How to Clean a Mattress

Learn how to clean dust build-up and treat stains such as sweat, beverages and urine. Plus, find out how to protect and prolong the life of your mattress and get the simple cleaning techniques to keep your bedroom clean.

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You probably change your sheets regularly, but do you ever think about how to clean your mattress? Mattresses collect dead skin cells, sweat, stains, dust mites and other unpleasant things like urine. Dirt and dust inevitably get through sheets and coverings, even if you’re routinely changing linens and mattress pads.

Clean your mattress twice a year

Mattress Cleaning

A vacuum with an upholstery attachment helps keep a mattress clean.

Photo by: AndreyPopov; Getty Images

AndreyPopov; Getty Images

A vacuum with an upholstery attachment helps keep a mattress clean.

We spend a lot of time in our beds — on average, a third of our lives — so take steps to clean your mattress to extend its life and improve your overall well-being.

How Often to Clean a Mattress

Cleaning your mattress twice a year not only promotes better sleep, but it helps reduce sweat, dust mites and allergens that build up over time. It can also help prevent pest infestations and keep your sleeping area feeling fresh and clean.

Materials in your mattress break down slowly over time, making it necessary to replace this often-pricy necessity every 7-10 years. Taking steps to clean your mattress every six months can help you extend the life of its layers and fibers and provide a healthier sleeping experience.

Simple Steps for Cleaning a Mattress

1. Wash the Bedding

Strip your bed of all its linens including any mattress covers or mattress pads. Use the hottest water setting possible when laundering your bedding and always dry thoroughly on high heat.

how to clean a mattress: clean bedding with hot water


Wash bedding weekly to help keep your mattress clean.

Photo by: Getty Images; Basak Gurbuz Derman

Getty Images; Basak Gurbuz Derman

Wash bedding weekly to help keep your mattress clean.

2. Vacuum Mattress With Upholstery Attachment

Cleaning the mattress using your vacuum cleaner's upholstery tool helps to agitate the surface and eliminate dust and dirt. If you have the time to run the vacuum over your mattress every time you wash the sheets, you’ll have an even better chance of controlling dust, pet hair and other dirt that accumulates over time.

As you vacuum, pay special attention to seams and crevices. That is where icky stuff tends to accumulate. Pull the mattress away from the walls or headboard so the upholstery tool can reach all sides of the mattress, too.

If you suffer from allergies, using a vacuum with a HEPA filter can help contain allergens and purify your room. Running an air filter in your room can also reduce allergens that would otherwise be likely to settle in your bedding.

3. Spot Clean Surface Stains

Whether you're an in-bed snacker, a sweaty sleeper or have small children and pets, you may have some stains to treat. An upholstery cleaner or enzyme-based odor remover can help chemically break down stains and odors. Spot treat surface stains according to the instructions on your product, and be sure to let the areas you cleaned dry thoroughly before remaking the bed.

Steam-cleaning your mattress is also an effective way to treat surface stains. It penetrates through layers to lift oils and blast away underlying bacteria.

4. Deep-Clean Spills + Urine Accidents

Deep stains from beverage spills, night sweats and children’s nighttime accidents are bound to happen but are harder to eliminate. If the stain is still wet, blot up as much moisture as possible using a clean cloth or paper towel.

When it comes to cleaning your child’s mattress, you have a few options. Enzyme-based cleaners naturally treat odors that settle deep into the layers of the mattress. Cleansers like Simple Green and Rocco & Roxie are powerful options that won’t compromise the mattress with chemicals like chlorine or bleach.

If you don’t have an enzyme cleaner on hand, vinegar or hydrogen peroxide can also be used to reduce urine stains and odors. Spray the stained area with undiluted white vinegar, let sit for five to 10 minutes, then blot dry to remove extra moisture. Let it fully dry before you put the sheets back on the bed.

Use hydrogen peroxide to kill dust mites.

In the Bedroom: Kill Dust Mites

Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide can help treat mattress stains and keep your bedding fresh.

Photo by: Ryan Reed

Ryan Reed

Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide can help treat mattress stains and keep your bedding fresh.

