Life & Design

How to clean a mattress – in 9 simple steps

They tend to harbour dust, germs and mites, so follow these simple steps for a super-hygienic bed…

How to clean a mattress
(Image credit: Interiors Fox)

A good mattress is an expensive investment, so you want to make sure it lasts for many years – and that means mastering how to clean a mattress. 

Mattresses need cleaning at least every six months – and if you suffer from allergies or have pets – then it’s even more important, as Martha Stewart explains, ‘Even if you use a mattress protector – and virtually all mattress manufacturers and experts suggest you do – your bed can get dirty over time. Dust mites, dead skin and sweat can seep down into the mattress' fibers, causing stains and unpleasant odors. And since you can't simply toss your mattress into the washer when it needs a refresh, it's easy to assume that cleaning yours is a hassle.’  

The good news is that cleaning a mattress is far easier than led to believe. Read on to discover the 9 foolproof steps that will help you keep your mattress clean all-year-round. 

How to clean your mattress

(Image credit: Future / Jonathan Gooch)
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How to clean a mattress

We asked Sabrina Fierman from New York’s Little Elves premiere cleaning service – the top choice of renowned interior designers and their clients – for her top tips on how to clean a mattress: 

1. Start by gathering 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 
  • Access to cold water

2. Strip the bed and wash all bedding

Strip the bed of all bedding, including any mattress pads and protectors. Wash all bedding according to the manufacturer's directions and do not forget the duvet cover if you have one. 

3. Vacuum the mattress

Vacuum your mattress with the upholstery attachment. We always recommend canister type vacuums with attachments. The stronger the vacuum, the deeper it will clean. Be sure to use the crevasse attachment for edges and folds.

4. Spot clean with a stain remover

Spot clean stains. When shopping for cleaners, consider the scent, as many are sensitive to fragrances. You can also make your own with common household products. For protein based stains (blood, sweat, urine), use an enzyme cleaner. For do-it-your-self recipes: 

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

Blood: Make a paste with 2 oz 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 3 oz baking soda, 8 oz of H2O2, a drop of dish soap. Don’t drench the stain but use a rag with this solution to dap 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 H2O. 

5. Air dry your mattress

Always air dry completely. Moisture in your mattress can grow mildew or mold.

6. Sprinkle baking soda

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

Vacuum up the baking soda (include the headboard if applicable). 

8. Flip the mattress

Some mattresses can be flipped and thus steps above should be repeated on the flip side. 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. 

9. Protect your mattress

With your newly cleaned and dried mattress, put a mattress protector on it. 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.

How to clean a mattress

(Image credit: Future / Nato Welton)
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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 it 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 topper as they don’t prevent dust mites and other allergens.  

2. Clean your sheets

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

3. Flip the mattress every so often

Prevent sagging by flipping your mattress every few months, just 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.

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 Mr. Tiddles cuddle up to you in bed. 

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 odours, 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 8-10 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.