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How to clean your mattress to help it last longer

How to clean your mattress to help it last longer
(Image credit: Getty)

Given that we spend around a third of our lives sleeping, it’s important to know how to clean your mattress properly. After all, even the best mattress needs a hand staying fresh and clean. In fact, a recent study conducted by Amerisleep found that up to 16 million Colony Forming Units (CFU) of bacteria can accumulate in a mattress over a period of seven years. These bacteria include bacilli and gram-positive cocci, both of which can be a source of sickness and infection. 

If that grim fact isn’t enough to have you reaching for the upholstery cleaner, it’s also worth knowing that giving your mattress a little TLC can extend its use beyond the average seven to eight years lifespan. So read on to find out how to clean your mattress and keep it as a clean, comfy and healthy place to sleep.

How to clean your mattress: the tools you need

The good news is that much of the equipment you need to thoroughly clean your mattress, such as the best vacuum cleaners for floors and upholstery, is either already in your home or is very cheap to purchase:

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Sponge scourer
  • Cleaning cloth
  • White vinegar
  • Baking powder
  • Steam cleaner
  • Dedicated upholstery cleaning spray (optional)

How to clean your mattress: a person scrubs at a red wine stain on a mattress

(Image credit: Getty)

How to spot clean mattress stains

Effective methods for removing a stain from your mattress depend on what caused the stain in the first place. Before tackling any unwanted marks, however, remember the golden rules: ‘Dab don’t scrub,’ and ‘Don’t get the mattress too wet’.

Spilt your morning coffee on the mattress? Don’t panic! As soon as you can, head to the kitchen and mix 4oz of baking soda with one pint of water, then dab at the stain with your homemade solution. Leave it for half an hour and rinse the stain through by dabbing at it with a cloth and clean water.

Blood stains should be dabbed with cold water (never hot). If that doesn’t shift it, try the baking soda method. Other bodily fluids can be tackled with a dishwashing liquid solution on a clean cloth, although with something like a vomit stain we’d recommend the white vinegar method above to tackle the smell too.

If a stain is proving particularly persistent, it might be necessary to call in the big guns and order a dedicated stain remover such as the ones featured below. Be sure to test any new product on a small area of the mattress before using it liberally, and always check the manufacturer's guidelines before using chemically based stain removers.

Woolite INSTAClean Stain Remover | $21.65 at Amazon (Twin Pack)
A versatile cleaning product to get rid of stubborn stains from various types of upholstery, but always check your mattress maker's guidelines to ensure its safe to use a stain remover.
View Deal

Bissell Spot + Stain | $10.99 at Target
This stain remover works on mattresses and other upholstery, and is effective at removing stains and odor from some types of thicker bedding too. Again, check all mattress and bedding labels before you apply stain remover. Do a patch test first if you're unsure.
View Deal

How to clean your mattress: a person uses a steam cleaning on a mattress

(Image credit: Getty)

How to clean your mattress: a six-step guide

Once you’ve decided how often you need to clean your mattress, be sure to make a thorough job of it by following our six-step guide. Let’s freshen up that mattress now… 

1. Strip the bed

Remove all bedding and mattress covers from the mattress and put them in the washing machine. Washing your bedding will be done more often than cleaning your mattress, but it’s still nice to fresh linens on a freshly cleaned mattress.

2. Vacuum the mattress

Gently vacuum the surface of your mattress. If your vacuum cleaner has an upholstery attachment then put it to use, although a lightweight stick vacuum with plenty of attachments, like the Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute, or one of the best handheld vacuums such as the Black & Decker Dustbuster, is perfect for this job.

3. Steam clean (optional)

For a really thorough clean, consider the purchase of a steam cleaner such as the PurSteam Handheld Pressurized Steam Cleaner. Steam cleaning a mattress helps kill any dust mites that might be lurking. Some of the best steam mops come with attachments to clean upholstery, making them a versatile addition to your cleaning arsenal.

4. Apply baking soda and vinegar

Use the method described above to freshen up your mattress and give it a general clean. As you vacuum up the excess baking soda, check the mattress for any stains you may have missed.

5. Spot remove stains

Individual stains can be tackled with the spot-removal methods mentioned above, using either household solutions or a dedicated stain removal product.

6. Air the mattress

Drag the mattress off the bed and lean it against a wall so that fresh air is able to reach both sides. Leave it this way for at least a couple of hours to dry and air itself. A well-ventilated room is adequate for this but, if possible, haul it outside and leave it in the sun. Direct sunlight helps kill bacteria and dries out any moisture build-up in the mattress from sweat and more.

Black & Decker Dustbuster | $39.99 at Target
You may have attachments with your existing vacuum cleaner that enable you to clean your mattress. If not, or your current cleaner is too big and bulky for mattress duty, consider this handheld cleaner, which has enough power to make light work of your mattress.View Deal

PurSteam Handheld Pressurized Steam Cleaner | $39.99 at Amazon
This lightweight and easy-to-use handheld steam cleaner gets the job down by using hot, pressurized steam to naturally remove stains and eliminate bed bugs. It's a good choice if you want to reduce your chemical load when cleaning your mattress.View Deal

How often should you clean your mattress?

There are no hard and fast rules about how often you should clean your mattress, as it often depends on the type of mattress and the sleeper. If you have a breathable mattress or a cooling mattress, it’s less likely to hold sweat and will stay fresher and cleaner for longer. If you're an allergy sufferer, seasonal allergies symptoms like a runny nose or itchy eyes may mean that you’ll need to reach for the vacuum and baking soda more frequently. 

You may also have heard advice about cleaning your mattress when the seasons change, but whether you choose twice a year or quarterly is entirely your decision. We certainly wouldn’t recommend cleaning it less than twice a year though.

How to keep your mattress smelling fresh

How to clean your mattress: a man lies on top of his bed smiling

(Image credit: Getty)

Sometimes when you buy a new mattress it can smell a little funny, just like the best pillows do when they’re fresh out of their packaging. Don’t worry, this will fade over time. Older mattresses can pick up smells through spillages, accidents or just general use, but you can keep it smelling fresh and clean by using some simple household ingredients.

Firstly, pour some white vinegar into a plant spray bottle (or similar) and spray it over your mattress. Next, sprinkle baking soda or bicarbonate of soda (it’s the same thing) over your mattress. Let it bubble, then cover it with a towel for two hours. 

Once the two hours have passed, vacuum up any residual baking soda and let the mattress air dry. Don’t worry about the vinegar smell as this will fade as it dries, leaving your mattress free of odors. It should look cleaner too, but if there are still visible stains after trying this method, then move on to the next step… 

How to clean your mattress: a photo of a mattress dressed in white bed linens

(Image credit: Getty)

Do you need a new mattress?

Both The Better Sleep Council and The National Sleep Foundation recommend that any mattress over seven years old is ready for landfill or recycling. So if yours is reaching or already past that age it might be time to consider replacing it. These are the 5 signs you need to replace your mattress.

It’s not an exact science though, and one of the first tell tale signs that your bed has reached the end of its life will be visible signs of wear like dips or trenches in the surface of the mattress. Other indicators include waking up sore, stiff and still tired or just realizing that you sleep better elsewhere. If you're not sure which mattress would suit you, take a look at our guide on how to choose a mattress

To take home a new mattress for less, we'd also recommend taking a look at our round-up of the best Purple mattress deals, the best Casper mattress deals, and the best Saatva mattress discounts for luxury sleep at more affordable prices.