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How to clean a mattress

We show you how to keep your mattress clean and remove stains when accidents happen.

Last updated: 08 June 2021


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Need to know

  • Mattresses need a general clean twice a year
  • You can clean your mattress with typical household items like a vacuum, dishwashing liquid and bicarb soda
  • Some stains require stronger chemicals that you can buy over the counter at supermarkets or pharmacies

Mattresses are built to last for eight to 10 years, which means you're plonking your body down for a good night's sleep more than 3000 times. But when was the last time you gave your mattress a good clean? A little scrub every now and then will extend the life of the mattress and can help deal with any odours and stains that have developed over time.

Mattresses need to be cleaned twice a year, regardless of the material. A thorough clean can take up to 24 hours and the mattress can also benefit from some time in the sun. So check the weather, try to do the job on a warm sunny day, and make sure you have another place to sleep that night.

To keep your mattress at its best, try to remove liquids, dirt, grime and bodily fluids as quickly as possible – your chances of completely removing the stain decrease the longer you put it off.

Steps to give your mattress a general clean

1. Wash the sheets

Strip the bed and wash your sheets. This includes the mattress protector or mattress topper if you have one (which we recommend, as it'll help protect your mattress from sweat stains) and any covers if they can be removed. Check the manufacturer's website to confirm if you're not sure.

2. Vacuum the mattress surface

Pop on your vacuum cleaner's upholstery attachment, switch it to the relevant cleaning mode (models vary) and vacuum the top and sides of the mattress. This will help get rid of any dust mites. If your bed is on a base, tilt it to the side and clean in there too.

You'll get the best results with an upholstery attachment but the nozzle fitting can do the job too. It just takes longer as it covers less surface area. A regular turbo head that you use on carpet isn't very effective on upholstery and may damage the mattress. But if your mattress has a thick pillow top or a design or pattern with lots of grooves and indentations, then get in there with the hose fitting.

3. Clean the stains

Drool and sweat are the main stain culprits on a mattress. You can clean them using the appropriate stain remover such as upholstery or enzyme cleaners, but check the back of the bottle to make sure the product you pick is suitable to use on mattresses. A small amount of mild dishwashing liquid in one cup of water can also do the job.

It's important to keep the mattress as dry as possible, especially foam mattresses. Spray or dab a small amount of cleaner directly onto the stain and gently blot away from the mattress straight away. Don't force it into the material and don't let the moisture linger. Repeat this step until the stain lifts and then begin again on the next stain.

4. Deodorise the mattress

This will help clear up any odours. First, try to move the mattress outside into direct sunlight or place it next to a large window that lets in lots of light. This isn't essential but ultraviolet rays can help sanitise the mattress. Just keep an eye out for bad weather or animals that might feel like a nap.

Next, sprinkle plenty of bicarbonate of soda across the surface of the mattress and leave it to rest. You'll need to let it do its thing for a few hours at least, but you'll get the best results if you leave it on for 24 hours or more. Just remember to bring the mattress inside once the sun starts to set.

5. Vacuum the mattress again

Vacuum the mattress one more time to suck up any leftover bicarb soda, then pop your freshly washed mattress protector and sheets back on.

How to clean urine, vomit and blood stains from your mattress

These fluids require a bit more attention as they become quite unhygienic if left unattended (and they can also smell awful). You need to deal with these stains immediately because the longer they linger, the greater the risk of bacteria and unwelcome smells sticking around.

Firstly, put on some gloves and gently scoop up any excess fluid, trying not to spread it around the mattress if you can help it. Next, get a towel and gently absorb as much moisture as you can, remembering not to push down too hard.

Now go back to step three for cleaning regular stains (above) and work from there. Remember to keep as much moisture as possible away from the mattress and repeat the process until the smell and stain lifts.

If it persists, combine a small amount of dishwashing liquid and a few drops of vinegar with a cup of water, dampen a cloth and gently blot the area. When you're done, dampen a fresh cloth with clean water and gently flush the area then apply bicarb soda and leave it to rest.

If the stain doesn't lift, mix bicarb and cold water into a paste, apply it to the area and leave for 30 minutes. Remove it with a damp cloth and repeat this step if required.

Hydrogen peroxide is another popular remedy for removing blood but it can cause damage to the mattress if applied improperly. A 3% 10vol solution is ideal and you can buy it over the counter from supermarkets and pharmacies.

To use peroxide, apply a small amount to the stain, let it bubble away for a bit then remove it with a lightly damp cloth. You'll need to repeat this step a few times.

As general mattress care, it's helpful to flip or rotate your mattress to make sure you don't get 'grooves' forming from lying in the same place every night (but don't flip it if you have a pillowtop mattress, as these models have additional padding at the surface).

If your mattress is no longer providing the necessary support you need, look into replacing it.

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