How to clean a mattress: Everything you need to know

Louise Whitbread
·8-min read
To prolong its life, vacuum it every six months (Getty)
To prolong its life, vacuum it every six months (Getty)

Cleaning your mattress is perhaps the least enjoyable task followed closely behind cleaning your oven and taking the bins out.

It’s easy to put it off by claiming you don't having enough time for such a menial task, but now most of us are self-isolating during the lockdown, we’re spending more time indoors than usual. And that means we've all got time.

And without a commute to contend with, or anywhere to go on the weekends, now you have no excuse.

Particularly as hygiene is more important than ever, it's a job well in need of doing.

While you have probably deep cleaned your house, this is your guide to doing the same to your mattress, the products you’ll need, when it’s time to buy a new one and all your questions about them answered.

You can trust our independent roundups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

How often should you clean your mattress?

Even though we spend a third of our lives in our beds, you probably won’t think about cleaning your mattress until you spill something on it but Simon Williams, a spokesperson from the National Bed Federation recommends giving your mattress a quick vacuum every six months.

What do you need to clean a mattress?

Kate Dutton, product director for eve sleep tells The Independent: “You’ll need a vacuum cleaner with a suction tool attached, a damp cloth and if you have it, stain remover, along with some good old fashioned elbow grease.”

For hassle-free hoovering, the Dyson V11 absolute is expensive at £599.99 but worth the investment, coming in at number one in our IndyBest on the best cordless vacuum cleaners.

It will give you 60 minutes of power on the minimum setting, only takes three and a half hours to full charge, reaches into all the nooks and crannies and is lightweight.

What’s the best way to clean a mattress?

Williams recommends sprinkling your mattress with a freshening powder of baking soda and leaving it for 30 minutes before vacuuming in order to help get rid of odours and general build of dust and grime. “It’s also worth turning the mattress over to clean both sides, even if your mattress is a single-sided product,” he adds.

If your mattress comes with a removable cover, most can be put in the washing machine at 40 degrees, then put back on your mattress once totally dry.

Dutton advises to run your vacuum over the top and sides of the mattress with the suction tool attached, then using the damp cloth and stain remover, gently rub away any stains.

“It’s important not to soak the mattress and only use a damp cloth. You’ll just need to leave your mattress to air dry afterwards, so it might be worth doing this first thing in the morning,” she adds.

How can you clean stains from a mattress?

According to the National Bed Federation website’s guide to ridding stains from your mattress, stains such as urine can be removed using a sponge dampened with a warm solution of mild detergent or upholstery shampoo.

Following that, wipe the mattress with cold water and a few drops of an antiseptic such as Milton.

The same can be done for vomit and diarrhoea too.

How can you stop a mattress from smelling?

To keep your bed odour-free, Williams suggests regular airing, so every morning throw back the bedclothes with the windows open to let the fresh air get to it and spray with a fabric freshener.

Additionally, Dutton details the importance of your bed frame in ensuring your mattress doesn’t smell. “Ventilation is absolutely key, so a bed frame with slats will help air circulate around your mattress and prevent any damp build-up.”

Using a mattress protector will mean that you don’t need to clean your mattress as oftenGetty Images
Using a mattress protector will mean that you don’t need to clean your mattress as oftenGetty Images

Do you need a mattress protector and topper?

In short, yes. A mattress protector keeps bed bugs and dust mites away, as well as acting as a hygienic divider between you and your mattress.

“Using a mattress protector will mean that you don’t need to clean your mattress as often. A good tip is to buy two mattress protectors so that when one is in the wash, you can use the other one,” says Williams.

Invest in a topper too. A good mattress topper will transform a bumpy mattress into a comfy nest, providing extra support and padding to aches and pains. Plus, come winter, will act as an extra layer of insulation.

Most importantly, it will be a barrier between stains and spillages and your mattress. IndyBest was most impressed with the Soak and Sleep ultimate soft as down with silk mattress topper.

Firm and springy, it also reduced sweatiness in the night, but doesn’t shift around, no matter how much of a restless sleeper you are. It can be put in the washing machine too, although due to its size, you might find it easier to get it professionally cleaned.

How often should you flip your mattress?

Flipping your mattress is key to prolonging the life and comfort it, but how often you flip it depends on the material it is made from.

Dutton says, “Old school ‘open coil’ spring mattresses need regularly flipping, around once every six months. The more modern memory foam and hybrid mattresses (combination spring and foam) don’t need flipping but do however need rotating every month for their first six months.”

When is it time to buy a new mattress?

The general rule is after seven to eight years of use, but you should look into buying a new one if your current one is sagging, squeaking or looks unsightly when you change your sheets.

But it’s also important to be aware of any physical effects a mattress that needs changing can have, according to Williams, who says you should buy a new one if you don’t feel refreshed or wake with aches and pains or if you sleep better in other beds.

It’s also a matter of hygiene, and if your mattress is nearing its shelf life, amid the coronavirus outbreak when keeping clean is more important than ever, it’s important to take it into account when considering getting a new one.

“It’s not just the physical state of the mattress but the fact that it will have absorbed a lot of moisture and dead skin scales over the years, making it a great breeding ground for the house dust mite,” says Williams. “You use your mattress for around seven to eight hours every day and yet still expect it to be performing like new after several years, it won’t.”

To ensure you get the best mattress to give you a good night’s sleep, find our guide on how to choose a mattress for the best night's sleep here to buying a new one, from open spring to bed-in-a-box, tried and tested by IndyBest.

In our review of the best mattresses is Simba's hybrid mattress, £554.26 for a double, which our reviewer said was, "best for side and back sleepers, it’s also as robust as they come, so you won’t need to replace it for years".

There's also the Casper hybrid mattress, £800 for a double, which combines foam with a base layer of springs, which our reviewer said gave "immediate comfort".

Coming in at number one though, was the Emma original mattress, £649 for a double, a foam style which was praised for its comfort, bounce and easy ability to turn over without disturbing your partner. As a great all-rounder, it’s a failsafe option.

Emma original mattress: £649 for a double, Emma – Buy now

Sizes available: Single, small double, double, king, super king
Mattress depth: 25cm
Material: Memory foam
Trial period: 100 nights
Guarantee: 10 years

Despite the name, this is the second version of this popular German-made three-layer foam mattress, which uses a different kind of foam to the likes of Eve, Simba, Casper and Leesa that the manufacturer claims is longer-lasting. Also exclusive to Emma is the exceptionally breathable top layer. We found it more instantly comfortable than other bed-in-a-box mattresses we tried, it has significantly more bounce and is easier to turn over on – with no chance of disturbing your partner when you do.

There isn’t a body shape or type of sleeper that it wouldn’t suit, making it a great all-rounder, and it doesn't need turning, although there are handles if you need to move it. There’s also a washable cover. The icing on the cake is that there’s no minimum time-frame to request a return, and if you do decide to send it back (we doubt you will), you don’t have to repackage it. This is as good as it gets.

Read our guide on how to clean your home here

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