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How to clean a mattress: everything you need to know

Maintaining your mattress hygiene couldn’t be simpler with our easy-to-follow guide. Get ready for a fresh and clean bed!

Updated

Mattress on a bed

A good night's sleep is often determined by the quality of your mattress, but the condition of your mattress is important too. Keeping your mattress clean and fresh needn’t be a chore – from stain removal to deodorising tricks, we show you how to blitz the box spring, makeover your memory foam, and get your mattress looking and smelling like new. Follow our tips and learn how to clean a mattress like a pro.

Why should you clean your mattress?

As comfy as your mattress may feel, it’s likely harbouring some unknown nasties. Clean sheets alone won’t protect you from the dirt, dust and odours that can build up and can interfere with your sleep or even cause allergies. Giving it a clean will help add to the comfort of good night’s sleep, and your well-being – and can help extend its life too. Not convinced? Here’s a few facts that might help you reconsider:

  • On average, we spend a third of our lives in bed, which means your mattress is getting a lot of use and surely deserves a clean.
  • Mattresses can harbour hair, dust, stains, dirt, and dead skin cells that all build up over time, becoming embedded in the mattress.
  • According to The Sleep Council, we sweat up to a pint of liquid per night.
  • The average bed contains 10,000 dust mites which are a known allergen.
  • If dirty, mattresses can house some harmful strains of bacteria which could make you ill.

Has your lifestyle during the Covid-19 lockdown affected the type of stains you get on your clothes?

How to clean a mattress

Cleaning your mattress every six months (or more if there are spillages) can help to minimise the discomforts of stains and odours. Follow these simple steps for a fresh and clean mattress fit for the most discerning of sleepers. Watch our video below or follow our step-by-step guide for the easiest way to clean your mattress:

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1. Hoover your mattress

Mattress being vacuumed

Remove the bedsheets and set about hoovering the entire mattress, including the sides. It’s important to use a clean vacuum attachment (an upholstery one if available) to avoid transferring any dirt back onto your bed.

Hoovering will remove dust, dead skin cells and other debris that accumulates over time. If your mattress instructions advise against hoovering, instead wipe away any debris with a damp cloth and leave to dry.

2. Spot clean any stains

Hand cleaning mattress surface with microfibre cloth

Blot any liquid stains with a cool, wet cloth using a pressing motion to avoid rubbing the stain in any further. Only use cold water, as heat can set many types of stains. You can also apply a small amount of laundry detergent to the stain and gently blot it with a clean, damp cloth. Don’t get the mattress too wet, as it will be difficult to dry.

3. Deodorise your mattress

Vacuum on mattress covered with baking soda

With all the sweat, dust and other nasties mattresses gather, they can start to smell.

To maintain a fresh, clean mattress, sift baking soda over the surface. Let it sit for as long as possible – the longer the better, but leave it for at least 30 minutes before hoovering it up.

Baking soda is a natural deodoriser so it will help to neutralize any odours. For added fragrance, you can mix a few drops of essential oil like lavender to the baking soda before you sift. You’ll be left with a lovely smelling bed for a great night’s sleep.

4. Air your mattress

Top of mattress on a bed

If possible, air your mattress by placing it outside in a sunny spot for about six hours. The extra effort will be worth it as the sun can kill off any bacteria living in your mattress leaving you with a fresh, germ-free bed!

Airing your mattress will also prevent any accumulating moisture that can lead to mould, and will banish any lingering odours. Alternatively, you can also air your mattress by opening a window to let in fresh air and sunlight, waiting for at least ten minutes to let your mattress breathe.

5. Rotate your mattress

This will help avoid a build up of dirt in one area, and will also help maintain the integrity and shape of your mattress, helping it last for longer. Unless your mattress is designed to be flipped, always rotate your mattress head to foot – check the manufacturers label to be sure.

How to clean mattress stains

Getting stains out of a mattress may seem like an unpleasant task, but it’s better to remove them straight away before they become embedded. Note: Be sure to check any instructions on your mattress tags – including any care labels – before you begin, and careful not to apply too much water or stain remover to your mattress.

1. For simple or unidentified stains, clean your mattress with a citrus cleanser or diluted dish detergent. Spray the cleanser and let it sit for five or ten minutes. Blot the mattress repeatedly to remove excess liquid.

Spray cleaner being applied to the top of a mattress

2. For urine stains, start by blotting the area with a dry towel, cloth or paper towels, then head to our guide to removing urine stains from a mattress for detailed  advice.

3. Bloodstains should be removed with cold water only (hot liquids will set the stains for good). Our tips for removing fresh or dried blood stains should help you clean things up quickly. 

4. For particularly stubborn stains, try applying baking soda after detergent. Let the baking soda set, ideally overnight, and vacuum the area the next day.

