How to Wash a Mattress

Considering that the average person spends roughly a third of their lives sleeping, mattress cleaning is a necessary ritual. Although admittedly awkward and time-consuming, following this step-by-step procedure can make the task less daunting.

General Cleaning

What you will need:

  • Vacuum with upholstery attachment
  • Cold Water
  • Sponge
  • Mild DRY Laundry detergent
  • Upholstery shampoo
  • Electric fans (optional)
  • Shop vac (optional)

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Move your mattress away from walls, furniture, etc. and make sure it is accessible from all sides.
  2. Using the upholstery attachment, vacuum the mattress thoroughly on BOTH sides. Some vacuums have attachments specially designed for mattress cleaning which are especially effective in removing dust and other particles because of their vibrating action.
  3. Next, you want to tackle any soiled or stained areas.
  4. Mix about 1 tablespoon of laundry detergent with about 1 quart of cold water and mix vigorously to form thick suds (a hand-whisk may help in this regard).
  5. Wet sponge with cleaning solution (using plenty of suds) and rub soiled areas in a firm, circular motion until stain disappears, rewetting sponge as necessary (for stubborn stains, see cleaning methods listed below). Be aware that this method will only work for superficial (surface) stains, and that if the stain has soaked into the mattress padding, it may be impossible to remove entirely.
  6. To remove general dirt and grime from the mattress, apply upholstery shampoo to the mattress as per the manufacturer’s direction. (NOTE: Always test a small, inconspicuous area of the mattress first to make sure the fabric can tolerate the cleaner without damage). Remember to clean both sides of the mattress.
  7. Mattress will be damp after cleaning. Allow to dry completely before using. The mattress can be allowed to air dry in a warm location. Placing a couple of fans around the mattress may hasten the drying process. As an alternative, a shop vac can be used to pull excess moisture from the mattress.
  8. When mattress is completely dry, vacuum again to remove any residue

Removing Mattress Stains

Some stains are more stubborn in nature, and are therefore harder to remove. Try these methods to treat stubborn stains, such as urine, vomit and sweat.

What you may need:

  • Spray bottle
  • Distilled White Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Boric Acid (i.e. Borax)
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Enzymatic Pet Stain remover
  • Sponge or cloth

Removal Process:

  1. Using a spray bottle, spray the stain with distilled white vinegar, and allow to set for approximately 5 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle on baking soda (enough to cover the vinegar spot), and leave on until the fizzing stops and the spot is dry.
  3. Blot the area and vacuum up the baking soda. Hopefully the spot will be gone.
  4. If not, dampen the spot with plain water and sprinkle with dry boric acid (20 Mule Team Borax, usually found in the laundry aisle of the grocery store).
  5. Blot the spot with a sponge or cloth in circular motion until the stain disappears.
  6. Wipe dry and vacuum the area to remove residue
  7. If the stain still remains, dampen a sponge or cloth with hydrogen peroxide and blot the stain in a circular motion (NOTE: hydrogen peroxide can have a bleaching effect, so test a small, inconspicuous area first to make sure it will not damage the fabric of the mattress).
  8. If stain still remains, spray the stain with an enzymatic pet stain remover (such as Petzyme™, available at most pet stores), and let set for 15 minutes. Wipe area with a damp cloth and vacuum when dry.
  9. If these methods fail, you may consider contacting a mattress cleaning professional. Also, check with your mattress retailer as they may carry products specifically designed to assist with stain removal for your particular mattress.

NOTE: For stains that have soaked into the mattress padding, for health and sanitary reasons (i.e. bacteria can continue to grow inside the padding even after the surface stain is gone), it may be necessary to replace to mattress.

