No one wants to add another item to their household cleaning to-do list, but if you want to extend the useful life of your mattress and keep it free of stains and odors, then it’s important that you know how to clean it. You will also need mattress cleaning tips if you have issues with dust mites or bed bugs.

In this guide, we’ll cover the why and how when it comes to cleaning your mattress. We’ll discuss regular maintenance and spot cleaning as well as ways to prevent damage to your mattress in the first place. And ultimately, we’ll tell you about the signs that what your mattress isn’t cleaning but replacement.

 

Do You Need to Clean a Mattress?

Before we get into how to clean a mattress, it’s necessary to first address why you need to clean it in the first place. In the big picture, keeping your mattress in clean and working order can help enhance its durability in two main ways. First, cleaning can help prevent acute problems that might require you to get rid of your mattress. For example, if your mattress becomes irrevocably infested with bed bugs or overtaken with mold, then it isn’t long for this world. Second, cleaning can also help keep the mattress materials in top condition. If food, liquids, dust, sweat, or other things get into and permeate your mattress, they can weaken the materials and shorten the lifespan of the mattress itself.

In addition, cleaning your mattress can help you sleep better and reduce secondary health effects. Cleaning your mattress and the area around it can reduce the number of allergens (including dust mites) that accumulate near where you sleep. Fewer allergens can mean that you breathe more freely, sleep more soundly, and just plain feel better. Cleaning can also eliminate unpleasant odors. A stinky mattress makes it hard to have a welcoming sleep environment, which experts routinely point to as a central part of good sleep hygiene.

 

What Are the Signs That a Mattress Needs Cleaning?

Many of the indicators that help you know that it’s time to clean other parts of your home apply equally to your mattress. If you’re not sure of when your mattress needs cleaning, be on the lookout for these signs:

  • Consistent smell: if there’s a funk in your bedroom, give your mattress a hearty sniff. Any sort of off or unpleasant odor is a sure sign that your mattress could use some attention as part of your household cleaning.
  • Obvious stains: if you change your sheets and see any stains, that’s a tell-tale sign that there’s at least one part of your mattress that needs to be cleaned. This can often be a good opportunity to give the whole mattress a once-over even if the stained area itself is relatively small.
  • Persistent or increased symptoms of allergies: the most common reactions to bedroom allergens manifest in symptoms of upper respiratory issues — scratchy throat, sneezing, sniffling, and coughing. Other symptoms can include irritated or itchy eyes or skin. While these symptoms can also be caused by many other things (such as the common cold), if you find that they do not go away or if they are worsening over time, then it could be related to allergies. While it’s also important to talk to your doctor in this scenario, this can also be an indication that you need to clean your mattress to try to remove excess allergens.

 

What Regular Maintenance is Needed to Keep a Mattress Clean?

One of the best ways to stay ahead of things when it comes to mattress cleanliness is to make it part of a routine. Though you may not need to do it as frequently as often as other household chores, cleaning your mattress on a regular schedule keeps it from getting to the point where it becomes more difficult or even overwhelming to clean.

Start developing a plan for maintaining your mattress by checking for any information offered by the manufacturer regarding cleaning and upkeep. Some mattress materials may require speciality cleaning methods, so you’ll want to review any instructions provided by the mattress maker.

Other tips for regular maintenance and cleaning of your mattress include:

  • Change and wash sheets often: your sheets serve as a barrier that can help to keep things like sweat, crumbs, and dust from getting to your mattress. But if these things build up in your sheets, they will of course transfer to your mattress in short order. As a result, washing your sheets with regularity is a great way to help maintain your mattress and reduce the need for deeper cleaning.
  • Vacuum your mattress: using your vacuum over the surface of your mattress can help to pick up particles of dust and skin and keep your mattress fresh. Many mattresses come with an upholstery attachment that typically works best for this purpose.
  • Don’t wait on stains or spills: if you spill something on your mattress or if you notice a stain, act fast to try to take care of it. Letting it sit, dry, and/or settle in only makes it harder to deal with later.
  • Give it some air: it can be helpful to let your mattress get fresh air, and usually the best time to do this is why you’ve taken off the sheets to wash them. If your mattress is up against a wall, it may be helpful to move it just a few inches away to allow airflow around all four sides.

