Whether it's stained or it's a few years old, here are the most effective practices for how to clean a mattress and improve your sleeping conditions.

Written by Audrey Swanson. Reviewed by cleaning expert Sean Busch.

When you think about it -- and you may not want to -- mattresses can be pretty filthy places. They are the holding grounds for dead skin cells, dust mites, sweat, and stains. We know none of us like to admit we watch Netflix, munch popcorn, and sip wine in bed, with an occasional drip or crumb left behind here or there. So we won't even bring that up.

Needless to say, mattresses see a lot in their lifetimes. Even though we regularly wash our bedding and sheets, there's still some underlying grime and mites that take up occupancy in our mattresses. And if you have kiddos, there's a whole other dimension of messes that occur, whether it's a milk spill or a potty accident.

There's an urban myth (that may not be a myth, after all) about mattresses doubling in weight over 10 years' time from dirt, dust, and skin cell accumulation. When we consider that this is the place we ideally spend 8 hours resting and reenergizing each night, it's apparent how important it is to take care of our mattresses and maintain their cleanliness. After all, this is a long-term relationship that should last for about 7 to 10 years, if you take good care of it.

Use a waterproof mattress protector

The best way to eliminate stains and messes on your mattress is to prevent them in the first place. Your first, and absolute best, line of defense is to purchase a waterproof mattress cover. Make sure buy one that’s breathable. This will help you avoid trapping moisture underneath the cover, reducing the likelihood of mold growth. Bottom line -- every mattress in your home should get its own mattress protector to help keep it clean and sanitary.

How to get stains out of a mattress

Maybe you forgot to install a waterproof mattress protector, or perhaps your kids ransacked your bedroom while you were washing your bedding. Whatever the reason, mattresses can sometimes get stained. And whether it's wine, coffee, urine, blood, or sweat, one of the best ways to clean all sorts of various mattress stains is to use a natural enzyme cleaner. (To learn more about enzymes and why we recommend using them, see our related article: How to Use Enzyme-Based Cleaners: A Step-by-Step Guide).

Enzyme Stains on a Mattress

Because this is where you sleep, natural is the way to go. Enzymes are proven to be natural, powerful stain eliminators, and they’re a great alternative to the chemicals you’ll find in many popular stain removal formulas. Puracy Natural Stain Remover is powered by six plant-based enzymes to tackle hundreds of tough stains -- our closest competitor only uses three.

Follow these steps to use Puracy Natural Stain Remover to eliminate mattress stains:

Step #1 -- Remove any excess.  

If you’re attempting to treat a thick recent spill, then first pick up any excess using a spoon or spatula. By removing as much of the spill as possible first, you’ll ensure you don’t rub any of that excess into your mattress during the cleaning process.

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Step #2 -- Blot the stain.

Using a clean, dry, light-colored microfiber cloth, blot the stain. Continue to blot until your cloth no longer picks up the color of the stain from your mattress. Expert tip: If your stain is sticky or dark in color, then use a touch of warm water to get your cloth slightly damp before blotting.

Step #3 -- Spray with Puracy Natural Stain Remover.

Follow the directions on the bottle, and make certain you wait at least 15 minutes before moving to the next step. The longer you leave the solution on the stain, the better it will work. If you’re dealing with a particularly challenging stain and you have another mattress you can sleep on temporarily, then saturate the stain with our natural stain remover and leave the solution on your mattress overnight.

Step #4 -- Use a carpet cleaning machine to extract the stain remover and the stain. 

Due to the difficulties associated with getting a mattress dry, we do not recommend rinsing your mattress with water. When it comes to mattresses, minimal water usage is critical. That’s why we recommend removing our stain remover solution (and your stain) using the handheld attachment on a carpet cleaning machine. We recommend the Bissell Little Green Clean Machine or a full-sized Bissell Professional Carpet Cleaner. Make sure to follow all manufacturer instructions carefully.

Step #5 -- Dry. 

Using a clean, dry microfiber cloth, blot the surface of your mattress to remove any excess moisture. Leave your mattress uncovered for several hours. Make sure you dry your mattress out completely before making your bed or sleeping on your mattress.

How to clean a mattress

As we mentioned earlier, water and mattresses don’t mix. So if you’re looking to give your mattress a deep clean, then you need to be careful how you go about it. We do not recommend attempting to clean an entire mattress by hand. Instead, here’s how to get your mattress nicely clean without exposing it to an undue amount of water...

Step #1 -- Vacuum. 

Use your vacuum's handheld attachment to pick up any loose dirt or debris on your mattress.

Step #2 -- Steam clean.  

If at all possible, use a steam cleaner instead of carpet shampoo. A steam cleaner uses only a small amount of water and is still highly effective, allowing you to clean your mattress thoroughly without the use of chemicals. As an added bonus, the steam will also kill anything in the mattress, including bugs and dust mites. Our in-house cleaning experts recommend the Dupray Tosca Commercial Steam Cleaner, or if you’re on a budget, the Dupray ONE Steam Cleaner.

If your steam cleaner has a special triangle attachment (most do), then try using it with a microfiber towel connected to it. The steam will gently lift everything into the towel. This method is so effective at removing dirt and messes that you can clean your entire mattress with it. You might also find you don’t need to pretreat stains. 

Step #2 (Alternate) -- Use a carpet cleaning machine. 

If you don’t have a steam cleaner available, or you don’t have the time to rent one, then you can clean your mattress using a carpet cleaning machine. Use the handheld attachment that comes with the machine and make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

For a more natural clean, which is doubly important for an item like your mattress, we recommend using Puracy Natural Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo instead of the chemical-filled cleaning solutions that are commonly sold alongside most carpet cleaning machines. Even though we launched this product several years ago, to this day, our carpet & upholstery shampoo remains the only natural product of its kind on the market.

Step #3 -- Dry your mattress thoroughly. 

As we noted earlier, make sure your mattress is 100% dry before covering it with your bedding and catching some Z’s on it.

How to disinfect a mattress

As much as you can clean the surface of a mattress, getting the entire thing disinfected all the way through is a little bit tougher. That's why we never recommend buying a used mattress -- there's just no way of knowing exactly where it's been, what it's been through, and what materials are on or in it.

Follow the same methods we suggested above for mattress cleaning to disinfect the surface. On a dry, sunny day, you can also strip your mattress and let it soak up some natural sunlight through your windows. (Don’t bring it outdoors, though, as the mattress could get dirty or collect allergens.) Not only is direct sunlight a natural disinfectant, but research has also shown that the warm, dry environment can help eliminate dust mites.

Regular mattress maintenance for a good night's sleep

Beyond spills and stains, regular removal of dust mites, dead skin cells, and other grime is important to maintain the quality and cleanliness of your mattress. While you wash your bedding and mattress cover every week, run over the mattress with the handheld attachment on your vacuum. This is the fastest and easiest way to pick up the unseen mattress invaders. You should also rotate your mattress every few months to even out the usage areas. (But make sure you don’t flip your mattress, as most modern-day mattresses are one-sided.)

To remove mattress odors, sprinkle the surface lightly with baking soda and let it sit for at least two hours. Vacuum away the baking soda after two-plus hours have passed, paying extra attention to any crevices it may have seeped into more deeply.

Now that you have all the tips and tricks for removing mattress stains, eliminating mattress odors, and maintaining mattress cleanliness long-term, you can rest assured you're sleeping in a clean environment free of excess dirt, grime and dust mites. The peace of mind of resting your head on a bed that's well taken care of should also help you get a good night's sleep. Don't forget to check out Puracy Natural Stain Remover for any stubborn mattress stains to experience the natural power of our plant-based cleaning solution.