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How to Clean a Mattress

Ever wanted to clean your mattress, but just don’t know where to start? Or better yet, how to clean it? Well worry no more. Sleepopolis has highlighted some of the most important areas to clean, how to clean them, and how to help prevent these messes from happening again.

Why is it important to clean your mattress?

Although cleaning your mattress might feel like a daunting task, it can be extremely important. If you consistently avoid cleaning your mattress, over time the mattress could potentially develop unwanted and potentially harmful substances. Typically, these substances are mold, bed bugs, odors, and dust mites.

By cleaning your mattress on a regular basis you can help to prevent a lot of these issues while maintaining a healthy sleeping environment.

Mattress Spot Cleaning & Stain Removal

While stains on a mattress may sound a little ludicrous for adults, believe it or not, they happen more frequently than you would expect. Maybe you have kids or a dog. Or better yet, maybe you enjoy eating / drinking in bed and end up spilling your tasty glass of wine all over you $1,000 mattress. Now what? Here’s what you don’t do, forget about it. Your mattress is more than likely going to be with you for at least 8-12 years. It’s time to take care of those stains that you never thought were possible.

Steps for Mattress Stain Removal

  1. Remove linens and soak up the excess liquid
  2. Lightly mist the stain with an enzymatic cleaner (often used for pet messes)
  3. Gently blot the stain (don’t harshly scrub)
  4. For blood, repeat these steps using hydrogen peroxide instead of an enzymatic cleaner

First and foremost, natural stains such as urine or sexual fluids. Maybe your little one has been sleeping with you lately and he / she had an accident while sleeping. If you catch the accident as it’s occurring, your first step should be to remove all linens and toss them into the washer (pending they’re machine washer friendly). Next up, if there’s any liquid that made its way through the sheets, grab a towel or paper towels and soak up as much of the remaining liquid as possible.

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Now that there is just a stain, the best removal product is any enzymatic cleaner. Pet mess cleaners are typically enzymatic. If you don’t have pets, a laundry pre-treat product will suffice Before you dive into cleaning your stain, test the cleaner you have on an inconspicuous area of the mattress first. This will verify it’s not going to discolor or otherwise damage your mattress before you use it on the stain.

Lightly mist the area you’re intending to clean and give it a gentle blot. Repeat this process until the stain has been removed and wait to remake your bed until the mattress has completely dried. Additionally, do not excessively soak the mattress with whatever product you use. Soaking the mattress will take a very long time to dry and you may end up with a bigger problem than you initially started with (moisture + mattress = trouble).

Now, with blood we will want to avoid using an enzymatic cleaner. The most well known blood removal product is hydrogen peroxide, but there are several other products that will do the trick as well. Repeat the same process as you would have for urine, sexual fluids, or simple stains.

Mattress Mold Removal

Mold is one of the most common substances that sleepers are unaware of. A moldy mattress can be a dangerous situation that I recommend taking care of as soon as possible. If the mold is new and isolated to the surface of the mattress you may be able to effectively clean and remove it.  However, mold is tough to get rid of. If the mold has penetrated the mattress (especially foam) I would highly recommend simply replacing the mattress. Sleeping on a moldy mattress can be detrimental to your health and potentially life threatening. Don’t risk it, replace the mattress.

With that said, mattress replacement isn’t always an option. If you cannot replace your mattress use the following steps to remove the mold.

Mattress Cleaning Products for Mold Removal

  1. Rubbing alcohol
  2. Bleach
  3. White vinegar
  4. Lysol

The best of these 4 options is most definitely Lysol. The ability to spray the mold spores allows for deeper penetration that could do more damage to the spores than using a rag or sponge with the other products. Granted if you’re not a fan of Lysol, the other products are good resources as well. When using rubbing alcohol, bleach, or white vinegar you should start by pouring about half of a cup (of your selected product) into a bowl. Take a dry sponge or rag and dip it into the bowl, allowing for full absorption. Next up, wring out the sponge or rag.

Your goal during this process should be to leave enough product on the sponge or rag so that you can kill the mold spores, but not so much that you will soak the mattress. Finally, work the product in a circular motion, repeating the previous steps until the mold is gone. Vacuum up the area you treated and once again, allow your mattress to dry completely before making your bed.

Mattress Odor Elimination

Having completed the previous two treatments, there is a small chance of any lingering odor. That said, it’s very possible that an odor could pop up from a separate issue entirely. If this is the case, we know just what to do. Perhaps you sweat during sleep or have a stinky four legged friend that enjoys sleeping on your mattress.

