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Blog > How to Clean a Mattress: Remove Stains and Disinfect

How to Clean a Mattress: Remove Stains and Disinfect

Cleaning and disinfecting are often interchangeable. According to the CDC, cleaning removes dirt from surfaces or objects by using soap or detergent to “physically remove germs from surfaces.” Disinfecting, also according to the CDC, kills germs on surfaces via chemicals and does not remove dirt.

Both cleaning and disinfecting are the key to having a clean and healthy home. In the past year, we’ve been cleaning and disinfecting like never before to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. During a cleaning and disinfecting spree, there is one vital item in your home you’ve probably neglected–your mattress. 

During sleep, we lose dead skin cells that end up on your mattress, creating dust and dust mites. Mold and mildew can grow on mattresses if you sweat a lot when sleeping or live in a humid location. Dirty, old mattresses full of mold and aggravate allergies and asthma. Stained and dirty mattresses also smell. 

Most mattresses can be easily cleaned and disinfected with household products, but there are a few things to consider depending on the type of mattress you have and the stain you’re dealing with. Common stains include:

  • Blood
  • Urine
  • Sweat
  • Vomit
  • Food and drink
  • Pet messes

For the best results, there are different cleaning methods to ensure your mattress is not damaged but is still cleaned/disinfected. Regardless of mattress type, the biggest thing to consider when cleaning a mattress is to make sure not to get it too wet. Water can seep into mattresses and cause mold growth. 

While all mattresses can be cleaned, memory foam requires some extra consideration. Since memory foam is petroleum-based, the compounds in the mattress can react to chemicals in cleaning products. 

To clean a memory foam mattress without destroying it, it’s best to use a DIY cleaning solution or spot clean the mattress with water, dish soap, or laundry detergent. 

It is also not recommended to steam a memory foam mattress. If you do need to dry a spill on memory foam, try using a hairdryer on low.

If your mattress has a stain from young children, pets, food messes, urine, etc., or is simply dirty, this guide outlines how to clean a mattress with items you already have around the house.

1. Gather Your Materials

Now that you’ve decided it’s time to clean your mattress, you’ll need a few things.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Vacuum with attachment
  • Dish soap or detergent
  • Cleaning cloths/sponge
  • Baking soda
  • Cold water 

Tip: Microfiber cloths are a must-have for cleaning up around the house. The fabric contains anywhere from 50,000 to 3 million fibers per cloth, making them super absorbent and excellent for cleaning up liquid spills. When cleaning your mattress, it is especially important to absorb all liquids (or as much as you can) to prevent mold growth

2. Strip the Bed

Before cleaning your mattress, completely strip your bed, including any mattress pads, toppers, or protectors. To effectively kill dust mites and allergens, wash your sheets, blankets, pillowcases, and comforters in hot water–at least 130 degrees. If your bedding has to be washed on cold, make sure to put them in the dryer for at least 15 minutes to kill dust mites. 

Tip: While you’re washing your sheets and cleaning the mattress, it’s the perfect time to wash your pillows as well! Washing your pillowcases isn’t enough-it’s recommended to wash your pillows every 4 months. Consumer Reports recommends following the manufacturer’s instructions when washing your pillows and drying down or feather pillows on no-heat. 

3. Vacuum Your Mattress 

Vacuum the entire surface of the mattress with your vacuum cleaner's upholstery attachment. Your mattress is home to dust mites, dead skin, and dirt. Vacuuming ensures that the surface of your mattress is as clean as possible. Even if you don’t need to deodorize your mattress, it’s still important to vacuum it. 

Tip: If you have a mattress with creases or a pillow top, pay extra attention to the creases. Dirt and other debris can easily gather in these hard-to-reach areas. To make sure these are extra clean, use your vacuum’s crevice tool. 

4. Deodorize

When cleaning your mattress, it’s a good time to deodorize it as well. If your mattress smells a little funky, sprinkle it with some baking soda. This household basic is an all-natural powerhouse cleaner that absorbs odors from surfaces and can clean just about anything. Allow the baking soda to sit for several hours or until the odors are gone, then vacuum.

Tip: If this is your first time cleaning your mattress, you might need to put more baking soda on the mattress or let it sit for up to 24 hours. If you can put your mattress near a sunny window, sunlight will help further sanitize the mattress. Spraying vinegar on your mattress and letting it dry will also help remove odors.

5. Spot Clean 

If there is a stain on your mattress or a spot that is particularly dirty, you’ll need some heIf you’re cleaning up a large stain or old stain, it’s possible that soap and water won’t get the job done. Most likely you’ll need an enzyme cleaner. These are specialized cleaners that are made with natural bacteria that produce enzymes that break down compounds in organic matter like urine, feces, and food. 

Here are the types of enzyme cleaners you’ll need depending on the type of stain.

Enzyme 

Stain Type

Amylase

Starches like ice cream and gravy

Lipase

Fats, oil, and grease

Protease

Protein-based stains, blood, urine, and wine

Tip: If you don’t have an enzyme cleaner handy and need to get a stain up ASAP, a few household items can help. For example, hydrogen peroxide removes blood stains and white vinegar. Make sure to let your mattress dry before putting the sheets back on.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have some additional questions about cleaning your mattress? Here are some answers to some frequently asked questions about mattress cleaning. 

Can I steam my mattress?

Technically, you can steam your mattress with a fabric steamer or steam cleaner. However, this can lead to unnecessary moisture seeping into your mattress, which can cause mold growth. Steaming does kill bacteria and dust mites — so it’s up to you whether you want to steam your mattress.

Can I use essential oils to help deodorize my mattress?

Besides being useful for relaxation and aiding in sleep, certain essential oils can kill bacteria, fungi, and help reduce odors. Peppermint, orange, and lemongrass essential oils are proven to kill both bacteria and fungi as well as deodorize. 

How can I make sure my mattress stays clean? 

There really is no way to ensure your mattress stays spotless and free of dust and dirt, besides never getting in it. To keep your mattress as clean as possible, use a mattress protector and regularly wash your bedding.

How often do I need to clean my mattress?

While there are no hard and fast rules on how often to clean your mattress, Consumer Reports recommends deep cleaning your mattress twice a year. There is no harm in deep cleaning your mattress more often.

My mattress is really old and dirty. Is it worth the effort to clean it? 

Depending on how old (and dirty) your mattress is, it might not be worth your time and effort. If you think your mattress needs to be replaced, then it probably does. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if you should buy a new mattress or deep clean your old one. 

Is there anything else I can use to clean or deodorize my mattress? 

Besides the items mentioned above, fabric sanitizer sprays can help kill bacteria and remove odors from your mattress. 

Like cleaning the rest of your home, cleaning your mattress can be a big but necessary chore-especially when millions of dust mites can be having a sleepover with you every night! Regularly cleaning your mattress can help improve your allergy symptoms, keep your bed clean, and improve the longevity of your mattress. 

Looking for even more mattress advice and sleep tips? Visit our blog or if you’re near one of our showroom locations, stop by to test out and purchase the best and most popular online mattresses. 

 
Emily Stringer

Emily Stringer


Emily is a sleep expert and content creator at SleePare. With over five years of experience writing and extensive experience reviewing mattresses, curating comparisons and advising on "best of" guides, she's well-versed in mattress technology.

Emily has perfected this method by personally testing over 200 different mattresses, so she's not only able to discern the overall value of a specific bed, but to assign its value to different types of sleepers.

Along with creating honest and straightforward mattress features, Emily enjoys spending time with her dogs and exploring her home town of Lexington, Kentucky.