How to Clean a Mattress

Most people don't know how to clean a mattress. It's not hard, and taking the time to do it could save you hundreds of dollars.  I am always shocked at the number of nearly new mattresses left out for garbage pickup because of soils and odors that their owners didn't know how to deal with.  Don't let that happen to you!

A few years ago we were given a nearly new king-sized mattress.  We used it for a few months, and then decided that it was really too big.  Just a few days before the new owners were coming to pick it up - we were pet-sitting and the cat peed on it.  At first I thought it was ruined, then decided that I wouldn't accept that - there had to be a mattress cleaning solution - and there was.

Sources of Mattress Soil

Just like any other household item, deciding how to clean a mattress is largely based on understanding the source of the problem.  Mattresses need to be cleaned or treated for the following reasons:

1.  bodily fluid stains
2.  body oil stains
3.  accidental spills
4.  vermin (lice, bed bugs etc.)

Most general soiling and the issues described in items 1-3 can often be cleaned at home with an extraction machine. Some people shy away from using an extraction machine on a mattress because they are afraid that the springs might get rusty.  Well, a couple of them might eventually, but you were going to throw it out - so why would you not invest an hour of your time and save yourself hundreds of dollars.  Besides, the liquid spill you are trying to clean up would have the same effect if left untreated.  (Most springs are made of stainless these days anyways - so you are probably good.) To prevent any moisture issues in the mattress, give the mattress plenty of time to dry.

How to Clean a Mattress with Bodily Fluid Stains

Bodily fluid stains include urine, blood and vomit.

Pre-treat with a carpet spray made to handle urine stains.  Usually this will be an enzyme-based product that will break down any protein-based stain and the chemicals that create odor.  This step is especially important if it is a pet stain.  Pets will return to pee in the same place if it is not thoroughly cleaned.

Once the area has been pre-treated, clean it just like any upholstered furniture with the upholstery wand from an extraction cleaner.  The main difference is that the mattress padding is deeper, so it needs longer to dry. 

Body Oil Stains

People often ask me how to clean a mattress of body oils.  You can get rid of the worst of it if you give it a thorough cleaning with the upholstery machine.  Once it is dry, if there is still any odor - spray it with the following recipe:

Put 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in a clean spray bottle. Once the fizzing sops, add 2 cups of warm water. Wait to make sure that there is no more foaming, and then put in the spray attachment. Shake before using.

Allow it to dry thoroughly.  The spray deodorizer works great on pillows too.

Really the best way to deal with body oil stains is prevention - use pillow and mattress covers, and wash bedding regularly. 

How to Clean a Mattress after an Accidental Beverage Spill

I love to climb into a warm bed with a hot cup of herbal tea and a good book to unwind at the end of a long day.  I know that I am not the only one.  Unfortunately this kind of comfort runs the risk of experiencing spills.  The good thing is that the beverages we spill rarely cause really stinky messes.

If you are anything like me, you are not going to strip the bed and clean it right then - especially if you don't have an alternative sleeping location.  Instead, take a thick absorbent towel, fold it once or twice, lay it on the spill, and sit on it.  You can keep reading for 15 minutes or so. 

After about 15 minutes, remove the towel.  If your beverage had any milk in it,or stains like juice, you should spray the wet area down with water and soak it up with the towel once or twice more.  Milk is one thing that can really smell bad.

Once the spot is only mildly damp, lay a clean towel over it and get back into bed.  You can do the real cleaning in the morning. 

The next day, or as soon as you are able, run over it with an upholstery cleaner.  If the beverage had milk in it, pre-treat with an enzyme cleaner.  One you use for pet accidents will likely work just fine.

Bed Bugs

If I was confident that I could tell you how to clean a mattress to get rid of lice or bed bugs safely and effectively I would.  However, in the last little while these nasty biting critters have become increasingly resistant to household solutions.  The chemicals needed to kill them are getting stronger and stronger, and much more dangerous.  Even the residues they leave behind are unsafe.  The only safe solution is a professional with a high temperature steam-cleaner.

Before you invite a company into your home to deal with mattress-dwelling critters, confirm that they are using a non-toxic method.  Also - check what preparation you need to do in advance - and do it.  Don't cut corners, or you may find yourself re-infested in no time.  The heat in your washer and dryer will destroy any insects, eggs or larva that have made their home there.

Day to Day Mattress Care

Nobody like talking about them - but they're there - dust mites.  The little critters that you can't see.  Many people are allergic to the biological waste from dust mites.  Here are a few things you can do:

1.  Vacuum the mattress every time you change the sheets

2.  Air bedding such as quilts and duvets in the open sunshine whenever you can

3.  Before making the bed, pull back the bedding to air it out for at least 30 minutes and let the moisture evaporate

4.  Use a non-toxic product like the Norwex Mattress enzyme spray to break down bed bug wastes.

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