Get rid of fresh filth or ingrained stains on your mattress with this handy guide to the best cleaning methods and products to use.
Did you know that you spend somewhere around a third of your life lying on a mattress? Maybe you did. But how often do you think about the dust mites and bacteria – not to mention the mould, mildew and other allergens – that could be living in your mattress? We’re guessing that the answer to that is, “as little as possible”.
Suffice to say, mattresses have a hard life, and will steadily accumulate an unpleasant concoction of dried sweat, blood, and other bodily fluids over the years – as well as oils, grime, and chemicals from cosmetic products. Happily, it doesn’t take that long to make your mattress hygienic again. Better still, there are numerous benefits to be had as a result of doing so. You’re likely to sleep better for one, and allergy sufferers will be able to breathe more easily too.
Below, we give you the lowdown on how to clean your mattress regularly, swiftly and effectively.
How often should I clean my mattress?
Mattresses can be home to between 100,000 and 10 million tiny dust mites. If you suffer from asthma or allergies, then you might want to clean your mattress on a monthly basis in order to keep those pests at bay. Chances are, your symptoms (dry eyes, streaming nose and so on) may be a clue that it’s a job overdue. Otherwise, every few months – even every six months – should be fine. Note, however, that different types of mattresses are more breathable than others. Read our mattress guide to find the kind of mattress that’s right for you.
What’s the first step?
First things first: strip your bed and wash and dry your sheets, duvet and pillows, including your mattress cover and/or electric blanket if you use one.
Check washing instructions on the labels and use the hottest water and dryer setting permitted to kill off dust mites – although bear in mind that some items may be dry clean only. A memory foam mattress may have a removable, machine-washable mattress cover – but ensure you check cleaning instructions and any warranty information carefully, as the manufacturer may not reimburse you in the event the cover shrinks.
How do I get rid of any entrenched stains?
Now that your mattress is bare, check for stains. There are three main types – blood, urine and other bodily fluids including sweat. We’ve included a fourth, food and drink, for those who occasionally eat and drink in bed.
- Blood: Pat, but don’t rub the stain with a smidge of cold water and leave to dry. Remarkably, this is often all it takes. If this doesn’t rid the stain, however, add a little baking soda to the water and try again, leaving it for half-an-hour before patting it again with clean water then leaving it to dry. If it’s still not clean? Try diluting washing-up liquid in water and dab it on the stain with a cloth.
- Urine: Dilute some washing-up liquid in water and dab it on the stain with a cloth. No good? Use an upholstery cleaner, but try diluting it first and spray it onto a cloth as opposed to directly onto the mattress.
- Bodily fluids (like sweat): Use the diluted washing-up liquid as above.
- Food and drink: Use the baking soda and water method mentioned above.
Mattresses aren’t waterproof, so never drench them. Instead, dab with care and only use cleaning products after checking the mattress label. Even then, test any solution on a small area of the stain first to check it won’t ruin the mattress. And while the methods outlined above will help to remove ingrained stains, it’s always better to treat them right away while they’re still fresh. In this instance, read on.
How do I remove fresh stains?
You’ll always achieve the best results by tackling stains as quickly as possible after they’ve happened, preferably before they dry. But, as with older stains, don’t be tempted to drench your mattress since it isn’t waterproof. And always check the manufacturer’s care instructions before attempting to remove a stain, plus carry out a spot test on part of the material or stain first.
- Blood: Remove as much of the excess blood as possible by dabbing it with a clean cloth soaked in cold water; hot water can set the stain. Don’t rub the stain, as this will spread it. Next, blot with a clean towel. Repeat the soak and dry method until the dry cloth comes away clean. Now you’re ready to use a cleaning solution: a little baking soda mixed in cold water or liquid detergent mixed with water until frothy. Whichever solution you opt for, dab it on the stain and leave it in place for half-an-hour before rubbing it with a clean toothbrush. Finally, dab with a fresh cloth with cold water to remove any excess cleaner or leftover blood. Then allow it to air dry.
- Urine: First, blot up as much of the urine as possible, using a sponge. If the sponge becomes soaked, wring it out and repeat. Slightly dampen the area – do not saturate it – to dilute the urine. Allow it to dry. If any of the stain or smell remains, follow the instructions for more entrenched urine stains above.
- Food and drink: If you’ve had a minor accident, such as spilling a cup of tea in bed, dilute some washing up liquid in water and gently dab the stain until it lifts, leaving it to dry afterwards.
What about vacuuming?
Once you’ve removed any stains, fix the upholstery attachment to your vacuum cleaner and run it up and down the entire surface of mattress. Repeat the process a number of times, being sure to collect up all the dust and dead skin by overlapping in neat, straight lines right up to the edges of the mattress and including the sides too. Then use the crevice tool to reach into the quilting and along the edges. Turn over your mattress and vacuum the other side too. Now let it breathe, ideally with the window open (or better still, outside if it’s a sunny day), and vacuum all around the floor, including under the bed.
