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How to clean a mattress

By Ben Slater

Don’t let your bed become a haven for dust and bacteria. Find out how to keep your mattress looking and smelling clean with our expert guide. 

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Cleaning your mattress probably isn't that high up on your list of chores. But there are many reasons why you should spend a few minutes every few months making it cleaner. For one, the average person spends roughly a third of their life in bed, so it pays to keep it as hygienic as possible.

After all, your mattress may well be among the most expensive and long-lasting items in your home, so it makes sense to look after it. 

Whether there's a particular stain or smell you want to remove, or you just want to give your mattress a regular refresh, our expert tips below will help you keep it in top condition.

Or, if yours is already past its best, head to our Best Buy mattresses to find your next one.

Why you need to clean a mattress

No matter how often you change your bed linen, you still need to go the extra mile every so often and give your mattress a thorough clean.

While you may think that your mattress isn't dirty, especially if you normally shower before going to bed and if the mattress is stain-free, that's unlikely to be the case. According to The Sleep Council, the average adult loses 285ml of fluid each night. We also shed around 454g of dead skin over the course of a year, much of which ends up nestled in your bed.

That's not all. The average bed contains 10,000 dust mites, produce more than two million droppings, which can aggravate allergies. It's no wonder The Sleep Council say that a dirty mattress can contain worrying levels of staphylococcus, enterococcus, norovirus and even MRSA.

Find out more about looking after your mattress.

How often should you clean a mattress?

There's no hard and fast rule for how often a mattress needs to be cleaned. It all depends on the mattress and the person sleeping on it.

If you suffer from allergies, you should clean your mattress whenever the tell-tale symptoms of a runny nose, an itchy throat and dry eyes start to worsen.

It also depends on how breathable the mattress is. Every mattress we review is tested for how well moisture passes through it, and the more breathable a mattress is, the less likely it is to stockpile sweat. Head to our mattress reviews to buy a breathable mattress.

While there's no right or wrong answer to the question of how often a mattress needs cleaning, every six months is advisable. If you're in the habit of flipping or rotating your mattress every three to six months (as you should be), its worth taking a little extra time to clean your mattress while you do it.

How to clean a mattress

If your mattress is stain-free, cleaning it should be a quick process. Simply follow the six steps below:

  1. Strip the bed and wash your bed linen. Follow the instructions on the labels and remember that stains on your sheets are more likely to be removed with a Best Buy washing machine.
  2. Check for new stains on the mattress. If you find any, scroll down for tips on how to tackle them.
  3. Gently vacuum the surface of the mattress. For this, you should use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner, making sure the attachment is clean before you begin. Once you've given the mattress the once over, go back and focus on any nooks and crannies in the surface to make sure you pick up every last bit of dust and dead skin. It's a good idea to vacuum under the bed to remove dust at the same time, especially if you suffer from allergies.
  4. Rotate your mattress from head to toe if it's one-sided, or flip it if it's two-sided. If it's the latter, make sure you vacuum both sides of the mattress.
  5. Air your mattress for a few hours to let the fabric breathe. Unless you need to get rid of an unpleasant smell (see below), opening the bedroom window to let fresh air circulate around the room and pass through the fabric in your mattress should be sufficient.
  6. Remake the bed. We recommend using a mattress protector beneath your sheet to protect your mattress from dust and sweat, as this means you won't have to clean the mattress so often.

How to remove mattress stains

Scrubbing stains out of a mattress is no one's idea of fun, but it's essential if you want to keep your mattresses clean and odour free for years to come. Before you get going, there are three golden rules to follow:

  1. Try to attack stains as soon as possible after they occur.
  2. Check the mattress label before you apply any cleaning products.
  3. Test any cleaning solution on a small part of the stain first to ensure it won't damage the mattress.

Read on for advice on how to target specific stains, or scroll down to find out how to get rid of unpleasant mattress smells.

How to get blood stains out of a mattress

To get blood stains out of your mattress, first dab at the stain with a little cold water. Be careful not to soak the mattress and don't rub the stain as this could spread the blood further. 

You may find this technique to be surprisingly effective, especially if the stain is recent, but if not, try adding a little baking soda to the water. Apply to the stain, leave it for30 minutes, and then dab with clean water and leave to dry.

If the stain is still there after the mattress has dried, try following the steps below for removing urine.

How to get urine out of a mattress

To remove bodily fluids such as urine from your mattress, try diluting washing-up liquid in water and then gently dabbing at the stain with a cloth or sponge. Remember that mattresses aren't waterproof, so it's best to clean slowly and steadily. If the stain still isn't lifting, use an upholstery cleaner, but always read the label. We recommend erring on the side of caution, so it's safest to dilute it and avoid spraying it directly onto the mattress.

Removing other mattress stains

For food and drink stains, such as tea and coffee, your best bet is to try the baking soda and cold water mix mentioned above. For bodily fluids and sweat stains, try using diluted washing-up liquid. If in any doubt, though, contact the manufacturer to find out if they have any specific advice.

How to stop your mattress from smelling

Regardless of how comfortable your mattress is, you're unlikely to get a good night's sleep if you're unable to escape an unpleasant smell when you put your head down.

There are two reasons your mattress might smell. The first is because it's new. It's not uncommon for mattresses made with synthetic materials such as memory foam to have a strong chemical smell when you first unpack them. But even if your mattress isn't synthetic, you may find that it smells a bit when new as a result of the flame-retardant chemicals that manufacturers are required to apply by law.

The smell should disperse gradually, but you can speed up the process by leaving it near an open window to air. Or, if the smell is especially strong, you can try air the mattress outside if  you have a patio and the weather is good.

The second reason a mattress might smell is if something has soaked into the material. Bodily fluids are obvious examples, but drinks such as tea and coffee can easily be spilt if you're enjoying breakfast in bed. Even spilt water can give the mattress a musty smell if the fabric hasn't been properly dried out.

After you have removed any stains (see above), air the mattress for as long as possible to allow the smell to fade. If the smell is especially strong or unpleasant, though, you will need to resort to stronger measures. Sprinkle baking soda over the entire mattress surface and leave it for as long as possible - ideally overnight. Next, vacuum up the baking soda and leave the mattress to air by an open window - you should find that the smell has gone.

Cleaning memory foam mattresses

Memory foam mattresses often come with a removable mattress cover that's machine washable. This can make cleaning a lot easier, but there are a couple of things to be aware of.

Always check the manufacturer’s instructions and the details of your mattress warranty before cleaning. Some mattresses have removable covers but the manufacturer actually advises against taking the cover off and washing it, while others allow this but say to avoid cleaning the foam after the cover has been removed.

If you are putting your cover in the washing machine, follow the washing instructions carefully to be sure you don’t inadvertently invalidate your warranty or shrink the cover so much that it then doesn’t fit back over the mattress.

If you’re tempted by memory foam, take a look at our top memory foam mattresses of 2017.

Is it time you bought a new bed?

There are a few things you can do to maximise the lifespan of your mattress. Cleaning it regularly is certainly one of them, but flipping or rotating your mattress according to the manufacturer's instructions, using a mattress protector and not sitting on the edge of your bed will help, too. A good mattress topper can also give an ailing mattress a new lease of life.

Even so, mattresses don't last for ever. When you're sleeping on it every night, it's all too easy to convince yourself that your mattress is as good as it was when new. But just because a mattress is comfortable doesn't guarantee that it's providing good support for your back.

We've tested mattresses that will remain supportive without sagging or softening for up to 10 years. But if you've had you mattress longer than that, you may want to consider buying a new one.

Take a look at our Best Buy mattresses if you're due an upgrade.

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