the expert guide to sleep disorders (photo by Shutterstock/)

Everyone needs a clean place to sleep, but it’s not enough to simply wash your sheets and pillowcases and call it a day. Below your sheets, your mattress may harbor mold, odors, stains, even bed bugs or dust mites. These can interfere with your good sleep and even cause health problems.

Of course, health isn’t the only concern here, as mattresses can be very expensive. If you’ve invested hundreds, even thousands, into a mattress, you expect that it will be usable for eight years or more. But if it’s stained, smelly, or has a bug infestation, you simply won’t enjoy using it.

Some mattress problems like bed bugs or mold often have owners ready to simply buy a new mattress and start over. But with effective cleaning, you can protect your mattress investment and make your mattress comfortable and useful again.

Follow this guide to learn how to clean your mattress, no matter what kind of cleaning your mattress needs. You can also find helpful product links and suggestions for protecting your mattress so you’ll never have to worry about damaging your mattress in the future.

Cleaning Your Mattress

Whether you’re dealing with a small stain, big odor, or even a major bed bug infestation, cleaning your mattress is important. Tackling messes and infestations on your mattress will keep it clean, safe, and healthy — and it might just save you from having to replace your mattress.

Most mattress cleaning solutions are surprisingly simple, yet thorough, using products like a vacuum, vinegar, baking soda, and rubbing alcohol to make your mattress clean again. Learn how to remove spots, banish bugs, and even clear mold from your mattress quickly and effectively.

Spot Cleaning and Stain Removal

Mistakes happen — even on your mattress. If you’ve accidentally gotten food, bodily fluid, or other substances on your bed and it’s soaked through to your mattress, you’ll need to clean it up quickly before it becomes a problem. It’s especially important to address stains quickly before they set in, becoming more difficult to remove.

  • Step 1: Blot any liquids: If you’ve gotten liquid on your mattress, quickly blot up as much as you can with a clean cloth or towel.
  • Step 2: Clean with diluted dish detergent: Dilute dish detergent in a 50/50 mix with cold water in a spray bottle, then spray it on your mattress sparingly. Let it sit for several minutes before scrubbing.
  • Step 3: Repeat: Sometimes, one, two, or three rounds of gentle cleaning isn’t enough for stubborn stains, so keep at it. Just remember not to use too much water, or you’ll saturate your mattress.
  • Step 4: Use hydrogen peroxide or laundry detergent for blood or urine: Bodily fluids can be more difficult to remove, so try hydrogen peroxide first, blotting it with a clean cloth. Next, try a small amount of laundry detergent with a brush to break up the stain. Use cold water to gently remove the cleaner from your mattress.
  • Step 5: Use baking soda and detergent: For other stains that just won’t come out, try detergent with baking soda sprinkled on top. Let it set for several hours, then vacuum.

Tips and Tricks

  • Blot up excess water and cleaning products as you go to control moisture.
  • Avoid using hot water, as this will set any stains in your mattress.

Best Cleaning Products to Use

  • Dish detergent: With gentle cleaning power, diluted dish detergent is a great first step for most mattress stains.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: Cheap and effective, hydrogen peroxide can bubble away bodily fluid stains, especially blood.
  • Laundry detergent: Laundry detergent is specially formulated to remove stains, especially blood and bodily fluids.
  • Baking soda: A classic home cleaning product, baking soda is effective at soaking up messes and freshening mattresses.
  • Waterproof mattress protector: Stop stains before they start with a waterproof mattress protector. This will form a barrier that will not allow stain causing substances to soak into your mattress.

Mold

Mold is a dangerous infection to have in your mattress. It often starts with minor wetness from an accident, stain, or even heavy perspiration, then grows to become a problem that is a serious health hazard. Mold spores can spread quickly and make you sick, so you’ll need to remove mold from your mattress before it spreads too deep to save it.