Mattress Smell Elimination Methods

  1. Air out your mattress
  2. Sprinkle baking soda and vacuum
  3. Household deodorizers

The first solution would be to air out your mattress. Meaning, literally take your mattress outside and let the fresh air take its toll on your mattress. Although, not everyone has the ability to take their mattress outside. If that’s the case, another good option is to completely strip your mattress of all linens and sprinkle baking soda across the cover. After allowing the baking soda to sit (15-60 minutes) you can vacuum it up and enjoy your freshly scented mattress.

There are also some companies that make scented household deodorizers and are safe for mattresses. These products will serve the same role as baking soda. Lastly, you can resort back to Lysol. Once again, Lysol will kill the root cause and help return your mattress back to its odorless self.

Mattress Dust Mite & Dirt Prevention

Dust mites and dirt might seem a little far fetched for most people, but this is a common problem that sleepers tend to realize after it’s too late. Our skin cells are replacing themselves almost every day, which means the dead ones have to dispose of themselves at some point. Typically, these dead skin cells do a great job of releasing themselves into the comfort of our mattresses. Most of the time these skin cells travel with dirt attached to them, meaning our mattress now contains dirty old skin cells.

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Or worse yet, maybe you were exhausted after a long day at work or the gym and fell asleep before showering? This is the perfect way to accumulate unwanted dirt and more importantly, dust mites. How can we prevent them? How do we know if they’re even in our presence? How do we get rid of them? These three questions highlight the main focus of these disgusting little pests.

Methods Used to Prevent Dust Mites & Dirt

  1. Cooler household temperatures
  2. Consistently washing your sheets
  3. Mattress / pillow protectors
  4. Steam clean your mattress
  5. Change your air filter / use air purifiers

First things first, preventing dust mites can be a tough task, but it is definitely possible. Dust mites have been known to survive with temperatures over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have the ability to keep your living space cooler than this, you’ll be in a good position to prevent these little critters. Next, constantly washing your sheets and cleaning your mattress is another excellent way to prevent them.

Yet, the most effective way to prevent dust mites is to use a mattress / pillow protector. By doing so, the dust mites aren’t able to live on your bedroom accessories (with ease).

There are a few symptoms we can experience that help make us aware of dust mites: runny nose, facial pain or pressure, itchy or red eyes, and several others. Basically, the symptoms are similar to that of a head cold, but occur more frequently than you would expect. Now, the big question…how do we get rid of dust mites? Well, getting rid of them is actually a similar process as preventing them.

Wash your sheets frequently with very hot water, steam clean your mattress if you’re able to, use air purifiers, and change your air filter. All of these solutions can be combined, or done individually on frequent occasions.

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Dust mites will try and try again to remain in your house and near your mattress / pillows. If you pay attention to prevention and cleaning tactics, you can rest assured knowing you’re not being affected by these critters.

Protecting Your Mattress

Using a mattress protector may sound a little tedious, but in all reality, they are very useful. With a proper mattress protector you can prevent stains, odors, mold, and even the dust mites / bed bugs. Mattress protectors are designed to protect your mattress from spills, dirt, dust mites, and other potential damage. The material used to manufacturer them is typically highly durable. If you have pets, children, or frequently eat / sleep in bed you will strongly want to consider using a quality mattress protector.

A few of the protectors I have personally reviewed are the Naturepedic organic waterproof mattress protector, the Lucid mattress protector, and the Malouf Sleep Tite mattress protector. All three of these products did an excellent job of protecting my mattress from top to bottom. Not to mention, they did not affect the performance of the mattress itself. Maybe you want to avoid putting one of these on your bed, understandable.

They’re not for everyone. On the other hand, mattress protectors can be critically important if there’s any chance of a catastrophic spill / accident occurring. As we all know, little ones and pets are quite unpredictable. Yet, with a mattress protector in place, you can rest a little easier knowing your mattress investment is well protected.

Final Notes

Cleaning your mattress on a consistent basis is extremely important. If you avoid doing so, your mattress is likely to gradually become dirtier and dirtier to the point that it inhibits performance and creates other potential health issues. By taking the time to wash your sheets or clean your mattress itself, you are prolonging the life of your mattress in addition to providing a healthier sleeping environment for yourself. Needless to say, mattresses are used every single day / night and need to be taken care.

Don’t throw your expensive investment out of the window. Protect and prevent by focusing on the cleaning tactics listed above.

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Logan Block
Logan is the content director of Sleepopolis, which means he not only reviews new mattresses every week, but also curates all the comparisons, best of pages, and video guides on the site. He takes a straightforward, honest approach to his reviews and endeavors to give viewers an objective look at each new product he tries out. Logan has perfected his method by personally testing over 200 different mattresses, so he’s not only able to discern the overall vibe of a specific bed, but to contextualize its feel within the bed-in-a-box market as a whole. When he’s not hopping on a new bed or working with our editorial team to whip up an engaging sleep education guide, you can find him reading books on world history, walking his dog Pepper, or searching for the best cheeseburger in New York City.
Logan Block

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