Knowing how to clean a mattress can help you sleep better at night. There’s more to it than running the vacuum over it now and then. Follow these steps to get rid of stains, dust mites, mold, and other allergens so you can rest easy at night.
You already know about dust mites and other critters in your mattress, but many also contain sweat, blood, urine and other bodily fluids along with mold and mildew. Unless you shower before bed every night, your mattress might also contain dirt, oils and trace chemicals from various toiletries, and even pollen.
Cleaning your mattress is a particularly important cleaning task if you live in a humid environment since yours is likely to retain sweat and moisture even after you get out of bed. Also, if you have pets or small children, chances are your mattress has some stains you don’t even know are there.
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 the forgotten to-do’s that pop into your head the instant you turn the light off. (Or is that just me?)
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.
1. Vacuum it.
Your vacuum cleaner’s upholstery attachment is your best tool for 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.)
2. Deodorize with baking soda.
Although we don’t usually notice our own bodily smells, over time sweat can build up and lead to an unmistakable aroma. To rid your mattress of rankness, sprinkle it well with baking soda and gently rub it in with a scrub brush, so it gets into the mattress fabric where the stink lives. Let the baking soda sit for 10 minutes before proceeding to the next step.
3. Repeat vacuuming.
By scrubbing the baking soda into your mattress, you’ve helped it bond with moisture and body oils in the top layers of material. Vacuuming it a second time pulls that moisture out, along with the cause of the odors.
4. Treat stains.
Mattresses typically acquire three types of stains: blood, urine, and what we’ll call “other bodily fluids.” While it’s best to treat stains immediately, 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 (3%) mixed with 1 tbsp. each liquid dish soap and table salt. Lightly spread this onto 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 cloth as the stain lifts off.
*Using a white rag prevents dye transfer from the cloth to the mattress.
Urine stains are tough but not impossible to get out once they’re dry, but this two-step method helped dramatically when my kids were little.
- Dissolve 3 tbsp. baking soda in 8 oz. of hydrogen peroxide then add a drop or two of liquid dish soap. Dab this solution onto the spot. (Do NOT drench your mattress!)
- If the stain persists, wait until the area is dry then whisk together 3 tablespoons dry laundry detergent powder (NOT Oxiclean or anything containing oxygenated bleach) and 1 tablespoon water to make a dry foam. Lightly spread this on the stain and let it sit for 30 minutes.
- Scrape the dried paste away with a spoon. Use a white cloth dipped into hydrogen peroxide to remove any stubborn bits of paste.
- Vacuum the area.
Other bodily fluids (vomit, etc.): 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 to neutralize the ammonia odor and pull out any lingering moisture. Let this dry then vacuum the area thoroughly.
5. Flip it and repeat steps 1-4.
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. If yours is a pillow-top mattress you can’t flip it over but should still rotate it top to bottom seasonally. While you’ve got the materials handy, repeat the cleaning process on the other side of your mattress.
6. Protect it.
Since cleaning a mattress is such a daunting task, I 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 the mattress cover into the wash if you have a spill, and make laundering it part of your routine, so you’ll never have to know how to clean a mattress again.