Your mattress is an investment. Here’s how to keep it like new with steps that remove mattress stains and smells.
Every night in your sleep, you shed dead skin cells that sift through your sheets and wind up on your mattress. So do the dust mites that feed on those skin cells. Some mattresses grow mold and mildew, too, especially if you sweat a lot in your sleep or live in a humid area. If you have allergies or asthma, a dirty mattress makes your symptoms worse. And, of course, old mattresses smell bad while stained mattresses are embarrassing.
The good news is that you can easily get your mattress looking new again. Follow the steps below to deep clean your mattress and get rid of odors and stains. Once you’re done, check out the tips to protect your mattress and keep it in like-new condition for years.
How to Deep Clean Your Mattress
Time required: Up to 1 hour active working, plus drying time.
Follow this simple guide to deep clean your mattress and remove allergens, odors, and stains with common household ingredients. (Printable version here.)
Equipment You’ll Need
- Vacuum Cleaner (with attachments)
- Several cleaning rags
- A spray bottle
- A bowl
- Measuring spoons and cups
Materials You’ll Need
- Liquid dish soap
- Cold water
- 3% hydrogen peroxide
- Baking soda
- Table salt – (to remove blood stains on mattresses)
- Powdered white laundry detergent – (for wine or vomit stains)
Step One: Strip the Bed by Removing All Bedding
Take off all sheets and blankets from your bed before you start cleaning your mattress. This is a great time to launder them. Use the hottest laundry temperatures allowed on the manufacturer’s labels to kill dust mites. Go ahead and wash your pillows and fabric mattress toppers, too.
Step Two: Deodorize Your Mattress
Plain baking soda is an excellent, natural deodorizer. Unlike carpet fresheners or fabric sprays, it doesn’t contain fragrances that can irritate allergies or smell overpowering. So, sprinkle a good layer of it on your mattress and gently rub it with your hand to help it bond with surface moisture and kill odors. The longer you leave baking soda on your mattress, the better it works. Give it at least 15 minutes, or several hours if possible.
Step Three: Vacuum It
Once you’ve deodorized your mattress, you’ll need to vacuum it. Use the upholstery attachment for this if you have one. Avoid using an attachment with a rolling brush since that might snag or damage the mattress surface.
Clean the top and sides of your mattress in overlapping, narrow paths. Don’t press too hard, or you’ll reduce your machine’s suction. Be sure you also clean near the seams and edges since a lot of dead skin cells and dust collect there. You can switch to the crevice attachment for this part if you want.
Step Four: Spot Treat Mattress Stains
You can get rid of almost any mattress stain using the homemade treatments below. Some tips before you get started:
- Follow the mattress stain remover recipes. Be sure to use the measurements provided to avoid discoloration.
- Never pour anything directly onto your mattress or use a carpet shampooer on it. Mattresses aren’t meant to get wet and will grow mold inside if they do, especially memory foam mattresses since they’re basically big sponges.
- Treat all mattress stains of one type before tackling the next kind. For example, remove all yellowed pee stains from your mattress before dealing with blood stains or rusty brown areas.
Sweat Stain Remover
Lightly spray the yellowed area on your mattress with hydrogen peroxide until it’s damp but not soaking wet. (You can usually put the sprayer nozzle directly onto the peroxide bottle.) Let the area air-dry. The stain fades as the peroxide dries, but you can repeat as needed.
Blood Stain Remover
Combine 2 ounces of hydrogen peroxide and 1 tablespoon each of liquid dish soap and salt. Spread this on the bloodstain and wait 10 minutes, then scrape it away with a spoon. Use a clean rag dipped in hydrogen peroxide to remove any residue. Let the area dry. If a brown discoloration remains after drying, spray it lightly with hydrogen peroxide. The stain will fade as the peroxide dries.
Urine Stain Remover
Combine 3 tablespoons of baking soda, 8 ounces of hydrogen peroxide, and a tiny amount of liquid dish soap in a bowl. Use a rag to dab the mixture onto the stain, but don’t drench it. Switch to a clean cloth and blot the moisture. Turn your rag as you work, so you’re always using a fresh spot to lift the stain. Let it air dry.
Homemade Mattress Stain Remover Foam (for all other stains)
Use this to remove wine, vomit, or unknown mattress stains. Whisk 2 tablespoons of powdered white laundry detergent (no blue crystals, no oxygenated bleach) with 1 tablespoon of water to create a dry foam. Spread the foam on the stain, wait 10 minutes, and scrape it away. Wipe with a damp rag to remove any residue, then let it air dry.
Step Five: Flip and Repeat
Once your mattress is clean and dry on the top, you may want to flip it and clean the underside. If one side has a pillow-top and the other doesn’t, the flat side of your mattress probably won’t need stain treatment. You should still want to vacuum it, though, especially if you have allergies or pets that like to crawl under your bed.
Step Six: Protect Your Mattress
Protecting your mattress from stains, mold, and allergens takes more than a fitted sheet. You also need a mattress cover that provides hypoallergenic, waterproof protection. Here’s the one I use.
Place the mattress cover over your mattress and add your fitted sheet. If you use a foam topper or pad to make your bed softer, it goes between the mattress cover and fitted sheet. Wash your mattress cover monthly to keep it fresh, and you’ll never have to deep clean your mattress or get rid of stains on it again.
Common Questions About Mattress Cleaning
Below are some frequently-asked questions about cleaning mattresses.
Can I Use a Carpet Shampooer or Steam Cleaner on My Mattress?
Using a steam cleaner pushes water deep into your mattress where air and light don’t reach. Your mattress is basically a big, thick sponge. Imagine the smell of a wet sponge left in a dark, warm spot for a few days. That moisture inside your mattress may also lead to mold and mildew in there too. Then you’ll wind up needing a new mattress.
How Often Should I Clean My Mattress?
If you’ve covered your clean mattress with a good protector, you may never need to deep clean it again. Look for one that’s hypoallergenic and waterproof. (Here’s the one I use.) Remove the protector and wash it monthly to remove odors and allergens.
If you don’t use a mattress protector, you need to vacuum your mattress every month to remove dust mites, dead skin cells, and surface allergens. Then deep clean it at least twice a year.
Can I Use Essential Oils to Freshen My Mattress?
Essential oils smell nice, but they are still oils. Rubbing oil into fabric attracts dirt, which can become a permanent stain. Also, by the time you’ve vacuumed and covered your mattress to protect it, you won’t smell the essential oil.
So why waste time and effort? Skip the essential oils and use baking soda to freshen your mattress if it starts to smell stale.
How Often Should I Flip or Rotate My Mattress?
Flipping your mattress involves turning it over completely. If your mattress is built the same on both sides, you should flip it over every three months to help it wear evenly. This will also keep it from getting lumpy or developing “valleys” where you sleep.
Rotating your mattress from head to foot helps it wear evenly. You can do it with any kind of mattress. It’s easiest to do when you’re washing your bedding, and the mattress is bare. Try to rotate your mattress every three months or any time it starts to feel saggy. If it feels saggy more often than that, it’s probably time for a new one.
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