Can you clean a mattress with a carpet cleaner? Experts settle the debate so you can avoid damage

It may do the job, but at what cost... the experts reveal all

carpet cleaner on mattress
(Image credit: Getty images / Kittiphan Teerawattanakul / EyeEm)

These nifty machines are brilliant at getting stains out of carpets, so it’s understandable to question whether you can clean a mattress with a carpet cleaner, too. Doubling up would make for an easier life, we agree, but can it be done without the risk of damage?

Finding the best mattress can be a lengthy, and potentially expensive, process, so when it comes to cleaning a mattress, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing all the right things to keep it in tip-top condition. More than that, you’ll want to ensure you’re not doing anything that could potentially cause damage. Arming yourself with the right tools for the task needs to take priority. 

So, can you clean a mattress with a carpet cleaner? It‘s a bit of a tricky one; you’ll find a lot of conflicting advice online. Technically, the answer is yes, in some cases. Is it the best way? No, not really. If you’re feeling confused, don’t worry – we’ve spoken to the experts for more clarity on the subject, so you can make an informed decision. 

Why to question cleaning a mattress with a carpet cleaner

Depending on what you read, you’ll get mixed advice on whether you can clean a mattress with a carpet cleaner. Some sources will say it’s fine, others will advise against it. Why the divided opinion? The most likely reason is assumptions around what type of mattress you’re looking to clean. 

‘Not all mattresses are created equal. Some, such as memory foam mattresses, are delicate and easily damaged by excessive water and pressure used in carpet cleaning machines. Traditional spring mattresses on the other hand, tend to be more resilient, and can usually handle them’, says Rachel Rios, cleaning expert at Guelph Maids

Another likely reason is confusion around what actually constitutes a carpet cleaner – some may be getting it confused with the more generic steam cleaner, which is an expert-approved way of cleaning a mattress. 

mattress and pillows on bed

(Image credit: January Furniture Show)

What’s the difference between a steam cleaner and a carpet cleaner?

As we’ve touched on above, there’s often confusion around these two pieces of cleaning equipment, leading one to assume they’re interchangeable when it comes to mattress cleaning – not the case.

While steam-cleaning uses a simple combination of water and steam, carpet cleaners add chemical-based cleaning detergents into the mix. While fine for hard-wearing carpets, most of them are too harsh for mattresses. Plus there’s the added issue of using chemicals on an item you come into such close contact with every night. 

Carpet cleaners also have much higher suction levels than a steam cleaner – not surprising, given their purpose. Getting deep into carpet fibers requires a tough approach, while a mattress definitely does not. The same goes for inner brushes; those on a carpet cleaner are much rougher; they could potentially snag the fabric and cause permanent damage. 

All things considered, if you're the owner of a spring mattress (and you’ve checked the manufacturer’s instructions very carefully) you may well decide to give a carpet cleaner a go. That’s up to you, but if you do, cleaning expert Ahmad Jamal at CleanersAdvisor suggests taking a few precautionary measures. 

‘Make sure you use a cleaning solution designed for fabrics and upholstery, as opposed to carpets, and test it on a small area first to ensure it doesn’t damage or discolor your mattress. You’ll want to apply the lowest-pressure setting to be on the safe side, too’. 

Ahmad Jamal

Ahmad is a self-proclaimed 'clean-freak', with years of experience tackling tough cleaning projects and advising others on how to deal with the worst of messes. 

Can I clean a memory foam mattress with a carpet cleaner?

If you’re wondering how to clean a memory foam mattress, the answer is with caution. Again, as we’ve mentioned above, they’re much more sensitive to moisture than spring ones. 

‘Using a carpet cleaner (or a steam cleaner, for that matter) on them could damage the material or cause it to become overly wet. This in turn could lead to mold growth over time – something you definitely want to avoid,' says Val Oliviera, owner of Val’s Cleaning Services.  

Can you clean a mattress with carpet cleaner solutions and sprays?

Yes, you can use carpet cleaner solutions and sprays to rid your mattress of stubborn stains. However, when they’re laden with toxins and chemicals, the question becomes, do you really want to? If it’s a healthy night’s sleep you’re trying to achieve, experts would recommend taking a more natural approach to spot-treating stains. 

'Baking soda, at Walmart is a good stain remover which also neutralizes odor,' says April Mayer, a sleep expert. 'Mix one part baking soda and two parts cold water. Rub solution on the stain, and let it sit for 30 minutes. Dip a dry cloth in clean water and remove any residue. Blot dry with a clean towel or paper towel. 

If you’re now questioning, can I shampoo a mattress at all? The answer is yes, of course; just be mindful of what you use. ‘When deciding, bypass harsh chemical cleaners in favor of a mild detergent or eco-friendly upholstery shampoo, instead. After washing, make sure the mattress is thoroughly dry before putting fresh sheets back on,' advises Isabella Gordan, sleep expert and co-founder of Sleep Society. 

Ahmad Jamal also recommends an enzyme cleaner, available at Walmart; they work by breaking down organic materials and can be particularly effective for removing urine or blood stains,’ he says. They’re safe to use on a memory foam mattress, too. 


How can I deep clean my mattress at home?

So, if not with a carpet cleaner of sorts, what is the best thing to clean a mattress with? As you have likely already gathered, a hand-held steam cleaner is a great way to clean a mattress, arguably the most effective (unless you’re working with memory foam or latex) in fact, particularly if you’re looking for a deep clean. 

You can also buy steam cleaners that are specifically designed for mattresses, with adjustable pressure settings and temperature controls which help ensure optimal performance while ensuring fabric fibers stay protected’, says Phi Dang, Director of Sidepost

Having said that, knowing how to steam clean a mattress properly is essential; if you don’t do it properly – or you do it too often – damage is still a possibility, so it’s worth considering other methods to use in conjunction. 

A mattress is one of the many things that you can clean with baking soda. Sprinkle it onto the mattress, leave it for a few hours (or overnight, if possible) and vacuum up. As well as eliminating odors, it breaks down dirt and soaks up any liquid that might be on the mattress, reducing the chance of permanent staining,' says Millie Hurst, section editor at Homes & Gardens. 

If you’re wondering can baking soda can kill bed bugs, the answer is no, unfortunately. What it is good for, however, is keeping your mattress fresh and white, and as long as you’re steam cleaning regularly, the bed bugs won’t bite. 

millie hurst news writer
Millie Hurst

Millie Hurst is Section Editor at Homes & Gardens, overseeing the Solved section, which provides readers with practical advice for their homes. Millie has written about and tried out countless cleaning and DIY hacks in the six years since she became a journalist, and has worked in both London and New York. 

Is it ok to vacuum a mattress?

Ok, so they’re not strictly a ‘carpet cleaner’, but they do clean carpets. So, to avoid any confusion, we think it’s worth noting that there is absolutely no reason why you can’t vacuum a mattress, as long as you’re hygienic about it, that is – using the same attachment that you clean your floor, car and pet bed with is one of the worst mattress cleaning mistakes to avoid

Instead, either use a dedicated upholstery attachment if your vacuum came with one, or invest in a specialized mattress vacuum cleaner, like this one on Amazon

In conclusion, yes, in some cases, you can clean a mattress with a carpet cleaner, but there are risks involved. And with so many alternative cleaning options available, do you really want to take them? We'll leave that one up to you!   

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.