How to Clean and Disinfect Your Mattress [Ultimate Guide 2021]

Life can be messy, and keeping your mattress clean is no exception.

Besides the time you spend sleeping, you may also spend some extra hours in bed watching Netflix, munching on some snacks, or snuggling with pets. All of this activity contributes to a mattress full of dust, germs, dead skin cells, dust mites, and sweat residue.

But don't worry—our comprehensive mattress cleaning guide will teach you how to combat common stains and what to use to make your mattress look, smell, and feel brand new.


When and Why Should You Disinfect Your Mattress?


Just because your bed doesn't look dirty doesn't mean you're in the clear. Dust mites, germs, dead skin cells, and sweat residue, invisible to the human eye, may lurk under the surface.

Dust and allergens can leave you feeling stuffy and foggy when you wake up, and bacteria can transfer to your skin and cause breakouts. That's why sleeping on a clean mattress is one of the most basic tenants of good sleep hygiene.

We recommend washing your sheets and bedding once per week and fully cleaning your mattress every six months. Also, if you buy a used mattress, you should thoroughly disinfect it prior to use.

Other than routine mattress maintenance, an accident may come along that requires you to do some emergency disinfecting. If that happens, make sure to start the sanitizing process as soon as possible to prevent stains.

Read on to learn the best methods for disinfecting and removing common stains from your mattress.

How to Disinfect a Mattress: 7 DIY Solutions

While you can easily find a commercial mattress spray that kills odor and lift stains, you don't necessarily need a specialized cleaner to do the job. If you prefer a more natural or DIY solution, you can try one of these at-home options for disinfecting and refreshing your mattress.

Mattress Cleaning Quick Guide


Method: Steam Cleaning

Best for Routine Maintenance and Sweat Stains

Steam cleaning doesn't require any chemicals, making it the perfect natural method for mattress sanitization.

With a handheld steamer (such as a garment steamer), you can eradicate those nasty dust mites and break up the yellow sweat stains that naturally develop on your mattress. Just be careful not to soak the mattress. We recommend short, sharp bursts of steam.

Method: Antibacterial Spray

Best for Routine Maintenance and Sweat Stains

A general disinfectant spray works similar to steam cleaning because it kills germs and other microscopic critters and breaks up sweat stains.

Cleaning a mattress with bleach can damage the fibers, so stay away from any product containing bleach. Gently mist, don’t soak the mattress surface, then blot it with a damp cloth. Open a window to let the mattress air dry completely before dressing the bed.

Method: Vodka

Best for Routine Maintenance

Make a vodka martini for you and one for the bed! While it may sound strange, vodka is a natural disinfectant and can be used to clean a wide variety of household items—including your mattress.

Pour some vodka into an empty spray bottle and gently mist it over the entire mattress. Take care not to soak the mattress, and blot it with a clean, dry rag afterward. Open a window and allow the mattress to air dry before dressing the bed.

Method: Baking Soda and Vinegar

Best for Routine Maintenance, Deodorizing, and Stains

Baking soda and vinegar have served as staple cleaning agents for decades.

To use the combo as a mattress cleaner, pour some vinegar into a spray bottle and lightly mist the mattress. Don’t worry—the baking soda will absorb the smell. After 10 minutes, blot the surface with a dry rag or paper towels.

Next, sieve baking soda on the mattress and allow it to sit for as long as possible in a ventilated room. The baking soda will absorb the vinegar along with any stains.

Before settling in for the night, vacuum away the baking soda from the mattress and dress the bed.

Method: Enzyme Cleaner

Best for Stubborn Stains

For very stubborn stains, you can make a homemade enzyme cleaner with 8 ounces of hydrogen peroxide and 3 tablespoons of baking soda.

Apply the solution to the affected area and allow it to sit for as long as possible. After that, take a damp cloth and gently blot the stain. Allow it to air dry before vacuuming the entire bed and base.

Method: Foaming Shaving Cream

Best for Stubborn Stains

Most shaving foam contains alcohol and therefore can tackle stubborn mattress stains, and the thick consistency mirrors that of a stain remover.

Simply spray the foam on the stain and let sit for 20 minutes, remove the excess foam, and blot with a damp cloth. Rinse with 50/50 water and vinegar solution and let the mattress air dry completely before dressing the bed.

Method: Cornstarch and Baking Soda

Best for Deodorizing

Another handy household item that’s great for cleaning a mattress is cornstarch. By absorbing the odor-causing bacteria, cornstarch will eliminate that “old mattress smell.” You can even mix baking soda and cornstarch for a double whammy of cleaning strength.

Just sprinkle a 50/50 mix of cornstarch and baking soda onto the mattress, and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. Then, vacuum the entire mattress, bed base, and under the bed before putting the sheets back on.

How to Disinfect Bed Sheets

Cleaning your mattress won't do much good if you still sleep on dirty bed sheets! Ideally, you’ll want to wash your sheets once every week to keep your bedding free from dust, bacteria, pet dander, and allergens.

Here’s how:

  1. Strip the bed, and put the sheets in the washer on the hottest setting the fabric can handle.
  2. Use a reputable laundry detergent and fabric softener.
  3. Dry sheets in direct sunlight or on a high dryer setting as the heat will act as a natural disinfectant.
  4. Dress the bed with your clean, dry sheets.


How to Remove Stains, Bed Bugs, and Other Mattress Cleaning Complaints

From everyday dust and dirt to accidental stains, your mattress goes through a lot. Below you’ll find a list of common mattress complaints and stains and the best methods to clean and disinfect them.

How to Remove Common Mattress Stains

Accidents happen, and when they do, there are reliable ways to clean and disinfect your mattress to make it as good as new. Here are some common stains and how to remove them.

