How To Clean Your Mattress And Pillows

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How to Clean a Mattress

Cleaning your mattress is an important but often overlooked task for keeping your sleeping area fresh and healthy.

Regularly cleaning your mattress can remove allergens, dust, bacteria, and stop serious mattress problems including mold and odors. To keep your mattress safe, healthy, and clean, you’ll need to manage routine cleaning as well as address larger problems like spots, stains, odors, and even bed bugs and dust mites.

Washing your sheets and pillows is a start, but that’s not all you need to do. Routine cleaning makes your bed a more comfortable place to sleep, and taking care of stains, odors, and infestations right away can protect your mattress from more serious problems.

Keeping your mattress clean is important, but not difficult. Often, all you’ll need to do is wash your bedding regularly, vacuum every few months, and add a mattress protector. But even more intensive cleaning like spot removal or even removing odors is usually about as simple as spraying your mattress down and giving it a good scrub.

In this guide, you’ll learn when you need to clean your mattress, how to manage regular cleanings, and even take care of problems like odors, bed bugs, and dust mites. You’ll also find out when it’s time to throw in the towel and give up on your old mattress that’s just not worth saving. Read on to learn everything you need to know about mattress cleaning.

Signs You Need to Clean Your Mattress

  • You haven’t cleaned it in a few months: Your mattress needs to be cleaned every few months to keep it fresh.
  • You’re allergic to sleeping: Dust buildup can aggravate allergies and cause you to suffer at night. If you feel allergy symptoms more often in bed or as you wake up, it’s probably time to clean up the dust.
  • You’ve noticed bugs or strange bites: Bed bug infestations may not always be obvious, especially in the early stages. But you can look for signs, including seeing the bugs, noticing microscopic blood stains or insect waste spots, or unusual bites on your body.
  • Your mattress has an odor: Mattresses can smell from dust and skin buildup, or have an odor from bodily fluids, even mold. Odors on your mattress can be gross and disruptive for sleeping and even point to a sign of a bigger problem you need to address.
  • You have obvious stains: How did that stain get there? Whether mattress stains are a mystery or you know their origin, it’s best to address stains as soon as you know about them.

Keeping Your Mattress Fresh

Even if you don’t have stains, odors, or other cleanliness concerns about your mattress, you should clean it every few months to keep it fresh and avoid buildup of dust, dirt, and bacteria. It’s also important to adequately protect your mattress from spills and stains.

  • Change your sheets: Bed sheets should be in hot water every one to two weeks. Change them more often if you’re sick, you notice a stain, or you’ve been particularly sweaty at night.
  • Vacuum your mattress: Pull out your vacuum and clean up dust and dirt every few months while you’ve got your sheets off for cleaning. Use your vacuum’s upholstery tool to cover the top and sides of the mattress as well as the bed spring. You’ll need to press firmly to get dirt below the surface. Clean out the quilting and other small details with the crevice tool.
  • Address spills, stains, and odors right away: Avoid letting stains or odors sink in on your mattress. Quickly spray down stains and disinfect odors as soon as you notice them.
  • Add baking soda: Baking soda can absorb odors and freshen your mattress. Sprinkle a light layer on top, let it sit for several minutes, then vacuum it up before making your bed.
  • Air out your mattress: Fresh air and sunshine is great for getting rid of odors and bleaching out stains. Wait for a clear day and find a clean spot where you can set your mattress to air out for a few hours. Even if you can’t get your mattress outside, simply standing it up near a sunny open window can help air it out a bit.
  • Don’t make your bed right away: You can air out your mattress every day by simply leaving your bed undone for thirty minutes or more in the mornings. While you’re getting ready for the day, pull the covers all the way back and let moisture and odors escape before making your bed.
  • Avoid excessive sweating in bed: Everyone sweats in their sleep, but if you’re waking up soaked most nights, it could be a problem for your mattress, encouraging mold and mildew growth. Try not to make sweating in bed a regular habit. Adjust your thermostat, wear different clothes to bed, get a lighter comforter and sheets, and consider a breathable mattress topper if your mattress sleeps hot. A more drastic move would be to consider a mattress designed to sleep cool.
  • Use a mattress protector: Mattress covers are always worth it. It’s much easier to throw a mattress cover in the washer than it is to try and coax a stain or smell out of your mattress. Look for a waterproof mattress protector that will offer protection from spills, odors, and bacteria.

