The Homeowner’s Guide to Mattress Cleaning & Disinfection

Hello, and welcome to this A to Z guide on how to clean and maintain your mattress. We were trying to find a moment to put it together for w while now and we finally managed to do it. Since this is a fairly long read, here is a full list of the topics we’re going to cover:

  • Why you should clean your mattress often and what happens when you don’t;
  • Useful habits you can adopt to improve your quality of sleep;
  • Tips & tricks on properly disinfecting and deodorizing your mattress;
  • How to deal with discolored spots, blood, urine, and other stains;
  • Steps you can take to discourage mold growth on your mattress;
  • What bed bugs and dust mites are and ways to fight them;
  • How to keep mattress pads and covers fresh;
  • How to properly store away and air out your mattress.

happy family on clean mattress

Germs and pests wait for no one, so let’s not waste more time and get straight to the point.

Why Even Bother Cleaning Your Mattress?

On average, you’ll spend approximately one third of your life laying in your bed. This is about 9670 days on average we’re talking about here. “So what,” I hear you ask? Well, multiple studies have shown that your quality of sleep is very much related to how fresh your mattress is.

The cleaner your mattress is, the more rejuvenated and rested your body will feel each morning. And the truth is that you simply can’t keep your mattress clean forever – even if you avoid staining it directly, the dust particles in the air and your sweat will get the job done eventually.

Still not convinced? Here are 2 more reasons why you should routinely clean your mattress:

Reason #1. A study has found that the average mattress contains up to 10 million dust mites (that’s the main reason why it becomes heavier)! And while these invisible creepy crawlies don’t bite, their droppings and shed skin can be problematic for allergy sufferers. In fact, The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has stated that dust mites lie at the heart of most allergy symptoms.

Reason #2. Here is another unsettling fact – did you know that, after 2 years of use, 10% of a pillow’s weight will consist solely from dead mites and their excrement?

Note: To get yourself a more soothing and relaxing sleep, check these extremely comfy pillows I’ve recently tried out.

Adopt These 6 Useful Habits for a Fresher Mattress

Alright, you’ve probably checked one my guide on choosing the best mattress and now that you’ve learned why you should clean it, it’s time to make this into a habit. Without further ado, here are 6 things you can do to improve your bed hygiene.

mattress freshener concept

  1. Change your bed sheets at least once every 2 weeks
  2. Don’t drink liquids while in bed. Come to think of it, don’t eat any food, either.
  3. Use a mattress protector. Keeping protectors fresh is easier than cleaning mattresses.
  4. Vacuum your mattress with a soft brush attachment on a regular basis.
  5. Air out your mattress once or twice every year to prevent the spread of mold and mildew.
  6. Rotate or flip your mattress once every 3 months. This will ensure that the surface will wear out evenly and will increase your mattress’ lifespan with up to 5 extra years.

Learn the 1-2-3 of Properly Disinfecting Your Mattress

Things you’ll need:

  • Vacuum cleaner;
  • Steam cleaner or baking soda;
  • Clean cloth;
  • Antibacterial spray;
  • Direct sunlight.

What you need to do:

  • Remove sheets, covers, pillows, and other bedding from your mattress.
  • Vacuum your mattress using the special upholstery attachment.
  • Move the mattress outside for a few hours or leave it up against an open window.
  • Turn the mattress periodically to ensure that both sides are evenly sunlit.
  • Use a steam cleaner or sprinkle a bit of baking soda over the mattress.
  • If you used baking soda, leave it on for at least 2 hours before vacuuming.
  • Spray a moderate amount of antibacterial spray and wipe it using a clean cloth.

Neutralize Unpleasant Odors with a Homemade Solution

Things you’ll need:

  • Mixing bowl;
  • Laundry detergent;
  • Vinegar and baking soda;
  • Clean cloth;
  • Vacuum cleaner;
  • Anti-odor spray (optional).

What you need to do:

  • Mix 1 teaspoon of water and 1 teaspoon of laundry detergent into the mixing bowl.
  • Add just as much vinegar, 2 tablespoons of baking soda, and 1 drop of disinfectant.
  • Dip the cloth into your homemade solution and gently dab the smelly areas.
  • Wipe the cleaned surface with water, then sprinkle baking soda on the stain.
  • Wait for a day, then vacuum the treated spots and use an anti-odor spray, if needed.

Discolored Spots? There’s a Homemade Fix for Those, Too!

Things you’ll need:

  • Vacuum cleaner;
  • Baking soda;
  • Laundry/mild soap;
  • Vinegar;
  • White towel and a clean cloth.

What you need to do:

  • Vacuum the surface (pillow top) of your mattress thoroughly to remove accumulated dust. If you sense weird odors coming from the mattress, apply baking soda first.
  • Treat any discolored spots with a mixture of water and laundry or mild soap. Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes, then wipe off the soap residue using water and a cloth.
  • Use the white towel to gently blot the treated areas and wait for them to fully dry.

