How to clean a mattress – for a hygienic and healthy bedroom

Find out how to clean a mattress so it’s free of dust, allergens and stains, and smells fresh, too

grey and white bedroom
(Image credit: Hilton and Hyland)

Since we spend around one-third of our lives in bed, knowing how to clean a mattress along with bed linens is important for good hygiene.

Even with a mattress protector, a mattress becomes dirty over time since we all shed skin and sweat, it can be stained, and (unpleasant though it is) because dust mites dwell in the bed, producing droppings that can trigger allergies.

For all these reasons, a mattress should be cleaned periodically to keep it fresh and unmarked. These are the cleaning tips to follow.

How to clean a mattress

Making your mattress smell nice isn't a sufficient alternative to regular cleaning. 

Deep cleaning your mattress should be on the list of tasks when cleaning a bedroom, although it won’t need to be undertaken as regularly as other things on the list. Every six months is a good guideline, although you may wish to do so more frequently for someone with allergies.

1. Gather your mattress cleaning supplies

To deep clean a mattress, you'll first need to make sure you have the following cleaning supplies to hand:

  • Vacuum with an upholstery attachment 

  • Enzyme cleaner or dish soap 

  • Laundry detergent
  • Hydrogen peroxide – for protein-based stains
  • Baking soda

  • Cleaning cloths 

  • Water

2. Strip the bed and wash all bedding

Strip the bed of all linens, including any mattress protector. Wash all bed linen according to the laundry labels. Can you wash a mattress cover? You can – and it’s worth knowing, too, how to wash a pillow, as this is a task you may want to complete at the same time.

3. Vacuum the mattress

'Vacuum your mattress with the upholstery attachment,' says Sabrina Fierman, from New York’s Little Elves premiere cleaning service, the top choice of renowned interior designers and their clients. 'We always recommend canister type vacuums with attachments. Make sure to invest in the best vacuum for a stronger, deeper clean. Be sure to use the crevice attachment for edges and folds.'

Sally Hancox, buying manager at Soak & Sleep, says, 'Use a vacuum to clean all sides to ensure the removal of all hair and dirt.'

4. Spot clean with a stain remover

'For a super-fresh mattress, use a specialist mattress cleaning solution for any stains, and finish by spraying lightly with a fabric freshener to bring a nice fresh scent,' says Sally. 

'Using fabric sprays, deodorizers or sanitizers on your mattress is a good way to keep it fresh and clean, but always ensure not to use too much and always make sure it's bone dry before re-making your bed.'

Sabrina comments: 'You can also make your own with common household products. For protein-based stains (blood, sweat, urine), use an enzyme cleaner.' See below for her do-it-yourself recipes: 

Sweat: lightly spray with hydrogen peroxide until slightly damp. Let dry and repeat as necessary. 

Blood: Make a paste with 2oz hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and 1 tbsp each of liquid dish soap and salt (I prefer Liquid Ivory). Apply for 10 minutes, scrape away and clean residue with rag dampened with H2O2. Stain can be additionally treated with light spraying and drying of hydrogen peroxide. 

Urine: Make a paste with 3oz baking soda, 8oz of H2O2, a drop of dish soap. Don’t drench the stain but use a rag with this solution to dab and remove. Continually use the clean area of the rag. 

All other stains: Make paste with 2 tbsp white powdered laundry detergent (no blue, no bleach) and 1 tbsp H2O2

How to clean your mattress

(Image credit: Future / Jonathan Gooch)

5. Air dry your mattress

Always air dry completely, says Sabrina, as moisture in your mattress can grow mildew or mold.

So how do you air dry your mattress? Adam Black, co-founder of Button & Sprung, advises: 'It’s a good idea to regularly air out your mattress by removing all of the sheets – including the mattress protector – and leaving the room with all of the windows open for a few hours; this can help the mattress to self-ventilate.'

And Soak & Sleep's Sally Hancox says you can even do this for half and hour while you're getting ready for the day, adding: 'Keep things healthy by airing your bed each day. Half an hour or so while you're showering and getting dressed should do the trick. 

'This helps excess moisture to evaporate so your bed stays fresher and cleaner. Once a week you should air your bed for a few hours by turning back all bedding from the mattress to allow any moisture to evaporate.'

6. Sprinkle baking soda

Using a nice natural remedy like cleaning with baking soda is a good way to get rid of dust mites.

Sally Hancox says: 'Giving a mattress a full clean by vacuuming and applying a baking soda or specialist treatment is a great way to get rid of dust mites and other nasties that may be living in your mattress.

'Mix one cup of baking soda with a few drops of essential oils (such as lavender or lemon), and shake the mixture over the bed allowing it to dry, then vacuum off for a naturally refreshing, clean scent.'

Sabrina adds: 'Have fun and use a strainer or sifter if you have one. Young children will enjoy helping you with this step. Leave for a couple of hours if possible as the longer you leave it the better it will work. This is also a great time to leave the mattress in the sun. The UV light helps kill mold and bacteria.'