Cleaning Stains, Odors, and Infestations

Everyday mattress freshness is important, but you may need to take things a step further if you have spots, stains, odors, or even bugs. You should always clean up these messes quickly and effectively to avoid damaging your mattress. Stay on top of big mattress messes with thorough cleaning to keep your mattress clean and healthy.

Removing Bed Bugs

No one wants to think about bugs in their bed, but the reality is that bed bugs can happen even if you practice good mattress hygiene. All it takes is one trip for a few bed bugs to hitch a ride on your luggage and come home. But the good news is that most infestations can be treated.

  1. Throw everything in the laundry: Bed bugs don’t just attack your bed. They get into bedding, blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, curtains, even your clothes. Put everything that’s washable into your washing machine and run it on hot to zap all of the bugs.
  2. Bag everything else: Bug bugs stick to hard surfaces, too. They can hide in your phone, laptop, clock radio, books, and other personal items. Bag these items and place Nuvan strips inside to kill the bugs.
  3. Search and destroy bugs on your mattress: Find as many bed bugs as you can on your mattress and vacuum them up. You can see what bed bugs and their eggs look like here. Use a flashlight, look in every nook and cranny, and go over every spot at least twice. Never use vacuum attachments with brushes or bristles. Bed bugs may cling to them.
  4. Find beg bugs in furniture: Bed bugs may have spread to other furniture, including your bed frame and dresser. Vacuum them up as you find them, and be thorough. Look for eggs and search inside and under all furniture and drawers with a flashlight.
  5. Clean every surface: Scrub infested surfaces. Be sure to wipe down every surface, even if it was not affected. Look in baseboards, cracks, and holes in walls. Scrape the surface of carpets or rugs with a vacuum attachment, then vacuum thoroughly to pull bed bugs out.
  6. Cover your mattress with an encasement: A mattress encasement places a protective barrier on your mattress. Bed bugs won’t be able to get in or out of your mattress through the encasement. It may be unnerving to think that you could have bed bugs still living and trapped in your mattress, but they will starve and die eventually. The mattress encasement ensures they’ll have nothing new to eat and you won’t have a new infestation in your mattress. Consider vacuuming your mattress one more time before adding the encasement.
  7. Vacuum dead bugs after a year: Bed bugs will be dead after a year. You can remove your mattress encasement to vacuum up the last of the bed bugs.
  8. Call for help: Some bed bug infestations are beyond the skills of a DIY bed bug exterminator. Call a professional if you’re having trouble getting bed bugs under control or they keep coming back after you’ve treated them. You don’t want bed bugs to continue to grow their infestation of your mattress and home.

Treating Dust Mites

Dust mites are definitely the lesser evil when it comes to creepy crawlies in your bed, but that’s not to say you want them sticking around. Dust mites make themselves at home in mattresses, feeding on human skin in warm, humid spots. They often aggravate allergies, making your mattress an uncomfortable place to sleep. But you can banish them from your bed with cleaning and preventive maintenance.

  1. Wash your sheets weekly: Dust mites live on dead human skin and they find it in your sheets. Wash your sheets and pillows every week in hot water so you’re not giving dust mites anything to live on.
  2. Dry your sheets outside: Direct sunlight kills dust mites, so if you hang sheets and pillows outside to dry, you can kill off any dust mites you may have missed in the washer.
  3. Get a new pillow: Change to a new pillow every six months to get rid of any dust mites living inside.
  4. Take a steamer to your mattress: Steam vapors will kill dust mites (and bacteria) on contact, so run a steam cleaner over all mattress surfaces every few months. Be sure to cover everything, as you won’t be able to see dust mites.
  5. Vacuum your mattress: Remove dead and live dust mites from your mattress by vacuuming them up with your upholstery attachment. Use a crevice tool to get into quilting and other tight spots.
  6. Use a mattress cover: A mattress cover won’t keep dust mites out of your bedding, but it can keep them from burrowing into your mattress where they’re tougher to get rid of. Using a mattress cover, you’ll just need to stay on top of regularly washing your sheets and pillows.

Washing Spots and Stains

Spots and stains are common on mattresses. Sweat, accidents, even food can end up on your mattress and leave a spot or stick around as a stain. You should take care of these as soon as you can to avoid letting the stains set, or have spots become odors or even mold.

