Accidents happen. Remove the evidence with these tips for cleaning and deodorizing your mattress.

By Amanda Lauren
Updated May 22, 2019
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Anyone who has accidentally spilled something in bed (so everyone) has wondered at one point or another how to clean a mattress. After all, buying a mattress usually requires spending a decent amount of money, so you're probably going to want to do everything you can to protect your investment. To help you get the best sleep possible and keep your beloved mattress in tip-top shape, we spoke with Heather Corrow, product development lead at Allswell. If you take a few key preventative measures and follow the simple steps below, keeping your mattress clean isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think.

How to Prevent Stains on a Mattress

The best way to keep a mattress clean is to prevent stains in the first place. “It’s always best to use a mattress protector to prevent stains altogether,” Corrow says. “Contrary to the noisy old vinyl ones that probably come to mind, the market now offers many inexpensive options made of soft fabric bonded to waterproof backing. Some even offer additional benefits like stain repellent, antimicrobial, and bedbug protection.”

Zippered mattress protectors are best, as opposed to kinds designed to fit like a large fitted sheet. This is because the entire mattress will be protected, including the sides, which can be susceptible to dirt, spills, and even bedbugs. Be sure to put your mattress topper, if you use one, underneath the zippered protector.

The SureGuard Mattress Cover ($60; amazon.com) is a great choice because it’s 100 percent waterproof, has a zipper, and is bedbug-proof and hypoallergenic.

How to Clean a Mattress

If stains happen, the best way to clean a mattress depends on how badly it is soiled. If the stain is small, Corrow says to use a traditional spot-cleaning pen or gel stick. “Be careful not to use too much and be sure to allow the area to dry completely before redressing your bed,” she says. “You may need to repeat the entire process (including drying) more than once if the stain is stubborn.”

But if the stain is larger, Corrow suggests mixing powdered detergent with a very small amount of water—ideally, three parts powder to one part water. The consistency should be similar to toothpaste. “Carefully apply to the stained area and let sit for 15 to 30 minutes before wiping clean with a slightly damp cloth,” she says. “Blot with a dry towel and allow the area to dry thoroughly. Then vacuum it to remove any excess powder. You can also use a hair dryer (or in nice weather, open some windows!) to ensure that the mattress is completely dry before you redress the bed.”

You can clean a memory foam mattress the same way you would clean a traditional mattress. Just make sure to avoid using any commercial cleaning products because some can potentially damage the foam.

Another option is to have your mattress professionally cleaned, but Corrow says you can save money by carefully cleaning it yourself. “However, it is very important that you minimize the amount of water used and allow several hours for adequate drying in order to prevent mold,” she says. “If you are going to go this route, it’s best to at least use a professional grade steamer that does not leave a lot of moisture behind.”

The Rowenta X-Cel Steam Plus Steamer ($70; williams-sonoma.com) is a useful tool for cleaning your mattress because it’s handheld and heats up in just 40 seconds.

How to Deodorize a Mattress

To prevent smells, you should change your bedding at least once a week. Corrow also recommends vacuuming your mattress weekly. (Do it while your sheets are in the laundry). Then lightly mist the mattress with a natural lavender or disinfectant spray. “Use lemon, vinegar, or rubbing alcohol for disinfecting and add lavender, eucalyptus, or tea tree essential oils to keep things fresh,” she says. Then allow a few minutes for it to air dry.

For a deeper deodorizing treatment, Corrow recommends vacuuming the mattress first and then scattering a bit of baking soda across the surface. “Gently rub it in evenly across the entire mattress with a dry sponge or brush to create a light surface coating, then let the baking soda sit for about 10 to 15 minutes, allowing it to absorb and neutralize the odor.”

To remove the baking soda, vacuum your bed a second time using an upholstery nozzle if you have one.

How to Deep Clean a Bed

To deep clean a mattress, repeat the deodorizing steps above, but add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the baking soda. Extend the wait time to up to an hour or two before you do the second vacuuming. “Don’t forget to also launder all of your bedding before remaking your bed,” Corrow says.

How to Clean Pee Off a Mattress

Sometimes accidents happen, but this doesn’t mean the odor must remain for the life of the mattress. Immediately remove the bedding and put it in the laundry. Blot the stain with paper towels. Don’t scrub because you may end up forcing the urine deeper into the mattress.

Then, create a mixture of half water and half white vinegar or cleaning vinegar. Spray the solution all over the area. Then cover it with baking soda for at least eight to 10 hours. Finally, vacuum up the excess baking soda. If it still smells, keep repeating these directions. You can also try using a product like Nature’s Miracle ($11.65; amazon.com), which was designed to remove and deodorize pet messes from carpets and furniture.

How to Get Blood and Period Stains Off a Mattress

It’s not always possible to remove blood stains from a mattress, but you can try. First blot the stain using a rag soaked with cold water. Then mix one part baking soda to two parts cold water. Let the mixture sit for half an hour. Then sop up with a rag soaked in cold water. Finally, dab with a dry towel to soak up the water and let it air dry. You can also try using salt, hydrogen peroxide, or lemon juice, depending on what you have available. Carbona Stain Devil ($23 for 4 bottles; amazon.com) is another option because it’s formulated specifically for the removal of blood.