How to Clean a Mattress

Many of us neglect to clean our mattress as often as we should— if we clean it at all. However, even the best mattress can benefit from a good clean. Regular mattress cleaning can prevent the buildup of allergens, dust, bacteria, pests, mold, and odors.

In this guide, we cover why you should clean your mattress, how to do it, and other recommended care measures such as using a mattress protector and frequently washing your bedding.

Why Should You Clean Your Mattress?

Why should you clean your mattress? Isn’t it enough to wash the bedding and any removable covers?

The truth is that no, that’s not enough. Every night, you sweat and shed dead skin cells, which collect in your bedding and mattress. If that’s not gross enough, moisture and dead skin can help mold, mildew, and dust mites thrive.

Taking the time to clean your mattress can make it last longer and prevent bacteria and pests from infesting it. And the reassurance you’re sleeping on a clean bed can help you feel good about your mattress. Who wants to fall asleep while thinking about all the dust and dirt an unclean mattress can accumulate?

How Often Should You Clean Your Mattress?

At a minimum, you should clean your mattress at least every three to six months. Often people clean their mattresses before or after they’ve rotated them, as part of the bed’s care routine.

If you want to clean your mattress more often but don’t want to commit to the hours of a full care routine, you can give it an occasional vacuum in between full cleanings, such as whenever you wash the cover and bedding.

Steps to Clean Your Mattress

Our recommended care routine can take a few hours, so be sure you properly budget the time for it.

  1. Strip the mattress of everything on it— pillows, sheets, blankets, mattress pads, and covers. Toss your bedding in the washing machine, so you can put clean bedding on your clean mattress.
  2. Vacuum your mattress. Don’t just vacuum the top of the mattress. Take the time to vacuum the corners, sides, and underneath it as well. Use the vacuum cleaner’s upholstery attachment to clean any crevices.
  3. Spot clean any stains. Be careful to not spray cleaner directly onto the mattress. Instead, spray a clean cloth and blot the stain.
  4. Sprinkle a thick dusting of baking soda over the mattress. You can use a sifter to apply baking soda more evenly.
  5. Wipe down your bed frame while waiting for the baking soda to set.
  6. Leave the baking soda alone for at least 30 minutes, ideally for a few hours or even a full day. The baking soda absorbs and cleans more the longer it’s left on the mattress.
  7. Vacuum the mattress again to clean up the baking soda. Let it air out.
  8. Rotate your mattress.
  9. Place your bedding back on the mattress.

How to Remove Stains

The best way to handle any mattress stains is to tackle them while they’re still wet. This prevents the stain from setting in. We also recommend keeping a waterproof cover or pad on your bed to prevent staining.

Spot-cleaning stains typically works best. If you try to clean your entire mattress, such as with a steam cleaner, it may not dry out well enough to prevent mildew and mold from growing.

For a general stain remover, take a rag with a little bit of ammonia on the corner to blot the stain. We recommend a white rag whenever you’re cleaning, otherwise, the color of the rag might get on your mattress. Be sure to open your windows for ventilation before you start cleaning.

Once you’ve blotted the stain, take a fresh cloth dampened with cold water— do not use warm water as it helps stains set in. The wet cloth should lift the stain, and if does not, wait five minutes and try again. After the stain is removed, wipe it clean with another wet cloth. Then sprinkle baking soda on the area to neutralize the ammonia and draw out any excess water.

Avoid spraying cleaners directly onto your mattress, and instead, use a cloth to blot them onto your mattress. This is because most mattresses, especially memory foam mattresses, are not meant to get wet and you’ll want to avoid doing so as much as you can.

How Do You Remove Dried Blood Stains?

Take two ounces of hydrogen peroxide, a tablespoon of dish soap, and a tablespoon of salt. Mix the three until you get a paste, then spread the paste on the stain. Let the paste dry and remove the residue. Use a white rag with hydrogen peroxide on it to handle any lingering stain or paste.

You can also try an enzyme cleaner. Blot the stain with a cloth dampened with cleaner and let the cleaner sit for about 15 minutes. Blot the area with the cleaning cloth again to remove the stain, then take a fresh damp cloth to the area.

How Do You Clean Up Urine?

If it’s still wet, remove all bedding and blot away any liquid on the mattress, as rubbing can push it in deeper.

Use a spray bottle to spray undiluted white vinegar onto a white cloth, then blot the cloth on the affected area. Give the vinegar 10 to 20 minutes to soak in and eliminate odor. Clean up the vinegar with paper towels or cleaning cloths.

Once the mattress is dry, sprinkle baking soda on the affected area and leave it alone for a few hours. Then vacuum up the baking soda, taking care to sweep the vacuum hose over the area multiple times.

If it’s an old urine stain, fill a spray bottle with 8 ounces of hydrogen peroxide, 3 tablespoons of baking soda, and 2 to 3 drops of dish soap. Swirl the bottle to mix it (do not shake) and spray it onto a cloth. Blot the mixture onto the stain.

Let the mixture dry until you see only baking soda residue on the mattress, then vacuum the residue up.

An enzyme cleaner can also get rid of an old stain. Remember, spray the cleaner onto a cloth, blot the stain, and let it sit for 15 minutes before you wipe it up.