  1. Blot thoroughly: Be sure to blot up any liquids. Use a towel or other clean cloth to remove as much liquid as you can. You don’t want liquid to soak into your mattress and leave a stain or encourage mold growth or odor.
  2. Spray areas with a dish detergent mix: Clean spots and stains with a 50/50 mix of water and dish detergent. Let it sit, then scrub thoroughly. Repeat spraying, sitting, and scrubbing a few times for stains that won’t come up easily. Be sure not to let your mattress get too wet by blotting up any excess moisture from the spray mix.
  3. Sprinkle baking soda: For added freshness, odor fighting, and cleaning power, sprinkle baking soda on your mattress. Let it sit and then vacuum it up.
  4. Remove bodily fluids with laundry detergent: Laundry detergent is formulated to break up urine, blood, and other bodily fluids, so try some detergent and water to clean these off of your mattress. Hydrogen peroxide will work as well. Do not use hot water, as it will set stains.

Removing Odors

Sleeping on a smelly mattress is simply unpleasant. Left unchecked, mattress odors can interfere with your sleep and comfort and lead to bigger problems like bacteria and mold growth. Keep your mattress smelling fresh and healthy with odor removal.

  1. Vacuum your mattress: Vacuuming won’t remove every odor from your mattress, but it’s a good start for getting things clean and ready to scrub down.
  2. Use baking soda: Baking soda is a great odor eliminator. Sprinkle it directly onto your mattress, let it sit, then vacuum it up to pick up odors.
  3. Spray your mattress: Spray the affected area with vinegar or an odor eliminating agent like Febreeze, then blot and scrub the area. Use vinegar sparingly, as the odor from vinegar may also be unpleasant to sleep with.
  4. Air out your mattress: Air dry your mattress, ideally outside. Often, direct sunlight will zap out odors.

When to Replace Your Mattress Instead of Cleaning

For stains, spot cleaning, odors, and even bed bugs and dust mites, it’s usually best to simply clean your mattress rather than replace it. After all, mattresses can be expensive to replace, and there are so many ways to clean them effectively. But there are situations when it’s just not worth it to save a mattress that’s beyond help — or even a health hazard.

  • Mold: Mold on your mattress is a sign that you’ve left a spot dirty or wet (usually both) for far too long. Once mold starts, it’s really tough to get rid of. Even if you clean your mattress thoroughly, you may never know if you’ve actually eliminated the mold. Sleeping on a mattress with mold every night can be a serious health hazard, so it’s really best to just start fresh unless you catch and treat mold quickly.
  • Extensive bed bugs: Bed bugs are the plague of mattresses, dreaded by every mattress owner. If you catch and eliminate them before they get out of control, it’s fine to keep your treated mattress. However, a serious bed bug infestation will leave your mattress covered with tiny specks of blood, insect waste, and more creepy crawlies than you may be comfortable sleeping on ever again. If your bed bugs are out of control, consider getting rid of your mattress. But remember that even if your mattress is gone, bed bugs will still remain in your home, so you’ll need to treat clothing, other soft items, furniture, and more to eliminate bed bugs before you bring in a new mattress.
  • Old mattresses: It’s almost always worth it to save a still usable mattress with a small stain or odor. But is it really worth the trouble if your mattress is past its comfortable lifespan anyway? Most mattresses are only usable for 7-10 years before they become too worn and uncomfortable. If you’re facing an arduous cleaning task on an old mattress, consider just upgrading instead.

How to Keep Your Mattress Cleaner for Longer

There are multiple methods for keeping your mattress clean and fresh. Below you’ll find some helpful suggestions.

Use a mattress protector:A mattress protector will help protect your bed from contaminants like dirt, bacteria, and dust mites as well as stains and spills.

Shower before bed:The dead skin, sweat, etc. that we carry to bed will accumulate over a period of years, contributing to a dirty mattress. Regularly showering before bed will help you maintain a hygienic and pristine sleep surface.

Wash your sheets every 1-2 weeks:Routinely wash your sheets to prevent dust and allergens from building up.

Keep your bedroom cool: By keeping your bedroom at a moderately cool temperature, you’ll be less likely to sweat, cutting back on the amount of perspiration that sinks into your sheets and mattress.

Don’t eat on your bed:In addition to dirtying up your mattress outright, food crumbs and residue on your bed could attract insects like ants and roaches.

Mattress Cleaning and Warranties

One often overlooked aspect of mattress cleanliness is the impact it can have on the warranty. Manufacturers view keeping a mattress clean an important responsibility for owners because it not only extends the life of a mattress, but it helps to prevent wear and tear issues that might happen in the future.

