How to Deep Clean a Mattress (Because You Should Every 6 Months)

how to deep clean a mattress cat

Who else is ready to take spring cleaning to a whole new level? Open those windows, roll up those sleeves and get excited because we’re going to walk through how to deep clean a mattress. Most cleaning routines don’t typically involve the mattress, but this overlooked item gets more use on a daily basis than most of our furniture. If you haven’t been deep cleaning your mattress twice a year, it’s time to start. So, here’s how to deep clean a mattress.

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Why you should deep clean your mattress

Sheets and mattress pads aren’t airtight when it comes to protecting mattresses from sweat, spills and dust. Think about it: Sheets and pillowcases go through the wash every couple of weeks (every two weeks is ideal). So, consider what’s hiding underneath the surface, inside and on top of the mattress, if you’ve never washed it. Yikes. 

Studies have shown bedding and mattresses could be the culprits behind some allergies, colds and illnesses. Amerisleep reports sheets that are one week old already have more bacteria on them than a bathroom doorknob. One study found certain feathered pillows produce prime conditions for fungi growth. Another study revealed simply turning from one side to the other in the night can launch stagnant dust and dirt particles into the air. Well…shoot.

The good news is we’re about to show you how to deep clean a mattress so you can fall asleep at night without worrying about bacteria, skin cells, pet dander, dust mites, fungus and more—oh, my!

How to deep clean a mattress

If your mattress does not have any specific stains, smells or pests to tackle, this is the standard process for you.

  1. Remove all of your bedding, including the mattress pad or protector. (If you don’t have a mattress pad, make that your next purchase. They can’t keep everything out, but they do offer some protection against mites and bacteria working their way in.)
  2. Vacuum the top and sides of the mattress using a freshly sanitized upholstery vacuum attachment. Move-in slow circles to pick up as much as possible.
  3. Sprinkle the mattress top with a layer of baking soda and let it sit for several hours. If you’re able, add some sunlight and let it sit for a full 24 hours. Baking soda deodorizes, removes moisture and breaks up dirt and grime. If this is the first time you’ve ever deep cleaned your mattress, Mattress Insider says it’s OK to use an entire one-pound box of baking soda.
  4. Vacuum again with the attachment, getting up all the baking soda.
  5. Air out the bedroom by opening windows or turning on a fan.
  6. Clean the bed frame and box spring. Wipe down metal and wood frames and vacuum fabric headboards.
  7. Place clean bedding (that has been washed in hot water and dried on high heat as advised by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention) back on the bed.

Voila! It’s recommended to do this type of deep clean every six months.

How to remove stains from your mattress

Stains make things a little trickier, but not much. You’re just adding another step or two to the general deep clean. Before sprinkling the mattress with baking soda to sit overnight (or a few hours), you can spot clean.

  1. First, if the stain is fresh or still wet, blot up any remaining moisture with a clean cloth. Don’t rub, just blot.
  2. Choose or prepare the stain remover best-suited to remove your particular stain. For instance, bodily fluids require very different solutions to effectively diminish stains than wine or tea.
  3. Spray a clean cloth with the solution. Don’t apply the cleaner (or water) directly to the mattress, says Architectural Digest. You don’t want any excess moisture on your mattress.
  4. Dab the cloth onto the stain to soak it up. Don’t rub or move the cloth in circles. You just want to blot up and down. Rubbing only pushes the stain further into the fibers.
  5. Wet a new cloth with water and ring it out so it’s not damp or dripping (again, the less moisture the better).
  6. Dab the wet cloth onto the stain to soak up the stain and the cleaner.
  7. Let dry completely before moving on to the baking soda and second vacuuming.

If you’re dealing with bodily fluid (pet accidents, period stains, flu catastrophe), enzymatic cleaners and cold water are your best friends. If you don’t have an enzymatic cleaner on hand, there are household items you can combine to create one on your own. Combining equal parts water and vinegar into a spray bottle works wonders on pungent stains, like pet urine.

Steam cleaning may come in handy for hard-to-remove stains from food, beverages or art supplies. Simply replace the second vacuuming step with steam cleaning. Be sure to use a steam cleaner designed for use on fabrics and porous surfaces. Water or steam above 70 degrees Fahrenheit is also hot enough to kill dust mites, which is obviously a huge bonus.

In general, hydrogen peroxide, distilled white vinegar, baking soda, laundry detergent and dish soap can be combined to create effective solutions for any number of stains. Always test your homemade (and store-bought!) cleaner on a small spot first, before dousing an entire section of your mattress in it. Looks good? Use it at your leisure.

Pro tip: No matter the source, the sooner you tackle the stain, the easier it will be to eradicate completely.

How to get rid of a mattress smell

If there’s the lingering stench from an old spill, accident or pet, an enzymatic cleaner is best, as mentioned above. Vinegar and water should do the trick, but should you find yourself at a loss for what to try next, consider this concoction from Mattress Insider:

  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon laundry detergent
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 drop disinfectant

Afterwards, spot treat the area again with a large heap of baking soda and let it sit overnight if possible, before vacuuming up. If the smell is the result of sweat or body odor, mix cornstarch in with the baking soda. Mattress Insider says cornstarch is effective in drying up oils.

Pro tip: Tossing a few drops of your favorite essential oil into these mixtures or during the baking soda step is totally an option.

Professionals exist if necessary

Some companies, like Stanley Steamer, do provide deep mattress cleaning services. If you’ve tried everything and aren’t sure why a smell sticks around or stubborn stains remain, it may be worth looking into a professional cleaning before kicking your mattress to the curb.

A few more tips on how to clean a mattress

Since vacuuming is such a big part of a mattress deep clean, it may be necessary to invest in one that really gets the job done. Consumer Reports states the Dyson V6 Mattress Handheld Vacuum is almost three times as effective in sucking up dust than a standard vacuum.

The next time you change your sheets, leave them off for a few hours to let your mattress air out. Again, if you can prop it up near a sunny, open window, this is ideal.

Mites, bacteria, fungi and mold love warm, moist spaces. Dropping your bedroom temperature a few degrees can kill off some of these tiny terrors.

Ever sit in bed with your laptop on your lap? Ever place your phone next to your pillow? Those electronics can also carry nasty germs and bacteria. Wipe these down with disinfectant wipes or sprays that contain at least 70 percent alcohol before hopping under the covers with them.

Specialty mattresses from companies like Sleep Number and Casper may have their own guide on how to deep clean a mattress. Be sure to check with your manufacturer so you don’t miss out on specific steps or warnings.

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Freelance Writer

Sarah Ashley is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She has covered pets for PureWow for six years and tackles everything from dog training tips to the best litter boxes. Her...