Living, Tips & Techniques

How to clean your mattress (Because yes, it’s dirty)

Do you even remember the last time?

words by: Natasha Marsh
Mar 5, 2022

I’ve had family or friends in town, staying at my flat, every day of 2022. Zero exaggeration. And, although I’ve washed my sheets plenty of times, I still feel like I want to decontaminate my mattress. After all, there’s nothing quite like slipping under the sheets after an exhaustingly long day.


But did you know that there’s a very good chance that you’re cuddling up with a ton of microscopic filth? Unsettling, but true—your mattress likely needs a serious refresh. Don’t panic, though! Just because your mattress needs a deep clean doesn’t mean that you need to toss it and find a replacement. Instead, it all comes down to knowing how to clean a mattress. We break it down below just in time for spring cleaning.


Is my mattress dirty?

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of it, you might first be wondering if your mattress is actually dirty. Even if you shower daily, the answer is probably yes.


That’s because, regardless of whether or not your sheets are clean, body odor (which can pop up overnight if you sweat even the slightest bit) can easily transfer to your bedding (mattress included)—and if it does, it’s bound to linger if not addressed. Unfortunately, unlike bed sheets and pillows, you can’t simply toss a mattress into the washing machine.


How to clean your mattress

You’ll find more than a few answers when trying to decide how to clean your mattress. That said, it’s best to clean a mattress without relying on water or liquid cleaners. Mattresses, particularly modern foam mattresses, are not made to get wet. When moisture lingers inside the mattress, it can degrade the materials and promote mold growth. You may need to use a tiny amount of vinegar or an enzyme cleaner to remove stains, but for general maintenance, a vacuum cleaner should suffice.



Of course, abolishing odors requires a different method. When deodorizing a mattress, the simplest way to do so is with a handful of baking soda. First, sprinkle the baking soda across the surface, then leave it alone for at least 30 minutes.


If your mattress is particularly smelly, though, you may want to give the baking soda a few hours to really absorb the odor-causing bacteria. Once you’re ready to remove the baking soda, simply use a vacuum cleaner to remove the particles. As far as how often you ought to perform this routine, there’s no hard and fast rule. Simply, if you start to notice a funky scent, you know what to do.



As briefly mentioned above, the one exception to the no-liquid rule is if stains are at play. For fresh liquid stains, immediately absorb as much of the liquid as possible with paper towels or a cloth towel, making sure to dab not rub, as rubbing can set a stain further (unless done methodically—more on that later).


Once the towels can’t absorb any more liquid, use a spray bottle filled with vinegar to gently mist the affected area. Next, use more towels to absorb the vinegar, then dust the area with baking soda and let it sit for a few hours. Pro-tip: Let it sit for up to 8 hours for dark stains.


If you’re working with an old stain, experts recommend adding detergent to the mix. Combine one part gentle detergent with two parts water in a spray bottle. Shake the contents until thoroughly mixed, then lightly spray the affected area. Next, take a clean cloth and move it in gentle circles over the stain to scrub at it. Once you’re satisfied that the stain is removed, dampen another clean towel and move it circularly (and gently) on the stain to sop up the cleaning solution and any remnants of the stain. Then, press a dry cloth to the area to absorb as much excess moisture as possible, and leave it to air dry.


Bedding and protectors

Whether you’re hoping to simply remove crumbs that made their way onto your mattress, stains, or odors that have sunk deep within it, it’s important to remove all the bedding, including the protector (if you have one). Once completely bare, run your vacuum not only on the top surface of the mattress, but along all edges and seams, too. The same is said for baking soda application. If after sprinkling solely the surface of your mattress the smells don’t subside, target the edges and sides, too.


While some cleaning hacks suggest adding essential oils to the odor absorbing, mattress cleaning process—or even to simply create a more soothing sleep space—experts warn against it. Essential oils can ruin the foam.


Instead, we recommend spraying your bedroom with a room spray or relying on a diffuser if you want a particular smell lingering as you fall asleep. The best way to avoid having to tend to mattress odors and stains in the first place is to add a waterproof mattress protector to your bed.


While protectors often get a bad rap for being crinkly and obnoxious to sleep on (as they’re often associated with the heavy plastic covers of yesteryear, designed to protect against bed-wetting accidents), they’ve come a long way. Plus, protectors are inexpensive and can help extend your mattress’s overall lifespan.


Now that you know how to clean your mattress, let’s talk about updating your bedroom.