It’s common practice to void warranties on mattresses with stains. Some stains can cause damage outright to the mattress’ structural integrity, and permanent stains are considered unsanitary. If you can get stains removed, you should try to do so before contacting the manufacturer about the warranty. Otherwise, there’s a good chance it will be voided.

Before buying a mattress, be sure to understand what the warranty says about stains and overall cleanliness, and follow any suggestions the company offers for keeping their mattresses clean.


A clean sleep surface is a happy one, and you’ll be happier in the long run if you do a little each night to keep your mattress clean. It might involve making showers a nighttime habit or avoiding crumbs by not eating on the bed. Whatever changes you make, you’ll get the best of out your mattress for a longer period of time.

Additional Tuck Resources

If you’d like to read about similar topics, please check the list of related articles linked below.

How to clean a memory foam mattress and pillows

Read on to discover how to clean a memory foam mattress or pillow with our simple guide.

Updated 8 April 2020


Key steps

  • Vacuum your pillows and mattress at least once a week.
  • Remove stains from mattresses with boric acid.
  • Wash mattresses with a detergent and warm water spray.
  • Use baking soda to remove odours from mattresses.
  • Remove stains from pillows with vinegar and baking soda.
  • Wash pillows in a bath with detergent.

Are you a memory foam aficionado? These mattresses and pillows can be both comfy and good for you, but just like other bedding, memory foam needs a good clean every now and then. We’ve put together some quick and easy tips on how to clean a memory foam mattress or pillow and get them ready for sleeping on again in no time. If you have other beds that need a thorough clean and which don’t have memory foam mattresses, check out our article on how to clean an ordinary mattress.

Memory foam mattresses and pillows can’t go in the washing machine so always clean these by hand. Take care to always use a gentle detergent such as Persil.


Do you use powder, capsules or liquid to wash your clothes?

Can you wash memory foam mattresses? A step-by-step guide to cleaning memory foam

Thankfully, cleaning your memory foam mattress is actually easier than you think. Here’s how to clean a memory foam mattress in a few simple steps:

1. When cleaning a memory foam mattress or topper, start by vacuuming the surface. Work across the surface in circular motions. This should be done at least once a week, even if you are not deep cleaning your mattress.

2. If you have stains on your mattress, follow these steps:

  1. Blot the stain with water.
  2. Sprinkle the area with boric acid. If you’re wondering how to get urine out of a memory foam mattress after a night-time accident, you can use enzymatic pet cleaner. You can also follow the advice in our article on how to remove urine from a mattress.
  3. Allow the acid or cleaner to soak for around 15 minutes.
  4. Blot the area with a damp sponge to remove the stain and all traces of acid or cleaner.
  5. Allow the mattress to air-dry.

3. Once you have vacuumed and treated your mattress for stains, it’s time to clean it! Here’s how:

  1. Mix up a cleaning solution in a spray bottle. We recommend two-parts warm water and one-part quality detergent.
  2. Lightly spray the entire mattress.
  3. Take care not to soak the mattress, moving the bottle as you spray the solution across the surface.
  4. To rinse, blot the mattress with a damp sponge to remove any traces of detergent.

4. Everything from smoking to urine can leave some pretty nasty odours behind on your mattress. Here’s how to clean memory foam odours away:

  1. Once vacuumed and spray cleaned, sprinkle the entire mattress with baking soda.
  2. Leave to sit for at least 8 hours. For the best results, leave it to sit overnight.
  3. Vacuum the baking soda off the surface.

5. Once you’ve cleaned your memory foam mattress, don’t forget to flip it. This will help to prolong the life of your mattress.

Can you wash memory foam pillows? A step-by-step guide to cleaning memory foam pillows

Now you know how to clean your mattress, you may also want to know how to wash a memory foam pillow. Here’s our simple guide:

1. To wash a memory foam pillow, start by vacuuming the surface in circular motions. Ensure you vacuum the pillow once a week, even if you do not deep clean it.

2. To spot clean stains from your pillow, follow these steps:

  1. Remove any pillowcases and pillow protectors.
  2. Mix one teaspoon of white vinegar with two tablespoons of baking soda.
  3. Apply your mixture to the stained area.
  4. Leave to soak overnight.
  5. Rinse the area by blotting with a damp sponge.

