How To Clean A Mattress: Step-by-Step Guide


We clean our houses, we dust our furniture, we shampoo our carpets and we wash our blankets, sheets and pillows. Yet so often we forget about the one thing in our life that is truly constant, and that is accumulating more dirt and debris every day: our mattress. Think about it. How many times have you washed your mattress in the last year? Now think about how many times during that same year you have worked, walked, eaten and slept on that same mattress.

Think about the number of times that your pets and your children have made that mattress their napping or play place. A little bit scary, isn’t it? A mattress that is used every day deserves to receive the same care and attention as any other part of your home; after all, it works just as hard. Yet many times it does not, or receives little more than a perfunctory dusting, because its owner either does not understand the importance of a thorough cleaning or does not know how to go about doing it.

This is where we come in. Over the course of the next several pages we are going to teach each and every one of these mattress owners how to give their mattress the regular leaning it deserves, and how to get (almost) anything cleaned out of it.

New Mattresses

If you have just bought a new mattress and are reading this in order to learn how to keep that beautiful mattress clean, good for you! Your job is easy. You have a couple of choices. The easiest way to ensure that a new mattress stays new is to purchase either a mattress bag or a mattress protector overtop to help keep out the dirt and the dust mites in the first place. These can be purchased through most major furniture outlets at an incredibly inexpensive price.

Mattress bags are the tools used by professional

movers to keep a mattress clean en route (after all, how often are the insides of moving trucks completely sterile?). These generally cost less than $5.00 to purchase and will completely envelop your mattress, keeping it safe and sound. The beauty of these bags is that they can be removed and reused; should you wish to

simply store your new mattress rather than sleep on it this is a perfect solution.






**Allergy Alert-for people who suffer from allergies to dirt and dust, this is your answer. Rather than sleeping in these allergens night after night you can now simply cover your mattress with either a mattress bag or a mattress cover and wipe it off at regular intervals with a wet rag**

Remember that mattress bags and covers need regular cleaning too. Be sure that you remove these and was them with a disinfectant cleaner (if you purchase the plastic variety) or in the washer (if they are made of a suitable material) at least once every two to three months. It is a matter of a few minutes work, but the benefits are immeasurable.

Just because your mattress is covered does not mean that it does not need to be washed as well. Even a covered mattress should be cleaned at least twice a year to ensure that there is no buildup of mold and mildew underneath the mattress cover and that small organisms have not decided to make your mattress their home. Read below for directions on how to clean your mattress properly at home.

Regular Cleaning

Just as you would vacuum your floors on a regular basis, so should you clean your mattress. If your mattress is covered doing this a couple of times a year should be sufficient; if it is not it is recommended that you do this every two to three months, with frequent vacuumings and Lysol sprays in between to keep the dust, bacteria and pet dander from building up and lying in wait for you to come to bed at night.

There are many methods by which a mattress can be cleaned. Steam cleaning the mattress in the same manner that you would your furniture or carpet is generally the fastest, and will allow you to penetrate anything that may be deep inside your mattress. Steam cleaners can be purchased for around a thousand dollars or rented from a local grocery store for a portion of that cost. You have simply to put the soap in the steam cleaner, fill it up with water and let it do its thing.

There are a few key issues that you must be very careful of when using a steam cleaner. It is absolutely essential that you have washed out the water reservoir and filled it with fresh, clean water prior to washing your mattress. You cannot clean anything with dirty water, and washing your mattress with dirty water will only result in you placing more dirt in your sleeping space. Dirt, mildew and soap scum can hide in improperly washed reservoirs, so it is essential that these be completely removed and thoroughly washed with soap prior to use.

The key to steam cleaners is to wash slowly. Impatience will get you nowhere in this endeavor, as the machine will not have time to penetrate in depths of the mattress and you will have completely wasted your time. Carefully run the external tool (you are going to want to use an external hose and brush to clean your mattress rather than placing the entire steam cleaner on top and letting it do its thing; unless your mattress is the size of a lake you are simply not going to have room to do this) over the surface of the front, back and sides of your mattress in a slow, methodical pattern, using the brush attachment to scrub away at any stains you may come across.

How to Steam Clean A Mattress

When steam cleaning, it is important to always move the brush consistently in one direction across the surface to ensure the best clean possible.

It is important to be sure that you have covered the entire surface area with the cleaner; otherwise, dirty areas will remain and dust mites may spread back through the mattress you just worked so hard to clean.

Mattresses retain moisture like a camel and

mildew fairly quickly due to the warm temperatures of the inside of a home so it is important to be sure that you have sucked out as much of the water as possible using the vacuum feature of the cleaner, then placed the mattress upright in a location where it will be able to dry easily. Do not place the mattress back on your bed immediately following

cleaning-you will find yourself with a mattress full of mildew the next time that you go to clean.

If you do not have a steam cleaner available to you for whatever reason you can clean your mattress with almost any other type of fabric approved cleaner. Do not use Lysol or bleach for this-you will never get the smell out of your sleeping space. Carpet cleaners, laundry soap and upholstery cleaners do the job beautifully. Fill a bucket with soapy water and take a bristled brush to scrub with. Dip the brush in the bucket, then start at the far corner of the mattress so you do not forget where you have already been and scrub in counterclockwise circles over the entire surface area of the front, back and sides.

