat setting used while drying. While laundry detergent and a delicate cycle are all you really need when cleaning your mattress protector, you may also need a tougher stain remover.
Using a bleach-free cleaner works best as bleach can strip down the properties of a waterproof mattress pad. Instead, use a cleaner like hydrogen peroxide for a spot clean. What is hydrogen peroxide used for? The question really is what isn’t it used for?
Peroxide is a fantastic cleaner, deodorizer, and sanitizer for mattress protectors and a variety of other household surfaces. Dry your mattress protector on a low heat setting in the dryer or let it air dry.
Hydrogen peroxide works very well to clean mattress stains, too. For drying, point a fan at the mattress.
How to Clean a Mattress Topper with Baking Soda and Vinegar
If you have a mattress topper or need to know how to wash a down comforter, they can be a little trickier to clean. Many are bulkier than mattress covers and protectors and don’t always fit so well in the washing machine. Often, a washer shouldn’t be used at all. Instead, the best process to use is the one similar to when you deep clean a mattress.
Start by vacuuming the mattress topper or comforter using an upholstery attachment to get in between the crevices. Sprinkling some baking soda over the top is a great way to deodorize it and remove mild stains or dirt. This option is especially great for memory foam mattress toppers, too.
Since memory foam is highly absorbent, using an excess of liquids creates a build-up of mildew in the material. Adding baking soda absorbs all moisture, including body oils and sweat, from the mattress topper without adding unnecessary cleaners.
For removing sweat stains from a mattress cover, let the baking soda settle and absorb stains and odor for approximately 25 minutes before using your vacuum cleaner to suck up the remaining powder.
If you must use a stain cleaner, however, a little bit of vinegar in a spray bottle is perfect for a spot clean. For regular mattress toppers or down comforters, lightly spray the area with vinegar and let it soak for ten minutes before blotting with a clean cloth.
For memory foam, spray a washcloth with the vinegar rather than applying the spray directly to the mattress topper. Afterward, rinse with warm water on a damp cloth and thoroughly dry when finished.
Sometimes, if your mattress has stubborn stains, you can apply some baking soda to the spots and rub it in with a cloth dampened with vinegar. This way, you get the extra cleaning power of a baking soda and vinegar cleaning solution that removes virtually all types of stains with just a bit of elbow grease.
If your mattress cover or topper has seen its share of use and you think it’s time for a new one, what can you do with the old one? You can recycle mattress and cover. Many community agencies offer recycling services. Check with your waste disposal organization to learn more.
Learning how to wash a mattress protector, topper, and cover is a relatively easy task to accomplish once you have mastered the “don’ts” behind its care instructions. Since most can be cleaned in the washing machine, the critical cleaning lesson comes from understanding the best way to protect the waterproof lining and any memory foam material.
Hopefully, you enjoyed these easy mattress cover cleaning tips. If you liked learning about cleaning mattress covers, remember to share how to wash a mattress cover, protector, and mattress topper with friends and family on Facebook and Pinterest.
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.