This practical, easy guide explains how to clean your mattress to get rid of stains, odors, and allergens then keep it looking new.
Knowing how to clean a mattress can help you sleep better at night. If you have allergies or asthma, a dirty mattress makes your symptoms worse. Old mattresses smell bad, too.
Why You Should Clean Your Mattress
Dead Skin Cells and Dust Mites
Of the estimated 1.6 trillion skin cells on our bodies, roughly 30,000 to 40,000 of them fall off every hour. That means you’re shedding around a quarter-million dead skin cells in your sleep. Sure, your sheets catch most of them. But your sheets are no protection from the dust mites that feed on those dead skin cells. And, there are hundreds of thousands of those in your bed.
Moisture, Mold, and Mildew
When you sleep, your body loses moisture. Some of that is simply the result of breathing. Some of it is also sweat. Between the two, your body produces over a pound of moisture each night! Sure, a lot of it evaporates. But a lot also soaks into your mattress, which is an ideal breeding ground for mold and mildew.
Pets, Kids, and Other Messes
If you have young children, you know nighttime accidents happen. Even house-trained pets sometimes pee on mattresses. And, of course, full-grown adults can soil a bed, too.
The good news is that you can clean your mattress and get rid of stains like urine, blood, and sweat. You don’t need any special equipment, and you don’t need any harsh sprays. The natural methods below will get rid of mattress stains and leave you with a bed that looks — and smells — brand new.
How to Clean Your Mattress in 5 Simple Steps
You need to strip the bed before you begin cleaning your mattress, so it’s a good time to launder your bed linens, too.
- Use the hottest setting allowed on the manufacturer’s label to kill dust mites on your bed linens. (Related: How to Wash Electric Blankets.)
- Go ahead and wash your pillows and fabric mattress toppers, too. (Related: How to Wash Pillows)
While your bedding is in the wash, follow the steps below to clean your mattress and remove stains.
1. Vacuum the Top and Sides
Your vacuum cleaner’s upholstery attachment is the best tool for mattress cleaning. Start at the top and work your way down in overlapping, narrow paths. Vacuum the sides the same way. Don’t press hard while you do this, because it’ll reduce the vacuum’s suction. It might snag your mattress upholstery, too.
2. Remove Odors with Baking Soda
Sprinkle your mattress with plain baking soda* and gently rub it in, so it bonds with surface moisture. Let it sit for 10 minutes to continue neutralizing odors. (*bicarbonate for UK readers.)
What about using essential oils to clean your 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 bother?
3. Vacuum Again
Give the baking soda time to bond with surface moisture and odors — about 20 minutes. Then use your vacuum’s upholstery attachment to remove it. Again, don’t press hard and use slow, overlapping strokes.
4. Remove Mattress Stains
It’s always best to treat stains immediately, but sometimes sleep is more important. Fortunately, you can still clean stains on your mattress even if they’ve been there a while. See the specific directions below to remove mattress stains.
What About Using a Steam Cleaner? Using a steam cleaner sends moisture deep into the core of 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. Do you want to sleep on that? Skip the steam cleaner and follow the steps to clean the mattress stains by hand. They won’t ruin your bed.
5. Flip and Repeat
If your mattress is the same on both sides, you should flip it each season. This practice prevents lumps in your bed. Be sure any areas you’ve treated for stains are dry before you turn it over, though. Repeat the steps above after you’ve flipped it, so your entire bed is fresh and stain-free.
How to Remove Mattress Stains
Blood Stain Cleaning
The most important thing to know about removing blood stains from your mattress is that you must not use heat. That’s because heat creates a chemical bond between blood protein and fabric fibers. The result is a stain that’s extra hard to remove. (This is true for removing blood from any fabric, by the way.)
To remove fresh blood stains from your mattress, add a small squirt of liquid dish soap to some cold water. Dampen a microfiber cloth with this and dab at the spot until it’s gone. Be sure you don’t drench your mattress. Let the area dry then go over it with a clean cloth dipped in hydrogen peroxide if you see any faint marks left.
For dried blood stains on mattresses, use this easy homemade 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 then vacuum.
If any discoloration remains, dab it with plain household ammonia and a white cloth. Be sure to open your windows first, because its vapors are irritating. Once the stain is gone, sprinkle the area with baking soda to neutralize the ammonia’s smell. Let it dry completely then vacuum the spot.
Urine Stain and Odor Removal
Pets, kids, and even some adults have “accidents.” There’s no reason to panic, though. You can get even old pee stains out of a mattress with a little know-how.
To remove fresh urine from a mattress, blot with a clean, dry towel. Sprinkle the spot well with baking soda to neutralize the smell and absorb moisture. Let this dry for 20-30 minutes, then vacuum. To prevent a stain, wipe the area with hydrogen peroxide and let that dry before making the bed.
To get dried urine stains out of a mattress, try this homemade pee stain remover. Combine 3 tablespoons of baking soda, 8 ounces of hydrogen peroxide, and a tiny amount of liquid dish soap. Use a white rag to dab this on the old urine stain. (Don’t drench it!) Grab a fresh cloth and press it on the area to lift the stain. Rotate your rag while doing this, so you’re always working with a clean section. Let it dry before making your bed.
Sweat Stains and Yellowing Treatment
You can get rid of sweat stains or yellow spots on your mattress with straight hydrogen peroxide. Use a spray bottle if you want, or dab it on with a microfiber cloth. Get the surface damp but not soaking wet, and let it air dry. The stain will fade as the hydrogen peroxide dries. Once it’s clean, be sure to cover your mattress to protect it.
Removing Vomit, Wine and Other Mattress Stains
Both vomit and wine are acidic, so they’re tougher stains to get out of your mattress. “Mystery” stains can be difficult, too. If wiping the area with cold, soapy water doesn’t work, try the homemade dry-cleaning foam below.
Homemade mattress cleaning foam. For this stain remover, you need a plain, white powdered laundry detergent. (No blue crystals or oxygenated bleach.) Whisk 2 tablespoons of the detergent with 1 tablespoon of water to create a dry foam, not a paste. Spread this on the stain, wait 10 minutes, and scrape it away. Wipe the area with a damp rag to remove any residue, let the area dry completely, then vacuum it.
Keep Your Mattress Looking New
Cover your mattress to protect it mattress from stains, mold, and allergens. I’m not talking about the crinkly, plastic mattress cover you remember from childhood. Modern mattress covers are a soft fabric bonded to a waterproof layer. They’re silent, and they don’t make you sweaty. Most importantly, they keep liquids and allergens from reaching your mattress, so it doesn’t get stained or smelly. Here’s the one I use.
Place the mattress cover over your mattress then add your fitted sheet. (If you use a foam topper or pad to make your bed softer, the cover goes over that, too.) Wash it monthly to keep it fresh, and enjoy not having to clean your mattress or get rid of stains on it again.