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Yes, you should be cleaning your mattress — experts explain why

These easy steps will help you keep your mattress clean.
Vivian Le / TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

When you snuggle into your bed at night, you’re sleeping on more than a comfy mattress.

"Over time, mattresses can accumulate sweat, dead skin cells, dust, bugs, mold, allergens and a wide variety of germs — including bacteria and viruses," Kelly A. Reynolds, professor and director of the Environment, Exposure Science and Risk Assessment Center (ESRAC) at the University of Arizona College of Public Health tells Shop TODAY.

Beyond just the ick factor, if you're not cleaning your mattress, Reynolds says that you're likely exposing yourself to an array of allergens, bacteria and other microscopic organisms that can potentially make you sick, cause rashes and trigger symptoms of allergies or asthma.

All that's to say, you should be cleaning your mattress relatively regularly. But no need to get a professional mattress cleaning. You can learn how to deep clean a mattress on your own. Below, we're sharing everything you need to know, from how often to clean to the easy way to do it.

How often should you clean your mattress?

Reynolds recommends doing a deep cleaning of your mattress twice a year.

How to clean a mattress

Step 1: Vacuum your mattress

To start, after stripping your bedding, Reynolds suggests using your vacuum to clean the top and sides of mattresses to minimize dust, mold spores and other allergens.

According to home maintenance guru Bob Vila, you should pay close attention to the seam line, because that’s where most buildup settles.

Step 2: Treat any stains

If you see any stains on your mattress, treat those. For oily stains from food spills, Vila says you can treat them using a paste of baking soda, salt and water. Cover the stain with the paste, let it set for 30 minutes then brush it away. Wipe with a cloth dampened in cool water and dry with a hair dryer or a fan.

For stains created by crayons, beverages, blood or urine, he says that you can dab with a 50-50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water. Work into the stain using a soft toothbrush. Allow to dry for five minutes and repeat as needed.

When cleaning, you want to be sure not to saturate the mattress with any liquids, as it can encourage more microbial growth, Reynolds says.

Step 3: Deodorize

"To eliminate odors, sprinkle the mattress with an enzyme-based powder-commonly available for treating pet stains on upholstery or carpet," Reynolds says. "A sprinkle of kitchen baking soda can be used to break down odors as well."

Vila suggests letting the powder sit for about an hour before vacuuming it up.

Step 4: Sanitize

Reynolds says that she likes to finish by sanitizing the mattress. She says that you can use a UV light wand, "or you can use the natural UV sanitizing power of the sun if it is convenient to take your mattress outside and the weather permits." You can also mist your mattress with a disinfecting spray that is designed to be used on soft surfaces, she adds.

Mattress cleaning products

Black+Decker Dustbuster AdvancedClean Cordless Handheld Vacuum

Using your oversized household vacuum to clean your mattress can be pretty awkward. And if yours doesn't transform into a handheld version or you don't already have one at home, it's time to add this one to your cart. The bestselling pick has a flip-up brush, which the brand says makes dusting and vacuuming upholstery (or your mattress) easier.

Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Lithium Ion Cordless Hand Vacuum

If you have a furry friend who likes to cuddle in bed with you, odds are, some of their hair might end up on your mattress. This vacuum is specifically designed to pick up embedded dirt and pet hair from almost any surface. Like the above option, this one has a specialized upholstery tool that's made to help you clean soft surfaces.

Arm & Hammer Pet Fresh Carpet Odor Eliminator Plus Oxi Clean

While regular baking soda will do the trick, if you want to take the deodorizing to the next level, try this formula. It's designed to eliminate odors, including those from smoke, mold and mildew. Plus, it features a Vacuum Booster, which is made to loosen debris, so your vacuum will pick up 25 percent more dirt than vacuuming alone, the brand says.

Aunt Fannie's Carpet Refresher

If you try to steer clear of harsh chemicals, you'll be happy to hear that this cleaner is made with 100 percent natural ingredients, like baking soda and essential oils, the brand says. It comes in two fresh scents — lavender and lemon.

Lysol Fabric Disinfectant Spray

Lysol's fabric spray is designed to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses that could be lurking on fabric. It's made to be used on any soft furnishings in your home, so along with your mattress, you can spray it on your couch, rugs and more to freshen them up.

Clorox Disinfecting Mist

According to the brand, this spray is like three products in one — it's a fabric refresher, disinfectant and odor eliminator. Plus, it's designed to work on both hard and soft surfaces, from doorknobs to bedding.

Meet our experts

  • Kelly A. Reynolds, PhD, is a professor and director of the Environment, Exposure Science and Risk Assessment Center (ESRAC) at the University of Arizona College of Public Health. She is also the department chair of Community Environment and Policy at the university's Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.
  • Bob Vila is a TV host and home improvement expert.