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How to clean your mattress

Our general cleaning and maintenance tips that can extend the life of your mattress.

Last updated: 13 May 2024


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

Did you know that the average lifecycle of a mattress is eight to ten years? That's more than 3000 times your body has spread across the material for a good nights sleep. Humans need to shower every day, 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 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.

Remember to keep as much moisture as possible away from the mattress

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.

Flipping or rotating your mattress

Most manufacturers agree that you should rotate your mattress at least every three to six months for spring (coil and pocket) mattresses, and every six months for foam, memory foam, hybrid and latex mattresses.

This extends the life of the mattress as it evens out wear and tear. It can also help keep your body aligned while you sleep as it stops a single sagging point from forming over time.

The days of flipping mattresses appear to be numbered as most models have some sort of pillow top, or specific top and bottom layers. In this instance it's best to refer to the manufacturer's website, but as a rule of thumb, foam mattresses and spring mattresses with a pillow top do not need to be flipped as they have designated top and bottom layers (such as memory foam on top and regular foam below). Spring mattresses without a pillow top and/or bottom layer can be flipped at least every six months.

Can you put a mattress on the floor?

Putting your mattress on the floor is unlikely to cause any physical problems unless you have pre-existing conditions. In this case, you should speak to your doctor before trying it as the hard surface may put more pressure on your body compared to a bed base. The jury is still out as to whether the floor is better than a mattress base for your physical wellbeing and sleep quality.

However, the lack of ventilation between the floor and your bed, compared to a base, can lead to other health issues and reduce the life span of the mattress.

Floors can be covered in dirt, grime, fluff and bugs. Not only are you much closer to all that gunk, it can get trapped under a mattress that's been placed on the floor. Meanwhile, the things that fall off your body in the night like hair, skin and sweat will also seep through and stay there.

These buildups can lead to mould, infestation and even bacteria growth depending on the environment. Locations that get quite hot and humid are particularly susceptible. Not only does this put your health at risk, it will also damage the mattress.

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

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Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.