How To Clean A Mattress and Get Rid of Stains

Your mattress is an investment. Here’s how to keep it like new with steps that remove mattress stains and smells.

Woman's hand presses down on a freshly cleaned mattress

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

Follow this simple guide to deep clean your mattress and remove allergens, odors, and stains with common household ingredients.

Step One: Strip the Bed

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. You can even launder electric blankets.

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. Don’t scrub too hard, though: you don’t want to snag the fabric. 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: Remove Mattress Stains

You can get rid of almost any mattress stain using the homemade stain removers 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.

Homemade Mattress Stain Removers

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 the 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. 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.

Where to Next?

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52 Comments

  1. 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

  2. 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.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Glad to have helped, Beth!

  3. 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!

    1. 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.

    2. πŸ™

      Let me know when you come up with the solution to bring your dog back… I need that too. Really makes me not want another dog bc I don’t think I can go through that again. It’s too hard!

      Thank you for the cleaning methods though. I’m going to try it right now.

  4. 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!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Bebe, I’m so glad to have been of help! Thank you for taking the time to let me know. πŸ™‚

  5. Any suggestions if you don’t own a vacuum? I realize that sounds odd, but our house has all wood or tile floors. Our vacuum was old and not useful for sweeping those types of floors (unless I liked scratching up the wood!) so I gave it to a friend who needed one.

    1. Heather Z says:

      You could use a shop vac if you have one, or you could borrow one (vacuum or shop vac) from a family member or good friend or neighbor.

    2. Katie Berry says:

      That’s great advice, Heather!

  6. Helen Tsobanis says:

    Thanks for the hydrogen peroxide/baking soda/dishwashing liquid cleaning tip. It worked wonders on my children’s mattresses which had a bit of everything stains( urine,sweat and blood due to my sons nosebleeds). Still trying to scrape off the paste which I also used in an attempt to extra clean one stubborn spot on the mattress

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You’re welcome!

    2. Susan Loper says:

      Would a little vinegar on a cloth help with the soap crust? Vinegar is my go*to.

  7. Hello, just bought a brand new loom and leaf foam mattress. Blood stain, didn’t read this before i started cleaning it but what I did was use soap and cold water and it completely came out. Now there is a large brown ring surrounding the cleaned stain. How do I get that out?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      The brown ring is where the soap and water spread the blood, rather than completely getting rid of it. Spraying hydrogen peroxide lightly on the ring should take it away after 15 minutes or so. Don’t drench the mattress; just spray lightly, wait, blot with a clean white cloth and repeat if necessary.

  8. My 4 year old sister came to visit me earlier this year and she had an accident in my bed, i thought we’d cleaned it up but the pee stained, i just tried your hydrogen peroxide/baking soda/soap concoction.. and can I just say.. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!! I really appreciate the post, it’s helped me so much! πŸ˜€

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m so happy to have helped!

  9. Marianne Barkman says:

    Hi, I found a very large yellow stain on my mattress about 1 meter x 80cm…which I don’t remember being there before I stored it during my move. There is no odour. None of the mattress protectors have a stain. Its a puzzle. Anyway we sprayed it with white vinegar and then ladled bi-carbonate soda on it and left it overnight. Now just brushed a bit of the soda away…the yellow stain is till there πŸ™ Question: is bi-carbonate soda the same as the baking soda you are talking about? I’m in the UK. I don’t use this soda in baking.
    Can you help?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Yes, bi-carbonate soda is the same thing as baking soda. Hydrogen peroxide is really the key to removing that stain. You should be able to purchase it at the chemist.

  10. Michelle Henry says:

    That. Is. Awesome. Thank you for solving a lifelong struggle in one fell swoop!

  11. Great. This works wonders!!! My jaw dropped to the ground then I dropped to my mattress!! Could not believe the difference. Thank you thank you thank you!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m glad you tried and liked it, Leah!

  12. Hi, I recently recieved a mattress that has never been used but was stopped in a basement for a couple of years. It reaks of a musty molded basement! I have tried putting it outside to air out, then fanning it out inside after spraying it down with bleach, thinking would kill any mold present. The smell is still there! I don’t know what to do. Can you help?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Assuming it’s completely dry, I’d work baking soda into all surfaces of the mattress and let that sit overnight, then vacuum it very well using your machine’s upholstery attachment. If it still reeks after that, it’s probably hopeless. Sorry! πŸ™

  13. Will this work on urine stains that have been there for a while? I have made the mistake of using two mattress covers on my son’s mattress and did not think to look at the condition of the mattress, Well, today…I noticed a good sized urine stain from my son’s dog and I am not 100% sure how long it has been there. Help!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Yes, it works wonderfully on old stains!

