You might be changing your sheets once or even twice every week to keep your bed fresh, but when was the last time that you cleaned your mattress? Mattresses tend to see a lot of abuse from sweat, dust, and food crumbles. Yet, most of us don’t give them much thought. Figuring out how to clean a mattress at home can be a game-changer in any adult’s life. In this article, you’ll find out how you can deep-clean, sanitize, and preserve your mattress.

Let’s dig in!

How to Clean a Mattress at Home

How to clean a mattress at home

Deep cleaning a mattress sounds like a tough job until you break down the process into little steps.

Let’s take a look at how you can clean a used mattress in 10 simple steps:
Estimate the Damage

Start by stripping the bed. Without the sheets and pillows, it’ll be easier to examine the bare mattress. Do you see any stains or discolorations that stand out? If so, can you guess what type of stain it is? Knowing what you’re in for will significantly help you stay focused and organized during the cleaning job. It also highlights all the major problems areas that you’ll have to deal with. For instance, seeing signs of bed bugs will change your next move drastically.

Tackle Bed Bugs Head First

If you did spot any signs of bed bugs during your examination, don’t move forward with the deep clean until you’ve dealt with them. The simplest way to kill bed bugs is by using a chemical pyrethrin spray on the mattress and bed frame. Just make sure to wash your hands carefully and keep any pets away since pyrethrins can be toxic.

Keep in mind that the signs of bed bug infestation include:

  • Pale yellow skin castings
  • Rust-like spots
  • Musty odour

Give the Mattress a Good Dusting

Before you get started with any detergents, you’ll have to handle the dust layer accumulated on either side of the mattress. You can remove this layer manually with a duster. Just make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area. Alternatively, you can just vacuum the mattress with an upholstery attachment to save time and effort. If the vacuum sounds more convenient, that’s because it’s easy-going on your arms and back. However, the good-old duster might give you better results.

Do Spot Cleaning for Stains

Moving on, you’ll need to deal with stains and discoloured spots. The goal here is to keep this step limited to the problem areas only with the least amount of spreading possible. If you suspect that the stain is caused by blood, you’ll need to do a spot cleaning with hydrogen peroxide. Let it sit for a few minutes, then scrub. On the other hand, regular detergent is enough for urine and sweat stains. Mix some detergent with water in a spray bottle and target the yellow areas. Let the mixture sit for 20-30 minutes before scrubbing with a sponge.

You’ll still need to deal with the lingering scent, but we’ll get to that in a minute!

Use Enzyme-Based Cleaners

Sometimes, the regular spot treatment with dish soap or laundry detergent doesn’t cut it with dried stains. Enzyme-based cleaners are store-bought sprays with natural ingredients that can break down stubborn molecules like grease and blood. As a plus, most of those cleaners will come scented to mask up the odor of the staining agent. On the downside, these can be a bit expensive when compared to regular detergent. They also take quite a bit of time to work.

Sanitize the Mattress With a Steamer

If you’re willing to splurge a bit, get a steam sanitizer. It’s a small handheld device that uses water vapor and heat to clean textiles in a quick and non-toxic way. The temperature on most steamers on the market today goes around the CDC’s recommended 120°C for killing microorganisms by steam sterilization. This way, you can add an extra step along your deep cleaning program to make sure you’re getting to any bacteria, mildew, or bugs. On the plus side, you’ll be able to use the steamer on upholstery, curtains, carpets, and even clothes!

Let the Mattress Dry in Sunlight

This step might be a bit inconvenient for a lot of people living in apartment complexes, but it’s highly recommended for two main reasons. For one, it’ll dry out the mattress quickly before all those liquids you’ve been spraying pool inside the mattress frame. It’ll also help reduce the smell and chance of moulding. The second reason is that the sunlight will give you a sanitizing boost by reducing the vitality of bacteria colonies. So, go the extra mile and let the freshly washed mattress stand in sunlight for six hours. Don’t forget to flip the sides!

Deodorize the Mattress With Baking Soda

By now, your mattress should be clean, sanitized, and dry. All that’s left to do is deal with any lingering odours. Some people like getting store-bought scented sprays for textile, but those rarely last long enough. An alternative way to deodorize your mattress is by baking soda. Just sprinkle it all over the mattress top and let it sit for the good part of a day. You can also drop some essential oils of your choice on top of the baking soda layer, but that’s entirely optional.

Top With a Thorough Vacuuming

Once you’re done letting the baking soda do its work, it’s time to get out your vacuum and clean up that deodorizing layer. It’ll also help suck out any remaining detergent residues from previous steps along the cleaning process. Moreover, it’ll clean up any dust that may have accumulated when you left the mattress to dry in the sun.

Flip and Repeat

Some people prefer doing both sides together to save time. Others might work on each side separately. You might even want to target only one worn-out side of the mattress and leave the other side be. All of those options are valid as long as you give each side its due care and attention, from examination and up to the deodorizing. However, if you choose to only clean one side, at least flip it halfway through the sun-drying step to get some extra sanitizing throughout the mattress.

