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Can You Clean a Mattress?

vacuuming a mattress

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The short answer is yes, you definitely can clean a mattress. In fact, it is imperative that you do. That said, you should never, ever wet your mattress. Here’s the thing: water and memory foam – which most beds are made of nowadays – are a recipe for disaster. The same goes for bleach and other harsh chemicals. So how exactly can you clean a mattress?

I’m getting to that.

But first, let’s talk about why you should clean a mattress.

The first step to proper sleep hygiene is the actual hygienic conditions of your sleeping space. No one wants to sleep in filth. A bedroom should be a place of calm and zen but more often than not, that really isn’t the case. Life, messy as it can be nowadays, just gets in the way. Kids, pets, a partner, meals in bed, Netflix and wine, various bedroom activities, the list goes on. All these are inevitable parts of life today.

In the Middle Ages, beds sometimes served as dining tables during the day and the mattresses we know and love today were unheard of – straw, feathers and wool were the comfort layers. While the idea of using natural materials to fashion makeshift beds daily to be thrown out after one use can be appealing to some (no more cleaning up), we should consider ourselves lucky that we live in a time where mattresses can be hybrids and bed frames come with remote controls.

We spend an upwards of $700 on mattresses and for those of us who are doubly serious about our sleep health, we spend thrice the amount of that on just mattresses alone. Keeping our mattresses clean not only extends their longevity but is healthier for us in the long run.

Top tips on how to keep your mattresses in tip top shape

  1. Always use a mattress protector – This ensures that your mattress is protected from spills and stains from the inevitable accidents. Now, some of you may ask, “Do I really need one? It’s just another added cost.” True, it is another added cost, but it’s a small price to pay for the extra insurance and peace of mind. Trust me.
  2. Flip and/or rotate your mattresses every 3-4 months – Now flipping may not work for some mattresses that have a designated top and bottom (looking at you, hybrids) but this can work wonders for foam ones. Some mattresses, like the ones from Idle Sleep are actually designed to be flipped so if you have one, you can go to town on that. Rotating your mattresses helps to balance out the natural wear and tear that sleeping on one position may cause. Do a 180 every 3 to 4 months. 2-3 if you or your partner (or both of you) are on the heavier side.
  3. Change your sheets weekly – Ok, ok, 2 weeks but not more than that (ya filthy animal). Think of beddings as your mattresses’ clothes. You don’t just change your clothes every two weeks now, do you? Here’s a little tip: while your sheets are tumbling about in the wash, leave your mattress bare for 30 minutes or even longer, crack open a window and let your mattress air out. Airing out your bed for awhile before making it helps in reducing whatever moisture that may be trapped in it. It can also reduce the number of dust mites. A study done by Kingston University discovered that dust mites cannot survive in the warm, dry conditions of an unmade bed.
  4. Baking soda is your mattress’ BFF – That humble little box of baking soda sitting in your cupboard can do a great many things. It can give you fluffier cakes, clean tarnished silver and deodorize your fridge but did you know that it can help freshen up your mattress? Baking soda not only helps with keeping the pesky odors away but it helps wick away moisture and clean your mattress at the same time. So while your sheets are in the wash and you are airing out your mattress (see #3), grab a box of baking soda, pour a few drops of your favorite essential oil in, give it a little shake to mix and sprinkle all over your bare mattress. Give it a good 30 minutes to an hour to work its magic and vacuum it all away.

A definitive guide on how to clean stains off your mattress

Now that we got the top tips out of the way, what can we do about the unavoidable accidents? What can you use to clean stains off a mattress? Can you even clean stains off a mattress?

And the answer is yes, you definitely can. The only catch is, you need to work fast. Always remember, the fresher the stain, the easier it is to clean.

Before anything else, make sure your mattress cleaning arsenal is well stocked at all times. Accidents can happen at any time and you want to be prepared. If not, then you would have to live with that stain for the rest of your mattress’ life. Here’s a bit of good news – most of these items may already be in your cupboard.