3. Now you know how to remove stains, follow the guide below to wash your pillow.

4. Use the same steps as above when removing odours from a memory foam mattress:

  1. Fill your sink or bathtub with lukewarm water.
  2. Add a cup of detergent. For an added scent boost, add a drop or two of your favourite essential oil.
  3. Slowly place your pillow into the soapy water.
  4. Squeeze the pillow. This will allow the soapy water to soak into the pillow.
  5. Empty the sink or bathtub and refill it with clean water.
  6. Once again, squeeze the pillow until the water runs clear.
  7. Remove excess water by gently squeezing. Take care not to twist the foam.
  8. Always air-dry memory foam. The best way to do so is in direct sunlight.

With this simple guide you now have everything you need to be able to clean memory foam mattresses and pillows.

How To Clean Your Pillow

Have you ever stopped to think about how long it has been since you cleaned your pillow? Have youevercleaned your pillow?

If you’re reading this post and watching our video, chances areit’s been a while. Fear not, we’ve got you covered.

Whether or not you use a pillowcase, havinga clean pillow is important. Dead skin cells, facial oils, drool, sweat, and other gross stuff can be absorbed through your pillowcase and end up in your pillow over time.

That adds weight to your pillow and makes ita den for bacteria, dust mites, and other unhealthy microbesthat can worsen your allergies or make you sick. It also stops your pillow from beingable to perform at its highest leveland provide you with the support you need.

So, how do I clean my pillow? There isno one-size-fits-all answerto this question. It will depend a lot on what materials are used to make your pillow. In some cases, you’ll be able to remove and wash just the cover; in other cases, you can wash the whole pillow (filling and cover). Don’t worry, we’vebroken it all downbelow.

If you have any specific questions,don’t hesitate to commentand we’ll do our best to help you figure out how to clean your pillow as well!

How Often Should I Wash My Pillow?

If you get your pillow dirty, wash it right away. If nothing especially gross happens to it, try to wash itat least every 4 to 6 months. I like to wash my pillows once a quarter (so approximately once every three months) when I rotate my mattress.

It’s always a good idea toair out or fluff your pillow occasionally, as well. That might mean throwing it in the dryer for a few minutes to help it maintain its loft or leaving it outside in the fresh air overnight.

Cleaning Your Pillow In The Washing Machine

Basic Instructions

Great news: Many types of pillows and pillow fillings arewashing machine-friendly. This includes most down or down alternative options and even some foam pillows. We’ve broken down the instructions for different fillings below.


Most down alternative or microfiber filling pillows are made of polyester. This is one of the easier materials to clean, so congratulations! More likely than not, you can put your pillow in the washing machine (make sure to keep the load balanced) andput it on a cool or warm delicate wash. Once it’s clean, toss it into the dryer on a low tumble dry.

Pro Tip: Addingone or two tennis balls housed in socks(so the green dye doesn’t transfer) will help break up the filling in your pillow and allow it to dry faster.


Down pillows (in general) can be machine washed and dried just like their down alternative counterparts. The key is tobe gentle with it; this means using detergents that aren’t harsh (no bleach!) and washing on a delicate cycle and air drying or doing a low tumble dry.

If your pillowsmells funky after you pull it out of the dryer, that means it’s not fully dry yet. Try hand fluffing it before throwing it back in, and don’t be alarmed if it takes a few cycles.

Shredded Foam

The best way to clean your foam pillow will vary depending on whether it’s a solid piece of foam or shredded pieces.Shredded foam pillows can often be washed in the washing machine(in most cases). You’ll want to wring out the foam pieces before throwing the pillow in the dryer to help lower the drying time, and make sure to add the tennis balls in socks that I mentioned earlier. Itcan take many cyclesin the dryerfor a shredded foam pillow to dry completely.


Microbeads can be machine washed in most cases, but theyrequire an extra step. You will want to wrap the pillow in a large pillowcase and tie it up so the beads don’t accidentally spill out in your laundry machine.

Spot-Cleaning Your Pillow

Basic Instructions

Solid Foam (Memory Foam or Latex)

Typically, it’snot advisable for you to do anything but spot-clean a pillow that features a solid piece of foam. I recommend spot-cleaning by getting a damp washcloth with a little bit of detergent and gently pressing into the area of the pillow that is stained or dirty. Depending on the cover material, you might be able to rub instead of just pat the cover. Make sure you press a dry cloth into it and dry it as much as possible. Avoid putting it in the dryer, as this could potentially melt the foam.

