You already know how often to wash your sheets, but how do you clean your mattress? If you think your mattress doesn't need to be cleaned very often, think again.
It doesn't matter whether you have a natural latex mattress, innersprings or memory foam, mattresses can harbour dirt and germs like any other furniture. Since we spend around a third of our lives sleeping, mattresses have to deal with more than their fair share of dust, hair, skin cells and other substances.
If you don't know how to clean a mattress properly, your bedding could be a major breeding ground for dust mites. These microscopic critters and their droppings are linked to asthma, hay fever, eczema and other health problems, which could be especially dangerous if you have people with allergies in the house.
Moisture from sweat and spilled liquids can also lead to mould and mildew growth and can attract bacteria responsible for food poisoning, pneumonia and antibiotic-resistant infections.
Even if you have a latex mattress that's resistant to bacteria growth, or another mattress that's received antibacterial treatments, it's still important to keep up a regular cleaning routine to avoid your mattress becoming a health hazard.
Before you clean your mattress
Before you get started, there are a couple of important things to know about cleaning mattresses so you don't accidentally make the problem even worse:
Don't use water to clean your mattress, unless you're removing a stain.
Spring and memory foam mattresses are not designed to get wet, which can cause the spread of mould, mildew and bacteria. Even a latex mattress can be damaged by water through prolonged exposure.
If you need to use a liquid cleaning agent to spot treat a stain, or you choose to steam clean a mattress, make sure you don't use more water than you need to, and give your mattress plenty of time to dry out.
Always check the tags or the instructions that came with your mattress to see if it has specific care requirements. Different types of mattresses have different needs, and some can be damaged if certain cleaning materials are used.
How often should I vacuum a mattress?
Dry vacuum your mattress once a month to remove dust and dirt from the surface. If people in your home have allergies, you should aim to vacuum your mattresses every time you change the bed linen.
Using the upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner, move over the surface slowly to remove as much dirt as possible.
Use the crevice tool for corners and edges. Lightly beating the mattress before cleaning can help to loosen dirt and make it easier to remove.
Do I need to beat my mattress?
The time-honoured method of loosening dust and dirt still works a treat, as long as you don't expose your mattress to more dust while doing it.
Once a year, taking your mattress outside and beating it with a brush could help to loosen dust. Make sure to give it a thorough vacuum afterwards. If you have a latex mattress, make sure your mattress stays in the shade, as direct sunlight may damage the material.
How to remove stains from mattress
The most important thing to know about how to get stains out of a mattress is: act quickly.
The sooner you respond to a stain, the easier it will be to remove. After 72 hours, most stains will have set completely and be impossible to remove. Not only does this look dirty, it can attract mould, mildew and bacteria.
Water is your mattress' enemy, so always use the minimum amount needed when using liquid stain removal agents.
Press or blot stains rather than wipe, as this can spread the stain further.
If you're using a cleaning product or solution you haven't tried before, test it on a small area first to make sure it won't cause damage to your mattress material.
If you're using chemicals or solvents, make sure the room is well ventilated and protect your skin.
Leave your mattress to dry fully before you replace the bedding.
How to remove blood stains from mattress
Blood stains don't need to be a cause for alarm when you act fast. Even if you don't notice a stain until the next day, there could still be time to reduce its visibility.
There are various tried-and-tested methods to remove blood stains from a mattress. These include:
- Cold water – fresh stains may dissolve when spot treated with cold water. Avoid hot water, as this will make the stain set more easily.
- Hydrogen peroxide solution – pour 50/50 hydrogen peroxide and cold water onto the stain. Watch it bubble and gently dab away until it clears.
- Baking soda solution – for more stubborn stains, mix one part baking soda with two parts cold water and dab the stain. After 30 minutes, rinse with cold water then dry using a towel.
- Salt, hydrogen peroxide and corn starch – if a little more force is needed, combine ½ cup corn starch with ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide and 1 tablespoon of table salt to form a paste. Spread it onto the stain, leave it to dry, then scrape away, hopefully lifting the stain with it.
How to remove urine stains from mattress
At some stage, most parents have to learn how to clean urine from a mattress. If you get it wrong, you could be left with an unpleasant odour, so it's important to act fast.
The best way to get urine out of a mattress is using an enzyme cleaning spray. These can be bought from a store (such as a pet urine stain remover) or you can make a DIY solution using biological washing powder and water.
Make sure you wear protective gloves and that the room is well ventilated before you start. As the mattress can take up to 18 hours to dry, you should aim to clean early in the morning or make alternative sleeping arrangements. Here's what to do:
1. Dab the area with paper towels or a dry towel.
2. Sprinkle baking soda to soak up the remaining moisture.
3. Spray the stain with your enzyme cleaner.
4. Leave it to work for 3 to 5 minutes.
5. Dry the mattress again using paper towels and baking soda.
6. Leave to dry out for at least 18 hours.
7. The next day, vacuum the baking soda and air dry your mattress to remove any odours remaining.
How to remove odours from a mattress
Even if you successfully remove stains, their memory can linger in the form of bad smells. Odours can also be a warning sign that bacteria or mould are present. If your mattress smells bad, here are some solutions to try:
1. Baking soda
Stock up on baking soda and sprinkle it liberally over the source of the smell or the entire surface of your mattress.
Leave it for a few hours to soak up smells and body oils, then vacuum away.
Repeat on the other side of the mattress or add corn starch for an extra deodorising kick.
If you think the odour is caused by bacteria or mildew, you'll need to disinfect the mattress.
To do this, you can use either a commercial disinfectant spray, vinegar solution (2/3 cups water to 1/3 cup vinegar), lemon juice or rubbing alcohol.
Make sure you dry your mattress thoroughly afterwards.
How to clean a bed frame
It's not only your mattress that needs to be cleaned regularly, but also your bed frame. Whether you have a metal, wooden, fabric or leather bed frame, all can harbour dust and dirt and put your family's health at risk.
To clean a leather bed frame or headboard, gently wipe the surface using a moist cloth followed by a dry cloth or duster. Use a specialist leather cleaner or liquid soap, not a spirit-based cleaner, as this can damage the leather.
Metal and wooden bed frames should be dusted regularly, checking that the screws are tight.
How to protect your mattress
As with all things, prevention is better than cure when it comes to keeping your mattress clean and safe for use.
Using a mattress protector will protect it from spills and stains and help to extend the life of your mattress. Look for mattress protectors that are machine washable or even waterproof to prevent any moisture from getting through.
If you're worried about bed bugs, mould and bacteria, buying an air purifier for your bedrooms will remove most contaminants from the air, helping you to rest easy.
If you get hot and sweaty in the night, switch to lighter bedding or use air conditioning to help you keep cool and keep moisture off your mattress.
Take a shower or a bath before bed so you'll transfer less dirt and grime to the bed.
Make sure you clean all sheets, covers and other bed linen once a week (or more often if you have allergies).
And the best way to avoid crumbs and liquid spills? Don't bring food and drink into the bedroom!
How long does a mattress last?
Even when you keep your mattress clean, it's still recommended that you change your mattress at least every 10 years. This can vary depending on its quality, how often it's used and the type of mattress you have, with spring mattresses tending to wear out faster than a memory foam or latex mattress.