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How to Clean a Mattress and Keep It That Way

We all like to have clean bedding to sleep in and it’s fairly simple to wash sheets and pillowcases. However, many people don’t take into consideration their mattresses. Over time, a mattress absorbs bodily fluids, such as sweat, blood, odors, and urine. It can also attract bed bugs, dust mites, allergens, mildew, and mold. The problem is, you can’t just stick your mattress into your washing machine.

So how do you keep your mattress clean and fresh?

We’re going to go over the many ways you can keep your mattress clean and fresh, as well as add some extra longevity to it.

5 signs that your mattress needs cleaning

How often should a mattress be cleaned?

When an old mattress becomes a hub for bacteria, fungi and mold to thrive, it needs to be changed.

Many people aren’t aware that you should be cleaning your mattress every few months or at a minimum – twice a year. according to Nectar Sleep.

Rita Aouad M.D, at the Ohio state university Wexner medical center, shared that:

Your old mattress can cause symptoms of an allergic reaction like coughing, sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy eyes.

How do you know when it needs a good refresh and clean though?

Here are some signals that it’s time to clean your mattress.

  1. If you haven’t cleaned your mattress in several months (or ever), it’s definitely time to do it now.
  2. If you suffer from allergies and are finding it hard to sleep due to allergy flare-ups, it can be a sign that dust and allergens have built-up in your mattress.
  3. If you have noticed odd bites on your body or have seen evidence of bed bugs, your mattress needs a clean.
  4. If you have noticed a musty, stale, or unpleasant odor coming from your mattress, it’s time to give it a good cleaning.
  5. If you have stains on your mattress from bodily fluids, you should clean your mattress as soon as possible.

What you will need to wash your mattress 

The basic materials you need to clean your mattress

A regularly cleaned mattress equates to a long-lasting mattress.

Your first step in cleaning your mattress is to strip the bed of everything. Here is a list of supplies to gather to help you with cleaning:

  • Vacuum cleaner – a vacuum with an upholstery attachment is your best option.
  • Baking soda– this will help with eliminating odors.
  • Enzymatic cleaner – this will help to break down stubborn stains. If you can’t get a hold of an enzymatic cleaner, you can mix a teaspoon of mild dish soap in a cup of warm water.
  • Hydrogen peroxide – can also be used to remove stains.
  • Dishwashing soap – make sure it’s a clear soap because colored soap may cause staining.
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • A spray bottle
  • 1 toothbrush (to scrub stains)
  • A few rags
  • A sifter if you have one (will help spread the baking soda over the mattress more evenly)
  • Essential oils, also optional, but can be used to refresh the bed.

It’s important to set some expectations when cleaning your mattress. For a start, giving it a clean isn’t going to make your mattress appear brand new. Newer stains will be easier to get out than older ones, and you may find that cleaning only lightens an old tough stain. This also goes for stains that are dark.

You also need to keep in mind that cleaning your mattress will take some time and patience. You are going to be vacuuming it from top to bottom and on all sides, spraying it down, scrubbing stains, and then waiting for it to dry. It’s not a quick 20-minute job. In some instances, you may need to leave the mattress to air overnight, so set up a temporary area to sleep on if you can.

TIP: Use mattress protectors from day one

A mattress protector is an extra layer of bedding that is placed on top of a mattress, so as to protect the mattress from wear and tear, dust particles, and stains. It’s wise to invest in an waterproof mattress protector  – which is made up of thin layers of latex and are used to protect the underlying mattress from moisture and staining.

Steps for cleaning a mattress 

Vacuuming a mattress

Periodic vacuuming of the mattress will ensure that dead skin cells and dust particles do not percolate into the mattress.

There is a certain order to follow when cleaning your mattress. Mattresses aren’t really meant to get wet, so try to avoid spraying anything on them directly, especially if your mattress is memory foam.

We’ll go over cleaning memory foam mattress a bit further on.

