How to Clean Any Mattress — Even After Kids Have an 'Accident'

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There are no magic tricks when it comes to knowing how to clean a mattress. That said, all you need are a few key ingredients (which you probably already have in your cupboard at home), elbow grease, and patience. Take steps to remove stains as soon as they happen, and aim to give your mattress a deep cleaning at least once every season.

Experts recommend different products for different kinds of mattresses, so make sure you know what’s best for your bed.

How to Clean a Mattress

Darla DeMorrow, author of Organizing Your Home with SORT and SUCCEED ($3.99, Amazon), recommends a three-stage attack for cleaning innerspring mattresses:

  1. First, apply a cleaning spray to one side of the mattress. Her go-to spray consists of a quarter cup hydrogen peroxide, one cup of water, and 10 drops of lavender essential oil.
  2. Next, clean the same side of the mattress with a steam machine. Spend at least 15 minutes on this part, then let it dry.
  3. Finally, after this side of your mattress is completely dry, flip it over, and repeat the spray and steam steps on the other side.

While your mattress is drying and airing out, DeMorrow suggests you clean all your bedding and pillows. After all, if you have a sparkling clean mattress, you want clean bedding, too, right? Also, remember to turn your mattress every time you clean it to extend its lifespan.

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It’s a good idea to vacuum both sides of your mattress about once a month to get rid of dust and dust mites, and to reduce the risk of allergic reactions and irritation. Another good tip is to air out your mattress every few months. Sit it outside in a sunny spot to dry out any moisture, prevent mold, and get rid of lingering odors.

How to Clean a Mattress Stain

Try to identify the stain to choose the best method for cleaning. (Don't worry, we discuss urine stains specifically, below.) For unidentified stains, use a diluted dish detergent. DeMorrow recommends adding two squirts of liquid dish-washing soap to the cleaning spray mixture of hydrogen peroxide, water, and lavender essential oil to create a stain-removal spray. It’s always a good idea to test your chosen cleaning product on a small, inconspicuous area first.

Spray the product onto the stained area, and let it sit for at least five minutes, then blot with paper towels until all the liquid is gone. Use any cleaning products sparingly, as you don’t want to soak your mattress too much.

How to Clean Urine from a Mattress

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If you have young kids, you’ve probably had to deal with more than one bed-wetting incident. Here’s how to clean a mattress with urine stains, according to Chris Brantner, a certified sleep science coach at SleepZoo.com. These steps are the can also help clean dried urine from mattress surfaces.

Whether you’re looking into how to wash a mattress pad or how to clean a futon mattress, baking soda is a great tool to have in your stain-removal arsenal.

How to Clean a Memory Foam Mattress

Steam cleaning may not be suitable for a memory foam mattress. In fact, many memory foam manufacturers advise against steam cleaning. To get rid of stains, use a mild detergent, which is safer than a harsh bleach or ammonia-based chemical product that might destroy the memory foam.

Mix a dish-washing liquid with warm water until bubbles form. Dip a clean sponge into the bubbles, and apply it to the mattress with gentle circular motions, focusing on stained areas. You can also use a vinegar-and-water mixture instead of a detergent. Put the mixture into a spray bottle, and spray the mattress, then rub the stain quickly with an absorbent clean cloth.

Baking soda can be used on a memory foam mattress to absorb dampness and eliminate any lingering odors.

How to Clean a Pillow-Top Mattress

Pillow-top mattresses have an extra layer of padding attached to the top of the mattress.You can use regular mattress stain-removal methods on a pillow-top mattress, but the thick padding of a pillow top allows liquids to soak in quickly. To minimize staining, act quickly to blot stains with a clean rag, then follow the cleaning and stain-removal steps above.

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Knowing how to deep clean a mattress is important, but prevention is also key. To protect your mattress from future stains, Brantner recommends investing in a mattress cover — a durable, waterproof layer that goes between your mattress and your sheets. It’s especially a must-have for those with kids at home!

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