The Best Way to Clean Your Mattress (and Get Out Any Stains!)

updated Apr 15, 2024
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a mattress with sheets coming off next to a nightsand with a lamp, plant, books, and glasses.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Styling: Vicky Wasik

When was the last time you cleaned your mattress? If you haven’t lately, it might be time to do so. Every night you shed skin, which turns into dust on the bed. And if you eat in bed, that’s even more opportunity for dirt, crumbs, and the dreaded dust mites and bedbugs to flourish. 

I spoke to three experts about how to clean a mattress: Marla Mock, president of Molly Maid, a Neighborly company; Marten Carlson, a mattress expert and certified sleep science coach at Mattress Clarity; and Julia Forbes, a certified sleep science coach at Sleep Advisor. Here’s what they had to say.

What You’ll Need

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Salt
  • Vacuum
  • Sponge or cloth
  • Spray bottle

How to Clean a Mattress

Before you can get started, you’ll want to remove the bedding and put it in the wash. After all, what good is a clean mattress if you dress it with dirty sheets? Then, follow these steps to clean your mattress and get out stubborn stains. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Styling: Vicky Wasik

Step 1: Vacuum the mattress.

This will help remove crumbs, dust mites, pet hair, and anything else that might have gathered on your mattress since the last time you cleaned it.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Styling: Vicky Wasik

Step 2: Sprinkle on baking soda.

“Baking soda helps remove odors and breaks down any stains and debris,” Forbes says. Cover one side, then let it sit for at least half an hour. Vacuum it all up, flip the mattress, vacuum again, apply baking soda, and vacuum a third time. Baking soda will also help to remove any stains that might be on your mattress.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Styling: Vicky Wasik

Step 3: Spot-clean stains.

For general cleaning, fill a spray bottle with half vinegar and half water, and spray the entire mattress with it. (Both sides!) But if you have any bodily stains, like urine, sweat, or blood, you’ll need to break out the hydrogen peroxide for this part.

For Urine Stains
First, blot up any excess moisture. Then use Mock’s preferred solution: “Combine three tablespoons of baking soda, eight ounces of hydrogen peroxide, and a drop or two of dish soap,” she says. “Mix the solution together and pour small amounts [onto] the stain.” Let it sit for 15 minutes, then rinse it with cool water from a towel until all the solution is gone and blot dry as much as possible. Once it’s fully dried, sprinkle on baking soda to remove any lingering scent. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then vacuum it up.

For Sweat and Blood Stains 
These stains can be removed using the same process as above. Mix one tablespoon of table salt, one tablespoon of warm water, one tablespoon of liquid dish soap, and a quarter-cup of hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle. Then spray the mixture over the stain and let it sit for at least a few minutes. Blot the stain with a damp cloth, then sprinkle on baking soda and let it sit overnight. Vacuum it up in the morning.

Credit: DGLimages / Shutterstock

Step 4: Air-dry your mattress outside.

If you can, air-dry your mattress outside. Otherwise, set it down on the bed frame and let it dry thoroughly before putting on your sheets.

Credit: pen kanya

Step 5: Put on a mattress cover.

This will keep the clean surface protected for longer.

How Often Should You Clean Your Mattress

Aim to clean your mattress twice a year. You’d be surprised how many germs can accumulate during those six months! Carlson does advise, though, to clean stains immediately when you see them and to vacuum the mattress once a month. You can also keep a cleaner surface between washings if you use a mattress cover (and regularly wash it).

When to Clean Your Mattress

When you do decide to clean your mattress, it’s smart to do it first thing in the morning. That way there’s plenty of time for it to dry before you need to get it ready for sleeping on. Aim for a day that’s bright, sunny, and warm. “The UV light from the sun is a great natural disinfectant that can help kill any bacteria from the surface and freshen it up,” Mock says. Plus, the sunlight will help it dry faster.

A version of this story was first published on September 9, 2014, by Dabney Frake.