Yes, You Really Do Need to Clean Your Mattress—Here's How

clean mattress and bedding

Cathie Hong Interiors

When was the last time you cleaned your mattress? If your answer is never (or not in the last year), it might be time to consider it. Along with keeping your bed smelling fresh and clean, cleaning your mattress also prevents harmful bacteria and allergens from building up over time.

Since mattresses aren't cleaned as often as your bedding, they require a deeper method of cleaning than sheets, pillowcases, and duvets—but it only takes a few simple steps to refresh your bed. We asked experts Melissa Homer and Chris Allen to share their best mattress cleaning tips, stain solutions, and allergen-fighting ideas.

Meet the Expert

  • Melissa Homer is the Chief Cleaning Officer at MaidPro and a cleaning expert with more than 16 years in the industry. She previously spent 8 years as an Account Manager for Procter & Gamble’s professional line of cleaning products.
  • Chris Allen is the Director of Mattresses and Bed Frames at Purple, a direct-to-consumer company that specializes in memory foam mattresses.

Keep scrolling to learn the experts' advice, plus five simple steps toward a fresh mattress and a better night's sleep.

How Often Should You Clean Your Mattress?

clean mattress and bedding

Design: Jette Creative; Photo: Amy Bartlam

“Because they’re a home to a variety of bacteria, fungi, and allergy-triggering dust mites that feed off the dead skin cells, body oil, and sweat we shed every night, mattresses should be cleaned at least twice a year,” says Homer, a cleaning expert at MaidPro.

Sleeping alongside your furry friends is even more reason to give your mattress routine cleanings. “If you’ve got pets who sleep in your bed, you’ll need to up it to quarterly cleanings, as animals don’t adhere to the same hygiene standards as their owners—nor do they wear pajamas that trap their dander, hair, and sweat,” says Allen, a mattress expert at Purple. “Keeping a mattress clean will not only give you a better night’s sleep, but it also extends its life by protecting against wear and tear.”

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum
  • Spray bottle
  • Enzyme-based cleaner or laundry stain remover
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar (optional)
  • Hydrogen peroxide (optional)
  • Dish soap (optional)

Step 1: Strip The Mattress

To get started, strip your bed of everything but the mattress itself. “Remove everything on your bed—sheets, pad, and pillows—so you can thoroughly clean your mattress,” says Allen. “Never forget the key to keeping a mattress clean is a weekly washing of your sheets and pillowcases.” 

Step 2: Bring Out the Vacuum

Once your mattress is stripped, adding the upholstery attachment to the end of the vacuum hose. Homer recommends using this attachment to clean inside every crevice of your mattress.

Vacuum back and forth and in overlapping M-shaped zigzags over your mattress. Be sure to vacuum down each side, and pay special attention to the seams and crevices on the surface. “Dust and debris love to hide out in these spaces,” Allen shares. “If it’s reversible, be sure to flip the mattress and vacuum the other side.” The expert recommends using a vacuum with a particle-trapping filtration system like the Dyson V8 Vacuum

Step 3: Spot-Treat Stains

Next, spot-treat stains with an enzyme-based cleaner or laundry detergent. The cleaning solution you need depends on the type of stain you’re treating: Homer recommends using OxiClean Laundry Stain Remover or Rocco & Roxie Professional Strength Oxy Stain Remover for effective enzyme cleaners to break down protein-based stains.

“However, detergents and degreasers, like those found in Spot Shot Professional Instant Carpet Stain Remover, can also break up and lift a variety of organic and inorganic soiling,” Homer says. “But because they contain more chemicals, they may need to be rinsed more thoroughly.”

Never spray a cleaning solution directly onto the mattress. Instead, apply it to a dry washcloth or microfiber towel and dab at the spill using the least amount of cleanser possible.

Step 4: Finish With Baking Soda

After everything has dried, sprinkle a layer of baking soda—think a light dusting of snow, not a blizzard—over your mattress to break down acids and absorb any odors and moisture, Allen recommends. Apply straight from the box, or use a strainer for a more evenly spread layer.

“Try to plan your cleaning in conjunction with an overnight trip, because the longer you leave the baking soda on, the better,” Allen adds. “Vacuum up the powder with an upholstery brush the next day.” To keep things smelling fresh, Allen suggests adding 10-20 drops of essential oil—such as lavender or sandalwood—to the baking soda box before sprinkling. Misting your mattress with linen spray at the end of the process can also achieve a fresh scent.

DIY Mattress Cleaning Solution

clean mattress and bedding

Calimia Home

If you’re looking for a natural cleaning approach, create a DIY solution by mixing two parts hydrogen peroxide, one part baking soda, and one part liquid dish soap (which can be calibrated depending on the size of the stain), Allen advises.

Don’t scrub or rub the stain—Homer notes that you’ll risk pushing it deeper into your mattress. The expert suggests leaving a fan blowing in the room for a few hours to ensure a complete dry.

Hydrogen peroxide can also remove blood stains: Using a 3-percent peroxide solution, spray the stain and blot it dry with a towel (repeat as necessary until the stain is removed).

Tips to Keep Your Mattress Clean Longer

clean mattress and bedding

Photo: Sara Tramp; Design: Emily Henderson

The experts stress the importance of investing in a high-quality mattress cover to cut off the food source for mites and bacteria while protecting your mattress from dirt and spills. Look for one that’s labeled waterproof or water-resistant, then follow the care label when washing it every three months. Options like the Purple Mattress Protector are effective for temperature-control beds thanks to channels in the fabric that promote airflow.

You can also look for a mattress encasement, which zips closed all the way around the top, sides, and bottom of the mattress. “It’s harder to take on and off, but it completely blocks out bed bugs,” Homer notes.

How to Get Rid of and Prevent Smells in Your Mattress

clean mattress and bedding

Design: Katie Hodges Design; Photo: Amy Bartlam

Professionals use specialized tools to clean and suction mattresses (which allows them to dry quickly), but you can rent your own upholstery cleaning machine or save money in the long run by purchasing one.

“Moisture can damage some specialty mattresses—including pillow top or memory foam—so be sure to check the manufacturer’s label before attempting to clean with a machine,” Homer cautions.

The good news? Even if you don’t have access to a machine, it’s easy to make a DIY solution to remove unpleasant smells in your mattress without investing a lot of time or money: Simply mix one part distilled white vinegar to one part warm water, then lightly mist your mattress. Let the solution sit for several minutes, then blot it dry with a towel or washcloth. Finish with a sprinkling of baking soda and vacuum after one to 24 hours.

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