How To Clean A Mattress

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It’s good to know how to clean a mattress considering just how much stuff builds up in and on this soft surface where we spend so much time. You already know about dust mites and the dead skin cells they feast on, but many mattresses also contain sweat, blood, urine and other bodily fluids… along with mold and mildew growing on those very things. Unless you shower before bed every night, your mattress might also contain dirt, oils and trace chemicals from various toiletries, and even pollen.

I know what you’re thinking: “Thanks, Katie, now I’ll never be able to sleep!” but you don’t have to take a siesta from your snoozing. Just follow this guide and you’ll know how to clean a mattress so the only thing that will keep you up at night are those forgotten to-do’s that pop into your head the instant you turn the light off. (Or is that just me?)

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How to Clean a Mattress

Before you start cleaning your mattress, strip the bed and launder your linens. Wash and dry your mattress pad first, then the sheets, and finally your bedspread/comforter/duvet. Check the manufacturer’s labels first and use the hottest water and dryer heat setting allowed since heat will kill dust mites in your bedding. While the washer and dryer are doing their thing, turn your attention to the mattress.

Vacuum it – Your vacuum cleaner’s upholstery attachment is your Number One ally in mattress cleaning. Start at the top of the mattress and work your way down in overlapping, narrow paths and then vacuum the sides of your mattress the same way. (Don’t worry about the other side of the mattress just yet; we’ll get there.)

Deodorize it – Sweat smells, although most of us don’t notice our own scent on our mattresses. Over time, though, our body odors can build up and lead to a funky aroma. To rid your mattress of rankness, sprinkle it well with baking soda and rub that in with a stiff-bristled brush. (If you’d like to scent your mattress, mix the baking soda with a few drops of essential oil first. Lavender is reputed to be a sleep aid, but sandalwood is nice, too.) Let the baking soda sit for 10 minutes, and then…

Vacuum again – By scrubbing the baking soda into your mattress you’ve helped it bond with surface moisture. Vacuuming it now will help pull out trace dampness and ensures you won’t wake up coated with powdery residue in the morning.

Get the stains out – Mattresses typically acquire three types of stains: blood, urine, and what we’ll just call “other bodily fluids”. While it’s best to treat stains immediately with cold water and a little dish soap or hydrogen peroxide (hot water sets these type of stains), let’s face it, sometimes sleep is more important. Here’s how to clean stains on your mattress after they’ve set in:

  • Dried blood stains can be treated by making a paste of 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide mixed with 1 tbsp. each liquid dish soap and table salt. Rub this into the stain and allow it to sit until dry before scraping the residue off. Dab at any remaining stain with a white rag dipped into hydrogen peroxide, rotating the rag as the stain lifts off. (Using a white rag prevents dye transfer from the cloth to the mattress.)
    No hydrogen peroxide? Make a paste of meat tenderizer and water instead. The tenderizer’s enzymes will dissolve the blood’s protein bonds.

  • Urine stains are very difficult but not impossible to get out once they’re dry, but this two-step method helped dramatically when my kids were little. First, dissolve 3 tbsp. baking soda in 8 oz. of hydrogen peroxide then add a drop or two of liquid dish soap, and dab that solution on to the spot. (Do NOT drench your mattress!) While that’s working its magic, whisk together 3 parts dry laundry detergent powder or and 1 part water to make a dry foam. Rub that into the stain (which should still be damp from the first step) and let it sit for 30 minutes. Scrape away any residue and vacuum.
  • Other bodily fluids: Open the windows then, using a white rag, blot the stain with undiluted, unscented household ammonia. Do NOT drench your mattress! Wipe the area with a clean, damp cloth and sprinkle the spot with baking soda. Let this dry then vacuum the area thoroughly.

Flip it – Innerspring or coil mattresses should be flipped side-to-side and top-to-bottom weekly for the first three months of ownership, then quarterly after that. To help me remember which side and end goes where, I simply used a permanent marker and wrote in small letters: “Winter/Summer” on one end of the mattress, and “Spring/Fall” on one side. On June 21st, for instance, I rotated the foot of the mattress toward the headboard, then September 23 I’ll flip the mattress over, and so on. (But note: this doesn’t work with pillow-top mattresses, which is one reason I despise them.)

Repeat – While you’ve got the materials handy, repeat the cleaning process above after flipping your mattress.

Wrap it up – Since cleaning mattresses is such a daunting task, I wholeheartedly recommend using a washable mattress cover. I’m not talking about the crinkly, plastic kind you might remember from childhood. These days, mattress covers are made from fabric bonded to a waterproof layer that prevents liquids and dead skin from touching your mattress. (Here’s the one I use.) Pop that cover into the wash if you have a spill, and make laundering it part of your weekly bedroom cleaning routine, and you’ll never have to know how to clean a mattress again.

Equipment I Use For This:


  1. thistelous says

    Looks like you forgot an ingredient in the blood-stain removing paste. 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide, 1tbsp dish soap and 1tbsp salt doesn’t make a paste. other sites use 1/2c corn starch to make the paste, and I think that might be what you’re missing.

