It may not be the top thing to do on anyone’s list, but cleaning your mattress is important. In fact, most of us probably don’t even think about it in our always-busy lives. Take note, however: cleaning your mattress removes dust, allergens, bacteria, and mold.

The extra benefits of cleaning your bed include better sleep quality and health. There’s also the comfort that comes from knowing you don’t have nasty bed bugs sleeping with you. Don’t imagine that last part too much!

What’s more, it’s easier than you might think to clean a mattress. Washing your bedding frequently, adding a trusty mattress protector, and vacuuming it every few months gets you halfway there.

Our mattress cleaning guide will cover both regular cleaning tips and ways to deal with one-time spills or accidents ⁠— without fuss and panic. Yes, sometimes, a mattress isn’t worth saving, but we’ll let you know when.

When Should You Clean Your Mattress

While you might not particularly want to know this, our mattresses are home to quite a few unwanted things. It’s common for them to contain dust mites, stains, sweat, allergens, odors, and yes, even bed bugs.

What’s more, all of these can interfere with our sleep and quality of life. For example, dust mites — microscopic beings that feed on dead human skin cells — create allergens that can trigger allergic reactions. Indeed, around four out of five homes in the US have detectable levels of dust mite allergen in at least one bed. These allergens are significant triggers for people with allergies and asthma.

Still, understanding these frightful facts will ensure you realize the importance of cleaning your mattress. Here are the key signs that your bed needs some care and attention:

If It’s Been Awhile

Regularly cleaning your mattress every few months can help you to avoid a more intensive deep clean. It will help you to sleep better and will enhance the durability of it, too. If you wait too long between cleanings, your mattress will deteriorate much more quickly.

For instance, if a mattress becomes truly plagued with bed bugs, then there’s a high chance it’s beyond redemption. The materials of your mattress can even weaken over time due to sweat, liquids, and food that has built-up over time.

If You Notice Odors

If you start to notice odors emanating from your bed, then it’s a good sign your mattress needs cleaning. Odors are unpleasant and can prevent restful sleep, just when you need it the most. These odors are most likely a build-up of skin, dust, and bodily fluids. In worst-case scenarios, it can even be mold.

If You Have a Spill or Accident

If you spill something on your mattress (it does happen!), then you need to clean it right away. Forget putting it off until later; quickly cleaning it will prevent liquids and stains from becoming a permanent feature.

If It’s Stained

If your mattress is stained, then these can be spot or even deep cleaned. We will go into these two cleaning methods a bit further down the page.

If You Notice Bed Bugs

If you see bed bugs or notice any strange bites on your skin, then you need to sort things out right away. Leaving it will only be a detriment to your health (and sanity). Fret not; we’ve explained everything you need to know down below.

How to Clean Your Mattress Regularly

Life can be busy (and sometimes overwhelming), but if you plan ahead and list everything out you need to do, it all becomes that bit more manageable.

The same is true for cleaning your mattress. Regular cleaning of your bed should happen every few months. The best way of tackling this is by making it a natural part of your routine.

Remember how we said people often overlook cleaning their mattresses? That’s because it’s so easy not to take it as seriously as the other basics in life, such as grocery shopping or taking out the garbage. Of course, the longer you leave a mattress clean, the harder it gets. So it makes sense to do so regularly.

Below we’ve listed five critical steps to ensure your mattress and bedding see the love they deserve:

Step One: Wash Bedding

Your sheets should be washed every 1-2 weeks in hot water. Washing your sheets prevents the build-up of dust and allergens. It’s worth doing now to avoid stress down the line.

Step Two: Wash Pillows

You rest your head on your pillow every single night, so it’s not surprising that it needs a good clean.

You should wash your pillow every six months, and more often than that, if you have allergies. If not, dust mites and allergens will make themselves at home, which can be highly detrimental to those with sensitivities.

Some types of pillows, such as down, fiberfill, and feather, can safely go in the washer for an easy clean.