7. Vacuum again

After leaving your mattress to air dry, vacuum one last time to get rid of the baking soda and pick up any additional bacteria or dust, suggests Sally.

8. Flip the mattress

'Some mattresses can be flipped and thus the steps above should be repeated on the flip side,' says Sabrina. 'For pillow top mattresses, turn the bed 180 degrees. This step can be done more frequently throughout the year to increase longevity of the mattress.'

So why is it a good idea to flip your mattress? Soak & Sleep's Sally Hancox explains: 'Your mattress will adapt to the weight and contours of your body; therefore rotating your mattress from foot to end will keep the filling even and extend the life of your mattress. 

'Flip or turn your mattress every few weeks to maintain its shape and firmness - this easy task is a good way to make sure you’re extending the life of your bed.'

And Button & Sprung's Adam Black says: 'Double-sided mattresses are designed to be flipped over. You should ideally flip a double-sided mattress twice a year as well as rotating it when seasons and temperatures change. 

'Pocket sprung mattresses need to be rotated ideally four times a year, this ensures that the mattress is broken in evenly across the surface.'

9. Use a mattress protector

'Put a mattress protector on your newly cleaned and dried mattress,' says Sabrina. 'I recommend using a high quality bed bug cover that will seal the mattress and protect it from future dust mites, dreaded bed bugs, and future staining. 

'You may want to consider a professional upholstery cleaner for your mattress. They have very strong vacuums that will clean deeply. They can deodorize and treat stains, and will handle any heavy lifting.'

Sally says: 'A great way to ensure that dust mites don't spread is by using an impenetrable barrier protection such as an anti-bug mattress protector. It also helps keep your mattress fresh and clean and extends the life of your mattress.'

And Adam Black confirms the importance of a mattress protector, adding: 'We strongly recommend the use of a mattress protector, as this acts as an added layer of protection against marking or other accidents. We recommend natural mattress protectors, as a protector containing synthetic materials will negate the breathability benefit of a mattress with natural fillings.’  

How to clean a mattress

(Image credit: Future / Nato Welton)

Expert tips on how to clean your mattress

Adam Black's insider tips could come in handy when tackling the mattress clean.

He says: 'When cleaning your mattress, a soft brush is great for removing dust and fluff the vacuum cleaner might have missed. 

'Stains and spillages should be absorbed using a dry cloth or paper towels; baby wipes also work effectively. If you need to sponge the mattress, we think a damp cloth and a mild solution of soap and water works well.' 

How can I make my mattress feel as clean as a hotel's?

Want your bed to feel as clean as a crisp, five star hotel's? After cleaning the mattress, dress the bed, then 'relax any unwanted wrinkles in bed sheets with some fragranced water. Simply spritz your water (plain old tap water) on your almost-made bed (keep the corners sticking out) and spray and shake your sheet or duvet until smooth and wrinkle-free,' says Kate Henderson, duty manager at Daffodil Hotel.

Mattress aftercare

Once you’ve cleaned your mattress it pays to keep up with ‘mattress housekeeping’. We’ve compiled the following list to help keep your mattress in the best shape possible.

1. Don't make the bed straightaway

One mistake we often make is to make our beds once we’ve got up, but actually it’s better if you pull back the duvet and bed covers for at least 30 minutes to cool down before making it, the reason being is that dust mites love the warmth of your bed. This applies even if you use a mattress topper as they don’t prevent dust mites and other allergens.  

2. Clean your sheets

Try to get into a weekly routine with changing and washing bed sheets. After all, there is nothing nicer than sinking into freshly laundered sheets.

3. Get flipping

We touched on the importance of flipping or rotating your mattress earlier, and it's a great way to prevent sagging.

Flip your mattress every few months, and make sure you have a helper as it can be hard on your own.  

4. Don't eat in bed

For some, this is perhaps the hardest rule to follow. If you are an avid midnight snacker, it might be time to stop now (but make an exception for the hotel-style chocolate, above).

5. Don't allow pets on the bed

Muddy paws, pet dander and dirt can contribute to increased bacteria levels, so think twice before you let Buddy cuddle up to you in bed. 

And if you absolutely can't resist, be prepared to wash bed linen far more frequently and invest in the best vacuum for pet hair.

6. Use natural cleaners if possible

We’ve already mentioned the versatile bicarbonate of soda above but have you thought of using vodka? Use neat or mix with water in a spray bottle, then spritz your mattress and it will remove odors. Just remember to let your mattress dry completely before making it again.  

7. Replace your mattress

While cleaning a mattress will no doubt extend its lifespan, all good things must come to an end. 

After eight to 10 years, consider investing in a brand new mattress. Body impressions, sagging and lose of firmness indicate that it’s no longer providing the adequate support you need on a daily basis. It is also wise to listen to your body. No one wants to wake up in pain after a poor sleep experience.

Sophie Warren-Smith
Contributing Editor

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 20 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time, both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor for indie magazine, 91, she trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for modern weddings and events. For H&G, she writes features about interior design – and is known for having an eye for a beautiful room.