Extra tip: Prevent permanent damage by treating the discolored spots as soon as possible. Make sure to also start cleaning the mattress in the morning to give it enough time to fully dry.

5 Common Mattress Stains and How to Remove Them

Dealing with stains requires some sort of expertise to have a happy end. What’s more, if you have no idea what you are doing, you may set the stain deeper and make it impossible to remove even with an expert around.


mattress stain close up


To avoid all of this, I’ve invited a professional in the field of mattress and upholstery cleaning – Dean Davies, a professional cleaning technician at the Fantastic Mattress Cleaning team from London to share his experience in the field. We did a more extensive interview a while back, but here, we bring you the part that’s closely related to today’s topic.

Here are the tips and tricks he shared on dealing with stains:
Blood stains

Things you will need:

  • Damp cleaning cloth;
  • Salt and baking soda;
  • Soft toothbrush;Hydrogen peroxide (optional);
  • Dish soap (optional).

What you need to do:

  • Soak a piece of cloth in cool water and gently dab the stained area.
  • Stir salt, water, and baking soda into a paste and apply it to the stain.
  • Let it sit for about 30 minutes, then use the toothbrush to remove the paste.
  • Use the dampened cloth again to remove leftover residue and air out the spots.

Plan B: If the stain is still visible, mix 2 parts of hydrogen peroxide and 1 part of dish soap and apply a small amount of this mixture. Use the toothbrush to drive the solution deeper into the stain, then leave it be for 5 minutes and gently wipe away the residue with a wet cloth.

Vomit stains

Things you will need:

  • Dustpan for removing solids;
  • Vacuum cleaner;
  • Dry cloth and a towel;
  • Hydrogen peroxide;
  • Baking soda.

What you need to do:

  • Use a dustpan or a similar item to carefully dispose of any solid particles.
  • Wash the stained bedding in your washing machine at a high temperature setting.
  • Gently dab the stain with a dry cleaning cloth to soak up the remaining liquid.
  • Apply a few drops of hydrogen peroxide, but don’t overdo it to avoid discoloration.
  • Leave the stain be for 5-10 minutes, then use a towel to soak up the hydrogen peroxide.
  • Sprinkle some baking soda on the stain and gently rub it in to neutralize the odor.
  • Leave the baking soda for a day and then vacuum it away.

Extra tip: you can apply the same cleaning method to treat pet vomit – it’s just as effective.

Sweat stains

Things you’ll need:

  • Spray bottle;
  • Baking soda;
  • Cleaning cloth;
  • Hydrogen peroxide;
  • Dish soap.

What you need to do:

  • Fill a spray bottle with 3 tablespoons of baking soda and 8 ounces of hydrogen peroxide.
  • Add a drop of dish soap to the solution and generously spray the sweat stains.
  • Let the solution sit for about 15 minutes, then wipe away the remaining residue.
  • Take the mattress outside and leave it for 24 hours to allow it to dry out completely.

Curious fact: Did you know that our bodies can produce up to 1 liter of sweat in a single night of sleep – read more on why and how here?

Urine stains

Things you’ll need:

  • Vacuum cleaner;
  • Enzyme-based cleaner OR baking soda and hydrogen peroxide;
  • Clean cloth.

What you need to do:

  • Dab the stain with a cloth to remove as much of the liquid as possible.
  • Spray the stained area with an enzyme-based cleaner (if you don’t have one, use the same solution as you would to clean a sweat stain).
  • Wait until the stain has dried out, then apply copious amounts of baking soda.
  • Let the powder sit for a day, then carefully vacuum it up.

Extra tip: You can use this technique to deal with stains left by both pets and small children.

Water ring stains

Things you’ll need:

  • Wet cloth;
  • Paper towel;
  • A fan or a hair dryer.

What you need to do:

  • Soak a piece of cleaning cloth and gently dab the stained area.
  • Fold several pieces of paper towel on top, forming a layer that is at least ⅛ inches thick.
  • Place a Victorian novel or another heavy object on top to keep the paper towels in place.
  • Place a fan or a hair dryer on a cool setting nearby to dry the mattress faster.

Bonus stain cleaning tactics

Foam-based shaving cream makes for a perfect stain removal. You read this right. The reasoning behind this is pretty simple – shaving cream contains denatured alcohol. To use it as a cleaning product, apply a layer on the stain and leave it there for 15-20 minutes. Use a wet cloth to wipe away the foam, then apply a 1:1 water-vinegar solution.

Fight bad odors with cornstarch

When mixed with baking soda, cornstarch turns into a paste that will absorb body oils with surprising efficiency, while the soda’s natural antiseptic properties will make fine work of any germs hiding in the mattress.

Nothing helps?

Use an enzyme-based cleaner! Besides delivering great results when cleaning urine, it’s also able to vanquish a variety of other stains with equal ease.

Dealing with a Moldy Mattress? Here Is the Solution…

Since moldy spores float in the air pretty much 24/7, it’s very easy for them to land on a damp surface, such as a sweaty mattress. If you spot pink or black stain-like smudges on your mattress, this means that mold is very much alive and kicking and you need to take action fast.