Other types, like those made out of foam, should be thoroughly vacuumed on both sides. Spot cleaning — cleaning only the part that has a stain on it — can also be effective here. You can perform this with a damp white cloth (colored cloths bleed into the cover).

Step Three: Vacuum Mattress

Many vacuums have upholstery attachments that allow you to clean your mattress with relative ease.

Make sure to be thorough in your cleaning so that you suck up all of the dead skin flakes and bed bugs. Don’t forget the seams of the mattress and the divots; these often amass the most dust and dirt.

Step Four: Spot Clean

If you notice stains on your mattress, then it’s good practice to spot clean them using a couple of different methods. Spot cleaning, in other words, is a localized cleaning method that prevents the need for a complete wash.

There are several different cleaners you can use to achieve this, including:

  • Upholstery cleaner: You can buy affordable upholstery and stain removers that are ideal for quick cleaning fixes.
  • Enzyme cleaner: Enzyme cleaners have been used for years and are perfect for tackling biological stains. They break down the components of a stain, instead of masking them.
  • Homemade cleaner: Some good ideas for homemade cleaners to use on your mattress are the following:
  1. Baking soda and essential lavender oil — for odors.
  2. Hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish-washing soap — for urine and sweat.
  3. Hydrogen peroxide — for blood.
  4. Water and white vinegar — for vomit.

Don’t forget that you’ll need a bowl for mixing and some salt to mix in as well.

Step Five: Deodorize

To deodorize your mattress, you can sprinkle it with baking soda or spray it with vinegar. It’s essential to let the mattress air out for a while after doing this. Ideally, it’s best to air out your mattress in the fresh air and sun.

After that, vacuum it again to be sure that you’ve given it a thorough clean. Your cleaning efforts should result in a mattress that feels – and smells – as good as new!

How to Deal with Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are small insects often found in bedding (and furniture). They are dark red, yellow, and brown in appearance, and the adults among them are up to 5mm in length. The insects feed while you’re asleep, and hide when you’re awake.

It’s a mistake to think that these bugs are only attracted to dirt. The reason you typically find these bugs in beds is simple: mattresses provide a constant source of food, due to the fact we reliably return to sleep in them every night.

The cause is mostly a lack of awareness and a steady increase in international travel. That’s not to mention the insects have now developed a resistance to chemical treatments. Unfortunately, as well as being suitably creepy, bed bugs can bite you, which will leave you with red and itchy marks. The health impacts include allergic reactions to the bites, infections of the skin, and the mental health implications of increased anxiety and insomnia.

The good news is that bed bugs are mostly preventable and can be dealt with when you find them lurking.

Step One: Wash What You Can

It’s essential to wash all bedding and any soft items in the room using hot water. Washing these will kill some of the bugs. Make sure to dry everything on a high heat, though, as this should eliminate any survivors.

Step Two: Bag Everything Else

The next step is to bag everything in the bedroom, so phone, books, laptops, and anything else of importance, as bed bugs stick to hard surfaces. Put your items in plastic bags and use Nuvan strips to seal in vapors, which will efficiently kill the bed bugs.

Step Three: Vacuum Bugs

Vacuum the bed bugs on the mattress and around the house. Make sure to use a light so you can detect bugs hiding in nooks and crannies. Of course, go over every spot twice, just to be sure. Vacuum attachments, like brushes, can allow bed bugs to cling to them, so be aware.

Step Four: Encase Mattress

Encasing your mattress means bed bugs won’t be able to get in or out of your mattress. It’s not a pleasant thought to think of them still crawling around in there, but over time they will die from starvation. Encasement also prevents new infestations from happening. At this point, you might want to vacuum your mattress one last time before leaping ahead with the mattress encasement.

Step Five: Deep Clean

The next step is the deep clean. By this, we mean cleaning the entire house to decrease the chances of bed bug habitation. You’ll need to scrub all surfaces and scrape carpets and rugs with a vacuum attachment to pull any bugs out. Make sure to look in cracks and holes in walls, and baseboards too.