Other Ways To Take Care Of Your Mattress

Cleaning your mattress is important, but it’s not the only way you can take care of your mattress.

Many mattresses come with a cover. If yours did not, we highly recommend buying a waterproof or mite-proof cover as a preventive measure against spills, pests, and other damage. Wash your mattress cover once a month or if you spill anything on the mattress.

Rotate your mattress two to four times a year. This keeps you from putting pressure on the same area night after night and prevents the mattress from wearing out.

Flipping your mattress was once recommended, but that can damage many of the mattresses made today. Do not flip your mattress unless it is marketed as “flippable” or “dual-sided.” If your mattress can be flipped, only do so after it’s dried from cleaning.

Giving your mattress some occasional sun can freshen it up. Leaving the mattress outside for a few hours on a sunny day is the best method, but if that’s not feasible, you can still benefit by leaving it by a sunny window.

What About Bedding And Pillows?

You can keep your mattress clean by changing your bedding often. This prevents bacteria and dust mites from building up and burrowing their way into your mattress.

Wash your bedding every week, or if that’s not possible then as close to it as you can manage. Washing your bedding in hot water is the most effective way to kill any dust mites or bacteria.

When it comes to making your bed, don’t make it first thing in the morning. Instead, pull the covers down to the foot of the bed and leave them there for half an hour. This gives your bed a chance to air out.

Keep your bedding breathable to prevent excessive sweating. The moisture can give mold and mildew the chance to grow.

The best pillow for many is a machine washable one, as laundering can let you stretch out the pillow’s use. We recommend washing your pillow every six months.

If your pillow is not washable, you can spot-clean and vacuum it every few months.

Is It Time to Replace Your Mattress?

If your mattress is dirty and stained, it may be time to consider replacing your mattress.

How often should a mattress be replaced? If your mattress is more than eight years old, it’s time to take a close look at how well you’re sleeping on it. As a mattress grows older, parts can break down and the support can give out.

Mattresses tend to lose their shape as they age. The mattress edges can sag or your body might sink into the middle of your bed as supportive materials wear out. Lumps or tears may form in the mattress.

You may be able to file a claim for signs of wear and tear under your mattress warranty — however, your warranty may be void if your mattress is stained or otherwise dirty.

Are you waking up with new or worsened pain in the morning? Even if your mattress looks fine, this can be a sign it’s losing structure and support. A good mattress should reduce your pain rather than contribute to it.

Similarly, if you’re getting a full eight hours of sleep and are still groggy when you wake up, your mattress might be the issue. You can try sleeping somewhere else for a night, such as on your couch or in a hotel room. If you get a better night of sleep there than on your mattress, it’s time to start shopping for a new one.

Do your allergy symptoms seem to be at their worst in the morning? The problem could be your mattress, as allergens and pests can make their way into your bed. Once they’re inside your mattress, it’s hard to clean them out— it’s especially difficult to get rid of bed bugs. The easier solution is to buy a new mattress.

A Clean Bedroom for Better Sleep

Why stop at just cleaning your mattress? A cluttered bedroom can keep you from falling asleep, and waking up to mess isn’t fun either. Plus, the neater you keep your bedroom, the easier it is to clean it. No need to vacuum or dust around junk.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you deep clean a mattress?

To give your mattress a good deep cleaning, sprinkle baking soda over the entire top of the mattress. Then, knead it gently into the mattress to help it penetrate inside. Leave it alone for at least an hour, then vacuum the top of your mattress.

Some suggest adding 10 to 20 drops of essential oil to a box of baking soda to freshen up your mattress further. We recommend only baking soda, as oils can attract dirt and make stains permanent.

Steam cleaning is another way to deep clean your mattress. We advise caution as the cleaner may not remove all the water, which can promote the growth of mold and mildew. If you use a vapor steam cleaner, be sure your mattress is completely dry before you replace your bedding.

What is the best way to clean the top of a mattress?

To clean the top of your mattress, vacuum it regularly and give it an occasional sprinkling of baking soda. Avoid cleaning your mattress with water, as mattresses were not designed to get wet.

You can also cover the top of your mattress with a protector to prevent stains and other messes.

Did We Help?

We put together this guide to cleaning a mattress to help you get the most out of your bed. A mattress that’s carefully maintained is likely to last longer. Knowing your bed is clean can also be a boost to your psyche, helping you fall asleep.

One last tip we have is to avoid tidying up your mattress and bedroom close to bedtime. Exercising too close to bedtime can reduce your sleep quality, and while it’s not strictly an exercise, cleaning can still be quite strenuous. Plus, cleaning up before bed means thoughts of chores might preoccupy your mind as you try to fall asleep. Save your clean-up for earlier in the day to get a better night of sleep.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.

Andrew Russell, Wellness Writer Andrew Russell

Andrew Russell is a part-time writer and full-time sleep enthusiast. At Zoma, Andrew lends his sleep expertise and writes many of our “better sleep” guides. Outside of Zoma, Andrew puts his advice to the test, always trying new ways to get deeper, more restorative sleep. We appreciate Andrew because he doesn’t give advice that he doesn’t follow himself, so you can feel confident his solutions for better sleep really do the trick.

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