There Are Some Pillows You Just Can’t Wash

There are some fillings that are special andcannot be washed. But don’t worry; in many cases, you can remove the filling and still wash the outer cover to keep it somewhat clean.

  • Buckwheat hulls. Don’t wash the buckwheat hulls in a buckwheat pillow; instead, just wash the cover. If the hulls become damp or soggy, they won’t work as a filling. You can put the hulls in a plastic bag while you wash and dry the cover. It will make a mess, but it’s worth it for a clean pillow.
  • Kapok fibers. These eco-friendly fibers, which are the seed pod fluff from a rainforest tree, cannot be cleaned. Pillows with Kapok fibers are often spot-cleaned only or have removable covers that can be cleaned separately.


Because there’s so much variation among pillows, the best way to be sure that you’re cleaning your pillow correctly is toread the care tag on your own pillow. If you no longer have the tag, go online and look up the pillow via its website; most companies post their care instructions online. These are going to be the best guide to cleaning your pillow.

But if you’ve lost your tag or don’t feel like going on a scavenger hunt, then follow the basic instructions above and either use the washing machine or spot-clean it. Keeping your pillow clean isessential to good sleep health(and just a good health practice in general!).

One final note: If you really, really can’t remember how long it’s been since you’ve cleaned your pillow and it looks really yellow or feels damp and/or unnaturally heavy, it’s time to trash it and get a new one.

Different pillows work better for different sleep types, so if you’re in the market for a new pillow, make sure to check out my list of Best Pillows here.

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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 Pillows and Mattresses Naturally

This post may contain affiliate links.

Learn how to clean pillows and how to clean a mattress to better protect your family from the dust mites, mold, and bacteria that build up in them over time.

It seems like no matter how hard I try to keep them clean, my pillows and mattresses end up with stains on them. Sweat? Dirt? Something else? Whatever it is, now you can clean them and keep them clean, naturally.

Pillows Need To Be Washed and Cleaned

The bad news is, pillows get dirty. Between sweat, oil, dust mites, mold, and bacteria pillows take a beating. The good news is, sunlight and hot water are great weapons in the fight against mites, mold, and bacteria.

Dust mites live in the dust of a room (be it as clean as possible) and, especially, in beddings, pillows and mattresses, carpets and upholstered furniture.[1]

How to Clean Pillows

Note:for prevention of the accumulation of mites, mold, and bacteria, give your pillow a fluff every day. Also, we recommend taking them outside to fluff so whatever comes out doesn’t end up back on your bed.

The first step is to wash them. Next, we’ll hang them out in the sun. And lastly, we’ll look at cleaning stubborn stains the washing machine can’t get.

How to Wash Pillows

Most pillows, unless marked otherwise, are machine washable, so throw it in the wash. However, you should always wash pillows in pairs (2 at a time) to balance the load. Also, fill the wash basin with water and soap and allow soap to mix in thoroughly before adding pillows. This keeps detergent from forming clumps in the filling. Lastly, if you dry them in a dryer, use the no heat setting so you don’t singe the filling material.

Washing Latex and Memory Foam Pillows

With the exception of latex and memory foam pillows, which cannot be laundered in a washing machine, washing instructions are generally the same. To wash stains on these pillows we recommend spot cleaning using the process below, then hanging in the sun.

Washing Polyester and Down Feather Pillows

Wash pillows in hot water on the gentle cycle. Use a tablespoon of laundry detergent, and remember to dissolve the detergent in water before throwing pillows in the wash.

Clean Pillows by Hanging In The Sun

Because sunlight is such a powerful ally in the fight against mold, mites, and bacteria, we recommend hanging your pillows in the sun once each month. To illustrate, hang them on the clothesline for several hours. Otherwise, you can hang them on a drying rack for the same amount of time. Simply pop it out on the patio on a sunny day and let the sun do the rest.

How to Remove Stains from Pillows

Now let’s talk about how to clean pillows with stubborn stains that don’t come out in the wash or the sun.

  1. First, dampen the area lightly. Don’t saturate through to the stuffing, just get the surface damp.
  2. Next, sprinkle baking soda over the damp area. Rub in with a stiff brush, like a toothbrush if the area is small.
  3. Then, spray the area with distilled white vinegar. It will bubble and foam. After the reaction, wait until it’s dry and brush/vacuum it off, or wipe off as much as you can while it’s damp, and vacuum once dry.
  4. When the excess is cleaned off, then toss them in the washer or wash by hand. Hang in the sun to line dry if you can. The sun will help to fade some of the stains if the pillows are left there for a while.
  5. If the stains are really bad, you may need to do this more than once.