Be sure before you begin that you have some sort of shop vac or other water removal device handy-again, it does not take long for a mattress to mildew. This is especially important if you happen to live in an area with a generally cold climate or a high humidity factor, as you will not be able to place your mattress outside to quickly dry. Those individuals who live in areas of the country that are hot and dry can probably get away with placing their mattresses on their back porch or against a fence in the back yard (on a piece of plastic, of course, you do not want to get your clean mattress dirty right after you worked so hard).

Cleaning Stains

Unfortunately, despite your best intentions stains are going to occur. Children will spill (or wet the bed), animals will track in mud (or wet the bed) and food will tip over (without wetting the bed). Quick action can generally clean these stains in a very brief amount of time.

How To Clean Urine

(*I have an article that specifically tells you how to remove pet urine stains, check it out here: How To Clean Pet Urine Stains (remove dog & cat urine, etc.) : An Illustrated Tutorial *)

Pets will be pets, and children will be children, and chances are that at some point or another at least one of the two of these will give a mattress a rather unpleasant baptism. Removing urine from a mattress is a simple matter, but one that should be addressed as quickly as possible to avoid the stain (and the accompanying odor) from settling down into the fabric of the mattress and necessitating a full cleaning.

The first thing that you want to do is take a towel and blot up as much of the liquid from the mattress as possible. You want the fabric to be little more than slightly damp before you attempt to clean the urine from it. Once you have accomplished this, take an upholstery cleaner or any other type of soapy solution (mixing a half a cup of laundry detergent with five or six cups of water makes a very effective wash solution for removing small stains from mattresses) and scrub the site of the stain as thoroughly as possible, until evidence of the urine is no longer visible. It will probably be necessary to scrub vigorously, and to blot the soap often in order to check your progress. Once the urine has been removed from the mattress, apply some sort of odor remover, such as Febreze or Lysol, and allow it to dry.

Should you be too late and the urine have already dried down into the mattress simply skip the blotting step and proceed with the scrubbing. You will probably need to scrub more extensively to remove dried urine from the mattress than you would when it was still wet, but it is possible.

For those with infants who are prone to missing the changing pad and hitting the mattress at changing time, wet wipes also make an excellent and very handy tool for cleaning small amounts of urine off of the fabric; however, if there is more than a small amount (about the size of a quarter) you are still going to need to employ the traditional scrubbing method.

How To Clean Blood

Blood can be one of the most difficult stains to remove from fabric, as many women can attest to. Should you find yourself with a blood stain on your mattress you are going to need to treat it as immediately as possible. Cold, soapy water may wash the stain out fairly easily, particularly if the stain is still fresh. If this does not work, take a small amount of hydrogen peroxide and treat the stain, allowing the peroxide a moment or two to work (you should see it begin to bubble). Once it is bubbling, take a towel and blot the peroxide up with a dry or slightly damp towel, whichever seems to work the best.

Just a precaution: hydrogen peroxide may bleach fabric. Be sure that the towel you use is one that you do not mind bleaching and you test a small corner of the mattress in much the same way that you would a skin product before applying the peroxide to a large area.

Food and Drink Spills

Food and drink spills are an inevitable consequence if you or any member of your family are partial to the enjoyment of a midnight snack or breakfast in bed. Fortunately these can be very simple to remove if they are caught quickly. Simply blot up as much of the liquid as possible, then take a damp, soapy towel and scrub away at the spot. If a spot has had time to settle down into the mattress it may be necessary to use the steam cleaning method discussed earlier.

Dirt, Mud and Clay

For unknown reasons mud is the one substance that seems to settle into a fabric and never truly wash all the way out. If you find yourself with mud stains on your mattress you are probably not going to have an easy time of it. The first thing that you are going to want to do is remove as much of the liquid mud itself as you can, so that the only thing left is what is actually in the mattress. You are then going to want to take a cloth, soak it in cold, soapy water and scrub the stain until it is completely clean, blotting when too much water and soap accumulate on the mattress. Remember, the longer mud sits the harder it will be to remove, so you should do this as quickly as possible after noticing the stain.

Pet Dander and Dead Skin

One word-vacuum. Vacuuming a mattress is essential, and should be done at least once a week to remove loose debris such as pet dander and dead skin. This is an absolute must for allergy sufferers who find themselves miserable after sleeping with their beloved pets’ sheddings all night long.

Dust Mites

Dust mites are nasty little vermin, no doubt about it, feeding off of the dead skin and dander that people and pets leave behind. For allergy sufferers they may be the last straw in a long list of indignities they are forced to suffer through. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to help prevent the colonization of your home by dust mites.

Almost one third of the total dust mites in your house are in your mattress. Scary, yes? The best way to help keep them at bay is to invest in a mattress cover of some sort; however, if you choose not to do this you should be sure to vacuum your mattress regularly; as often as two to three times a week if you suffer from dust allergies. In addition, make sure that you wash your blankets, sheets and pillows regularly and thoroughly in order to prevent recontamination.


