How to Clean and Maintain Your Mattress

Tips for making your mattress a healthier, more comfortable place to sleep

Messy white bed

We know your list of house cleaning chores never seems to end, but there’s one item on the list you don’t want to neglect: cleaning your mattress. Yes, vacuuming up the tumbleweeds of dust from the floor is important. A swish around the toilet every couple of weeks is a good idea, too. But cleaning and maintaining your mattress is just as important as these housekeeping standards, if not more. After all, you spend about a third of your life in bed.

Your mattress can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria and allergens that can prevent you from getting enough quality sleep to keep you happy, healthy, and productive all day long. Dust, mold, and mildew can trigger allergy symptoms and asthma, and that’s just the beginning of the sorts of things that collect and grow in your mattress and bed linens.

An infestation of bed bugs can be costly, not only because of the money you’ll spend trying to get rid of them (they can be persistent!) but also because of the sleep you will lose thinking about the uninvited guests who are sharing your bed, sucking your blood, and making you itch incessantly. (Not a great visual.)

Your mattress is a big investment. Most mattresses last about seven to ten years when properly cared for. Taking steps to extend the life of your mattress to the end of that range just makes sense (and cents).

How to clean your mattress

Cleaning a mattress

Wash or change your sheets regularly. For most people that means once a week. Clean sheets are more comfortable to sleep on, smell better, and will prevent dead skin from building up and settling into your mattress. Dead skin is the favorite meal for dust mites, so keeping this residue to a minimum will cut down the dust mite population as well.

Your sheets should be washed or changed at lease once a week.

For people who are allergic to dust mites or have asthma, keeping those little buggers at bay can have important health consequences. Wash bed linens in water that is 130° to kill dust mites and bed bugs trapped in the sheets.

Keep your mattress dry. Your mattress will last longer if it is kept dry to prevent the growth of mold and mildew. Protect it from moisture by covering it with a mattress cover before putting the sheets on. A mattress cover will also help to protect your mattress from stains.  Make sure to wash the mattress pad every few weeks.

Remove stains. Accidents can still happen, and a mattress cover won’t prevent stains in all situations. Think breakfast in bed, stomach flu, nosebleed, etc. Blood, urine, and other bodily fluids can saturate the mattress cover and seep into the mattress. And since you’re often sleeping when these types of spills happen, you may not have a chance to clean them thoroughly before they set in.

Here’s how to clean your mattress with set-in stains:

Urine and most other liquid stains:

  1. Dissolve 3 tbsp. baking soda in 8 oz. of hydrogen peroxide. Add one or two drops of liquid dish soap.
  2. Dab solution on the stain without saturating the mattress. Let dry. If the stain persists, follow steps 3-5.
  3. Make a dry foam whisking together 3 tbsp. powdered laundry detergent and 1 tbsp. water. (Do not use Oxiclean or any other detergent containing oxygenated bleach.) Spread the paste on the stain, and let it go to work for about 30 minutes.
  4. Scrape the paste away with a spoon or dull edge of a butter knife.
  5. Vacuum remaining dried paste.

Blood stains:

  1. Make a paste by combining ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide, 1 tbsp. liquid dish soap, and 1tbsp. table salt.
  2. Spread the paste onto the stain and allow to dry.
  3. Scrape dried paste off the mattress.
  4. If any stain remains, dab it with a white rag dipped in hydrogen peroxide, using a clean area of the rag with each dab.

See additional methods for removing blood stains from your mattress here.

Stains from other bodily fluids:

  1. Open the windows to ventilate the room.
  2. Blot the stain with a white rag dipped in undiluted, unscented household ammonia. Do not saturate the mattress.
  3. Wipe the area with a clean, damp cloth.
  4. Sprinkle baking soda and let dry before vacuuming the area.

Suck it up. If you’re changing your sheets once a week, why would you need to vacuum the mattress? Two words: dust mites. These microscopic vermin love the warm, moist environment of your mattress, especially since it comes with a built-in buffet bar provided by you. The average adult sheds up to 1.5 grams of skin a dayenough to feed one million dust mites. That’s alotta bugs sharing your bed. And whether you’re allergic or not, they’re just gross.

The average adult sheds up to 1.5 grams of skin a day — enough to feed one million dust mites.

But you can help keep their populations down by taking away their food supply — your dead skin. Vacuum the entire surface of your mattress using the upholstery attachment. Don’t overlook the cracks and crevices around the seams. Those are the favorite hangouts for dust mites and their equally gross buddies, bed bugs. Use your vacuum’s crevice tool to clean these tight spots.

Breathe easy. Think about how your clothes smell after you’ve worn the same ones for a few days. Hmm…Now think about your mattress, absorbing body odors and bacteria night after night. You might not notice it, but the odor is there, and it can make your bedroom smell like a locker room.

After you vacuum your mattress, freshen it up with a few spritzes of lavender essential oil. Dissolve six to ten drops of 100 percent pure lavender essential oil in water in an atomizer. Not only will you breathe easier but the lavender essence will calm your mind and help you sleep soundly and peacefully.

Other essential oils that have disinfecting and deodorizing properties include:

  • cinnamon
  • lemongrass
  • clove
  • peppermint
  • thyme
  • tea tree
  • eucalyptus

Alone or in combination, six to ten drops of any of these oils can be mixed with water for a clean, aromatic spritz for your mattress.

Fresh out of essential oil? Sprinkle baking soda on the mattress and brush it in with a soft brush. Let it absorb odors for several hours. Don’t be stingy: you can use a whole one pound box for optimal deodorizing. Vacuum it up before you replace the mattress cover.

If you’ve become the unfortunate host of bed bugs, check out these home remedies for getting rid of them.

How to maintain your mattress

Kid jumping on a bed

Solid foundations. No matter what kind of mattress you purchase, it will last longer if you set it on a good, sturdy foundation. Most mattress companies provide recommendations for the types of foundations or bed frames that work best with their mattress. Some even sell these products themselves. Buying both the mattress and foundation from the same company will help ensure that the mattress will fit and you’ll have the right amount of support for your mattress.

Your mattress will last longer if you set it on a good, sturdy foundation.

Center supports. Larger mattresses need center support. Think of a long bridge span. It couldn’t hold its weight without supports in the middle. Queen and king-sized mattresses need the same support. Make sure your bed frame includes center support braces or extra wide slats to support the wider mattresses.

Bedroom gymnastics. (Noo, not that kind!) Flip two-sided mattresses every three months, unless the manufacturer’s instructions advise against it. Also rotate all mattresses 180° at the same time as the flip unless they have a designated head and foot. Lying in the same spot in a similar position every night will tend to make an impression in your mattress. Once your mattress is stamped with your imprint, it will not spring back. Timing these maintenance steps with the change of the seasons will help you to remember.

Keep the bounce house outside. Kids (of all ages) love bouncing on beds. Unfortunately, as accommodating as your mattress seems to this kind of fun, it is terrible for the health of your mattress, box spring, and bed frame. You can give your mattress the best chance of a long life if you send bouncing children outside to the trampoline instead.

When you think about the many benefits of a well-maintained mattress, it’s hard to ignore these simple steps to keep your mattress clean and healthy. A better night’s sleep on a more comfortable mattress that will last longer than average make these steps a worthwhile investment.


If you have questions about cleaning your mattress or cleaning tips that you’ve found to work well, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below.