  2. natasha says

    The tip for getting urine stain out has worked a gem although I buy premixed washing detergent not powder so didnt get a foam but still smells nice

  3. Beth Hall says

    I tried the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda mixture to get those awful brown stains off an expensive king mattress. Worked like magic. At first I thought it wasn’t working but when I looked a half hour or so later the stains were gone! Be patient. More is not always better in this case.

  4. Dana says

    I used the baking soda peroxide and followed with the rub, but there seems to be excess rub that is dried up but isn’t coming off. Any ideas?

      • Carol says

        I have this exact same problem. The stain is completely gone, however the mattress now has a slightly crusty white film wherever the rub was. I really wish I had skipped that second step and only used the peroxide/baking soda/dish soap which seemed to take the stain out anyways. I first tried getting rid of the excess by simply using a clean cloth and water but one it dried still the same. So now I’ve used more water and the bristle brush to try and scrub the laundry detergent out. I used a fair bit of water this go round so I’ve balanced it wet side down in front of an open window. I’ll see how it looks tomorrow when it dries I guess.

      • Katie Berry says

        I hope it’s turned out okay for you by now, Carol. I’ve never had a problem with developing a crust that I couldn’t get rid of. Did you use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum to clean the mattress after the second step?

      • Carol says

        I used a flat rectangular plastic piece about 6″ wide without any bristles on it. I think that I may have used too much? Or a wrong kind of dry detergent. It’s not really visible anymore but I can still feel where the rub was.

      • Katie Berry says

        How frustrating! I really don’t know what the cause could be but, if you’ve already used a vacuum with an upholstery attachment (hand-held vacs won’t have enough suction power) then try going over the area with a lint brush. That should pick up any remaining rub.

    • Katie Berry says

      Considering you used a mattress company’s website as your URL, you’re obviously a spammer who thinks bloggers are too stupid to look at such things. No worries. I fixed your URL for you. Have a nice day, and don’t bother commenting here again.

  5. cindy says

    I looked at your website too late. I have already soaked my mattress with bleach and used the steam cleaner on it.obviously that didn’t work very well otherwise I wouldn’t have started looking for your site. I hope to let it dry and then perhaps try one of your methods. I have a urine stain on my bed from my old dog who had kidney problems. scrubbing it with bleach and the steam cleaner only made a big white spot where the urine was and the rest of the mattress is the color of when I bought it. I think I’ve made a mess and this is an expensive mattress. I wish I would have come here first. Wish me luck!

    • Katie Berry says

      Oh no! Soaking a mattress is never, ever a good idea. But here’s some bad news: if it’s soaked, it’s going to take a very long time to get it completely dry. Blot as well as you can with towels (seriously, put them on and lay down on them, then switch to new ones, repeat, etc. until the towels come up dry) THEN let it air dry or blow a fan at it for a day or so.

      After it’s completely dry, give my methods a shot. But don’t soak it — never soak it. Please.

      I hope it all works out for you! My dog did the same thing when she was having kidney and liver issues, bless her heart, and the directions in this blog entry fixed it. Wish I had directions to bring her back. She was a very good dog.

  6. Shaelina says

    What percentage of hydrogen peroxide is safe to use for mattress stain cleaning and removal? My child has had diarrhea during the night while in bed, an utter nightmare to clean. Tough lesson to learn on using waterproof mattress protectors!

  7. Lis says

    I’m curious about the baking soda/deoderizing part – my fiancé and I have a pillow top mattress (sterns and foster, if the brand matters at all), and I’m worried that using a stiff bristle brush (or any brush, really) will end up completely tearing up the pillow top. is there another way to really get the baking soda into the top of the pillow top?

    • Donna says

      I have a pillowtop also-Serta. I am leaving out the brushing part. I did the peroxide/baking soday/ dishwashing solution, and it is working wonders.
      Then I will just vacuum.

  8. Sharon says

    I am going to try to save my king pillowtop. There’s is a large stain where an infection caused a massive discharge which soaked the mattress. I’m am afraid it is toxic. So I will try the cleaning method and then try to remove the pillowtop. Any suggestions?

    • Katie Berry says

      The cleaning method should get that stain out, Sharon. With the hydrogen peroxide involved, you can rest easy about any lingering bacteria, too.

  9. Bebe says

    Katie your tip for stain worked great. My four year old did a number on my mattress which sift through the mattress cover I had (I ought to think about changing that) and the rest of the solution worked great for removing her pencil graffiti from the wall. Thanks!

  10. Melissa says

    I used lemon (from a presqueezed lemon bottle) and salt to make a paste and it turned the light light yellow stain on my mattress SUPER YELLOW! It stained it even more and made it worse!! How do I remove this??!!

  11. Melissa says

    Oh my god. The peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap have left a yellow ring where the wetness of it ends 😫😫😫 This is a $1000 mattress that needs to be returned. Help! How do I get the yellow ring off???

    • Katie Berry says

      I really don’t know, Melissa. The presqueezed lemon juice you’d mentioned using in a previous comment, presumably from someone else’s tip, most likely contains food dyes. The hydrogen peroxide, dish soap, and table salt paste in my article has worked for everyone else — but it’s not designed to get out food dyes. I’m not sure what your best solution is at this point.

  12. Laura says

    I accidently put my fan down on my mattress as I was moving my room around. i have a huge ass dust mark from where the fan was laying.

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