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How to clean a mattress

Melanie Whitehouse / 15 April 2016

Give your mattress a quick clean every few months to reduce dust mites, get rid of stains and improve hygiene.

Vacuuming a mattress
Vacuum your mattress to draw out the dust beneath the surface of the fabric

You don’t need to clean your mattress as often as you change the bed linen, but you do need to give it a once-over every few months. After all, you spend up to eight hours a night laying on it, it’s a place you retreat to when you’re ill and – in some households – a bed for cats and dogs, so dirt, bugs and stains can build up over time.

Getting rid of dust mites

It’s estimated that there are between 100,000 and 10 million dust mites in your mattress, which eat our dead skin and ‘drink’ the water vapour produced by our sweat. What’s more, many people are also allergic to them, suffering watery eyes, runny nose, sore throat, wheezing and skin complaints.

Get rid of dust mites by not making the bed, so the mattress can dry out more easily, and wash bed linen in hot water. Keep stuffed toys, which harbour mites, away from the mattress.

Related: make your home more allergy-friendly

Cleaning your mattress

Many mattresses contain sweat, blood, urine and other bodily fluids, plus the mould that grows on them, dirt, oils and traces of the chemicals used in toiletries.

Using the upholstery tool on your vacuum cleaner, go over the top and sides of the mattress, pressing firmly to draw out the dust beneath the surface of the fabric. Then use the crevice tool for fiddy bits, such as the quilting and edging.

A clothes steamer is useful for going over the mattress after vacuuming.

Your life will be made easier if you buy a plastic cover for your mattress, but they’re not nice to sleep on. Instead, buy two cotton mattress covers and wash regularly.

Do turn mattresses quarterly, so both sides get the same amount of wear - and the same amount of cleaning.

If possible, air your mattress every few months by placing it in a sunny spot - outside is preferable but not always practical, so just open the windows and let in fresh air.

Saga Home Insurance provides cover that goes beyond what you might expect. For more information and to get a quote click here.

Removing stains on a mattress

Before you start, check any instructions on your mattress tags and do not apply too much water or stain remover.

For unidentified stains, use a citrus cleaner or diluted washing-up liquid. Spray it on and let it sit for five or ten minutes, blotting the mattress repeatedly to remove excess liquid.

For blood or urine, apply a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to the area, then blot the stain with a clean cloth. If this doesn’t work, try squirting a spot of laundry detergent directly onto the stain and brush vigorously. Remember, bloodstains should be cleaned with cold water only - hot liquids will set these stains permanently.

For particularly stubborn stains, apply baking soda after detergent. Let the baking soda set (this can take a few hours) and vacuum off.

If these measures fail, dab at the stain with undiluted, unscented household ammonia. Wipe with a clean, damp cloth and sprinkle with baking soda to neutralise the smell of the ammonia. Let this dry, then vacuum thoroughly.

Related: make your home more eco-friendly

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.