Step Six: Remove Encasement After a Year

After a year or so, it’s time to remove your mattress encasement. All of the bed bugs should be dead, so be sure to vacuum up the bodies.

If any bed bugs remain after completing all of these steps, then it’s time to call in an expert.

How to Eliminate Dust Mites

Dust mites are another type of microscopic creature that is found within the family home and in your bed. While they are not as severe as bed bugs — they don’t bite; for one thing — they still cause unwanted problems. For example, dust mites can cause skin rashes and can worsen allergies too. In fact, they are one of the biggest causes of allergies.

The allergies caused include the following:

  • Runny nose
  • Irritated and sore eyes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Scratchy throat
  • Coughing and wheezing

Dust mites are often difficult to detect because they are so small. Male dust mites live just over a month, while females can live up to 90 days.

The reason they are found in beds, as well as around the home, is because, like bed bugs, they feed on dead skin cells. Dead skin cells quite quickly accumulate around the house, and chiefly where you sleep each night.

The good news? Below we’ve listed the key steps to eliminate them.

Step One: Wash Bedding Frequently

You should always be sure to wash your bedding frequently (weekly if possible), in hot water to kill dust mites. You can follow this up by drying your sheets in the sunlight, wherever it’s feasible.

Step Two: Vacuum

The next step is to thoroughly vacuum your mattress for dead and live dust mites. It’s advisable to do this with an upholstery attachment. Make sure to get into tight spots.

Step Three: Steam Clean

Steam cleaning is an excellent way of getting rid of dust mites, and serves as a follow-up step. The vapors from steaming can kill dust mites within a matter of seconds. Be sure to do this every few months.

Step Four: Protect Your Mattress

A mattress protector with full encasement can keep dust mites from getting deep into your mattress. Essentially, the protector makes it easier to eliminate them as they don’t have the chance to burrow in properly.

How to Keep Your Mattress Clean

Cleaning your mattress is really just the first step in maintaining it. How you live can also have a significant impact on how dirty it becomes, and how quickly too. Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep it clean for longer, including the following:

Use a Mattress Protector

Using a mattress protector is a quick and straightforward way of preventing dirt, accidental spills, and bacteria from getting into your mattress. It’s especially crucial for kids who are more likely to create a mess and cause spills. (Yes, we all did it at some point.)

Give Pets their Own Space

Some people love to have their loyal pet, whether cat or dog, sleep with them at night. However, it’s fair to say that doing so only makes your mattress more challenging to keep clean.

By not letting your pet relax in your bed, you’ll keep away pet hair, dander, and bacteria. Besides, there’ll still be excitedly waiting for you when you get up!

Wash Sheets Regularly

Ideally, you should be washing your sheets every 1-2 weeks. Routinely doing this prevents allergens and dust from building up over time. It can be tempting to put off washing them in a busy week, certainly when they look “good enough.” Realistically though, this is when you need to clean them the most.

Keep Your Room Cool

To prevent excessive sweating, you need to keep your room cool at night — especially in the hot summer months.

Perspiration sinks into your sheets and mattress, and only makes it that little bit harder to maintain. Turn off any devices that generate heat, open the window, and use a fan to keep things moderately cool.

Don’t Eat or Drink in Bed

While it’s generally well known and advised against, eating and drinking in bed simply isn’t recommended. By doing so, you’ll be attracting insects through food crumbs and other debris. You also create the chance for spills to happen. We all like our lazy weekends in bed, but eating and drinking in them isn’t the best option, however tempting!

It’s worth mentioning that if your mattress seems to be too far gone, it probably is. If, after following all of these steps, you still think it’s looking worse for wear, then it may well be time to replace it entirely.

The good news is that there are many excellent mattresses out there, both affordable and luxurious. It might be time to get searching!

Related Resources

If you’d like to know more about mattress and bedding accessories, then check out our other comprehensive and independent guides below.

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Jamie Giggs