Things you’ll need:

  • Vacuum cleaner;
  • Disposable container;
  • Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol;
  • Disinfectant spray;
  • Clean cloth;
  • Sunlight.

What you need to do:

  • Pick up your vacuum cleaner and clean both sides of the mattress.
  • Thoroughly clean the dust collector to prevent mold spores from spreading.
  • Mix equal amounts of rubbing alcohol and warm water inside the disposable container.
  • Dab the cloth into the solution and wring it as much as possible. Avoid over soaking your mattress as this will only promote further mold growth.
  • Scrub the moldy spots and a large section around them using circular motions;
  • Clean the spots with a cloth and warm water (remember not to over soak the area).
  • Choose an upholstery-friendly spray and evenly apply it across the mattress surface.
  • Move the mattress outside – nothing inhibits mold growth better than direct sunlight.

Mattress Creepy Crawlies and How to Keep Them at Bay

How to remove dust mites from your mattress

dust mites microscopic view

The trouble with the spidery-looking dust mites is that they are so microscopic that they cannot be observed with the naked eye. The main reason for them to inhabit everything and particularly our mattresses is their insatiable appetite for dead human skin. They also like areas with high humidity (80%), which our bedrooms often provide, especially if we don’t air out the room often.

Luckily for you, dust mites abhor heat, so all you need to do is to frequently wash all of your bedding on a hot wash temperature setting. While the washing machine is doing its job, make sure to also vacuum the naked mattress surface with the brush attachment for maximum effect.

How to remove bed bugs from your mattress


bed bugs in mattress corners


Bed bugs are small, transparent-looking insects that come out at night to feed on human blood. Charming little creatures, aren’t they? However, the good news is that they can be seen without a microscope. After feeding, they usually appear in either red or brownish color.

Their excrement are also easy to spot on white bed sheets – just look for black and brown dots. As with the dust mites, your best defense is a good offence. Wash your bedding on a high temperature setting, then vacuum the mattress and nearby crevices. Since these little bugs are quite resilient, we also urge you to call in a certified pest exterminator to disinfect your mattress.

How to Freshen Up Mattress Pads and Covers

How to clean your mattress cover

The first thing you should always do is to read the care tag on you cover. If you don’t spot any specific instructions, wash the cover on a normal wash cycle and you’re all set. Don’t forget to clean your cover often – they absorb sweat quickly, and we already know what that can lead to.

How to clean your mattress pad

As with mattress covers, follow the instructions on your washing label. Mattress pads should be cleaned at least once every 2 months to ensure they are free from sweat, bacteria, and pests.
Fight Allergens and Germs by Airing Out Your Mattress Often

Do this at least once a year to ensure a good night’s sleep.

Things you’ll need:

  • Vacuum cleaner;
  • Sunlight;
  • A helpful friend (optional).

What you need to do:

  • Remove all bedding and open the windows to air out your bedroom.
  • Vacuum the mattress to collect any accumulated dust and debris.
  • Move the mattress outside (call a friend if the item is too heavy).
  • Leave the mattress outside on direct sunlight for at least 3-4 hours. Avoid placing it outside during night time as your mattress will become damp due to high humidity.
  • How to Store a Mattress Away the Proper Way

Let’s start by saying that you should never, ever store your mattress in a plastic bag! This will only trap the moisture already contained within the mattress and will create the perfect environment for mold and mildew. Here is what you should do instead to enjoy a healthy sleep.

Things you’ll need:

  • Vacuum cleaner;
  • Light, breathable cover.

What you need to do:

  • Air out the mattress well to remove accumulated moisture.
  • Vacuum it and place it into a light and breathable cover.
  • Store the mattress horizontally, with the base facing down.
  • Don’t put weights on top. This can permanently damage the mattress.

Vacuum and disinfect your mattress first before using it again.

In Conclusion…

In this hurried and stress-filled world, our bedrooms play a key role in helping us relax and forget about the troubles of today. And that is why you should make every conscious effort to keep your room, and especially the bed, clean at all times – your sound sleep depends on it.

We hope that the tips we’ve outlined above have been of use. Here is a quick recap:

  • Wash your bed sheets at least once every 2 weeks, preferably more often;
  • Tackle the stains immediately – don’t leave the job for another day;
  • When cleaning, avoid over-wetting the mattress to prevent mold growth;
  • Air out your mattress on a sunny day once or twice a year.

If you’re still having trouble keeping your mattress in tip-top shape, then you probably need to consult a professional company. A skilled and certified specialist will have tackled every stain in existence, so he will be able to pick the most suitable methods and products for your situation. Plus, while not exactly cheap, such services definitely beat buying a brand new mattress!

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James Menta

Camping Gear Reviewer at
Three things you need to know about James - he holds a degree in Materials Technology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, he is a zealot for the great outdoors and he can never find his glasses.       In brief intermissions between looking for his glasses, he is the Editor-in-chief of

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