Your mattress cleaning arsenal

  • Baking soda
  • Enzyme cleaner
  • White vinegar
  • Spray bottle
  • Essential oils (some like Eucalyptus and Lavender can be anti-bacterial, bonus points for the sleep inducing properties of Lavender)
  • Dish soap
  • Hydrogen peroxide (to be used very sparingly)
  • Absorbent cloths or napkins (sustainability tip: cut up an old microfiber towel into hand towel sized strips)
  • Spot cleaners such as a Tide To Go Pen
  • A small scrubbing brush with soft bristles, a toothbrush can do in a pinch
  • The phone number of the best cleaning company in your area
  • Linen spray

What you can use to clean stains off a mattress

Now that you’re ready for a mattress apocalypse, let’s zero in on the targets.

  1. Blood – If it’s very fresh, blot whatever you can away. Blot and never rub as rubbing may make things worse. Next, spritz lightly with pure hydrogen peroxide. Let it sit for 10 minutes and then blot with a clean, dry towel. Allow to air dry. Alternatively, you can use an enzyme cleaner such as Blood Buster on fresh blood stains. Same M.O. then air dry.
  2. Urine and sweat – Mix a solution of hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and a tablespoon of baking soda into a spray bottle. Spritz lightly onto stains, let it sit and air dry. Brush off any dry clumps of baking soda once dry. To get the funky smell out of pee stains, mix a few drops of your favorite essential oil with baking soda. Sprinkle over stain, let sit for 30 mins or more then vacuum away.
  3. Vomit – Blot off any excess vom. Mix equal parts cold water and white vinegar (no fancy vinegars please), spray lightly on stain. Let sit and allow to air dry.
  4. Food – Mix equal parts dish soap and cold water, spray onto stain and blot with a cloth. Some food stains may be a bit harder to take out such as stains from curries and tomato sauce. If it’s fresh, a stain removal pen in the tiniest amounts will work best. Also, please try to avoid eating in bed. This attracts bugs.
  5. Wine – Blot away any excess immediately. Spray with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and cold water and tap away. A little bit of salt sprinkled liberally on top of the stain before adding the liquid mixture may help on lifting the stain further.
  6. Lipstick and makeup – The same solution as wine can work for most makeup stains but for longer wearing type of makeup, a stain removal pen would be best. Also, please always wash your face before bed.
  7. Pet accidents – The same solution as pee and sweat may work for any animal excretions.
  8. Old stains – Older stains can be tricky and hard to remove, sometimes even impossible especially if the stain has already set. That said, you can spray a mixture of dish soap, water and vinegar onto the stain, sprinkle a generous dusting of baking soda and let it sit ideally overnight. Once you’ve let it sit for as much time as you can, brush away the baking soda residue and vacuum to your heart’s content. For added freshness and scent, you can mix a few drops of essential oil into the baking soda before sprinkling.
natural ways to clean your mattress
Mattress Cleaning Tip Sheet

Sometimes, spot cleaning and quick fixes just won’t do the trick. This is the time to call in the professionals. Steam cleaning, deep cleaning and (a very slight) bug infestations should be best left to them.

If you want to be a little extra and add a little pizzaz once you’re done with all the cleaning and changing of sheets, spray on some of your favorite linen spray.

A few important things to remember

  • All mattresses are made differently. Always check your mattress’ care instructions to see if they advise for you to stay away from certain chemicals.
  • As you may have noticed, we have stayed away from bleach and ammonia even though some cleaning tips we’ve come across suggest them. These can create toxic gasses if mixed together or with other chemicals such as vinegar or peroxide. As always, natural is better.
  • Always use cold water. Warm water can set a stain, making it harder to take out.
  • If you’ve got a bug infestation and you want to dispose of your mattress, please call a professional removal service and never ever just leave it on on your curb.
  • Spot clean as soon as possible. Freshen up with baking soda and vacuum every time you change your sheets. Don’t forget to clean your headboard and bed frame too.

Never forget, a clean bed leads to a healthier and happier sleep experience. Now go get a glass of wine to reward yourself for all the cleaning you’ve done but please, stay away from the bed.