How to Clean a Mattress (Yes, You Can—and Should)

Among the most-used household items, the mattress is one that doesn’t get cleaned nearly as often as it should. Think about it: You use it nearly every day—for sleeping, for sitting, for jumping, for, uh, other activities—yet many of us think just changing the sheets is enough to keep it clean. Beyond that, you might be stumped on how to clean a mattress. But don’t sweat it.

The next time you change the sheets, pull off the mattress pad and take a look at what lies beneath. See a few stains? Catch a whiff of something funky? It could be perspiration that seeps through bedclothes into the mattress, or dead skin cells you shed at night, or even the remains of mites that burrow into mattresses. Gross.

Follow these tips at least two times a year to keep your mattress looking and smelling its best. You might even have a better night’s sleep because of it.

How to flip a mattress

Start by moving your bed away from the wall.

Rotate and flip your two-sided mattress. (Do not flip a pillow-top mattress.)

This will extend the life of the mattress and prevent sagging. You knew this, right? Lots of people put off this basic task until it’s too late. But go ahead—enlist a partner to lift it up and over. If in doubt, read the mattress tags or check with the manufacturer for specific recommendations. During the rearranging process, move the bed frame, vacuum or sweep the floor underneath, and clean the bed frame. Dust the headboard and footboard.

Remove odors from your mattress

To make your mattress smell sweet, sprinkle a solution of baking soda and essential oils on it. Simply pour 1 cup baking soda into a bowl and add a few drops of oil like chamomile, sandalwood, or lavender (all of which have soothing scents). Spread the mixture on the mattress or evenly distribute with a flour sifter. Use a bristled cleaning brush to rub it into the mattress. Let it set for at least an hour.

Suck up the baking soda mixture by using a portable vac, or the hand-held extension of your vacuum cleaner. This helps eliminate dust mites, which are too small to see, but can live in mattresses. Mites can cause hay fever and asthma, and have been linked to other conditions, including allergies and migraine headaches. Vacuuming can also get rid of dead skin cells, pet hair, and other debris.

If your mattress still reeks, spray on a citrus-based cleaning product and then vacuum the mattress.

How to get blood stains out

Yikes! Whether due to nosebleeds, visits from Aunt Flo, or God knows what else, you might end up with a bloodstained mattress from time to time. Here are ways to clean the spots, courtesy of

  1. Blot the stained area with a wet cloth to remove any excess blood. Then blot it with a dry cloth.
  2. Mix together a half-cup cornstarch, 1 tablespoon salt, and a quarter-cup hydrogen peroxide. Apply the paste to the stain, and let it dry completely.
  3. Scrape away the dried paste and vacuum.
  4. Repeat if necessary.

How to clean urine from a mattress

If kiddos or pets crawl onto your bed and have an unexpected accident, use this method, from, to clean up the mess.

  1. Blot the stained area with a cloth to remove any excess urine.
  2. Make a solution of one part vinegar to one part water. Spray it on the stain, and let sit for five to 10 minutes.
  3. Cover entire area with baking soda. Let stand for eight to 10 hours.
  4. Vacuum up the baking soda.
  5. Repeat if necessary.

All other stains

Most other stains can be treated using one of these solutions.

  1. Cover the stains with a mixture of a quarter-cup liquid dishwashing detergent and a few teaspoons of water. Put the foam on the stain, and rub it in circular motions with a sponge. Let the mattress dry before making the bed.
  2. Fill a spray bottle with distilled white vinegar; spray the stain. Let the vinegar set for approximately five minutes. Sprinkle baking soda on the spot, and leave it on until the fizzing stops. Soak it up with a towel, and vacuum the residue. If the stain remains, use a wet sponge and hydrogen peroxide to blot the stain in a circular motion.
  3. Rent a self-service steam carpet cleaner with an upholstery attachment ($30 to $50 a day). Spot-clean the mattress according to the manufacturer’s instructions, taking care not to oversoak the mattress. Make sure you suck up as much moisture as possible, and then open the windows to help the drying process, or use a hair dryer on the spot.
  1. As a last resort, apply an enzymatic pet stain remover, and let it set for 15 minutes before wiping with a damp cloth and vacuuming.
  2. If your DIY approaches don’t work, consider a mattress cleaning professional, who will charge $25 to $75, according to Angie’s List.

Remember to clean a stain as soon as possible before it soaks into the mattress pad and sets into the mattress. Care tips are the same for a regular mattress as one with memory foam.

How to wash pillows and other bed accessories

Avoid tossing decorative throw pillows on the floor. Keep them clean by placing them on a chair or bench near the bed.

To care for the pillows you sleep on, read the care labels and follow the directions. In general, you can wash your pillows in warm water on a gentle cycle. Tumble dry with a few rubber dryer balls to keep the filling from clumping.

Foam pillows need to be hand-washed in a tub and air-dried.

There’s no better time than now to give your mattress some much-needed TLC. Sweet dreams!

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