  • Strip the mattress down – this means removing all bedding, pillow, and mattress pads and protectors, and pillow tops if they can be removed.
  • Wash all of your bedding.
  • Vacuum thoroughly – using an upholstery attachment when vacuuming will help to remove dead skin, dust mites, and allergens. When it comes to the mattress seams, use a nozzle attachment. A lot of debris tends to get caught in the seams so you want to go over those areas thoroughly. Vacuuming should be done on all sides of the mattress, starting from the top and working downwards.
  • Tackle fresh stains first – new stains are easier to remove than old ones, so try to get to those as soon as possible. Using cold water and a clean damp cloth, blot the stain gently. Don’t rub the stain or use hot water because these will make the stain set more. (see spot cleaning methods below)
  • Deodorize your mattress (see deodorizing methods below).
  • Allow your mattress to dry thoroughly.  Better still keep your mattress out in the sunshine, this not only helps in getting rid of dust mites, but also in getting rid of bodily odors from them.
TIP: You can also use a steam cleaner on your mattress for a deep clean. It kills dust mites and bacteria.

Spot clean your mattress between “washes”

Stains are ugly. It can be all too easy to create a small stain on your mattress and just cover it up to deal with it later. However, mattress cleaning experts have shared that doing this has no benefit towards your mattress’s lifespan and durability.

When it comes to spot cleaning stains on your mattress, there are a couple of ways you can do this.

Method 1

Mix together 2 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide and 1 tablespoon of dishwashing soap. You don’t want to spray the mixture directly onto the mattress. Dip a toothbrush into the solution and then gently scrub the stain. Use a damp clean rag to wipe away.

Method 2

Use an enzyme cleaner and spray it on a clean rag. Gently blot the stain and then allow it to sit for about 20 minutes. Blot the stain again to remove it. Next, using cold water, dampen a clean rag and blot the stain once more.

TIP: It’s important that you allow the mattress to fully dry to prevent any mildew or mold growth.

Deodorizing

This step is crucial in removing odors and eye sores (stains).

Mattresses can get a musty smell to them over time and it’s important to deodorize it every few months.

Here are two methods that work well.

Baking soda method:

  • Take your baking soda and sprinkle an even layer over your entire mattress. This can be done more easily if you use a sifter. Some people add 20 or so drops of essential oil for a nice smell.
  • Leave the baking soda to sit for at least half an hour. This gives it enough time to absorb odors. The longer the baking soda is left to sit, the better, so you can leave it for up to 24 hours.
  • Using your vacuum and both a nozzle and upholstery attachment, vacuum up the baking soda thoroughly.

Distilled white vinegar method:

  • In a spray bottle, mix equal parts of water and vinegar.
  • Spray the solution over the mattress until it is damp, but be sure it isn’t soaking wet.
  • Let the mattress dry completely and then do the other side of the mattress.
  • Make sure the mattress has fully air dried before using it.

How to clean a memory foam mattress 

Tuft and Needle Mattress Review and Comparison

Photo: Tuft & Needle

Take a look at the following tips for cleaning your memory foam mattress:

When it comes to cleaning a memory foam mattress, things can get a bit tricky. After all, the mattress is like a big sponge.

There are ways to get your memory foam mattress clean though.

  • Remove and wash the cover first. Most memory foam mattress covers have a zipper that allows you to take them off. Following the manufacturer’s directions, wash the cover. Be sure that you don’t use any harsh chemicals or bleach, as this can damage the fiber. When it’s done washing, allow it to air dry.
  • Vacuum the mattress next, either with a handheld vacuum or one that has a brush attachment.
  • Spot clean stains. In a spray bottle, mix 1 cup of water and ½ a cup of a gentle fabric cleaner. Shake well and then spray the stains until they are damp, but not saturated. If you have a stain that is particularly stubborn, mix a quarter cup of vinegar and ¾ a cup of water in a spray bottle and apply it to the stains.
  • Using a clean cloth, gently scrub the stain using small circular motions. Don’t scrub the stain, as this will push it deeper into the fabric.
  • Using cold water and a fresh rag, wipe off any excess cleaning solution.
  • Let your mattress air dry thoroughly. It will take around 4 to 5 hours for your mattress to dry.

Basic mattress maintenance 

If you want to make sure your vacuum stays fresh between washing, there are some basic steps you can take to maintain and protect your mattress to help keep it in good shape over time.

