How to clean a mattress and help it last longer

How to clean a mattress and help it last longer
Dust, hair, pet dander, and more start to build up in mattresses over time.FotoDuets/Getty Images
  • Baking soda and a thorough vacuum can help remove dust and odors that build up in a mattress.
  • A deep cleaning is needed two to four times a year, but stains should be spot treated as soon as possible.
  • Experts recommend changing your mattress every six to eight years — or when it starts getting saggy.

The bed is usually the coziest sanctuary in our home. Not only is a mattress an expensive household purchases, we also spend an astounding average of 33 years in bed. But as we recharge and rest, our mattresses collect and absorb sweat, skin and hair oils, dust, pet dander, and so much more.

Despite that, we rarely take the steps necessary to keep it clean. A proper bed cleaning goes beyond the regular changing and washing of bed sheets, according to mattress experts Brian Wiersma, director of initiatives and manager of Merry Maids Memphis, and Karen Phillips-Recchia, certified bedding consultant at Jerome's Dream Shop. The mattress itself - box spring or memory foam - also requires routine care and maintenance.

What you need

  • Vacuum, plus attachments for upholstery and crevices

  • 8-ounce box baking soda

  • Optional: lavender essential oil and/or dried lavender

  • Enzyme cleaner

  • Microfiber cloth

  • Disinfectant wipes

How to clean a mattress

  1. Strip the bed. Remove the sheets, shams, and mattress pad or cover and throw them all in the wash. While your linens are washing and drying, clean the mattress.

  2. Prepare a baking soda mixture. Wiersma recommends a full box of baking soda - which will help deodorize - for king and queen size mattresses and half a box for full and twin sizes. Combine the baking soda with a few teaspoons of dried lavender and/or a few drops of lavender essential oil. If you have sensitive skin or allergies, you can skip the scented additions. Sprinkle across the top of the mattress and let it sit for 1 to 2 hours to fully deodorize.
  3. Thoroughly vacuum the mattress. Use the upholstery attachment to suck up the baking soda. Don't forget to vacuum along the sides of the mattress, behind the bed frame, and under the bed to help keep your entire sleeping area clean.
  4. Spot-clean and treat any visible stains. While most stains will never fully come out, many can be treated on the surface if cleaned right away, says Phillips-Recchia.
  5. Wipe down the bed frame. As the mattress dries from spot cleaning, use a microfiber cloth to wipe down the bed frame, which can collect lots of dust - especially behind the headboard.
Quick tip: As part of your mattress upkeep, change your bedsheets every two weeks.
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How to spot treat a mattress

For blood and sweat stains, Phillips-Recchia lightly rubs them with a disinfectant wipe. If they're especially tough, Wierma recommends mixing one part dishwashing liquid with three parts hydrogen peroxide and lightly rubbing with a damp cloth.

"To treat pet stains and urine, a bacteria/enzyme digester may be necessary to deodorize the area," says Wierma.

Adds Phillips-Recchia, "urine cannot be fully removed as a mattress is a big sponge and will soak it up. A disinfectant wipe will clean the surface stain, but not down in the foam." If frequent urination is a problem, she recommends a waterproof sheet or protector that can be regularly washed.
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Do you need to rotate a mattress?

Rotating a mattress every six months is a simple way to lengthen the life of your mattress and make sure the wear isn't uneven over time. However, Wiersma says the best option is to "check your manufacturer's instructions for recommendations to make sure you rotate your mattress properly" since many modern mattresses no longer require flipping because of their one-sided design.

Another way to extend the life of a mattress is with a protector. Phillips-Recchia says that while many mattresses last 10 years (and others up to 25 years depending on the brand), having a protector on at all times will ultimately contribute to its longevity. "Bodily fluids, allergens, etc can break down foams faster. A mattress can double in weight in 10 years if not protected," says Phillips-Recchia.
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How often should you clean your mattress?

A bi-weekly mattress vacuuming at the same time you change your sheets can be a great way to get into the habit of regular cleanings throughout the year. As for deep cleans, Wiersma suggests two to four times a year, or every three to six months.

When to replace a mattress

A good mattress will help you get a night of restful sleep. If your mattress is getting noticeably saggy in certain spots, the springs are creakier than usual, or you're waking up with stiff muscles, it may be time to get find a replacement.

Quick tip: The National Sleep Foundation recommends changing your mattress every six to eight years.
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Insider's takeaway

Just like the pillows, sheets, and other items that make up our sleeping environment, mattresses require routine cleaning and care. Changing bedsheets frequently and using a mattress protector will help keep dust and other particles out in between deep cleanings.

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