Disinfecting a mattress can be hard, but we’ve all been in a situation where a mattress needs to be cleaned and disinfected, whether as new parents, caring for elderly relatives, or just as part of an annual spring clean. At Pro Housekeepers, we know a thing or two about the best ways to clean mattress stains, so we’ve put together our top tips for making sure your mattresses are always clean and disinfected.
The good news is you don’t need a lot of expensive solutions or equipment to clean your mattress. We’ll show you how to clean your mattress with baking soda, vinegar, and common laundry detergent.
While it’s probably too late now if you’re reading this post, in the future investing in a water-resistant mattress cover will save you a lot of time and trouble by protecting your mattress from accidental leaks and spills.
How to clean a mattress protector
Mattress protectors can usually be washed in a washing machine, although you should always check the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, if different. Use a cold or lukewarm cycle in order not to damage the water-resistant coating, and allow protectors and mattress toppers to air dry, rather than tumble drying. This will ensure continued protection from your mattress cover for the longest possible time.
How to clean a mattress
There are a number of factors to consider before starting to clean a mattress. These include the type of mattress, and the reason for cleaning. Different cleaning methods should be used for each material and stain in order to get the best results.
Type of mattresses
- Memory foam
- Inner spring
- Gel mattress
- Latex mattress
- Hybrid mattress
Common mattress stains
- Food and drink
Most mattress types can be cleaned fairly simply — just remember to avoid getting them too wet. Water can soak into mattresses where it’s too deep to be properly dried, leading to the growth of mold and bacteria. The exception to general cleaning rules are memory foam mattresses.
How to clean a memory foam mattress
Memory foam is petroleum-based, meaning it can have adverse interactions with some cleaning solutions. Instead of chemical cleaners, make a DIY mattress cleaner like the one below, or use plain water with a few drops of laundry detergent or dish soap to spot clean your memory foam mattress.
Can you steam clean a memory foam mattress?
It’s important not to use a steam cleaner on a memory foam mattress. However, because these mattresses are very absorbent, if you do need to dry a spill in a hurry, consider using a hairdryer on a low setting.
Whatever type of mattress you have, if you’re cleaning because of an accidental spill, always start by blotting up as much as possible. If you don’t have any spills to worry about but you need to know how to clean a smelly mattress, consider repeating the odor-neutralizing steps below several times to get the best results.
Routine mattress cleaning
Keeping your mattress clean will extend its lifespan, reduce irritants and allergens, and make bedtime a more pleasant experience. Here are the best ways to clean a mattress.
To clean your mattress, you’ll need:
- A vacuum cleaner
- Dish soap or enzyme cleaner
- Baking soda
- Microfiber cloths
- Cold water
Begin by stripping the mattress and putting the bedclothes in the laundry. Use a hot cycle if possible to help remove dust mites. Check out our handy guide to cleaning your pillows to spruce them up at the same time.
Next, vacuum your mattress using an upholstery attachment. This will remove mites, dust, dry skin, and other dirt and debris. Make sure to check all the seams and folds in your mattress and give them an extra thorough vacuuming to get rid of all the dirt.
If there are any stains on the mattress, now is the time to clean them. Use plain dish soap and cold water, or a specialist enzyme cleaner. Only spot clean, and take care not to saturate the mattress. Check your mattress type before applying a cleaner.
Once you’ve checked that you’re using the right cleaner, moisten a microfiber cloth with the solution and use that to dab the stain until it lifts. You can add a little cold water to the cloth to help blot stubborn stains.
To break down sweat stains and remove odors from your mattress, sprinkle it with a layer of baking soda, and leave for several hours, or even overnight. This will help absorb any remaining dirt. If the sun is shining, leave the curtains open and try to get as much light as possible on the mattress. The UV rays in sunlight can help destroy bacteria.
Finally, remove the baking soda by vacuuming the mattress again.
How to deep clean a mattress
If it’s been a while since your mattress was cleaned, it might need a little more TLC. The cleaning method you use will depend on your mattress material and the reason for the deep clean, but in general follow these steps:
Step 1: Blot up any dirt or wetness
Step 2: Use an enzyme cleaner to lift out stains, taking care to avoid soaking the mattress
Step 3: If the mattress is wet, use paper towels or a microfiber cloth to blot up as much liquid as possible. Use pressure to force water out of the mattress
Step 4: Cover the mattress with a layer of unscented cat litter. Leave overnight to absorb odors and dry any remaining dampness
Step 5: Vacuum the mattress to remove the litter
Step 5: Flip the mattress and repeat steps 1-5
Quick Tips for Cleaning a Mattress
How to clean urine out of a mattress
Pee stains are particularly unpleasant because they soak into mattresses and leave a lingering odor behind. The sooner you can start to clean a urine stain from a mattress, the easier it is to remove. Here’s the best way to clean urine out of a mattress:
Start by blotting up as much of the pee as possible. Use paper towels, microfiber cloths, or old bath towels. Apply pressure and press the towels into the mattress in order to get out as much urine as possible. Avoid scrubbing, as this will only spread the stain and push it deeper into the mattress.
If you don’t have an appropriate cleaning solution on hand, you can make a DIY urine cleaner for your mattress:
DIY mattress disinfectant spray
- 2 tablespoons laundry detergent
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 2 cups cold water
Mix the solution in a spray bottle, and then apply liberally to your mattress. This contradicts the usual advice to avoid getting mattresses too wet, but if your mattress has pee on it, it’s already soaked, so a little more moisture won’t make much difference.
