How to clean a mattress

Follow our thorough mattress cleaning step-by-step guide to refresh your bed and drift off to sleep at ease

Freshly made bed with white bedding and a woman in grey

You change your bedding every week, but how often do you clean your mattress? Well, you may not be surprised to hear your mattress is likely to be covered with dead skin cells, sweat, dust mites, stains, mould and a host of other charming things. 

Even if you have a mattress topper or mattress protector, it’s still very important to regularly clean yours – at the very least it will make your bedroom feel fresher. By following our simple guide to cleaning a mattress, you can sleep at ease knowing your bed isn’t a breeding ground for little critters.

Find more cleaning tips and advice on our dedicated hub page...

You will need:

1. No food, drink or pets in bed

Yeah, we know. You can't beat brekkie in bed, the cat does what it likes and the dog's just too cute to resist, right? All these, though, make for increased levels of bacteria (and therefore smells), dust mites love pet dander as much as human skin flakes and muddy paw prints on a duvet are not a good look. If, however, you (or the cat) choose to ignore this advice, check out our guides to cleaning up after dogs and tidying up after cats for some mess-reducing techniques.

2. Get rid of dust mites

Airing the bed every morning is one way to get rid of dust mites – or at least limit them; you can find more ways to be rid of them in our guide. If you have a steam cleaner, use it to go over the mattress before you vacuum, to help kill and remove dust mites that might be lurking. We've rounded up the best steam cleaners in our buying guide. 

3. Vacuum the mattress

Remove your bed sheets and mattress cover and vacuum the mattress vigorously, using an attachable crevice tool to really get into any grooves. This will remove any leftover food crumbs, dirt, dust and pet hair (yes, we know you let them up there) that’s been building up. Vacuum the sides of the mattress, too.

We've got more vacuuming tips in our guide to how to vacuum (yup, there are techniques to mastering it like a pro).

(Image: © VAX)

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4. How to clean a mattress with baking soda and vinegar

Exactly how you clean will depend on what type of stain you’re trying to remove. It’s likely to be bodily fluid – sweat, urine, blood (see below) – and they are probably not going to be fresh stains, which will make the removal process a little harder.

However, for an all over mattress spring clean, spraying the mattress with anti-bacterial white vinegar and then sprinkle it with baking soda (bicarbonate of soda is the same). Let it bubble and place a towel over it for a couple of hours. Vacuum up any residual baking soda and allow to air dry. The smell of vinegar will disappear as the mattress dries. Find more ways to clean your house with vinegar in our guide.

5. How to get the sweat smell out of a mattress

Mix 2oz of powdered detergent with 300ml of warm water, mix well until soap suds form. Apply a thin layer onto the stain and rub in with a sponge. Keep rubbing until the stain starts to fade. Remove any remaining detergent with a clean sponge. Leave to dry completely or use a hair-dryer, holding 50cm above the stain, to help speed up this process.

6. How to get urine stains out of a mattress

Soak up the urine by blotting with paper towels, applying pressure to reach the deeper layers. Spray the stain with a white vinegar solution (two parts warm water, one part white vinegar). Blot with a paper towel. Repeat two or three times to remove the stain and smell. Allow to air dry. 

For more detailed advice on how to remove urine from mattresses, carpets and upholstery too check out our guide. You can also use a carpet cleaner to remove urine. Follow the instructions of your chosen carpet cleaner as normal. Check out out pick of the best carpet cleaning machines

7. How to get blood stains out of a mattress

Water and salt: Mix 2 tsp of salt with 300ml of cold water and pour the solution into a spray bottle. Spray over the stain. Blot the area with a dry cloth to absorb excess liquid. Repeat until the stain is gone, use a damp cloth saturated in cold water to remove any remaining solution. Dry with a clean, dry cloth. 

Baking soda: Mix 4oz of bicarbonate of soda with 600ml cold water. Apply the solution to the stained area with a cloth. Leave for 30 minutes. Use a damp cloth to rinse thoroughly. Use a clean towel to absorb excess and dry the mattress. 

Again, if you need anymore advice on how to clean up blood stains, we've got that covered too. 

8. How to get vomit stains off a mattress

Got a baby in the family? Or a toddler with a tummy upset? You can clean their mattresses pretty quickly. Once you've picked up the vomit (see our more in depth guide to cleaning up vomit for how to get round this in the least gross way possible), start blotting up any liquid. Then mix equal amounts of water and white vinegar in a spray bottle, wet the stain then blot. Repeat until the stain disappears.

9. How to refresh a mattress with bicarbonate of soda

Does your mattress smell? That'll be dried sweat. Using a sieve (if you have one), sprinkle a light layer of bicarbonate of soda over the entire surface and gently rub in with a scrubbing brush – leave for at least one hour, longer if you can. This will absorb any excess liquid from the stain removal process, and leave your mattress smelling fresh and clean. Vacuum off the soda, making sure to get into all crevices. Use our guide to cleaning your home with bicarbonate of soda for more useful tips.

10. Air the mattress outside

The best thing to naturally eliminate bacteria from your mattress is fresh air, ideally in the sunshine. If you are unable to haul your mattress into the garden, a well-ventilated sunlit room will work as well. The sun helps to kill bacteria and dry out moisture build-up in the mattress. Leave the mattress out for at least two hours. Find more ways to get rid of household germs in our guide. If the room the mattress is kept in is prone to damp and condensation, you may need to use our guide to find out how to get rid of mould; find out, too, how to reduce condensation.

11. Cover and protect the mattress

If you don't have a mattress protector, now is a good time to buy one. They are important to protect against future dirt and stains, will extend the life of your mattress, and can be thrown into the washing machine on a regular basis. Check out our pick of the best mattress protectors

12. Get into a good cleaning routine

Just changing the bed sheets and a washable mattress protector once a week will keep your bed smelling sweeter and freer of dust mites. If the mattress needs regular flipping and turning regularly, do that, too, to prevent warping and sagging (of the mattress, not you). 

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