Urine

You’ll Need:

  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Empty spray bottle
  • Towels
  • Vacuum

Instructions:

  1. Remove bed sheets and bedding and wash as soon as possible.
  2. Using a 50/50 mixture, put vinegar and water into the spray bottle.
  3. Using one of your dry, clean towels, blot the excess urine without scrubbing, as this will push the urine further into the mattress.
  4. Spray your vinegar/water mix over the stain while blotting out the excess liquid.
  5. Sprinkle baking soda over the stain and allow it to sit for as long as possible—we recommend 8 hours.
  6. When ready, vacuum the stain to clean the baking soda off the mattress. You can use this opportunity to vacuum the entire mattress and base.
  7. Repeat the process if necessary.

Blood

You’ll Need:

  • Baking soda
  • Cold water
  • Clean rag or paper towels

Instructions:

  1. Remove all sheets and bedclothes.
  2. Mix two parts water and one part baking soda in a bowl.
  3. Apply to stain by dabbing, not rubbing.
  4. Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes.
  5. Dab the stain again with a damp cloth.
  6. Vacuum excess residue.
  7. Allow the excess water to air dry on the mattress before dressing the bed.

Sweat Stains

You’ll Need:
Hydrogen peroxide
Baking soda

Instructions:

  1. Remove all sheets and bedclothes.
  2. Mix 8 ounces of hydrogen peroxide and 3 tablespoons of baking soda.
  3. Apply the solution to the affected area and allow it to sit for as long as possible.
  4. Take a damp cloth and gently blot the stain.
  5. Allow it to air dry before vacuuming the entire bed and base.
  6. Redress the bed with fresh sheets.


How to Disinfect a Mattress From Bed Bugs

Unwanted visitors lurking in your mattress? While it may be tempting to toss the entire mattress, you don’t need to throw your bed away to get rid of bed bugs. Just follow these simple steps to clear your mattress of these pests.

  1. Strip the bed and put the sheets into the washer on the hottest setting the fabric can handle.
  2. Use a reputable laundry detergent and fabric softener.
  3. Dry sheets in direct sunlight or hot dryer as the heat will act as a natural disinfectant.
  4. Spray the mattress with bed bug spray.
  5. Vacuum the entire mattress, base, and under the bed.
  6. Dress the bed with your clean, dry sheets.

For full instructions and tips on bed bug removal, check out our comprehensive guide.


How to Clean a Used Mattress

There are many reasons to buy a used mattress, particularly cutting down on costs. Whether you purchase a mattress from a friend or take home a floor model, you’ll want to take extra steps to clean and disinfect your bed before use.

Here’s what you’ll need to do to clean your new (old) mattress:

  1. If possible, allow the mattress to sit outdoors to air out before bringing it into your home. The sunlight will act as a natural disinfectant.
  2. Vacuum the entire mattress, along with your mattress base and under the bed.
  3. If the mattress has any stains, use one of the spot treatments outlined above.
  4. Use the steam cleaner, baking soda, or antibacterial spray method on the entire mattress to sanitize your sleep surface fully.
  5. Allow it to dry completely before dressing the bed.

How to Deodorize a Mattress

If you notice your mattress starting to smell a little stale, you can easily deodorize it with baking soda. Here’s how:

  1. Remove your sheets.
  2. Vacuum the entire mattress, base, and under the bed.
  3. Sprinkle or sieve the baking soda onto the mattress surface and allow it to sit for as long as possible, preferably in direct sunlight.
  4. Vacuum again when ready to remove the baking powder.
  5. Redress your bed, and your mattress should smell fresh again.


Keep Your Mattress Cleaner, Longer

Once your mattress is fresh and clean again, you’ll want to keep it that way. With proper maintenance, you can extend your mattress’s lifespan. Plus, when you take little steps now and then to keep things clean, your more intensive cleaning sessions won’t be so much of a chore.

Take these steps to keep your mattress feeling fresh 24/7, not just when spring cleaning comes around.

  • Clean your sheets regularly in a hot wash cycle.
  • Consider a mattress protector to prevent further stains from developing.
  • Clean stains as soon as they appear.
  • Avoid using bleach, as bleach damages mattresses.
  • Vacuum the mattress, base, and under the bed regularly.
  • Flip or rotate your mattress every six months.

If your mattress is around eight years old, it may be more beneficial to your sleep health to invest in a new mattress and mattress protector that can prevent stains from developing. 

FAQ

How Do I Sanitize a Memory Foam Mattress?

For memory foam, you’ll want to avoid getting the mattress wet. Also, avoid using harsh products such as ammonia and bleach.

The best way to sanitize a memory foam mattress is by mixing 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of water in a spray bottle and lightly misting it onto the mattress. Take special care not to soak the surface.

Allow the vinegar mixture to sit for 30 minutes. Then gently dab the mattress with a clean, dry rag or paper towels, and let it air dry naturally.

To clean a liquid stain, sprinkle baking soda on the spot after misting the mattress and let it sit for up to 10 hours before vacuuming. This will absorb the stain while avoiding damage to your memory foam mattress.

Can I Spray Lysol on My Bed?

To deodorize a mattress, you can use a can of Lysol Fabric Mist, which you can also spray on sheets, blankets, and pillows for a refresh. In general, Lysol spray eradicates bacteria and is safe to use on most mattresses, but read the label carefully for directions.

After use, ensure that the mattress, sheets, and pillows dry completely before dressing the bed.

Can You Bleach a Mattress?

Do not use bleach on a mattress, as the strong chemicals in bleach can damage the mattress fibers. We recommend a more gentle approach like the cleaning solutions described above.