  • Step 1: Vacuum your mattress: Capture any mold spores that can be removed from the surface using a powerful canister vacuum.
  • Step 2: Scrub your mattress with a rubbing alcohol mixture: Mix water and rubbing alcohol 50/50 in a container. Use a cloth to soak up the mixture, wring it out, and scrub the mattress in a circular area.
  • Step 3: Wipe down with water: Remove the alcohol mixture by wiping down your mattress with water.
  • Step 4: Blot excess moisture: If you have too much moisture, use a clean, dry towel to blot it off of the surface of your mattress before it soaks in.
  • Step 5: Spray disinfectant: Kill surface bacteria with a light and even spray of disinfectant over the entire mattress.
  • Step 6: Dry your mattress outside: Take your mattress outside into the sun to dry. Sunlight inhibits mold growth and quickly dries your mattress.

Tips and Tricks

  • Use a circular motion to scrub effectively and be sure to go beyond the area of visible mold.
  • Be careful about letting too much moisture soak into your mattress, as this will encourage more mold growth.
  • Use a dehumidifier in your bedroom to keep the humidity to a level that discourages mold growth.
  • Give your mattress good airflow. Using a slatted bed base, you can allow air to flow through the mattress instead of trapping it inside.
  • Use a mattress cover to prevent moisture from soaking into your mattress.

Best Cleaning Products to Use

Dust Mites

Dust and dust mites are the most common cause of household dust allergies — and they love to live in mattresses. They feed on shed human skin and live easily in warm, humid places, making your mattress a comfortable home. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to keep dust mites from invading your bed and flaring up allergies (not to mention the heebie-jeebies).

  • Step 1: Keep dust mites out of bedding: Dust mite problems start in your sheets, where they find dead skin to eat. Wash your bed linens and pillows weekly in hot water and hang bedding outside to dry, as direct sunlight will kill dust mites.
  • Step 2: Maintain low humidity in your bedroom: Dust mites love humid environments, so a dehumidifier can get your bedroom’s humidity down to 40 to 50 percent, killing dust mites.
  • Step 3: Steam clean your mattress: Remove the sheets from your bed and take a steam cleaner to it. Vapor steam cleaning will kill dust mites instantly.
  • Step 4: Vacuum your mattress: Pick up dead dust mites and any remaining live ones with the upholstery attachment on your vacuum. Be sure to get into any crevices with the brush for a thorough cleaning.
  • Step 5: Get a protective mattress cover: A protective mattress cover will form a barrier that keeps dust mites out of your mattress. Of course, you’ll still need to treat your pillows and bedding to remove dust mites.
  • Step 6: Buy a new pillow: Dust mites often live in pillows, so it’s best to simply get a new one every six months.

Tips and Tricks

  • You can’t see dust mites, so you’ll need to cover every inch of your mattress with the steam cleaner and vacuum to make sure you get them all.
  • Along with dust mites, vapor steam cleaning will kill bacteria.

Best Cleaning Products to Use

Bed Bugs

A bed bug infestation is one of the worst things that can happen to your mattress. If you discover bed bugs, you may be tempted to simply throw your mattress away and start fresh. But remember that throwing it away won’t remove bed bugs from your home. A new mattress will quickly become infested as well. Follow these steps to save your mattress and banish the bed bugs.

    the expert guide to sleep disorders (photo by Shutterstock/)