  • Change your bedding regularly – your sheets should be changed every couple of weeks, or sooner if you have been ill.
  • Vacuum regularly
  • Deal with odors, stains, and spills straight away. The longer a stain or smell is left untreated, the more it can sink into your mattress.
  • Harness the power of the sun – one way to freshen up your mattress is to let it sit outdoors in the sun to air out for a couple of hours. If taking your mattress outside isn’t an option, you can stand it before an open window that gets a lot of sunlight.
  • Let your mattress breathe for a good 30 minutes before making the bed up each day.
  • Eliminate sweating – if you tend to sweat a lot during the night it can lead to mildew and mold growing on the mattress. Make some changes, like wearing lighter pajamas, using lighter sheets, or adding a mattress topper that is breathable and moisture-wicking.
  • Mattress protectors – a waterproof mattress protector gives your mattress a barrier against stains and odors. It’s also a lot easier to clean.
  • Freshen it up – you can use spritz your mattress with an essential oil or a fabric deodorizer, such as Febreeze.

Essential oils with deodorizing and disinfecting properties:

  • Lavender
  • Cinnamon
  • Peppermint
  • Lemongrass
  • Thyme
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Tea tree

Other, practical ways to protect your mattresses:

  • Make sure it’s on a sturdy solid foundation.
  • Be sure you have the proper center supports for the size of the mattress.
  • Every 3 months, flip and rotate your mattress.
  • Don’t bounce on the bed.

All of the above with help keep your mattress from sagging and becoming damages, as well as add to its longevity.

Getting rid of specific stains on your mattress

We wanted to go over stain removal a bit more because not all stains are equal. We’ve gone over how to use distilled white vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and enzyme-based cleaners. The question many ask is which to use on which type of stain.

How to clean urine from a mattress (most liquids)

Liquid method:

  • In 8 ounces of hydrogen peroxide, dissolve 3 tablespoons of baking soda and add a couple of drops of clear dishwashing soap.
  • Gently dab the stain with the mixture, but don’t soak the mattress. Allow it to air dry.
  • For stubborn stains, repeat this until the stain is gone.

Dry foam method:

  • Whisk together 1 tablespoon of water and 3 tablespoons of a powdered laundry cleaner to create a paste. (Don’t use any detergent that has oxygenated bleach in it).
  • Spread this over the stain and let it sit for half an hour.
  • With a dull edges knife or spoon, gently scrape the paste off of the mattress.
  • If any dry past remains you can vacuum it up.

Bloodstains

  • Mix together ¼ of a cup of hydrogen peroxide, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of clear dishwashing soap to form a paste.
  • Spread this over the blood stain and let it sit until it has dried.
  • Carefully scrape the paste off of your mattress.
  • If the stain hasn’t completely been removed you can dip a clean rag in hydrogen peroxide and dab the stain. Be sure to use a clean section of the rage every time you dab.

Other bodily fluids

  • Before using this method, make sure you are in a well-ventilated room.
  • Dip a clean rage in ammonia (typical household ammonia, unscented and not diluted).
  • Blot but do not saturate the stain.
  • When done, use a clean damp rag to wipe down the area.
  • Sprinkle baking soda over the treated area and allow it to dry.
  • Vacuum the dry paste up.

How to remove bed bugs from your mattress

Dust mites in mattresses

Bed bugs can happen even if you practice good mattress hygiene. We suggest regular mattress cleaning.

Even if you are vigilant with cleaning your mattress, you can still end up with bed bugs. Bed bugs can attach themselves to things like luggage and be brought into the home. If you find yourself suddenly dealing with these critters, here’s how to get your bed and mattress clean.

A word of warning, you will need to wash everything!

Bedbugs don’t just get into your bed, they get into: bedding, pillows, stuffed animals, blankets, curtains and clothing.

You will need to wash everything on a hot wash to kill bed bugs off. Whatever you can’t wash needs to be bagged up. They stick to surfaces that are hard and can hide in places like your: phone, laptops, books and alarm clocks.

Once you’ve bagged items up, place a bed bug killing strip into the bag and tie it.

  • Your next step is to hunt down those bugs and vacuum them up. You’ll need to use a flashlight to help you search all crevices of the mattress and bed. Vacuum twice and don’t use any attachments that have brushes because bed bugs can stick to these.
  • You will next need to check your furniture, like your dressers and bedframe. This means checking under furniture as well. Vacuum up any bed bugs that you find.
  • Start cleaning surfaces and give infested surfaces a good scrub.
  • Use a mattress encasement to cover your mattress. This will suffocate any bed bugs that you didn’t find, stopping a second infestation from happening.
TIP: You’ll need to leave the mattress encasement on for a year, as this will ensure all bed bugs and eggs have died. When you remove the encasement, give the mattress a thorough vacuum.

