You can eliminate almost any mattress stain and odor using a vacuum cleaner and ingredients found in your kitchen or medicine cabinet.
The first time I cleaned my mattress, it was an eye-opening experience. I was in college at the time and had no idea that this was something a person should do. At the same time, I constantly had allergy problems and woke up with a stuffy nose that cleared up shortly after I left my apartment. Then one night my dog was ill and there was no way I was going to sleep on my mattress without cleaning it. Not only did my mattress brighten significantly and smell better, but I stopped having allergy problems, too. It’s not surprising when you think about it, though.
Every night, we shed dead skin cells that sift through our sheets and wind up on our mattresses. 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. As I learned, a dirty mattress makes symptoms worse if you have allergies or asthma. And, of course, old mattresses smell bad, while stained mattresses are embarrassing. Fortunately, it is not difficult to deep clean a mattress at all, as I show in this video.
Before You Begin
You’ll need a half-hour plus a vacuum cleaner with attachments and baking soda to deep clean your mattress. If it’s stained, you’ll need to set aside several hours to use the homemade mattress cleaning recipes I provide below — your mattress needs ample time to completely dry after stain removal.
Steps to Deep-Clean Your Mattress
To deep clean your mattress, sprinkle baking soda on it then vacuum the top and sides, treat mattress stains with the appropriate DIY mattress cleaner, flip and repeat. Then keep it clean by using a mattress protector under your fitted sheet.
Step 1: Gather Supplies
You need a vacuum with attachments, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, mild dish soap, table salt, and some microfiber cloths to remove most stains, bacteria, and odors from your mattress.
Step 2. Remove Your Bedding
Take off all sheets and blankets from your bed before 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 3: Deodorize Your Mattress
Sprinkle a light layer of baking soda on your mattress and rub it with your hand. Don’t scrub your mattress with a brush since it can snag the surface. Let the baking soda sit in place for at least 15 minutes to bond with surface moisture. If I’m in a hurry, I do this step in the morning and let the baking soda sit all day then vacuum it up when I get home.
Step 4: Vacuum
Use your vacuum cleaner’s dusting brush or upholstery attachment to clean your mattress since a rolling brush may snag or damage the surface. Clean the top and sides in overlapping, narrow paths, including near the seams and edges where dead skin cells, debris, and dust collect. To make sure you’re removing all of the baking soda, work from the top of your mattress toward the foot, then turn and go over the mattress surface from one edge to the other.
Step 5: Flip and Repeat
If you find stains on your mattress, this is the time to pause and treat them using the mattress stain remover recipes I share further down this page. 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 vacuum it, though, especially if you have allergies or pets that like to crawl under your bed.
Step 6: Protect It
As I learned when I first did this, using a mattress protector beneath the fitted sheet keeps a mattress from developing stains and odors. Look for one that provides hypoallergenic, waterproof protection. Here’s the one I use. With a waterproof protector, you’ll never have to worry about mattress stains again.
How to Get Rid of Mattress Stains
You can eliminate almost any type of mattress stain using ingredients from your kitchen or medicine cabinet. I keep most of the ingredients on hand already to make homemade cleaning recipes, and you probably have most of them available, too.
Sweat Stain Remover
If your mattress is yellowed from sweat stains or you feel like it’s looking dingy, lightly spray the yellowed area with 3% hydrogen peroxide until it’s damp but not soaking wet. The stain will fade as the peroxide air dries. Repeat as needed. I’ve found that a clean spray bottle nozzle fits directly into peroxide bottles, though you may need to snip the tube with scissors if it’s too long.
Blood Stain Remover
You can get blood stains off of your mattress and other fabrics so long as you haven’t used any treatments involving heat, which can make them set permanently.
The hydrogen peroxide method: This formula gets fresh or old blood stains out of your mattress. 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.
The meat tenderizer method: Another method I’ve used to get blood out of a mattress involves making a paste of water or hydrogen peroxide and powdered meat tenderizer. The papain in the tenderizer weakens the protein strands in the blood, so it’s easier to remove. Mix a paste thick enough to spread well and apply it to the stained area, wait 10 minutes, and wipe it away with a damp rag. If you used hydrogen peroxide to make the paste, you can also use more on the rag to blot the area.
Urine Stain Remover
To remove fresh or old urine stains on your mattress, and also their odors, 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. Once it’s gone, go over the area with a cloth dampened in cold water, then let it air dry.
Wine, Vomit, and Other Stubborn Stains
The baking soda method: I’ve had luck getting up most other mattress stains by sprinkling baking soda on them and working it in with my fingers, then spraying the area with white vinegar. The fizzing action helps loosen most substances that cause stains, so then I can wipe the area with damp paper towels or a cloth and let it air dry. If you’re concerned about the scent of vinegar, don’t be: the smell fades as it dries.
The laundry detergent method: Another method that works on very stubborn stains, including wine spills, vomit, and other bodily fluids requires dry powdered laundry detergent. (A detergent, not a laundry additive like Oxiclean.) I don’t usually have that on hand, but if you do then try whisking 2 tablespoons of powdered laundry detergent with 1 tablespoon of cold water to create a dry foam. Spread the foam on the stain, wait 10 minutes but do not let it dry, and scrape it away. Spray the area with hydrogen peroxide to loosen any stubborn residue, then wipe the rest away with a damp rag. Let it air dry.
Below are some frequently asked questions about cleaning mattresses. If you don’t see your question answered here, please leave a comment. I update this section regularly, so asking yours can help others find solutions, too.
How Often Should I Clean My Mattress?
With a mattress protector, you just need to let your mattress air out while the protector is in the washing machine and vacuum it once a year. Without a mattress protector, you’ll need to vacuum your mattress monthly to remove dust mites, dead skin cells, and surface allergens. Treat any stains at that time, and deep clean your mattress twice a year.
How Often Should I Flip or Rotate It?
Flip or rotate your mattress every three months. If your mattress is the same on both sides, flip it one time and rotate it the next. If your mattress has only one side for sleeping, rotate it from end to end every three months. This habit will help prevent saggy spots and lumps and prolong the life of your mattress.
Where do I Put the Mattress Protector?
Place the mattress protector over your mattress and add your fitted sheet. If you use a foam topper or mattress pad to make your bed softer, it belongs on top of the mattress protector but under your fitted sheet. Wash it monthly to keep it fresh, and let your mattress air out while it’s in the washer. Fresh air and sunshine are two great ways to eliminate mattress odors and hidden mold.
Can I Use a Carpet Shampooer or Steam Cleaner on My Mattress?
No. A steam cleaner pushes water deep into your mattress where air and light don’t reach. This will turn into mold and mildew that can destroy your mattress. It may also cause allergy issues and odors. 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.
Can I Use Essential Oils to Clean It?
Do not use essential oils on your mattress — they will void most manufacturer warranties and cause your mattress get grimy faster. That’s because 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?