What about smells?
We’re not always aware of our own body smells, but there’s nothing worse than the smell of stale sweat that’s built up over time. The process of washing all bedding and bed linen, removing stains, vacuuming and airing the mattress, should get rid of it. But if it hasn’t – or this is the first time you’ve cleaned your mattress in a long time – it’s worth deodorizing it by sprinkling baking soda all over the mattress. This process slowly brings all the moisture and body oils to the very top of the mattress. After a few hours, or even overnight, vacuum and air it again.
What can I do to keep my mattress cleaner for longer?
Use a mattress protector, which goes between the mattress and your sheet to help prevent liquids and dead skin reaching your mattress. While you don’t need to wash your protector as often as you wash your bedding, it’s good practice to do so every couple of months (most mattress protectors are machine washable). Read our roundup of the best mattress protectors for some of our top picks
Beyond this, always treat stains as quickly as you can, and turn or rotate your mattress as recommended by the manufacturer (note that not all mattresses can be flipped).
Dos and Don’ts checklist
- Clean your mattress regularly, at least every six months.
- Tackle stains immediately – or as soon as possible – after they’ve happened.
- Always check the care instructions for your mattress on the label.
- Test any cleaning solution on a small area of your mattress first to check it won’t spoil.
- Remember: mattresses don’t tend to last more than 10 years – and that’s the really good ones.
- Drench your mattress – it isn’t waterproof.
- Use any cleaning products until you’ve checked the mattress label.
- Spray liquids directly onto your mattress.
- Use deodorizing sprays – these simply mask unwelcome odours.
- Get foam mattresses wet at all. If you need to clean it with liquid, dab on only the tiniest amount.
Can I pay someone to clean my mattress?
If you can’t face the task of cleaning your mattress, whether you don’t have the time or you’ve simply let the situation become unmanageable, you can hire a professional to do it for you. There are plenty of cleaning companies that tackle mattresses as well as carpets and upholstery, and it’s usually just a question of hopping onto Google to find a nearby service. But how much does it cost? This can vary: depending on the size of your mattress, a professional clean could cost between £20 and £80. A double mattress, for instance, costs around £50 on average to clean. Many companies will offer a choice of steam cleaning or dry cleaning. And while the former can be a very effective method of deep cleaning a mattress, it should NOT be done on memory foam.
Now that we’ve briefed you on how to clean and care for your mattress properly, see below for some of our top picks when it comes to mattress maintenance.
The best products to buy for a clean and healthy mattress
1. MPC Eradicate Powerful Mattress Stain Remover: Best spray for new stains
Price: £13 | Buy now from Amazon
There’s isn’t a stain that this fast-acting cleaning agent can’t tackle – urine, blood, vomit, drinks and pet messes, it claims to be able to handle them all. It also alleges to help stop the growth of dust mites. Don’t forget to brush or vacuum your mattress first for any debris, then spray the liquid sparingly but directly onto the stain before leaving it to dry and going over with the vacuum again. Be prepared to use it a few times on deeper stains. We found it less effective on older stains and fresh or entrenched blood stains, but otherwise it did a decent job. Always check the label of your mattress for compatibility; and do a spot-test on a tiny part of the stain first to ensure it doesn’t spoil your mattress.
2. Dyson V7 Trigger: Best cordless vacuum cleaner for mattresses
Price: £200 | Buy now from Argos
The V7 has been around for a few years now, and while its suction power is less impressive than some newer models, we found it dealt well with mattresses, as well as for curtains and soft furnishings. It reaches into crevices easily, removing dirt and allergens, and comes with three handy tools: a mini motorised tool, a combination tool and a crevice tool. You get up to half-an-hour suction off a charge, with no fade-out towards the end, and emptying the canister of dirt and debris is easy as pie too. It’s not powerful enough to compete with an upright vacuum cleaner, but it can handle small jobs and won’t cost you quite as much as other Dyson vacuum cleaners either.
3. Panda Bamboo Mattress Protector: Best mattress protector
Price: £37 (double) | Buy now from Panda
Panda’s cotton and bamboo mattress protector ticks all the boxes when it comes to keeping your mattress fresh and clean. Not only is it naturally hypoallergenic and antimicrobial, but it’s also waterproof, thanks to “Nano TPU”: a non-toxic and biodegradable material developed by Panda. It’s also made primarily from natural materials, with the exception of the polyester skirt and TPU layer, making it a great alternative to largely synthetic protectors.
It comes in a range of sizes, from cot to super king as well as EU sizes, and has a deep skirt of 32cm so you don’t need to worry about it not fitting your mattress. Plus, it comes with a 30-night trial period, at the end of which you can return it for a full refund if you’re not happy.