After applying the cleaning solution, let it sit for 15-20 minutes to soak into the stain. The detergent will help clean the urine off the mattress, while vinegar will neutralize the odor.
After soaking the stain in the cleaning solution, cover the stained area with a thick layer of unscented kitty litter or baking soda. Allow it to sit overnight to absorb as much liquid and odor as possible. Check that the powder is dry before vacuuming clean — if the powder is very wet, use a brush and dustpan to sweep it up and then apply more litter/baking soda to dry out what remains.
If any odor remains after cleaning, repeat the process of applying cleaning solution and drying until the smell has gone.
Cleaning dry urine out of a mattress
If the urine has already dried by the time you discover the accident, you’ll have to follow some extra steps to remove it properly. First, you need to rehydrate the stain. This can make it smell worse initially, but is the only way to remove the pee.
Use the same solution of vinegar, detergent, and water to soak the stained area, and then cover with plastic such as Saran Wrap or a clean garbage bag, and leave the stain for 24 hours. This ensures that the urine is rehydrated and the solution can work on cleaning it without drying out.
After soaking the stain, remove the plastic covering and allow the mattress to air dry. This may take up to 12 hours. Once dry, check the area for stains or odor. You may need to repeat the cleaning process several times to completely remove all traces of the urine.
How to clean dry urine out of a memory foam mattress
While memory foam mattresses aren’t supposed to get wet, you will need to add more moisture to a dried urine stain to get rid of it. Use a solution of half a cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide and three tablespoons of baking soda to treat the stained area. Mix the solution in a spray bottle (swirl, don’t shake, to combine) and spray the stained area until it is damp. Leave for an hour or two, then blot up excess liquid and allow to air dry. Repeat as necessary until the urine is cleaned.
How to clean dog or cat urine from a mattress
Animal urine is more concentrated than human urine, and often has a stronger smell. Many animals use pee to mark their territory, dogs and cats included, so it’s important to treat stains quickly to prevent your animals from continuing to mark their spot on the bed.
Step 1: Blot as much pee as possible — don’t rub the stain
Step 2: Cover the area with a generous amount of baking soda (don’t use kitty litter if you have a cat, you’ll just encourage them to think of the bed as their bathroom!)
Step 3: Brush up damp baking soda and reapply
Step 4: Continue to repeat Step 3 until the baking soda remains dry on first application
Step 5: Follow the steps for human urine, starting with soaking the stain with a cleaning solution
How to clean urine from a mattress without using baking soda
Baking soda is a great ingredient to have on hand for all kinds of cleaning purposes, not just blotting up mattress stains. However if you don’t have any when you need to clean a urine-soaked mattress, you can use unscented cat litter instead (unless you have a cat!). Alternatively, baby powder or talcum powder can also be used to absorb mattress stains, or in a pinch, use regular table salt.
How to clean vomit out of a mattress
Another common cause of mattress stains is vomit. Just like urine, vomit can absorb deep into the mattress and leave an unpleasant odor behind, so you’ll want to clean it as thoroughly as possible.
Start by cleaning up as much of the vomit as possible, avoiding rubbing it into the mattress. Use an old bath towel to clean the mess, then paper towels or a microfiber cloth to blot up as much moisture as possible.
Next, mix laundry detergent with two cups of warm water. The detergent will help to break down the vomit and clean the stain. Spot clean the surface of the mattress. Avoid soaking the mattress by dampening a clean cloth with the solution and using that to apply the solution.
Dilute three parts white vinegar with one part water, and apply it to the stained area using a spray bottle. Again don’t soak the mattress, just dampen it. The vinegar will be quite strong, but the smell will dissipate as it dries.
Allow the mattress to air dry, and repeat the above steps if necessary until it is completely cleaned. Then to eradicate any germs that may still be hanging around, spray the mattress with a fine mist of rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide and let it air dry again. If any odors remain, sprinkle the area with baking soda and leave overnight before vacuuming clean.
Pro Tip: How to get vomit out of your carpet.
How to clean blood out of a mattress
Blood can be a tricky stain to remove, because once it sets, it’s hard to get out. Always use cold water when treating blood stains, because hot water will lock the stain into the fabric. Use a microfiber cloth to apply cold water to the stain and blot as much of the blood up as possible.
Next, apply a small amount of hydrogen peroxide and let it go to work on the stain. Once it has stopped fizzing, blot it up with a clean, dry cloth. Repeat if the stain is still visible.
Then make a paste of baking soda and cold water or hydrogen peroxide and apply it to the stain. Let it sit for half an hour before cleaning with a damp cloth.
Pro Tip: Meat tenderizer makes a great blood remover. Simply use it instead of baking soda to make a paste with cold water and apply it to the stain.
How to clean a wet mattress
The biggest concern when cleaning a wet mattress is what caused it to become wet in the first place. Although mattresses shouldn’t get wet if you can help it, sometimes it’s unavoidable. Unless you’re dealing with a bodily fluid (in which case, use the tips above), start by trying to get the mattress as dry as possible. Leaving a wet mattress to linger will encourage mold and bacteria to grow.
If your mattress got wet in a flood, it’s probably beyond saving. Flood water is almost always contaminated with the sort of nasties you really don’t want to sleep on, and could even turn your mattress into a biohazard. If your mattress was flooded, it’s safer for you and your family to throw it away.
However your mattress got dirty, our cleaning Pros know the best methods to clean it up, and keep it clean in the future.