For older urine stains that have already dried, try a tougher at-home solution:

  • Combine one cup of hydrogen peroxide, three tablespoons of baking soda and a drop or two of liquid dish soap in a spray bottle.
  • Swirl to combine.
  • Spray the surface area and soak specific areas you believe are deep-set with urine.
  • After 10 minutes, blot into the areas of the mattress that are most saturated and allow the entire mattress to thoroughly dry.
  • Feel free to use the entire bottle of solution, as it will lose its effectiveness over time.

Be warned that the hydrogen peroxide may discolor or appear to bleach dark mattresses.

5. Freshen + Deodorize With Baking Soda

Once your mattress is completely dry from any liquid stain and odor treatments, sprinkle baking soda liberally all over the mattress surface. Don't skimp — use the whole box for the best results. Baking soda needs time to interact and absorb smells. It works best if you let it sit on the mattress, undisturbed, for 12-24 hours. After it has sat, vacuum again with an upholstery attachment to remove all of the baking soda from the surface of the mattress.

Another option for freshening your mattress is to let it get some sunshine. Just like the sun can eliminate stains in sheets and clothing, it will help eliminate persistent odors, stains and bacteria on mattresses.

6. Upgrade Your Mattress Protector

Maintaining your mattress is easier with the help of a mattress protector. The protective layers are designed to be waterproof but breathable. They can shield surface stains and deep-set spills, and reduce the build-up of smells and odors on fibers. Hypoallergenic mattress covers also reduce dust and other allergens that may affect health and wellness. Toppers not only protect against stains and smells, but they can also add extra softness or support to your bed and help you retain the warranty on your mattress.

Mattress covers are easy to launder. If you wash your bed linen weekly, consider washing your protective mattress cover once a month or more often during cold, flu and allergy season.

how to clean a mattress: use a fitted cover


A fitted mattress cover can extend the life of your mattress.

Photo by: Getty Images; baytunc

Getty Images; baytunc

A fitted mattress cover can extend the life of your mattress.

Common mattress protectors include:

Encased zip-on covers: These wrap around the entire mattress to protect all sides. While it provides the best protection for allergy sufferers and wards off infestations (such as bed bugs), unzipping and cleaning can feel laborious. For children's crib and toddler-sized mattresses, zip-on covers can provide the best level of protection against unexpected accidents.

Fitted covers: These stretchy covers designed like fitted sheets can be a practical line of defense against surface spills and stains. It fits around your mattress securely and once your fitted and top sheets are in place, you wouldn’t even know it’s there.

Mattress pads: These padded layers that sit on top of the mattress protect from surface spills, too, but they don’t always provide protection on the sides of the mattress or wrap around the corners to stay in place. Most products have elastic straps on the corners to keep them in place. When you're shopping around, remember that not all pads are waterproof. Many mattress pads are designed to add cushion and comfort but may not protect against spills or accidents.

Tip: Layer two forms of protectors on a child’s mattress. Not only will you decrease the likelihood of deep-set accidents and permeating smells, but it’s a lot easier to swap linens in the middle of the night if you can remove the wet top layer protector. At 3:00 am you will be happy that the child can go back to bed on the secondary, unaffected dry layer for the remainder of the night.

how to clean a child's mattress


Wrap a child's crib mattress with two waterproof layers for easier middle-of-the-night changes.

Photo by: Getty Images; Cavan Images

Getty Images; Cavan Images

Wrap a child's crib mattress with two waterproof layers for easier middle-of-the-night changes.

How to Clean a Memory Foam Mattress

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Memory foam mattresses are more absorbent than traditional mattresses, so when you’re washing them it’s very important to let them dry thoroughly to prevent mold and mildew growth.

  1. Start by vacuuming the entire surface to remove hair, dirt and lint.
  2. To treat stains, mix two parts water with one part mild detergent in a spray bottle.
  3. Spray the stain, then use a cloth to gently scrub surface stains. For particularly stubborn stains, follow the same process with a mixture of 1/4 cup white vinegar and 3/4 cup water.
  4. Use a second damp cloth to remove the cleaner and lift the stain.
  5. Blot at areas that are highly saturated to remove the cleaner.
  6. Allow the mattress to dry completely. Promoting air circulation by opening the windows or running a fan in the room can promote faster dry times.
  7. Once dry, use baking soda to absorb odors and freshen up your memory foam mattress. Remove the baking soda after it sits for 12-24 hours.

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