House Cleaning Tips > Bedrooms > How to Clean a Mattress and Remove Odors

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How To Clean and Remove Odors From Your Mattress

Did you know that you spend one third of your life sleeping (or trying to sleep)? For you trivia buffs, that's about 200,000 hours over an average life span.

Since we spend so much time sleeping it's important to know how to maintain a mattress in top condition, remove stains and keep it clean and odor free.

So, if you love your comfy mattress Mrs. Clean can provide you with the proper cleaning techniques to ensure that you are sleeping on the cleanest surface possible.

By cleaning it regularly, you'll also prolong your mattresses' life and protect your investment giving you a better night's sleep; no matter what your sleep number is....

Removing Allergens

Even if you can't see them, dust mites live in your mattress. Dust mites are microscopic organisms that actually feed on the dead skin that we constantly shed.

If I start thinking too hard I can really get creeped out by dust mites. They are parasites that neither bite nor sting, but their fecal matter can trigger allergies and asthma in some people.

We can't stop them any more than we can completely avoid germs and bacteria, but we can keep them under control and reduce their population and possible negative impact on our health and quality of life. And even though dust mites are extremely small, they will reduce your mattresses life span.

To clean a mattress and reduce dust mites follow these simple steps:

  1. Remove the sheets, blankets, pillows and mattress cover (if you have one)
  2. Vacuum the top and sides of the mattress
  3. Remove the mattress and vacuum the box spring, making sure to do the sides
  4. Flip the mattress over and vacuum the bottom

Removing Stains

Unfortunately, no matter how careful you try to be, you are likely to need an effective stain remover for your mattress.

I prefer using a small steam cleaner to extract the material and cleaning solution as much as possible from the mattress fabric. If you do not have a steam cleaner then use a spray bottle to just cover the stained area, but not saturate it with water and force the stain further into the material.

If you have a biological material such as blood use cold water to avoid setting the stain.

Hydrogen peroxide is an excellent stain remover that does not damage fabric like chlorine bleach does. And since I mentioned it- never use chlorine bleach to remove a stain on a mattress. It will complete destroy the fabric.

  1. Apply cleaning solution to the stain.
  2. Use a steam cleaner to extract the material or blot the area with a clean cloth.
  3. If a stain remains use household strength hydrogen peroxide to a second cloth and blot the area gently, do not rub.
  4. Open the bedroom window or turn on a fan to allow the mattress to air dry.
  5. Don’t cover the mattress with sheets or bedding until it is completely dry.

Removing Odors

Once odors are absorbed into the mattress they can be difficult to remove, but not impossible. Depending on the odor and how easily you can transport your mattress will depend on what method you use below.

Vinegar and baking soda remove odors by balancing pH levels of the odor-causing material. The more neutral a material is, the more inert it is, which means there is no odor at all. Plain pure water has a pH factor of 7.2 and is completely neutral.

When something rots, spoils or decays it breaks down because of bacteria that goes to work on it. The result of the bacterial action and decay is going to be something acidic or something alkaline. Regardless, it's going to smell one way or another.

Vinegar is an acid that neutralizes alkaline odor problems, and baking soda is an alkaline that neutralizes acidic odor causes. To neutralize an odor means it changes the chemical properties and stops the odor, period. It's not a temporary masking of the problem.

Don't use vinegar and baking soda at the same time together as they will essentially cancel each other out (but it will impressively foam as the 2 chemicals react to each other and start producing oxygen).

I recommend trying the vinegar to start, let it dry completely and if a problem remains use the baking soda to remove any remaining odor problem.

Plain White Vinegar

Vinegar is an excellent product, both inexpensive and effective in fighting odor. While there are many good uses for it around your home, deodorizing your mattress with white vinegar is one of the best. Vinegar is highly acidic so mold will not grow, even if you saturate the stain. Vinegar is also an excellent disinfectant. Vinegar neutralizes odors and leaves no residue so there is no need to rinse it after using.