  14. Does it clean OLD and i mean old like 1 year old blood stains? Same goes for urine stains? Thank you

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Yes.

  15. Veronica Jack-Melville says:

    Thank you very much, it worked!
    I used it on my mattress about twenty-five minutes (25) ago and it really works. The stain has gone.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m so happy to have helped!

  16. Julie harris says:

    I have fake tan and night sweat stains on my mattress , it’s a spring coil mattress made with natural fibres and an attached pillow topper covered in damask material. These stains are old , can I get them out ?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Julie,
      I’m sorry that I don’t have any specific answers for this since it’s not a problem I’ve encountered. Everything I’ve found about removing fake tan from fabric suggests a combination of warm water and liquid dish detergent, or warm water and oxygenated bleach (like OxiClean). Obviously, you can’t saturate the top of your mattress but maybe try wiping the areas with this to remove the fake tan, then treating the sweat stains afterward?

      You might also want to consider getting a waterproof, washable mattress pad, so you don’t have to do this regularly.

  17. Germaine Lee says:

    I have a mattress with water stains that are a bit old. Other than that the mattress is in excellent condition.
    How can I remove the stains. Thanks

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Germaine,
      I’d treat them as urine stains and use the methods described.

  18. I have a extremely deep mattress and havnt bought the sheets to match …my labrador has been rubbing against the side of the bed and left an oily stain along it from his coat what would be the best method to get rid of it thanks

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Graeme,
      A bit of liquid dish soap and warm water should remove oily stains. I’ve found that Dawn (in the US) or Fairy (in the UK) are the best at cutting through greasy residue.

  19. So my question is gross but I have a mattress that has not been slept on for several years. I live in an old farmhouse so you know what happens….mice and mice poop. Will this effectively clean the mattress after vacuuming the mice dirt??? Thank you!!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Kellie,
      While this will get some of the mouse dirt out of the mattress, I think the bigger concern is protecting yourself from hantavirus. If replacing the mattress entirely isn’t an option, you should consider buying the kind of washable mattress cover that completely seals the mattress inside of it. (They have a zipper on one side, and slide over the entire thing.) That way, you can disinfect the cover when you change your sheets and the stuff won’t get into your mattress.

  20. Hi i came very late to visit your site..i washed my mattres 3 days ago with water and now its dry on both surface but the water is still present inside…its too heavy…i am very upset about it…i realized my blundder that it should be not wet…How can i dry it completly?? Kindly suggest

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Naila,

      I’m sorry you hadn’t found my site before getting your mattress wet. I’d move it to a sunny spot outside and place it on something that keeps it off the ground. That way the air can circulate while sunlight helps it dry. If you have access to a shop vacuum (a wet/dry one) you can try suctioning the water out, too.

  21. Any recommendations for white powder detergent? I don’t use powder and the ones I’ve used in the past all had the blue crystals.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Amanda,

      Most powdered detergents for sensitive skin don’t have blue crystals. I think Arm & Hammer’s powdered detergent doesn’t, either.

  22. Hi! I was using the peroxide to remove sweat stains and now I have an even larger yellow discoloration! Any advice?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Jessica,
      Hydrogen peroxide is the go-to for removing sweat stains from mattresses. If spraying and letting it air dry didn’t work for you, it may be due to the material or amount of sweat involved. Try reapplying the peroxide but this time, instead of air-drying, blot it with a clean, white rag to lift the sweat away.

  23. I have a brand new Sterns and Foster mattress and I noticed a small black spot almost looks like grease in one of the divots so I got out a white wash cloth and dreft baby soap with a little water and gently dapped and rubbed a little – the black spot is gone (yay) but now I am left with a white spot (mattress off white color) what should I do?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’d just wipe the spot more. It sounds like there might be a little soap residue left since the Dreft doesn’t contain any bleach and your comment indicates the rest of the mattress is off-white.

  24. Monique Fischer says:

    Would the mixture for wine stains work on old coffee stains? Also, would you suggest doing the larger stains first before the other stains?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      The wine stain solution should work, yes.

  25. Jenelle Rodenbaugh says:

    What about an overall dirty looking mattress? I think from moving in uhaul. Would the spraying of hydrogen peroxide clean it up?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It should definitely help.

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