How to remove dust mites from your mattress

Another bug that makes its home in your mattress are dust mites. They feed off of your skin and live in humid and warm spots.

They can make allergies worse and disrupt your sleep.

Here is how to get rid of them:

  • Wash your sheets more often, about once a week. Be sure to wash them in hot water to kill off any mites.
  • Dust mites can be killed with direct sunlight, so dry your sheets outside.
  • Dust mites can live inside of pillows, so it’s advisable to change your pillow every 6 months.
  • Dust mites can also be killed by steam vapors. Run a steam cleaner over your mattress every few months.
  • Vacuum your mattress using a nozzle and upholstery attachment to get into all of the cracks and crevices of your mattress.
  • Invest in a mattress cover. It will prevent dust motes from being able to burrow down into the mattress, which makes them harder to kill.

When should replace your mattress rather than cleaning it?

Sometimes cleaning your mattress isn’t enough, especially if you have a mattress that is a hazard to your health or is beyond saving.  Plus, an old mattress is a major sleep spoiler.

Here are 7 ill-effects an old mattress has on your overall health:

  1. Leads to chronic back and neck pain.
  2. Triggers allergies and makes them worse.
  3. Leads to more stress due to lack of sleep.
  4. Leads to snoring.
  5. Leads to obesity.
  6. Affects memory.
  7. Puts heart at a risk.

There are some circumstances where it makes more sense to ditch your old mattress and get a new one:

  • Mold – mold can be very hard to get rid of once it has started on your mattress. Even doing a thorough clean doesn’t always eliminate it from deeper in the mattress. It can also be very hazardous to your health to sleep on a mattress that is moldy. Jolie Kerr, a cleaning expert and advice columnist for Esquire says:

“In the event that you have a mattress that’s developed mold, you should think seriously about replacing it.”

  • Extreme infestation – there are some bed bug infestations that just aren’t treatable because they have gotten out of control.
  • Saggy – if your mattress develops a dent-like shape in the middle or gives a sinking feeling then the mattress has become old and needs to be replaced.
  • Age – No product is manufactured to last forever! If your mattress has outlived its use and is no longer comfortable, it’s better to replace it. Cleaning a mattress that has lost its shape, support or firmness isn’t going to help you sleep better at night. As per the advice of the National Sleep Foundation, any mattress should not be used for more than eight years in order to prevent it from becoming a farm of dust mites and bed bugs.
  • Lost firmness – The most common reason for this could be the breaking of bed springs, another clear signal that the mattress needs to be replaced.

How you can keep your mattress cleaner for longer

Cleaning your mattress can feel like a colossal task, so taking steps that will keep it cleaner for longer can be a huge help.

Here are some ways to do that:

  • Using a mattress protector to keep it stain, bacteria, dirt, dust mite, and allergen-free.
  • Showering or bathing before you go to bed will remove sweat, dead skin, and anything else that could contribute to odor and stains on your mattress.
  • Routinely wash your sheets so allergens and dust don’t build-up.
  • Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature so you sweat less at night.
  • Never eat in bed.

A word on warranties and mattress cleaning

Many manufacturers advise cleaning your mattress to extend its life. However, a mattress’s warranty can be voided as a result of any permanent stains on the mattress. You should try to remove stains before contacting the manufacturer regarding their warranty. It’s also a good idea to check the warranty before you purchase a mattress to see what it says regarding cleanliness and stains.

Things that will void a mattress warranty:

  • Removing that infamous law tag (the one that says do not remove that you have been itching to remove)
  • Using improper support for the mattress, such as old boxsprings that sag and bedframes with no central support bars.
  • Stains that are not removable or stains that break down the fabric of the mattress.
  • Not unpacking a new mattress fast enough. Some warranties will say that the mattress needs to be removed from its packaging within a certain time period and to not do so can void a warranty.
  • Not following the advised rotation schedule.
  • You have given or sold the mattress to someone else.

Keeping your mattress clean and fresh can not only make it last longer but also helps you to get a better night’s sleep. It’s important to practice good mattress hygiene and we hope this information has helped.

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