 

Spot Cleaning

In addition to regular maintenance of your mattress, you may find times when you need to deal with an immediate cleaning issue. These more acute situations or times when you only need to focus on a smaller part of the mattress is known as “spot cleaning.”

In the sections below, we’ll outline how to address some of the most common reasons for spot cleaning of your mattress. Before we get into these details, though, remember that it’s always wise to see if the manufacturer has offered any specific guidance for how to clean the mattress.

If the mattress has particular cleaning requirements based on its construction or materials, the manufacturer is in the best position to provide those details.

Spills, Spots, and Stains

Spills can come in many types depending on what and how much was spilled. You’ll want to quickly clean up any spills in order to prevent anything from soaking into the mattress or staining the cover. These are the basic steps for handling spills:

  1. Use a towel or paper towels to blot up whatever is on the mattress. Blotting is a better strategy than wiping, which can just smear a spill over a greater surface area. Make sure to keep blotting until you are no longer pulling up any liquid as this helps to ensure that as much of the spill as possible is removed.
  2. Make a small amount of non-abrasive cleaner to apply to the spill:
    • If the spill is of a bodily fluid (such as blood), then you’ll want to use a strong cleaner like laundry detergent. Mix just a pinch of laundry detergent with cold water and put it in a spray bottle.
    • In case of other types of spills, just use dish soap mixed with cold water and put into a spray bottle.
  3. Very lightly spray the cleaning solution onto the affected area. It is important not to soak the area as you want the mattress to dry out easily.
  4. Let the cleaning solution stand and then blot dry. After applying, leave the solution for 2-5 minutes and then use a clean towel or paper towels to soak it up.
  5. If necessary, repeat this process. Depending on the stain, it may take 2-3 applications to clean the area.
  6. If a smell or stain persists, use baking soda. You can sprinkle a small amount of baking soda on the area. Let the baking soda sit for a few hours and then vacuum it up.
  7. Give your mattress time to air out and dry. Once it is dry, you can put your sheets back on the mattress.

Spray Bottle

Smells

If you notice that your mattress isn’t smelling fresh, there are several steps that you can take:

  1. Start by vacuuming the mattress. This can get rid of anything residing on the surface and help make the next cleaning steps more effective.
  2. Very lightly apply a product to change the smell. You can choose from one of the following to help freshen up the smell of your mattress. Make sure not to oversaturate the mattress.
    • An odor-neutralizing product like Febreeze
    • A mixture of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water put into a spray bottle
    • A mixture of a small amount of dish soap mixed with water and put into a spray bottle
  3. Use a clean towel or paper towels to thoroughly blot the area dry.
  4. Let your mattress air out for several hours while it dries completely.
  5. Apply a light coat of baking soda to the mattress cover. Let it stand for a few hours and then vacuum again.

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are small, nocturnal insects that feed on human blood. These insects thrive in bedding and many other fabric-based products. They can be carried into your home or bedroom from numerous sources including on your pets, clothing, or luggage.

Bed Bug

A bed bug infestation can be frustrating and requires diligence to eliminate. All of the steps below are important to treating bed bugs on your mattress.

  1. Launder everything that you possibly can in hot water. This doesn’t just mean your bedding. It also means things like curtains, clothes, or any other soft things in your bedroom. Transfer them to the wash using a heavy duty trash bag. Wash in hot water and then use extended high-heat in the dryer to kill bed bugs.
  2. Bag and treat everything that can’t be laundered. Put everything else that you can — like clock radios, phones, magazines, and similar items — into sealed plastic bags and then add chemical products, such as Nuvan strips. These strips emit a vapor that is toxic to bed bugs. Make sure to follow all instructions on the chemical strips in order to ensure both safety and effectiveness.
  3. Find and kill bed bugs on all furniture in your home. Be vigilant and search using a flashlight or headlamp, peering into any cracks or crevasses. Vacuum up any bed bugs that you find, but do not use any brush attachments on your vacuum to prevent bed bugs catching in the bristles.
  4. Find and kill bed bugs on your mattress. Check any indentation, tear, or fold on your mattress. Again, vacuum up any bed bugs that you find.
  5. Seal your mattress in a mattress protector that fully encases the mattress. Any bed bugs that might have evaded you will be stuck in the encasement and will die off from lack of access to a food source.
  6. Deep clean your bedroom and home. If this seems redundant, that’s because it is. Bed bugs are hard to see, and if you don’t really get after them, they’ll re-infest your home, and all of your efforts will be for naught. It’s worth it to double down on the deep cleaning in order to increase the likelihood that you kill them for good.
  7. After a year has passed, remove the mattress protector and vacuum your mattress. Any bed bugs will be dead by that point, so there is no risk in opening the mattress protector so that you can vacuum up the remnants of dead bed bugs.

