How to Clean Mattresses

Here’s some good exercise for you, especially if you’re an aging, atherosclerotic weakling who’s living alone with just a scrawny cat: flip your mattress over and spin it around at least once every six months. For a special challenge, do both movements in one flip.

But what does this have to do with cleaning the mattress? Only that, when you flip it, you may get a gander at how dirty the top side really is. This is especially true if you’re a professional mud wrestler who uses no sheets and doesn’t shower very often.

The Best Way to Clean a Mattress


  • Vacuum cleaner with brush attachments
  • Commercial upholstery cleaning product, preferably citrus-based (optional)
  • Two clean sponges
  • Clean white absorbent cloths (cloth diapers are perfect)
  • Broom
  • White vinegar
  • Pet clean-up product (optional; carried at any pet supply store)
  • Hydrogen peroxide (only if there are blood stains).


  1. Remove dust from the mattress surface. You’ve been breathing dust, dander, and dust mites that build up in and on your mattress, and that’s pretty tough if you’ve got allergies. Vacuum them off your mattress using the upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner. (Are you allergic? Vacuum more frequently and purchase mattress covers.)
  2. If the surface is dirty or soiled, use a commercial upholstery shampoo, or…
  3. Mix a mild detergent with water and stir it up to form suds. Apply the suds only to the soiled area using a sponge. Soak another sponge with warm water, wring it out, and wipe down the mattress.
  4. Remove any stains. Allow the mattress to dry thoroughly. This may take one whole day.
  5. For stains of unknown source, spray a citrus based cleaning product on the soiled area and let it stand for approximately five minutes to penetrate the stain. Using a clean white absorbent cloth, blot the area, pressing down firmly without rubbing for 30 seconds. Repeat this blotting process until the area is dry and odor free. Citrus based cleaning products may be used on almost any type of mattress stain.

Cleaning Mold and Mildew from a Mattress

Molds, mildew, and smoke odors are all difficult to remove because they penetrate the mattress. Combine using the citrus-based cleaning solution with repeatedly sprinkling the mattress with baking soda (make sure the mattress is dry first) and leaving it there until the next change of sheets. This may cut back on smoke stench. Vacuum the baking soda off and replace it with fresh product before putting clean sheets on the bed.

Clean mattress stains caused by mold or mildew by taking the mattress outside on a sunny day. (Definitely avoid doing this during downpours.) Broom off all visible mold and mildew. Run the vacuum cleaner across the mattress. Allow the sun to shine on the mattress for several hours. You may have to repeat this treatment if the mold or mildew is on both sides.

Cleaning Urine from a Mattress

Cleaning urine from a mattress is difficult if it has penetrated deep into the cloth materials. Try to catch the problem while it’s wet. Blot up all you can with an absorbent cloth. Dribble white vinegar on the stain to cover it and blot it up until no more of the urine can be removed. Cover the area with baking soda to neutralize the odor, leaving it on overnight. In the morning, vacuum the powder off. Alternatively, you can spray on the soiled area a product used for cleaning up areas where pets have had accidents. Follow up by blotting and drying.

Cleaning Blood from a Mattress

Remove blood stains by spraying the area with hydrogen peroxide, waiting a minute, blotting, and repeating until the stain is gone.

Other Stains

It’s impossible to completely remove stains left by brightly colored drink mixes. Try vinegar or professional cleaning products. These may dull the stain. Nothing will remove it.

After any stain removal, place a dryer sheet on the spot before covering it with the bottom sheet to neutralize any odors and keep it smelling fresh. (This, however, is a terrible idea if you are allergic to those things, as many people are.)

Extend time between cleanings and protect the mattress by using a mattress pad or cover. Select a washable cover that is easy to remove for cleaning. You might consider a cover designed to reduce dust mite allergies, but be careful of any chemicals that could cause other allergy problems.

If staining is a continuing problem, consider using a heavy, plastic, waterproof pad or cover. It’s noisy to sleep on, but then again, mattresses are not cheap to replace.



  1. Clean a mattress? If it’s not to dirty, just go over it with Febreeze!

  2. Buy a thick, tightly woven mattress pad and throw it in the washer when you do your spring and fall cleaning (or more often if you have allergies or a compromised immune system). Keeps the mattress clean and is *much* easier to wash. A high quality one can be more than $100, but is worth the expense.

  3. If you aren’t allergic to feathers, buy a good quality mattress pad, then put a feather bed on top of that and cover it with a feather bed cover and your bottom sheet. Voila! Sheets get washed, feather bed can be dry-cleaned or hung out to blow in the sun. And by the way, if you are an allergy sufferer, don’t hang your sheets out to dry; the pollen will kill you!!

  4. In the middle of winter, when it’s below 15 degrees, lug the mattress outside and let it sit for most of a day. The extreme cold will kill a lot of nasty bugs.

  5. I had a problem with deep-seated black mold on a mattress after it was in a room with dampness. I read in a household tips book about cleaning with Milton sterilizing fluid and it worked perfectly. Remember to be patient and persistent as it does seem a lost cause at first when the blackness appears to be sticking. I used a small sponge and saturated it with a mix of equal parts water and Milton, and dabbed the mold, section by section on the foot and head of the mattress where the original color had been pale pink and cream, but was now as black as tar! I used a second sponge to rinse it down and then dried it off with an absorbent towel. The next night, as advised, I used full-strength Milton and proceeded again as above. By the end of the third night, all the blackness was gone and the original color was back. I then left it out in the sun because I had read everywhere that sun bleaches out the mold as well. I was very pleased not to have to buy a new mattress, Thanks Milton!! Good luck everyone.

  6. I just purchased a great new bed at an excellent price, which had served as a floor sample in the store, and the top of the mattress has a few light gray dust smudges. What is the best way to clean them? I do plan to cover the bed with a mattress topper, but would like to have the mattress cleaned of these marks first if possible. Your thoughts will be appreciated!

  7. Melanie says:

    Try using step 3. Repeat that step as many times as needed.

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