How To Clean, Deodorize and Care For A Mattress

Want to know something positively disgusting? The average person sweats out about 1/2 a pint of perspiration each and every night.

Seeing as how we spend almost 1/3 of our entire life lying horizontally on a mattress – one would think it would stand alone atop of our list of regular cleaning duties..but lets face it, we rarely think about cleaning the mattress.

The problem is, once you strip away all the sheets, you’re left with a mattress that has a cover that you can’t remove – it’s not like there’s a zipper and you can simply unzip the cover and throw it into the washing machine – no, the sad truth is – once we pull all the sheets off, we tend to turn a blind eye to whatever nastiness might live atop the mattress itself.

Mattresses can harbor spills, stains, dirt, dust, dust mites and worse – so, maintaining a clean mattress is important for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that your partially clothed body is lying on top of it with only a sheet separating you.

Vacuum The Mattress

This is an important step because it removes the dust, dead skin cells and other debris that lands on your mattress and which accumulates, en masse, over time. Consider doing this every time you rotate your mattress; once a season. Now, the important part here is to use a clean upholstery attachment, because remember that your vacuum sucks up all kinds of nasties and you don’t want to be depositing those on your mattress.  We have a post and video on how to clean your cleaning tools, which teaches you how to do this.  Remember to vacuum the mattress as well as the foundation, if you can manage it.

Deodorizing A Mattress

You can fancify your mattress vacuuming by adding another step, and that is deodorizing.  I guess with all that sweat, dust and other fun stuff your mattress handles, it can start to develop it’s own unique aroma.  To combat this, simply sift baking soda over your mattress, leave for thirty minutes and then vacuum up with that upholstery attachment.  Baking soda is a natural deodorizer so it will definitely help neutralize any odours.  Note however, that it won’t really clean any stains in this ‘dry’ cleaning method.   If you like essential oils, add five drops to the baking soda pre-sift and you’ll get to enjoy that lovely scent for a few nights thereafter.

Spot Cleaning And Stain Removal

Stains come in 3 varieties (protein, tannin and grease), but only one usually ends up on your mattress – and that would be a protein stain – and the reason we’re only going to cover protein stains here is because blood, sweat, vomit, urine and other bodily liquids are what we usually have to contend with on a mattress.

As with any stain, it’s best to tend to it as soon as possible to avoid the stain setting in.  Liquid stains need to be blotted up first with a cool, wet cloth and then excess moisture blotted up with a dry cloth.  Remember to use a a pressing motion, rather than a circular motion to lift the stain to avoid further rubbing the stain in.  Also remember that heat sets protein stains so only use cold water when handling these.

Fresh protein stains can usually be removed with a mixture of salt, baking soda and water.  Create a paste, rub it on the area and brush off 30 minutes later.  Then, use some cool water on a damp cloth to remove the excess and allow to dry.  If that doesn’t work, upgrade your solution and try my favourite homemade stain remover, consisting of 2 parts hydrogen peroxide to one part dish soap.  Gently apply the stain remover to the area, gently brush in with a cleaning toothbrush and wipe up five minutes later with a cool, damp cloth.  This should also help with any unsightly discolouration.

Some people love using enzyme cleaners to remove protein stains, and you are welcome to try this, they are highly effective.

Just remember to use as little liquid as possible and to ensure your mattress is completely dried before using it again to avoid growing your very own mold spores.  Placing fans in the room can speed up the process.

A Note About Steam Cleaning & Deep Cleaning

Some folks swear by deep cleaning or steam cleaning their mattresses.  Now, what I know is that mattresses don’t do well with moisture so I don’t use these methods, although I have access to both a deep cleaner and a steam cleaner.   I also know that there are professional service providers who do this and those with allergies or very difficult mattress stains can consider using a professional rather than hacking it on their own.  These folks are trained and have access to great extraction equipment.  I’d trust them over me, particularly when it comes to my most beloved and crucial sleeping tool.

Here Are A Few Other Helpful Mattress Cleaning Pointers

Flip it!

Turn and/or flip your mattress so it will wear evenly, do this at the turn of every season and rotate clockwise.  My husband  and I have about 100 lbs difference between us, so rotating the mattress means we prolong the life of the mattress and even out the wear.  It takes a grand total of 45 seconds to do.

Dry Times

No water on your mattress – mattresses really don’t like water, and memory foam mattresses can’t actually handle liquids at all.  With memory foam or Tempurpedic mattresses,  liquid gets trapped in the cellular structure and has nowhere to go.  On that note, never, ever get your memory foam mattress wet.  If you need to spot clean, be super stingy with the liquid and blot like a mad man or woman.

Fan Club

Use fans to dry the mattress so if that mattress gets wet, use fans to assist in dry time and if you have access to a wet dry vac, use that to help extract moisture.  Don’t think about sleeping on mattresses until they are completely dry.

Bed Bugs

We’ve been asked about how to deal with bedbugs.  This is a serious issue and should not be a DIY project.  Act fast and call a professional.  Have them treat your mattress, room and any other affected areas of the house immediately.  If you get – them you want them gone, and these guys know how to do it.

Cover Up

Now you may recall at the beginning of this video that I mentioned something about a tip which would save your mattress from spills and stains and the like – well, its not really a huge secret but a mattress protector is one of the best investments for your mattress – there are a few different types, which I have linked below if you are interested in learning more.

Luna Premium Hypoallergenic Waterproof Mattress Protector

Sleep Defense System – Waterproof / Bed Bug Proof Mattress Encasement

Sleep Tite by Malouf ENCASE Mattress Protector – Six-Sided Zipper Encasement

But trust me on this one, it’s much easier to take off a mattress protector and throw it in the washing machine then to fiddle around on your mattress trying to remove tough stains or spills.

