How to Keep Your Mattress Clean and Healthy

How to Keep Your Mattress Clean and Healthy

Most of us know that maintaining a home includes chores such as vacuuming, mopping, and dusting, but equally important is understanding how to keep a clean, healthy mattress. Because you likely spend more time in bed than any other place in your home, this proves essential to your family’s health. We researched the best ways to keep a mattress clean, collecting both routine cleaning tips as well as deep cleaning specifics for spring and foam beds.

Start With A Healthy Mattress

One of the biggest parts of maintaining a healthy and clean bed is selecting an option least likely to accumulate dust and bacteria or release chemicals. An all-natural latex mattress proves ideal at naturally discouraging microbes and dust mites, without introducing toxic chemicals into your room. Spring mattresses provide large, open spaces that can trap moisture, encourage mold and bacteria, and collect dust mites and debris. We compared latex mattresses in a recent article, and with all-natural Talalay latex mattresses from identified as the best value.

Whichever type of mattress you choose, placing a protective cover over the bed when it is new will also alleviate many potential problems, including the cleaning of stains and buildup of allergens. If you are reading this article because you have already encountered these problems, then read on for solutions. If you haven’t, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – using a waterproof cover, or better yet an encasement, on your mattress not only keeps warranties intact, it prevents a host of other issues.

Healthy Mattress Care Basics

Each type of mattress will require techniques that may be unique to their construction, though the following following tips should be used with all beds:

  • Vacuum the surface every six weeks with a handheld vacuum or hose attachment. You can do this when turning or rotating the mattress. An upholstery brush can be used to fluff pillow top styles.
  • Occasionally expose the surface to fresh air and sunlight to allow the bed breathe.
  • Remove and wash mattress pads and covers at least every six weeks. A weak bleach mixture and or hot water is suggested to kill dust mites, if suitable for the fabric. A low dryer setting will help minimize shrinking.
  • Wash sheets and bedding every one to two weeks in hot water.
  • Keep pets off the bed. While it may feel cozy to cuddle with Fido, pets bring dander, mites, dirt from outdoors, and can have accidents on your mattress, all of which can be unhealthy for humans (and a little gross).

Mold and Mildew on Mattresses

Mold and mildew on a mattress may necessitate the purchase of a new mattress. A minimal amount on the surface can be wiped with vinegar, bleach mixture, or hydrogen peroxide and placed in sunlight for several hours. The mold and mildew however, may have grown into the wood or interior fibers of the mattress which can’t be adequately cleaned in most types of beds (some latex models allow you to open and remove layers). Rather than risk your health, consider getting a new bed if you see mold.

Removing Bodily Fluid Stains on Mattresses

Vomit, blood and urine stains are some of the most difficult to thoroughly remove from any mattress. Most people report the best success with enzymatic cleaners and hydrogen peroxide. Enzymatic cleaners are available for both human and pet tasks, it may be a good idea to have one on hand just in case, as they can be used on other furniture and carpet stains as well. These areas must be thoroughly washed and allowed to completely dry before placing bedding back on the bed.

Deep Cleaning Innerspring Mattresses

The exterior of an innerspring mattress can be wiped down with a variety of products that are found in the home. For general cleaning a mixture of baking soda and water can be wiped on, with a damp towel, allowed to dry and vacuumed. This will help eliminate odors and clean the surface.

Slight stains may require a mixture of laundry detergent and water. Use approximately one tablespoon of detergent to a quart of water and mix thoroughly. Wet a sponge in the mixture and use it in circular motions where the stain appears. Try not to soak the mattress so it won’t take forever to dry or lead to mold or mildew, and follow up by blotting the area with an absorbent towel.

Stubborn stains on an innerspring mattress like bodily fluids will require stronger products and elbow grease. The first step is to spray vinegar on the area and allow it to sit for approximately five minutes. Sprinkle baking soda on the area and rub it in a circular motion. Allow it to thoroughly dry and then vacuum. Boric acid, which is in the laundry section at grocers, can be worked over the area in the same fashion as the baking soda if the stain still appears. Enzymatic cleaners also work well for urine stains. After blotting up as much moisture as possible, use the cleaner according to the directions. Allow it to sit for approximately 15 minutes before wiping with a damp towel, then vacuum once it has dried. Hydrogen peroxide can also be used to remove stains and eliminate bacteria; however it may bleach and discolor the cover material.

Deep Cleaning Memory Foam and Latex Mattresses

Spot clean small areas of memory foam or latex mattresses using a diluted mixture of dish soap or laundry detergent and warm water. It is best to avoid using harsh chemical cleaners on foam mattresses, as they can affect the integrity of the material.

In case of spills, use an absorbent cloth or towel to absorb as much liquid as possible before cleaning. Agitate a mixture of a few drops of dish soap and water, dip in a clean cloth, then firmly press the area where the stain appears. Blot with a dry towel, and then take a second cloth that has been dipped in clean water to rinse the area. Use a dry cloth to absorb as much liquid as possible, and allow to air dry with all covers and bedding removed. A fan can help speed the process.

Deep cleaning of a foam mattress may be required if the stain involves bodily fluids. To thoroughly and deeply flush and neutralize the odor and bacteria, you can use soapy water, a hydrogen peroxide solution, enzymatic cleaners, vinegar and/or sodium bicarbonate. Use a towel or sponge to lightly apply your preferred cleaning solution to the affected area, following this up with an absorbent dry towel, and repeating the cycle until the stain appears sufficiently diminished. Work from the outside of the stain inward to avoid spreading it further. For smelly stains, y0u may want to then work borax or baking soda into the area and leave it to dry, then wipe and vacuum the remaining residue.  Baking soda can also help speed the drying process as it absorbs moisture.

Blotting with towels and using fans will help to remove moisture, however it may take several days to thoroughly dry, which you will want to be sure of before putting mattress covers and bedding back on. This will be easiest in an area where the mattress can be left to dry with good ventilation on all sides (perhaps lean the bed against a wall so air may circulate below as well). Bear in mind that foam mattresses can also absorb a great deal of moisture and if totally soaked, will take several days to dry.  For this reason it is important to protect them immediately after purchase with a waterproof cover if at all possible.

With some brands of latex mattresses, you can remove the layers from the cover, which can also be helpful in stain removal and when trying to speed drying. It is also a good idea to vacuum inside the mattress occasionally, especially if dust is a concern for you, and to wash covers every couple months. To remove odors from foam beds, sprinkle baking soda over the area and allow it sit for several hours before vacuuming up.

Replace Old or Unhealthy Mattresses

You also want to make sure you replace mattresses in a timely fashion. When we sleep, we sweat and shed a lot of hair and skin cells, both of which encourage bacteria and dust mite proliferation.The average lifespan for a bed is 5-10 years based on its ability to provide effective support and good sleep. If you think about, that it is also a considerable amount of time for grime to accumulate when  you spend eight or so hours on it every night. If your mattress is older than 10 years, there is a good chance it is fairly filled with allergens and dirt, and it also may no longer be providing enough support.


These tips offer a basic idea of how to clean your mattress and keep your bedroom healthy. If these methods don’t achieve the desired results, a professional cleaner may be required (dry cleaning usually is not recommended for foams). However, some odors and stains may ultimately require replacement depending on the mattress construction, and especially if you suspect fungus or mold. It is always a good idea to consult your mattress tag or any materials that came with your bed for manufacturer cleaning recommendations. Ultimately, the best tips  for maintaining a clean and healthy mattress, in addition to frequent basic cleaning, are to chose new beds wisely and use a protective cover at the outset.

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