How to steam clean a mattress – to ensure a healthy night’s sleep

Discover how to steam clean a mattress to keep it germ-free and feeling fresh

mattress being steam cleaned
(Image credit: Getty images / DZIANIS BARYSAU)

Knowing how to steam clean a mattress is one of the best things you can do to ensure the bed bugs don’t bite. As something we spend an awful lot of time on, it’s important you know how to clean a mattress properly. 

They’re usually a pretty big investment too, so you’ll want to make sure it lasts. There are various methods you can use, but steam cleaning is arguably the most effective. Reaching temperatures upwards of 250℉, it does an excellent job of killing off mites and bacteria, while also breaking down stains and dirt.

Steam cleaning is also incredibly eco-friendly. Water and steam are all it takes to get the job done, no harsh chemicals necessary; something to bear in mind when debating how to clean upholstery in general. Any item that you come into contact with regularly should ideally be free of harsh chemicals that could irritate your skin or aggravate allergies.

So we’ve established it’s one of the best cleaning tips, but how do you go about steam cleaning a mattress? With the help of a few experts, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide, containing all the details you need to know.

How to steam clean a mattress

If you’re planning to steam clean your mattress, make it the first thing you do when cleaning a bedroom. It’s not difficult, but it does take a bit of time to dry – do it too late in the day and you might be facing a night on the sofa!

Before you begin, it’s crucial that you check whether your mattress is suitable for steam cleaning. Most are, but some (usually those made from memory foam) may be more sensitive to moisture and require more specialized cleaning methods.  

mattress and pillows on bed

(Image credit: January Furniture Show)

1. Strip the bed

Start by removing the bed of all linens, including the mattress protector. This is a good opportunity to wash the rest of your bedding, too. It’s not as arduous as it sounds. Can you wash pillows in a washing machine? Usually yes (and your duvet, too, if you’ve got a big enough drum) but check the laundry symbols first to be sure.  

2. Spot treat stains

Before you start steam cleaning, you should pre-treat any stains, ideally as soon as they happen. Soak them with a dry absorbent cloth, then dab away with cold water and a sponge. Avoid using hot water as this can set the stain. If it isn’t shifting, try using a specialist stain remover (steer clear of anything that contains chemicals such as bleach or ammonia – enzyme cleaners, at Walmart, are your best bet), or use a nice natural remedy such as cleaning with baking soda

‘Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and can be sprinkled on the mattress, left for a few hours, then vacuumed up. Enzyme cleaners work by breaking down organic materials and can be particularly effective for removing urine or blood stains’, says Ahmed Jamal, cleaning expert for Cleaners Advisor.  

3. Vacuum the mattress

mattress being cleaned with vacuum

(Image credit: Getty images / Andrii Borodai)

Use a handheld vacuum cleaner, at Amazon to remove dust particles and debris from the surface of the mattress, including the sides. ‘Don’t be tempted to skip this step; it allows the steam to penetrate the mattress and makes for a deeper clean overall’, says Justin Carpenter, general manager at Dallas-based cleaning service, Modern Maids.

4. Assemble and prep your equipment

Experts recommend using a handheld steam cleaner for cleaning a mattress, such as the BISSELL Little Green multi-purpose carpet and upholstery cleaner, 1400B on Amazon; ‘it’s portable, light-weight and easy to move around, meaning you can use it to clean the entire surface, including the sides,' says Val Oliveira, CEO and owner of Chicago-based cleaning company, Val’s Cleaning Services. 

You also have the option of renting a commercial steamer if you don’t have the space to store your own. Most steamers have a water tank, a wand for applying the steam, and a motor to generate heat. Fill the tank, turn it on, and allow it to heat up before getting to work. How you assemble will vary from steamer to steamer, so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Val Oliveira
Val Oliveira

Val Oliveira is an entrepreneur who set up Val's Services with the mission of bringing the spirit of 'Faxina,' a Brazilian-inspired spring cleaning to Chicago.

5. Steam clean the mattress

Hold your steam cleaner about 6 inches above the mattress and work your way across the entire surface using slow, even strokes. ‘Avoid staying in one spot for too long, as this can saturate the mattress and cause damage, or lead to mold growth’, says Val. Don’t forget to do the sides, too.

four poster bed with white pillows

(Image credit: Future PLC / Paul Raeside)


How often should you steam clean a mattress?

Val recommends cleaning and steaming your mattress on a bi-weekly basis. If you’re unable to clean it every other week, once a month will do. ‘This will help to remove dust mites, allergens and bacteria, however, if you have allergies or respiratory problems, it may be necessary to steam clean your mattress more frequently’, she says. 

Lifestyle also plays a part in how often you steam clean your mattress. If you sleep with pets, or children, eat in bed regularly, or have a tendency to sweat at night, you’ll likely need to give your mattress more frequent TLC to prevent smells and stains from setting in. 

How long does it take for a steamed clean mattress to dry?

The drying time for a mattress generally lasts between 5 to 8 hours, but there are a few things you can do to speed up the process, such as opening windows or positioning a fan towards it. The main thing is to ensure it is completely dry before you put on fresh sheets.

Does steam cleaning a mattress get rid of bed bugs?

'While steam-cleaning can help to reduce the population of bed bugs, it may not completely eliminate them,' says Val. 'If you have an infestation, we’d advise getting a professional exterminator out to ensure it’s been completely eradicated.' 

Like with most things, prevention is better than cure. Once you’ve rid your mattress of any infestation, keep on top of regular mattress maintenance to ensure your bed remains bug-free going forwards. 

‘The best way to keep a mattress clean and hygienic in the long-term is to routinely vacuum and steam clean. Vacuuming helps to remove dust particles and debris, while steam cleaning helps to eliminate germs, bacteria, and other pathogens,' says cleaning expert Justin Carpenter. 

Rotating the mattress regularly helps, as does using one of the best mattress protectors. This acts as a barrier between the mattress and any spills, stains, or debris that could accumulate over time. It can be easily removed and washed, which keeps the mattress fresher for longer,' adds Ahmed Jamal. 

There’s nothing more comforting than settling down for the night in a fresh-feeling bed. While changing the sheets may feel like enough, it’s actually your mattress that’s a hotbed for dust and germs.

Contributing Editor

For 10 years, Tara King worked as a Content Editor in the magazine industry, before leaving to become freelance, covering interior design, wellbeing, craft and homemaking. As well as writing for Ideal Home, Style at Home, Country Homes & Interiors, Tara’s keen eye for styling combined with a passion for creating a happy – and functional – family home has led to a series of organization and cleaning features for H&G.