To remove odors in a small spot with vinegar:

  1. Vacuum the mattress to remove all dust and debris
  2. Dip a cloth in white vinegar
  3. Blot with paper towels until all of the odor causing stain is removed
  4. Let the mattress air dry completely

To deodorize your entire mattress with vinegar:

  1. Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar.
  2. Vacuum the mattress to remove all dust and debris
  3. Spray vinegar over the entire mattress
  4. Let the mattress air dry completely

Baking Soda

Baking soda is an excellent odor neutralizer and absorber and is very inexpensive. You can also use this method in the house without having to move the mattress when cleaning.

  1. Sprinkle baking soda on the bare mattress
  2. Let sit overnight
  3. Vacuum off
  4. Flip the mattress and apply the baking soda
  5. Let sit overnight
  6. Vacuum off baking soda as well as all sides of the mattress.
  7. If the odor is not completely removed you may want to move the mattress outside and let it sit for 24 hours in a protected area.

Fresh Air & Sunlight

Sunlight and fresh air are great natural deodorizers. Do not underestimate the power of the sun. It doesn't just burn your skin and power our solar system, it will dissipate chemical odors and change the composition of some odor producing substances stopping an odor at the source. It won't remove residue of course, but it is a very effective odor control remedy.

Sunlight will fade colored fabric. If the sun is very bright and fading is a concern to you keep an eye on the mattress and bring it out of the sun as soon as you determine the odor is gone.

Place your mattress outside in the sun for at least 24 hours to "air" out. You will want to make sure that you place the mattress in a protected area away from animals if you leave it outside to dry.

Heavy Duty Mattress Cleaning and Odor Removal

Vinegar will neutralize odors and disinfect. Baking soda absorbs odors and sunlight and good old fresh air go a long way in keeping a mattress fresh. Before starting this procedure, make sure that you have a sunny day for this method or use a fan to make sure the mattress will dry completely.

  1. Mix a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle
  2. Move your mattress outside in the sun if possible or use a fan to increase air circulation
  3. Lightly mist the mattress with the solution
  4. Using a clean white cloth, gently rub the misted area to disperse the vinegar over the surface
  5. Let it sit in the sun or point a fan at the mattress until completely dry
  6. Repeat the process for the other side and all ends
  7. Let the mattress dry completely
  8. If an odor remains sprinkle the area with baking soda and let it sit undisturbed for 24 hours
  9. Vacuum mattress to remove baking soda completely

Word of caution: If the odor is caused by mold or mildew, you should consider replacing your mattress. While you may be able to reduce the odor, the mold spores and mildew will still be thriving deep in your mattress. Mold and mildew produce a sulfurous gas that is not healthy and there is no way to completely remove it once it has taken hold inside the mattress fabric.

Keeping Your Mattress Clean

Once your mattress is clean, protect it by purchasing a quality mattress cover. You can choose between a cover that fits over the top of the mattress like a fitted bottom sheet or one that envelops the entire mattress and zips to close.

Either way, a good quality mattress cover will:

  • prevent spills and accidents from damaging the mattress
  • help to protect you from dust mites
  • protect your mattress from skin oil and odor build-up

Now you have the tools to clean stains and keep your mattress smelling fresh. With a mattress cover you can also prevent damage to your mattress and make sure it has a long healthy life.

Image courtesy of Mazzali, CC BY-SA Flickr.


Connect with Mrs Clean!

Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Mrs Clean (Corina Wilson) is not only the owner of the company, but a very busy mother of 3 children.

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Mrs Clean realized long ago, that a clean home is a necessity, not a luxury when we are struggling to find the time in our day to cover the very basic levels of work and/or family obligations. The battle seems to never end... (but that's why we're here to help!)

When Mrs Clean is not busy managing her house cleaning company or running her kids back and forth to their events, she enjoys experimenting with natural and non-toxic cleaners and learning new techniques to remove stains.

She thoroughly enjoys sharing her valuable information with the readers of her blogs and various social media sites.

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