How to clean a mattress

These easy tips on how to clean a mattress will help you bring your mattress back to its former spotless glory

How to clean a mattress: Woman sleeping on mattress
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Do you know how to clean a mattress? Actually, our first question should probably be: do you know that you ought to clean your mattress regularly? Mattresses are one of the most used items in your home – in fact, you spend a third of your life on your mattress. Bearing that in mind, mattresses absorb the sweat and dead skin cells we shed (nice) and do get stained (sorry, but c'est la vie).

Fortunately, mattresses can be cleaned many times before they need to be replaced, but there is a right and wrong way to go about the cleaning. Follow our guide to get your mattress sparkling clean again.

Pssst, 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. 

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

You will need:

1. How to clean a mattress to 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 clean your mattress: 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. 

2. Arm yourself with a vacuum to clean a 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).

3. 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.

4. Use washing detergent to clean a mattress of sweaty smells

Mix 2oz of powdered detergent with 300ml of warm water, mix well until soap suds form. Apply a thin layer onto the mattress and rub in with a sponge. Keep rubbing until any visible stains starts to fade; otherwise, just work up a good lather. 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.

5. Mattress stains and how to tackle them

What you use to clean a stain does depend on what caused it. 

Below, we take a look at each stain in detail, but if you're in a hurry, these quick tips will help.

If we’re talking tea or coffee spills, dab at the stain with a baking soda solution (115g in 600ml of water). Leave for half an hour. Rinse by dabbing with clean water.

Blood left its mark? Dab with cold water (never hot water), and if that doesn’t do the job, try a baking soda solution, as above.

If it’s other bodily fluids that have caused the stain, use a washing-up liquid solution on a clean cloth.

The golden rules whatever you’re removing? Never scrub, but dab, and don’t get the mattress more wet than you need to.

6. How to clean a mattress of urine stains

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 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 clean a mattress of blood stains

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 advice on how to clean up blood stains from carpets and upholstery, we've got that covered too. 

8. How to clean 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, 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. Use our guide to cleaning up vomit for removing it from carpets and furniture, too.

9. How to refresh a mattress with baking soda

Does your mattress smell? That'll be dried sweat. Using a sieve (if you have one), sprinkle a light layer of baking/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. 

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 mattress 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). 

13. 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.

14. Try the sun mattress cleaning method

Dragging your mattress outside sounds like hassle, and it is, but it's totally worth it, we promise. The sun is an amazing (and free!) natural disinfectant and deodoriser, and will be as effective at freshening up your mattress as cleaning it with detergent. For this method to be effective, you will need a full eight hours of sun, so you'll need to pick a cloudless spring day for this task, as well as positioning your mattress in a way that will guarantee direct sunlight. 

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