How to clean a mattress and why it's so important for your health

Sleep experts reveal how to clean a mattress and how often you should do it.

clean mattress and white bedsheets
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you don't already, knowing how to clean a mattress is essential, not only for creating a clean sleep environment but also for your general health and wellbeing. 

Most of us know that we should invest in the best pillow and mattress for a comfortable night's sleep. And, we all know it's important to change our bed lining at least every two weeks, but how many of us realise the importance of regularly cleaning our mattress and how it could impact our health?

Thankfully it isn’t the laborious task you might think it is. 

How to clean a mattress and mattress stains

Always wondered how to clean a mattress and assumed it would be difficult task involving lots of professional products? Well, the good news is that it's a super simple chore that only requires a hoover! 

Andrew Jacobs, Mattress Advisor at sleep brand OTTY shared with us a step-by-step guide to cleaning a mattress: 

  1. Strip your bed: Place bed sheets into the washing machine and check the washing labels on your duvet and pillow. Giving them a good wash can remove any dust mites, too.
  2. Tackle stains: If you notice stains on your mattress, use a mild cleaning solution to treat them. But, avoid any products that contain chemicals like bleach. 
  3. Get out the vacuum clean: Ideally use a vacuum cleaner you wouldn't use on your floor, preferably a handheld vacuum cleaner, or a vacuum attachment that hasn't been used on the floor. Vacuum both sides of your mattress to remove dirt, hair and dust from your mattress. Make sure to rotate your mattress so you clean every part of it. 
  4. Let it air out: It’s a good idea to air your mattress and allow it to breathe whilst your bedding is drying. This will reduce any bad odours from building up in your mattress. Andrew recommends airing your mattress for around 8 hours. Picking a mattress that has good airflow will ensure constant circulation.
  5. Make your bed and relax: Get out your favorite bedding, prop up your throw cushions and enjoy a night of slumber in your fresh bed. 

person vacuuming mattress

When it comes to removing mattress stains things can get a little bit tricky, says Neil Robinson, Chief Sleep Officer at Sealy UK.  

Despite the old wives' tale that baking soda can air out a mattress and remove stains, Neil warns that not all mattresses are suitable for baking soda use. 

For coffee, vomit or urine stains Andrew suggests tackling them with a gentle solution. "Use a sponge dampened with warm solution made up of upholstery shampoo or a mild detergent," he recommends. 

For anything else, it's best to call in the professionals for an expert mattress clean and be sure to put on a mattress protector post-clean to prevent any future stains.

How often should you clean your mattress?

How often you clean your mattress is dependant on many factors, but as a general rule you should aim to clean it every six months. 

"This does depend on factors such as, the properties and materials that make up the mattress, its age, and the person sleeping on the mattress," says Andrew.

"If you suffer from allergies, you should clean your mattress more frequently dependent on the severity of your allergies. For example, during a flare up of eczema we recommend you clean your mattress as soon as possible."

What are the health risks of not cleaning your mattress?

Your mattress could be a hotbed for dust mites, dirt and mould, which in time could lead to you suffering from viruses, infections or skin issues, says Neil. 

"Dirt and dead skin cells are a haven for dust mites, which leave nasty bites, cause allergic reactions, and can in some cases exacerbate Asthma for sufferers resulting in difficulty breathing, chest tightness, or even trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath," Neil says.

He added: "Over time, mattresses also absorb moisture, and without regular cleaning and airing this can lead to a build up of mould which can cause allergies to flare up, resulting in coughing, itchy eyes and skin conditions such as eczema."

In other serious cases, a dirty mattress can lead to nasty skin infections, serious viruses and urinary tract infections through a build up of pathogenic bacteria and fungi such as enterococcus, staphylococcus, norovirus and even MRSA.

How to keep your mattress clean

  • Keep pets out of the bedroom: Fur from dogs and cats can be a magnet for pollen, dust and other allergens.
  • Invest in a mattress protector: Our bodies can lose up to 500ml of water each night whilst we sleep, so a mattress protector provides an extra layer to shield the mattress from bed bugs and dust mites, keeping it clean and stain-free.
  • Air your bed out every morning: Remove the pillows and duvet from your bed and let your mattress air for at least 20 minutes. According to Neil, this will allow moisture to evaporate and help prevent dust mites. 

How often should you replace your mattress?

Although a regular mattress clean is essential, it’s worth noting that mattresses aren’t a lifelong companion. According to Andrew, you should aim to replace you mattress every six to eight years for a supportive and comfortable night's sleep, and to promote good sleep hygiene.  

"However, you can prolong the life of your mattress by flipping it initially once a month then once every new season," Andrew says. 

He added, "Every mattress and the materials used is different, whether its foam or springs or both. Replacing your mattress isn't a one size fits all recommendation. We’d recommend you check with the manufacturer which you bought your mattress for further information on when to replace it."