7 Tips to Keep Your Mattress Clean

Top mattress cleaning tips

Once you finish refreshing your mattress, you probably want to know how you can keep it fresh till the next scheduled clean-up. Here are seven tips to help you out:

Use a Protective Cover

People get mattress toppers for various reasons, from comfort to aesthetics. However, the most benefit that you’ll get from getting a mattress topper is keeping your mattress clean longer. A good-quality cover will protect your mattress from sweat staining and drink spillages. It’ll also add some years to the mattress’ expected life span. Get a waterproof one if you have young kids. It’ll save you a lot of frustration with bedtime accidents. Once you’re ready to clean your cover, remove it, pop it in the washing machine, and you’re all set!

Let Your Bed Air Out

You don’t have to wait for an unpleasant accident to care about your mattress’s condition and cleanliness. Something as simple as taking your mattress out in the sun for a quick airing can help with odour, sanitization, and mites. It’ll also be a good chance to spot any problem areas or staining as they form.

Change Your Sheets Often

The more sweat, dirt, and grime your sheets soak up, the more it’ll seep into your mattress surface. That’s why it’s crucial to change your sheets as a part of your regular clean-up routine. Aim to do it at least once every week. Bonus points if you use breathable bedding!

Dust and Refresh the Mattress Regularly

Deodorizing your mattress can make all the difference in how fresh it feels, and you don’t have to wait for a scheduled deep clean to do it. If you feel like your mattress is gaining an offensive odour, vacuum it, sprinkle baking soda, and vacuum again. It’s such a simple procedure with a huge impact!

Wear Both Sides Equally

Always remember to rotate your mattress around to even out the wear and tear across both sides. In some cases, mattresses are made with two seasonal faces. This means that you get one side that’s breathable and suitable for the summertime, while the other is more insulating for the cold winter nights. So, check the manufacturer’s rotating recommendations. If there are none, do it once every six months.

Get the Air Conditioner Going

If you tend to sweat a lot through the night, you’ll risk straining the mattress and accumulating a bad odour very quickly. Consider adjusting the room temperature to keep your bedding clean longer. It’ll also reduce the muskiness of your bedroom significantly.

Keep the Contaminants Away

We get that it can be quite tempting to eat and drink in bed, and for the most part, there’s no harm in doing that. The problems start when you’re being careless. Just make sure you clean up any food crumbles or spillages as soon as they happen. After all, dealing with still-wet stains is much less of a hassle than trying to clean up dried and soaked up ones.

When to Get Professional Help

DIYing your cleaning chores is all good for your wallet, but it’s also important to know when to leave it to the pros.

Mould Infestation

If you can visibly see moulding on the textile on top of the mattress, odds are that the entire thing is infested all through its frame. In cases like this, it might be safer to consult a professional cleaning service. Just keep in mind that the hassle of cleaning it thoroughly might not be worth its value in the end.


People with serious allergies might not be able to handle cleaning their mattresses at home. Instead, professional intervention could save the day. Remember that a lot of the allergens can seep into the fabric, including dust, pollen, and bed bugs.


Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about cleaning used mattresses:

Q: How often should you clean a mattress?

A: Ideally, your mattress can benefit from cleaning twice a year. You can supplement those two deep cleans with periodic airing out and deodorizing once every two months or so.

Q: How often should you replace your mattress?

A: The Sleep Foundation recommends that you flip your mattress every 6-8 years. However, that number isn’t always fixed.

You should replace your mattress when you feel like it’s lost the majority of its support and you’re no longer getting a good night’s rest.

Q: Do mattresses double in weight after 10 years?

A: People often hear that after 10 years of wear and tear, the mattress will double in weight since it will have absorbed too much debris from dead skin cells. Mites then colonize around this debris, or at least that’s how the myth goes.

A used mattress might have millions of mites inside it, and it’s bound to increase a bit in weight. However, to say that it’ll double in weight is a bit of a reach with no scientific backing.

Q: Does rotating a mattress help with longevity?

A: Yes, rotating a mattress can extend its lifespan by distributing the wear and tear all over the mattress fibers evenly.

That’s why it’s highly recommended that you flip your mattress every now and then from top to bottom and sideways.

Q: Is it okay to get a second-hand mattress?

A: Getting second-hand items can be a life-saver when you’re on a budget, and mattresses are no exception. You can get one in decent shape for 20-30% of its original price tag, which is convenient for a lot of people.

On the downside, you can’t guarantee how clean it is unless you buy from reputable retailers. You’ll still have to sanitize it yourself with a steamer and let air in the sun for good measure.

Final Thoughts

Overall, figuring out how to clean a mattress at home is not all that challenging. It all comes down to identifying the main problems and targeting them one at a time. In only a few steps, you can refresh your mattress and extend its life span. Just remember that the more care you give your bedding, the more comfort you’ll get in return!