While odors are not exactly the same as a stain, they are still a nuisance and almost guaranteed to make sleeping on your mattress an unpleasant experience. There are several methods you can use to remove unpleasant odors without having to go through the process of washing the entire mattress (although that is effective as well, and advised if the mattress has been a long time between cleanings).

Several years ago a product called Febreze was released on the market. Febreze is excellent for removal of odors from the fabric of your mattress. Simply spray it across the surface and allow it to dry. For localized odors you need only spray the Febreze on the afflicted spot. If the odor is more general, such as that caused by the smoking of cigarettes in the bedroom, spray the Febreze across the entire surface of the mattress, including the sides, and allow it to stand and dry.

It generally does not take long for the drying process to be completed, but it is best to do this early in the day as a precaution. After all, as pleasant smelling as it may be no one wants to sleep on a damp mattress.

If you do not have Febreze available to you ordinary Baking Soda will work every bit as well. Chances are that you have used Baking Soda in order to keep unpleasant odors from accumulating in your freezer. The idea is the same. Typical wisdom says that Baking Soda should be sprinkled across the top of the mattress and left to sit overnight. Since you probably do not wish to sleep in Baking Soda, the solution is to sprinkle the Baking Soda across the surface of the mattress in the morning, allow it to sit throughout the day and vacuum it thoroughly before you retire for the night. If you need to deodorize more than one side of your mattress, simply flip the mattress over and repeat the process on the other side the next day.

Applying Baking Soda to the sides of the mattress can be a more challenging process, but is by no means impossible. There are several methods you can use, but the simplest is to lightly dampen the fabric in the area(s) that you wish to clean, then rub in the Baking Soda. You must be careful not to use more than a small amount at a time, as you will find yourself faced with the inevitable consequence of unsightly clumps of Baking Soda along your mattress. Once the fabric has dried the Baking Soda will dry as well and you will be able to vacuum it off.

Box Springs

It is essential that in the process of cleaning your mattress you not forget to clean your box springs as well. While they are less likely to accumulate the myriad stains that the mattress itself will it still accumulates dirt and small things on a regular basis. When you clean your mattress you should vacuum and wash your box spring as well, following the same procedures that you used for the mattress.

That’s it! These are the techniques used by professional cleaning companies, and you should now find yourself able to clean (almost) anything out of your mattress for a fraction of the cost of hiring one of said companies to do the job for you. Sweet dreams!

Further Reading and Additional Resources

Very nice blog article that comprehensively but concisely covers how to get certain stains out of a mattress:

‘How to clean mattress stains’ at

Great article on cleaning specific stains and odors such as cigarette smoke out of a mattress:

‘How to clean mattress stains’, at Discovery Center

Nice short article on on how to clean a mattress

Very short article on Ken Savages blog about cleaning a mattress: check the comments for an interesting read 🙂

Short article on cleaning a mattress from someone who actually deals with that sort of thing on a daily basis being that they work in the housekeeping department of a hotel:

How to clean a mattress, by Allan Wilson

Short article on mattress cleaning on a blog specifically about Furniture Information


  1. 🙁 I have sweated on my new mattress. I tried to clean with enzyme to get smell out. I could still smell it, so I tried to clean with a heavy contentration of bleach. Now when I try to sleep on the mattress, I wake up & feel like the mucuse in my nose & throst has dried up. I’m even having breathing problems. How can I fix this? Help

  2. Thanks a bunch. My daugter’s guest bed smells like doggie and kitty, to an extent that it is unsleepable.
    I told her I could find an answer for how to clean and deodorize it, and I would help her with it. So, thank you for helping me help her.

  3. Thanks, I have read the comments on how to clean your matress with urine odours, it was very helpful, unfortunately I don’t have a steam cleaner so will be trying the old fashioned method of detergent and scrubbing. Thanks again. Much appreciated.

  4. i have a cat which has long hair there for she coughs up hair balls all the time . is there anything i can give her to dissolve her hair balls before she coughs them up. thank you

  5. Hello. I accidently spilled almost a whole bucket of water on my mattress. How do I stop a bunch of mold and mildue from building up, before it eventually dries?

  6. I have a question. If you have an older urine stain is it better to steam clean it or to use the scrubbing technique?

  7. Hi Kim,

    Hartz has a hairball remedy that helps to break up the hair in the cats stomach so that it can pass through the intestines rather than coming back up. It comes in two flavours: Salmon and Malt. I have never been able to get a cat to eat the Salmon flavour, but all of my cats have been good with the Malt version. Good Luck!

  8. Real helpful information you have here. Here is another tip in disinfecting and freshening your mattress quickly. Spray on rubbing alcohol on the surface of your mattress and follow it up with a sprinkle of baking soda. Allow it to settle for an hour and then vacuum it off.

  9. The Peroxide trick for blood works used it on my suede furniture, as for the urine, i have and easier way – vinegar. Just dab and blot vinegar on the stain until it is removed. I had two decent size stains about the 4-5 inches in diameter that i cleaned with vinegar and it came up so easily. Also used vinegar to clean an exploded soda in my car and random spots in the carpet of rental property I own.