How to Clean a Mattress and Get Rid of Stains

Let’s think about your mattress, and what’s in it. No, for once I’m not talking about whether you have springs or foams in your bed. I’m talking about dead skin cells, sweat accumulated over the years, yellow stains (Are they sweat stains or something else? No one will ever know…), body odor, blood stains, other bodily fluids, lotions, oils, dust mites, dust mites’ poop, and probably human poop, urine stains and/or vomit in the case of children. Sweet dreams!

You spend 8 hours every night marinating in this festering breeding ground for bacteria and I should stop before we all lose our lunches. But fear not! With just a handful of supplies you probably already have at home, your vacuum cleaner, and minimal elbow grease, you’ll sleep easy tonight.

Part 1: Gather Supplies

You will need:

  • A vacuum cleaner (with upholstery attachment!)
  • Clean cloths (old rags will be perfect)
  • Cold water
  • Spray bottle
  • White vinegar
  • Hydrogen peroxide or enzyme cleaner
  • Baking soda
  • Mild detergent or dish soap (optional)
  • Tooth brush (optional)
  • Sifter (optional)
  • Dust brush (optional)

Part 2: How to get rid of visible stains

The first thing to do, is remove all sheets, mattress toppers, mattress covers, quilts, bedding, pillows – strip that mattress. Throw all the machine washable items into the washing machine and wash them according to care instructions. Then, before you do anything else, vacuum the entire surface. Don’t skip this step. It makes a huge difference and gets rid of all the dust, crumbs, dandruff, and dead skin cells on the mattress surface. When you’re vacuuming, use the upholstery attachment so that you can get in all the nooks and crannies of the bed. Make sure you work at the seams and sides of the entire mattress too.

Now, the stains themselves. Your goal is to use as little cleaning solution as you can while still being effective. Do not soak your bed. Mattresses aren’t designed to be soaked, and if it’s waterlogged, it’ll be near impossible to completely dry out, and you’ll be inviting mold and other sporous friends to be bed buddies. So to treat stains, you’ll need to gently spot clean, particularly if you have a memory foam mattress.

The sooner you treat a stain, the better. Clean any wet spills immediately with a damp clean cloth. Blot  and dab at spills – don’t scrub otherwise you’ll work the spill further into the fibres of the mattress.

For stains that have set in, different types of stains will call for different solutions, so read on!

For fresh urine stains, mix one part white vinegar with one part water in a spray bottle. Spray your cleaning cloth with this solution (not the mattress directly!), and rub at the stain. You can use a toothbrush to scrub at it too. Then grab a damp cloth (cold water only!) and dab at it to remove the vinegar water mixture. Finally blot the area with a dry cloth. Don’t worry about the smell of vinegar, as that will quickly disappear by itself.

For urine stains that have set, you’ll want to use something stronger. Spray hydrogen peroxide onto your cleaning rag (3% solution). To give the hydrogen peroxide more cleaning power, you can add a tiny bit of mild detergent to the spray bottle. Then it’s the same deal with dabbing away the hydrogen peroxide and blotting dry. If you have an enzyme cleaner, you can use that instead of hydrogen peroxide.

With blood stains in particular, never use hot water. That will just set the stain into the mattress fibres. Using the same method as above, use either enzyme cleaner, or hydrogen peroxide with a drop or two of liquid dish soap. For stubborn stains, you can apply the mixture (with a cleaning cloth) and let it sit for about half an hour before dabbing it with a damp cloth and blotting it dry. This solution should also be used for sweat stains and other stains from bodily fluids and biological stains.

Sometimes, stains can’t be completely eliminated, especially if they’re particularly dark in colour (that stain from that coffee spill will probably stay there till the end of time), or have been there for years already. These steps will make them lighter than they were before though, and despite the stain still being there, you can sleep easy knowing that your mattress is clean. That particular stain was just a little too much to overcome.

Now that you’ve the treated visible stains, move onto Part 3 – removing odours from your bed.

Part 3: How to remove odours from your bed

Don’t use harsh chemicals or solutions that you’ll end up breathing in all night. Baking soda is your friend. Not only will it remove odours, it’ll absorb moisture. Spread baking soda all over your bed surface. You can use a sifter or dust brush to help you distribute the baking soda equally.

Then just give that layer of baking soda time to work its magic, and in that time, let the mattress air out. Open the windows and make sure there’s good ventilation. With all the time it spends covered up in sheets and blankets, it deserves to really breathe in some fresh air!

Ideally, let your bed sit like this overnight, but if that’s not possible, give it at least a few hours so it has time to absorb the odours and moisture in your bed. After that, vacuum it up, again using the upholstery tool. Make sure you empty out vacuum cleaner afterwards as it’ll be chock full of baking soda.

Part 4: How to keep your mattress clean

Two words. Mattress protector. A machine washable mattress cover that you can wash regularly in the washing machine will go a long way in maintaining the cleanliness and hygiene of your bed. You can even get waterproof mattress protectors for further protection. It’s a low cost way of keeping your bed clean. Without it, dust and moisture will just fall directly onto your mattress, which you can’t just chuck in the wash.


We spend so much time on our mattresses, it makes sense to keep them clean. We should be changing our sheets every week (OK fine, I only change them every two weeks), but just as importantly, we should make a point of cleaning our mattresses at least twice a year. Mattresses are expensive, but you bought it as an investment in your health. So look after it! By looking after your mattress, you’re looking after yourself and your family. So happy cleaning, and sleep easy knowing that there won’t be dust mites to bite you.

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