Also it’s important to note that many mattress manufacturers strongly recommend using a mattress protector – because stains on your mattress will void your warranty.  If you gagged at the thought of a gross mattress, you should also check out our pillow cleaning post and video.

So now you can rest easy knowing that your mattress is clean and cared for – just be careful with it and you’ll discover it’s not nearly as daunting as you may have thought.

How do you clean your mattress?

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Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.


  1. Awesome, helpful advice!!! Today I found a nasty super sweaty very damp nearly mildewing mattress when we got home from 10 days away from home… obviously someone thought ignoring it would help it go away!! Anyway, it happens to be one of those organic cotton loom & leaf mattresses, so I did my best to clean it up today. Did have one of those good mattress protectors on it, or it would have been a total write-off. Anyway, I did 2 doses of the baking soda/salt paste… (used a whole box of baking soda). Left the 2nd dose on for half a day. It got more difficult to remove and I had to scrape it with my fingernails to loosen it… then brushed most of it up, then vacuumed it well with the upholstery brush. It seems completely better! Good as new! And it was stained and very very stinky. Thank you for your GREAT advice!

  2. I should get a mattress cover sounds like. . . and mattress apparently. -continues sleeping on concrete floor- Good advice though, good advice
    Least I have a pillow. -curls up and hugs it-

  3. Hello, Great post, already tried some of these!! but….
    I need URGENT advice please!!!!!!!!!…..
    – The reason I came here was to find out how to clean a mattress (namely odours) because I’ve just gotten my 3 year old son his first single bed (bit late), and can’t afford a new mattress, so got one second hand for $50 aud.., the seller even dropped it off to my place for me, which was nice, but it was late at night when they got here.
    They said it was in AMAZING cond. And it did look nice, in the dark.
    OH, and it’s one of those foam, not memory, yellow foam! mattress, with a zippered cover around it.
    – First thing to piss me off, I wanted an actual proper mattress. Ok i’m not complaining I can deal with that…
    – Second thing was the biggie!… Got it in his room onto the bed and I went to bed, next morning (yesterday) we woke up and I went in to show him, and all I could (and still can) smell is the stench of perfume? deodorant? strong scent of some sort???
    – I’ve left it a day (till today) and put the fans on, windows open, in the sun etc…..
    – Tried again today, NO HOPE!! (and it’s smell actually made me sick today though i am suffering pregnancy morning sickness.. gah!).

    I am so angry, they obviously had it and someone did something on it and it stained/smelled bad and they saturated it with some sort of spray to mask the smell!!??? But now, it smells so f’n rank 🙁
    I’m so upset at myself, for not looking at it better when they bought it here, for myself for not being able to buy him a bloody mattress! 🙁

    Question is:- how would you get a smell like that out of it? I”m not sure why theres a zippered cover cos it says “Do Not Wash, Do Not Dry-clean” or I’d have tried washing that instead…
    I’ve just done the baking soda everywhere and ended up doing my own mattress and the spare bedroom one as well and then vacuumed them all. It’s now bed time, and i’m hoping when I go in tomorrow morning that the stench will be neutralised???
    If not, what else can I do?
    Or should I just throw the dammn thing out anyways?
    This post has made me think about throwing it out completely. I’m angry I spent $50 on it, because $50 to us is a lot of money! It’s almost HALF my weeks budget in food shopping… Grrrrrrrrr
    *PLEASE help me to find a cleaning solution please!? 🙁

  4. We do use a bed bug protector on our mattresses and wash them regularly. We also turn our mattresses regularly, but the next time I turn our mattresses I will also vacuum, just to be on the safe side. Thanks for your tips.

  5. I use a waterproof matress protector religiously. It has saved me countless times, whether from my klutziness with beverages, getting sick, or petsdeciding to mark it! Unfortunately, my best friend doesn’t…so, i have a guest bedroom mattress to try and get a tea stainout of… Thanks for the tips!!

  6. Great tips! thanks for sharing. This by far is one of the most detailed guide I’ve read. I personally do these steps myself too and I can guarantee this works well. Have you tried using baking soda? it works wonders!

  7. I have used a mattress cover and pillow cover forever. They are both water proof. They work like a charm and give the mouth and body protection to both pillow and mattress your looking for. Thanks for the tutorial.

  8. Gave some very helpful information and will use them. The background music was very annoying and not necessary.

  9. thank u for this video, yes we are mattress protector people, much easier w/ that. i neverrrrrrrrrrr thought of the vacum,ugh,will start doing that now. again thank u .xo

  10. I though most people used a mattress pad. I have used one all my life. On every bed. And I wash them in hot water with soap and bleach at least twice a year, along with my pillow protectors. And I usually do this on a sunny day when I can hang them outside to dry.

  11. I love this video. I have a high quality matteress protector. Well worth it. Saves the life of the matteress.

  12. GREAT VIDEO! First time seeing this and was relieved I didn’t need to replace my mattress as some of the ads on TV recommend.

  13. Awesome video! Question: I use mattress pads on mattress(usually old one & newer one one owner it). Gives extra protection& padding. Using the protector should you still clean mattress with baking soda? Usually wash protectors 2x a year.

  14. The cover we bought with the memory-foam mattress only lasted a couple years before it started leaking through. I bought one online and it’s much better. For those “other” bodily fluids, a large waterproof pad that you lay on top works best. The fluids never even touch the sheets/cover so there’s less to wash. You can just theow it in with the towels.

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