How to Clean a Mattress

Pillow Top Mattress

So your mattress has gotten dirty. Perhaps your spouse brought you breakfast in bed and accidentally spilled the fresh cup of coffee. Or the kids decided the bed was the perfect place to do some arts and crafts. Maybe your new cat or dog had an unexpected accident or got sick. Whatever the reason, a liquid has bypassed the layers of blankets and sheets and risks seeping into the mattress itself. You’re simply grateful that you have a more traditional mattress instead of a foam one, even as you curse your bad luck at not having the foresight to use a mattress protector.

Considering how a mattress is a big investment, just like any other piece of furniture you use every day, it’s important to know how to clean up this mess before you have to buy a brand-new mattress.

Strip the Bed

An obvious step, perhaps, but vitally important. You want whatever has caused the initial mess and the blankets that have absorbed it off your bed before they do any further damage. Throw it all in the washing machine to not only clean but to keep the bedding out of the way; you don’t want to be cleaning up another mess later because wet sheets have been left on the floor for too long.

Female airing out bed sheets

Locate Mattress Cleaning Supplies

Good news! You most likely already have the stuff you need to clean your mattress in your house. Laundry detergent, stain remover, baking soda, a vacuum cleaner with an upholstery attachment, cleaning rags or old towels, and cold water are all common enough household items so you won’t have to waste precious time running out to the store to buy some specialized mattress cleaning tool or solution.

Absorb the Liquid

So, you were fast enough to keep your bed from becoming a sopping mess, but there’s still some liquid that seeped into the top of the mattress. That means it’s time to get to cleaning. Thankfully cleaning a mattress is quite similar to cleaning a carpet. Proceed with caution, as you should never soak your mattress, and it’s advised not to apply water or detergent directly to the mattress. Instead, apply it to the rags or towels you gathered earlier for better control over how much gets onto your mattress.

With a fresh, wet spill, you will first want to absorb as much of the liquid as possible, so press your clean towels to the mess right away. Keep at this for as long as necessary to remove as much liquid from the mattress as possible. The dryer you can get the area, the easier the next step will be.

Spot-Clean the Stains

Now it’s time to start spot-cleaning with a stain remover. What kind of stain remover you need to use will depend on the type of stain and the type of mattress. If it’s watercolor paints or coffee, a little bit of laundry detergent mixed with water should do. For biological stains, like those caused by accidents from toddlers or pets, it’s best to use an enzyme cleaner.

Apply some of your chosen cleaner onto a clean cloth, and then blot the stained area with it. You want the cloth wet but not soaked. Once that’s done, apply cold water to a different, clean cloth and continue blotting until the stain lifts. The goal is to use as little product and moisture as possible to protect the integrity of the mattress while still removing the stain. Be sure to use a light touch, too, as you don’t want to accidentally rub the stain deeper into the fibers by using too much pressure. Cold water is also necessary for this reason, as hot water could also set the stains.

Let Your Mattress Dry

Now that the stains have been removed, you think you’re done, right? Well, sure, if you can drag your mattress outside so it can dry out in the sun and fresh air. But if you have a big bed and lack super strength, there’s thankfully a simple hack that will help absorb the remaining moisture faster – baking soda!

That’s right, baking soda is not just for making volcano science projects. It’s been a versatile cleaning agent that will break down acids and absorb moisture. Crack open the box and sprinkle the baking soda over the bed, applying heavily to the spots you can still feel lingering moisture. Leave it for roughly 24 hours. Yes, this might mean crashing on the couch or at a hotel overnight, but trust us, a fresh, dry mattress is worth it, and the baking soda will cut down on the drying time compared to if you went without. 

As a bonus to helping dry out your mattress, it will also help eliminate any odors that might be lingering, either from the recent mess or simply old sweat that’s been trapped in the fibers from hot summer nights.

Gardner Mattress showroom in Needham, Massachusetts


Now that your mattress is dry, this is where the vacuum with the upholstery attachment has its time to shine. Thoroughly go over the entire surface of the mattress to pick up all of the baking soda. Pay special attention to seams and if you have one, break out the vacuum’s crevice attachment to get any hidden dirt or dust. Even if you didn’t make a big mess applying the baking soda, it’s still extremely beneficial to completely strip your bed and vacuum the surface of your mattress once in a while to clear away dirt or dead skin that might have gotten caught in the upholstery. This also reduces the chance of dust mites making a home in your mattress, especially if you’re one of the 10% of the human population that are allergic to them.

Flip the Mattress

This is an optional step, but there are many benefits to flipping your mattress, if it is indeed a flippable spring mattress. Besides hiding any lingering stains, it can extend your mattress’ life and offer you a more comfortable sleep as the springs are given the chance to decompress. It also makes routine cleaning of the mattress easier, such as the previous vacuuming for dust and mites.

Now that you know how to best clean your mattress in the event of a clumsy coffee accident or messy child, you are prepared to keep it in prime condition for years to come.


Visit one of our three conveniently located showrooms. Our original factory and showroom in Salem, Massachusetts, or one of our newer showrooms in Needham and Woburn.

Gardner Mattress Showroom in Salem, Massachusetts

Hours of Operation

Sunday: 12:00pm – 4:00pm
Monday-Saturday: 9:00am – 4:00pm

Hours of Operation

Sunday & Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Saturday: 10:00am – 4:00pm

Hours of Operation

Sunday & Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Thursday: 10:00am – 4:00pm
Friday: 10:00am – 2:00pm
Saturday: 10:00am – 4:00pm