This pillow cleaning method should take care of most sweat and oil stains. Should you forget to wash it off before bed, this method also works on makeup stains. That has happened to me a time or two.

How to Clean a Mattress

Now that we’ve learned how to clean pillows let’s learn how to clean a mattress.

Mattresses are harder to clean because they’re so big. You can try, but you may have trouble fitting them in the washing machine. Tee hee. Because of this we simply recommend using the same method as above.

  1. First, dampen the area lightly.
  2. Next, sprinkle the damp area with baking soda and rub in with a stiff brush.
  3. Then, spray the area with distilled white vinegar. After the reaction, wait until it’s dry and brush/vacuum it off, or wipe off as much as you can while it’s damp, and vacuum once dry.
  4. Once cleaned, prop your mattress up in the sun for several hours. The sun will help to fade the stains.
  5. Repeat if necessary.

Sometimes mattresses are subjected to a bit more wear. Sweat and oil are only part of the problem. They can get stains from mud, urine, blood, and all sorts of things. Ick. The method above will take care of some stains, but these others may take a bit more work.

How to Clean a Mattress with Stubborn Stains

This solution will help take care of the stubborn stains the above method left behind.


  • 8 ounces hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon liquid soap.


  1. Mix together well and pour into a spray bottle.
  2. Spray over the surface of the stain and let sit 20 minutes or so.
  3. Blot with a towel and brush off as much as you can and let dry.
  4. Repeat if necessary.

The baking soda helps absorb stains and odors while the peroxide helps lighten the appearance of stains.

Bonus Tip:Placing the mattress in the sun and spraying lightly with lemon juice will also help to lighten the stains.

Preventing Soiled Pillow and Mattress

After you get the pillows and mattress clean, or when you have new ones, preventing the stains from happening in the first place will help lengthen their life. Here are a few ways to do it:

Mite-Proof Pillow Protectors and Mattress Pads

To help decrease the number of dust mites encase mattresses, box springs, and pillows with mite-proof covers.[2]

I have an all cotton mattress pad that I use under my sheets. It’s fairly thick and washable. You can get waterproof pads, but they usually have a plastic layer that can make you sweat, exacerbating the problem. Pillow protectors are usually plastic as well, so I use two pillowcases together. (Find cotton, mite-proof pillow protectors here.) (Find cotton, mite-proof mattress covers here.)

Cotton Sheets and Pillowcases

Polyester is a plastic product and can make you sweat. Cotton or linen are natural fibers that can help your body to breathe. Newer natural fabrics include hemp and bamboo. It pays to read the labels.

Skip the Spray-On Products

While some products like Scotchgard™ may help to protect your investment, they can do more harm than good. Most are petroleum products and some contain plastics and other harmful ingredients.

Shower or Bathe Before Bed

I know I’m guilty! I work all day, come home dead tired, and fall into bed without taking a shower. If I were outside gardening, the garden comes inside and ends up in my bed. I swear I’ll change the sheets in the morning, but by then the damage is done and the stains happen. Makeup will do the same to your pillow.

Most stains on pillows and mattresses can be avoided, but if you can’t, at least now you can clean them!

Do you know how to clean pillows in other ways? Do you have other ideas for how to clean a mattress? Share them!


About Debra Maslowski

Debrais a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon! Connect with Debra Maslowski on G+.

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Michele Moore says

Hello, here in New Zealand most people wash using an automatic washing machine – haha, not like the old days – but we all hang all our washing out on the clothesline to dry, checking the weather first of course. This contributes to our amazingly healthy life-style. We take our exercise outside as the climate is fairly mild all year round. Still, the feather and down pillows need a hand fluffing as they dry outside and later a final fluffing in the drier. Duvets need the same.

Alexandra Smith says

Here in the UK sunlight is often not so strong as elsewhere so I tend to put my pillows and duvets in the dryer to freshen them and remove any dust. It also fluffs up the material. I’m going to try some of your remedies above as we have an old nervous cat who pees on things when she gets upset and I’ve tried numerous products already which don’t really work.

About Matt & Betsy

Matt and Betsy are passionate about living naturally and building a like-minded community focused on the sustainable lifestyle.

DIY Naturalis about rediscovering the traditional value of doing things yourself, doing them naturally, and enjoying the benefits. Welcome to the movement! (read more)

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