How to clean a pillow-top mattress

The soft pillow layer that sits on the surface of this mattress is very absorbent, so tackling the stain as soon as possible after it's happened is key. Always try to treat any stains while it’s still in the pillow top area, and try to avoid letting the stain soak down into the mattress itself. These mattresses also take longer to dry out, so you’ll need to plan when you’re going to clean it to ensure it has enough drying time.

  1. Dab the liquid from the surface of the mattress as possible using a clean cloth or towel. Don’t wipe or scrub, as you could encourage the stain to spread, and try not to use paper towels as they could leave white papery fibres all over your mattress.
  2. Hoover the entire surface once the mattress feels dry. This will remove the layer of dust and dirt that affects your access to the stain.
  3. Use a stain remover or a small amount of liquid detergent (or some powdered detergent made into a thick paste with a little bit of water), apply to a sponge, and gently dab the sponge to the soiled area. The idea is to keep the mattress as dry as possible, while still cleaning effectively. Move the sponge around to massage the detergent into the pillow layer of the mattress, helping it to tackle stains that have soaked into the fibres.
  4. Gently remove the cleaning product with a clean sponge or cloth. You could also try using a small amount of white vinegar, which will help remove any soap suds from your mattress and eliminate any bad odours – this is especially important if the stain is particularly strong.
  5. Allow the mattress to dry naturally. This can take a while, but you can help to speed up the process by opening the bedroom windows, or even better, taking it outdoors into the sunshine.
  6. Check the mattress for any signs of discolouration or lingering odours. For discolouration, repeat steps 3-5. For lingering smells, sprinkle a thick covering of baking soda onto the area to absorb any leftover odours and leave for roughly eight hours before hoovering away.

How to clean a memory foam mattress

Memory foam is responsive to the weight and pressure of your body on the mattress, contouring around it to make you snug. It’s a petroleum-based material so requires slightly different cleaning to other mattress materials. Avoid using harsh cleaners like bleach or hydrogen peroxide, as these will damage the memory foam.

  1. Start by hoovering the surface in circular motions, not forgetting the sides of the mattress too.
  2. Treat any stains by blotting the stain with water and sprinkling the area with boric acid, leaving for 15 minutes. Blot the area with a damp sponge to remove the stain and all traces of acid or cleaner and allow the mattress to air-dry. 
  3. Mix up a cleaning solution in a spray bottle. We recommend two-parts warm water and one-part quality detergent. Lightly spray the entire mattress, taking care not to soak it. To rinse, blot the mattress with a damp sponge to remove any traces of detergent.
  4. Remove any remaining odours by sprinkling the entire mattress with baking soda. Leave to sit for at least eight hours, or for best results, leave it to sit overnight before vacuuming away the baking soda.
  5. Flip your mattress to prolong its life. Not all memory foam mattresses allow this, so check the manufacturers label first.

How to clean a mattress protector

Aside from protecting your mattress from dirt and stains, the good thing about mattress toppers is that they’re removable and washable. We recommend washing them every couple of months to keep them fresh and clean.

  1. Pre-treat spots or stains on your mattress topper with spot cleaners before throwing them in the wash. Simply spray the soiled area with a stain remover and allow to sit for about five to ten minutes before you begin your wash.
  2. Put on a delicate cycle on a cold temperature, using a gentle detergent
  3. Rinse twice to ensure all the detergent is properly removed.
  4. Air dry for best results or tumble dry on a low heat if the care label allows.

Answers to your mattress cleaning questions

How do you deep clean a mattress?

  1. Hoover your mattress and sprinkle with baking soda, leaving it to work for 24 hours before hoovering it away.
  2. Next, to eliminate any dust mites, make a solution of 1/2 litre of water with two teaspoons of eucalyptus essential oils (which will kill mites) in a spray bottle and spritz over the entire mattress, leaving it to dry.
  3. Then, make a disinfectant spray by mixing two cups of water with 1/2 cup of white vinegar, 1/4 cup of alcohol (at least 60 per cent proof) and 10-20 drops of eucalyptus or tea tree oil, and spritz lightly over your mattress.
  4. Wipe away any excess moisture with a clean, damp cloth, and allow to dry.

What causes yellow stains on a mattress?

Bodily fluids, sweat, skin and oils from your hair can all contribute to unsightly yellow stains found on a mattress.

You can treat these by combining baking powder, salt, and water together to make a paste and applying to the stain, rubbing it in and leaving to work for 30 minutes before removing it with a damp, clean cloth.

How do I get my mattress white again?

  1. Hoover your mattress then cover it in baking soda, working it in with a brush and leave to work for ten minutes.
  2. Add one tablespoon of clean washing up liquid or hand soap to a spray bottle full of water, shake up and spray over the mattress.
  3. Fill a spray bottle with half water, half hydrogen peroxide and spray the mixture across the mattress.
  4. Add more baking soda over the mattress using a white towel or cloth to work in.
  5. Let the mixture dry and vacuum away any residue. It should now be looking good as new.  

Originally published