  • Step 1: Remove all items from the area: Yes, all. Stuffed animals, bedding, blankets, even laptops, phones, and radios should be removed. Personal items that can’t be laundered should be bagged with Nuvan strips.
  • Step 2: Inspect and clean furniture: Look for bed bugs not just in your bed, but in your bed frame, dressers, and even inside and on the underside of furniture and drawers. Use a canister vacuum to remove bed bugs from furniture.
  • Step 3: Inspect and clean mattress: Use a flashlight to find and vacuum up all bed bugs and eggs on your mattress. Be as thorough as possible.
  • Step 4: Place a mattress encasement on your bed: Once you’ve removed bed bugs from your mattress, protect it with a mattress encasement. Bed bugs can’t get past an encasement, which means a new infestation can’t start and any bed bugs you may have missed will starve and die.
  • Step 5: Thoroughly clean your bedroom: Scrub infested surfaces, wipe down all surfaces, and vacuum all areas including carpets. Use a vacuum attachment to scrape surfaces and pull out the bed bugs before going over areas with the vacuum.
  • Step 6: Wash bedding in hot water: Wash bedding including sheets, blankets, and pillows in hot water at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Step 7: Vacuum your mattress again: Bed bugs can take up to one year to die of starvation. After you’ve have your mattress covered for a year, remove the encasement and vacuum again to remove any dead and remaining bed bugs, then replace the encasement just to be safe.
  • Step 8: Get professional help: If you haven’t been able to handle a beg bug infestation on your own, don’t hesitate to call for help. Bed bug infestations are serious and can grow quickly, so it’s important that you stop the bugs right away and reclaim your mattress.

Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t use vacuum attachments with brushes or bristles, as bugs and eggs can easily cling to them.
  • Keep in mind that bed bugs may be hiding inside small tears or crevices in your mattress.
  • Inspect baseboards and cracks or holes in your walls where bed bugs may hide.

Best Cleaning Products to Use

  • Full size bag canister vacuum cleaner: A canister vacuum can efficiently and effectively remove bed bugs from your mattress. Look for a model with a bag that will keep bed bugs from escaping into your home.
  • Mattress Safe Protectors and Encasements: Mattress Safe’s covers will protect your mattress from bed bugs and more.
  • Nuvan ProStrips: These strips use a controlled release vapor to kill insects. They are ideal for removing bed bugs from personal items removed from the bedroom and stored in bags.

Odor Elimination

A stinky mattress is unappealing. And odors caused by stains and moisture can lead to mold and bacteria growth, which is unhealthy. Mattress odors can be difficult to remove, but it is possible to make your mattress fresh again.

  • Step 1: Vacuum your mattress: Remove all dust and debris by thoroughly vacuuming your mattress.
  • Step 2: Clean your mattress with vinegar: Dip a cloth in white vinegar and scrub the affected area. Blot with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
  • Step 3: Air dry your mattress: Before covering your mattress with sheets, allow it to air dry completely, ideally outside for several hours in a protected area.
  • Step 4: Sprinkle baking soda: Apply baking soda to your dry, bare mattress to soak up odors. Let it sit overnight, then vacuum and repeat on the other side.

Tips and Tricks

    • Keep in mind vinegar has a strong smell of its own. Don’t plan to sleep on your mattress until the vinegar has completely dried and the odor has dissipated.
    • Air drying your mattress outside will give it better odor removing power, as fresh air is a good deodorizer and odor killer.
    • If you’re airing your mattress out in the sun, be sure to protect it if you’re concerned about fading.

Best Cleaning Products to Use

      • Distilled vinegar: Distilled white vinegar can power through many odors in mattresses.
      • Baking soda: Baking soda is great for soaking up surface odors and removing them from your mattress.

How to Protect Your Mattress

Many cleaning issues that plague mattresses can be prevented with simple protection measures. Avoiding spills, moisture growth, and other problems with your mattress will help to keep it safe, clean, and healthy for all of its useful lifespan. Follow these tips to protect your mattress.

      • Use a mattress cover or encasement: If you do nothing else, do this. A mattress cover will protect your mattress from spills, bodily fluids, and problem causing bacteria. Look for a cover that is waterproof and well rated. If you suspect a problem with bed bugs or dust mites, an encasement will form a complete protective barrier for your mattress.
      • Never eat in bed: Eating in bed often leads to messes and spills. It can also encourage insect infestations.
      • Launder bedding weekly: Wash your bedding every week, inspecting your mattress while it is bare. Kill insects and bacterial growth by using hot water in the wash.
      • Clean your mattress once a month: Vacuum your mattress to remove dust and other dirt from your mattress each month. This will cut down on dust mite growth and may cut down on mold as well.

Additional Links

Be ready to take on any mattress cleaning challenge with the products listed here.