If you’ve tried these steps and still have bed bugs, it may be time to seek help from a professional with experience in bed bug eradication. Consult your local phone book or do an internet search to find a qualified exterminator in your area and ask them about their background in killing bed bugs and about their equipment and methods.

Dust Mites

Dust mites feed on discarded skin particles and thrive in warm, humid environments. Unfortunately, this means that they are particularly drawn to mattresses and bedding. The good news is that dust mites, though they cause most bedroom allergies, are less threatening and easier to eliminate than bed bugs. To take care of dust mites, follow these steps:

  1. Frequently wash your sheets and bedding in hot water. Don’t forget to wash pillowcases, duvet covers, and similar items. Doing this won’t necessarily kill all the dust mites, but it helps to remove skin cells from the mattress.
  2. Vacuum your mattress (and the rest of your bedroom, too). This can help get rid of dust mites and their food. Keeping the rest of your bedroom clean can also help in this process.
  3. If you have a steam cleaner, use it. Applying steam to your mattress will kill any dust mites that are present.
  4. Use a mattress protector to fully encase your mattress. This can prevent dust mites from accumulating on the mattress and, when combined with regularly changing your sheets, dramatically reduce the presence of dust mites in your bedroom.
  5. Reduce the humidity in your bedroom. A dehumidifier that can bring your bedroom humidity below 50% can make your bedroom much less hospitable to dust mites.

 

An Ounce of Prevention

If you hate cleaning your mattress and want to minimize how often you need to do it, then you’ll want to take steps to help protect your mattress from getting dirty or stained in the first place. Some of the clearest and easiest ways to do this include:

Keep pets away: no matter how tempting it is to let your pets sleep on the bed with you, there’s no denying that they make it harder to keep your mattress clean. Pet hair, dander, and drool can all contribute to the accumulation of gunk in your sheets and mattress and increase your need to clean it regularly. And if your pet has an accident on the bed, that can create a real cleanup headache.

Limit food and drink in bed: eating and drinking in bed are a primary cause for spills and stains on a mattress. Try to avoid this when you can or at the very least use a tray that can help to catch crumbs or spills.

Use a mattress pad or protector: these products can both offer a layer of defense for your mattress. A mattress pad goes over the top of your mattress while a protector fully encases it. There are many types of mattress pads and protectors including ones that are waterproof and hypoallergenic.

 

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Replace Your Mattress?

While cleaning a mattress can go a long way in extending its useful life and keeping it fresh, there are some circumstances in which your mattress is a lost cause and no amount of cleaning will revive it. Some of the signs that this is the case are listed below.

Spot cleaning doesn’t have any effect: if you find that problems persist no matter how many times you try to remove stains or eliminate an unwanted odor, it may very well be a sign that your mattress is too far gone. This is especially the case with odors that don’t go away as they may be an indication that damage has occurred beneath the cover of the mattress where they are much harder to resolve.

Ongoing or resistant bed bug infestation: while there are certainly steps that you can take to try to eliminate bed bugs, at a certain point, it may be necessary to just replace your mattress. If the bed bug infestation is extensive and resistant to all of your efforts, give serious consideration to finding a new mattress and disposing of the infested one. Keep in mind, though, that just eliminating the mattress does not solve the underlying bed bug issue. If you want to avoid a re-infestation, make sure you have a plan to completely eliminate bed bugs from your home before you bring in a brand new mattress.

Mold buildup: mold can cause serious allergies and can be very hard to eliminate once it has taken hold. If mold has developed on your mattress in any serious way, or if it exists deeper in the mattress, it’s likely time to look to replace it.