Removing Mattress Odors

Odors from stains (especially urine or vomit) and from the air (such as cigarette smoke) can linger in a mattress. To remove odors, try any one (or more) of the following methods:

  • Sprinkle the entire mattress with baking soda, and allow to set overnight. Vacuum thoroughly.
  • Using a citrus-based cleaning product, spray the mattress lightly and allow to dry. Vacuum thoroughly.
  • Using a spray bottle, spray the mattress down with a mixture of ½ water, ½ white distilled vinegar, and allow to dry completely. NOTE: While the initial odor may be gone, the mattress will have a slight vinegar smell to it, which should fade in a couple of days.
  • Try a commercially available product such as Febreze (Proctor & Gamble) or FreshCare(Clorox), which are often effective at eliminating or reducing odors.

Additional Hints and Tips

  1. To extend the life of your mattress, it should be flipped and rotated (bottom to top) every six months. NOTE: If your mattress is a pillow top, it should not be flipped, but it can be rotated.
  2. To prevent stains and keep your mattress clean and fresh longer, change your sheets often and vacuum your mattress regularly.
  3. Before cleaning, always check the manufacturer’s tags on your mattress for additional cleaning tips, and make sure to follow all warnings and cautions on the tag to avoid damage to your mattress.
  4. Use a mattress pad to help protect your mattress—it’s easier to throw a mattress pad in the washer than it is to clean a stain directly from the mattress.
  5. Always clean a stain as soon as possible for easier removal and to avoid having it soak into the mattress padding.


  1. Yannie says:

    Please read; no bleach.

  2. Maria says:

    The roof leaked in my rental apt. and dirty water spilled onto a corner of the mattress and box springs. I washed with water and detergent within a couple of hours, but I don’t know if it soaked through. The stain was only in the corner of the mattress, but along the width of the box springs. It appears to have removed the surface stain at least. How would I know if it is sanitary to keep the mattress?

  3. Iftikhar says:

    Please be aware that in some countries, mattresses have to comply with flammability regulations.

    Wet cleaning a mattress can impair the flammability performance by washing away the flame-retardant treatment.

  4. Housekeeper says:

    Oh dear, oh dear! No matter how many times you say that boric acid and Boraxo are the same, they are NOT. They are completely different chemicals. What you want to clean with is Boraxo, and their web site explains how to use it. If you want to kill cockroaches, then boric acid is what you want. But please, do not substitute boric acid for Boraxo any time; you will be very unhappy with the results.

  5. Ahsan says:

    There is a product called “Urine Gone” at pet stores. Also, “Odor Rid” from QVC to put on the exact source of the odor.

  6. Rob says:

    How do you remove blood stains from a pillow top mattress?

  7. Me says:

    Could I give a full water wash to my spring matress, or would it get damaged?

  8. Alicee says:

    Could I steam our pillow top mattress to sanitize it? Thanks.

  9. Melanie says:

    This is the article that you need: How to Remove Old Blood Stains from a Mattress.

  10. Super Dad jase says:

    After years trying different ideas without ever being anywhere near satisfied, I finally developed this self-made recipe which totally blew me away…Mattress WHITENER process: dampen area with “Vanish spray” 10 minutes beforehand. Then, into a plastic measuring jug, put: 1/3 mug of “1001 Shampoo for carpets and upholstery,” 1 emptied out sachet of “Dylon (2 in 1) Ultra Whitener + Oxi stain remover,” and ½ mug of boiling water. Whisk with a teaspoon and allow a think white foam to develop and rise. Use a sponge to repeatedly dab the foam into the stained mattress; do this for 10 mins. Leave a foamy coating on top of the mattress to soak in – 2 or 3 hours later it will be seriously whiter than it was when new.

  11. Bridget says:

    The mattress needs to be dry completely before you can make up the bed and sleep on it. When do people normally clean the mattress this way to make sure they don’t need to sleep on a wet mattress that night?

  12. Melanie says:

    Washing your mattress in the morning would give it the most amount of time to dry before the evening. You can also use some of the suggestions in step 7 of the General Cleaning section to dry the mattress more quickly, or sleep somewhere else until the mattress dries completely.

  13. Maksim says:

    Never use vinegar on your bed unless you want your bed and room to smell like vinegar for two weeks.
    Even a light layer from a spray bottle is way too much.

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