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How to clean a mattress, according to cleaning pros

Plus, a homemade solution to get rid of stubborn mattress stains.

Considering you spend about a third of your life on your mattress, taking good care of it is pretty darn important. Yet, when was the last time you cleaned your mattress? We’re guessing it’s been a while.

“You sleep on your mattress every night, so it’s bound to need cleaning after all that use,” said David Rubin, director of product testing and certified sleep science coach for The Sleep Doctor, the parent company of

And “while your mattress might not look dirty, there are plenty of things on it that you can’t see,” said Bill Willis, owner of Molly Maid, noting that mattresses can collect pollen, dead skin cells, sweat, dust mites and hair and food particles. “It’s important to clean the mattress to avoid this buildup and prolong the life of the fabric,” he added.

For these reasons, Rubin and Willis recommend deep cleaning your mattress on a regular basis (we’ll explain what we mean by “regular” shortly). Keep reading for your step-by-step guide to deep-cleaning your mattress, cleaning a mattress protector and more.

How often should you clean your mattress?

Rubin recommends a basic vacuum and airing out your mattress every six months, but you might want to clean your mattress more often based on personal preferences and other considerations. 

Those considerations include whether you sleep alone or with a partner or pet, if you frequently eat or drink in bed, your hair and skin type and personal hygiene. “Also, people with allergies typically should clean their mattress more often,” said Arin Schultz, vice president of sales and marketing at the organic mattress and bedding company Naturepedic. “In general, a once-a-month mattress deep clean is an excellent starting point for ensuring cleaner, better sleep.”

How to clean your mattress

Here, our experts walk you through their best practices for cleaning your mattress. Before embarking on any such endeavor, consult the care guide for your mattress to see if there are any specific guidelines to follow.

What you’ll need:

  • Vacuum
  • Non-toxic cleaner of your choice
  • Baking soda
  • Dish soap for stains
  • Cold water for mixing with the dish soap, if needed
  • Rags or towels for treating stains, if needed
  1. Strip the bed. Of course, you’ll want to “start by removing all blankets, pillows and sheets to expose the surface,” said Willis. This will give you a blank slate for cleaning your mattress. Do this in the morning to ensure you have enough time to complete the chore. “A dry mattress is the key to a clean mattress. You want to make sure your mattress has time to fully air out and dry completely before you put any bedding on it,” said Schultz, adding that ideally, you’ll want to let your mattress air out for at least eight hours. “Opening your bedroom windows to allow ventilation and natural sunlight can help,” he said. If possible, you can move the mattress outside to allow for even better ventilation and to make the cleaning process more convenient. “The UV light from the sun also acts as a natural disinfectant, aiding in killing any bacteria and freshening the surface,” Willis said.
  2. Toss your bedding in the wash. Hooray for multitasking. Since you’ve stripped the bed in preparation of deep-cleaning your mattress, now is the time to toss your bedding in the wash, said Schultz. “Remember, we’re aiming for the cleanest, freshest sleep possible and you’ll want a crisp set of clean sheets when you’re ready to make the bed at the end of this process,” he said. 
  3. Vacuum away debris. While your sheets, pillowcases and comforter or duvet cover are being laundered, grab your vacuum and turn your attention back to your mattress. “Use a vacuum hose to remove any visible debris or loose particles from the mattress surface,” said Willis. Don’t forget to vacuum the underside of your mattress, too.
  4. Tackle any problem areas. “Mattresses are spot-clean only,” explained Schultz. “If you notice areas that look yellowish or otherwise problematic, you can blot them with hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, white vinegar or your favorite non-toxic DIY cleaner. Then, simply scrub with a damp cloth and mild dish soap and blot dry.” Schultz cautioned people to go easy on liquid cleaners — even water — and make sure you allow the mattress to fully dry before proceeding to the next step so that you’re not enabling any mold or mildew growth. We have a more detailed section on dealing with tough stains later on.
  5. Neutralize odors with baking soda. Once you’ve spot cleaned stains, it’s time to “sprinkle baking soda generously over the entire mattress surface,” said Willis, who recommends letting it sit for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour to absorb odors.
  6. Vacuum your mattress again. After you’ve let the baking soda work its magic, grab that upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner for an encore sweep of the entire surface of the mattress. Do this thoroughly and remove all the baking soda from your mattress, said Rubin.
  7. Flip and repeat. Don’t forget the other side of your mattress. “When the first side of the mattress is completely dry, flip it over to repeat the cleaning process on the other side,” said Rubin. “Once done, allow the mattress to dry thoroughly before returning it to the bed frame and placing sheets and bedding back on it,” he continued, stressing that a dry surface helps prevent any mold and mildew growth

How to clean stubborn mattress stains

Staring down a blotch that won’t budge? “A solution of hydrogen peroxide can be incredibly useful for removing any urine, sweat and bloodstains from your mattress,” said Willis. “It is also an effective germ killer.” Willis suggests mixing the following ingredients to create a solution: 

  • 1 tablespoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap
  • ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide

Use a clean sponge or spray bottle to apply this mixture to your mattress stains. “Allow the mixture to work for a few minutes, and then blot or rub the stains with a damp rag,” he said.

Another option, said Schultz, is to try spraying the area with a plant-based enzyme cleaner, available at most pet stores or on pet supply websites. “Just make sure you’re using a product without toxic chemicals or fragrances, and that you’re starting on a fully dried surface so that the formula can work at its best,” he said. 

How to clean a mattress protector

A mattress protector can help shield your mattress from dust, skin oil and perspiration. If you don’t own one already, purchase one with a waterproof barrier, said Schultz. (A waterproof mattress cover also makes cleanup easier if you have a child or pet who has accidents, said Willis.) That said, “most waterproofing agents on the market contain vinyl/PVC, PFAS and other harmful materials that off-gas toxic chemicals while you sleep,” Schultz warned, suggesting consumers opt for a certified organic, non-toxic protector pad.

Washing your mattress protector at least twice a year will help keep your mattress cleaner, but it will not replace the need for a thorough clean, said Willis. However, you’re probably not cleaning your mattress protector enough — or at all — so let’s go over how to give it a little TLC, too.

The best approach, per experts, is to buy a mattress protector that is machine-washable and dryable. “The whole reason you get a mattress protector is to keep things hygienic,” said Willis. “It only makes sense to purchase one that won’t degrade with regular machine washing and drying.” Schultz also emphasized that when you wash your mattress protector, be careful not to overload the washing machine and follow the manufacturer’s care instructions.

“Wash the cover once a month in warm to hot water and dry on low, especially if the cover has a plastic waterproof coating,” said Willis. And that’s about it. From there, you can rest easy knowing you have a perfectly clean mattress and bedding.