How to Clean a Used Mattress [Extended Guide]

woman vaccuum cleaning a dirty mattress

Have you just bought a cheap used mattress on Craigslist or received one from a close friend or relative? Either way, pre-owned mattresses are generally not the best idea.

This is because there’s always a good chance of ending up with one that is either heavily stained or funky smelling. Maybe even both. Such mattresses can be a nightmare to sleep on.

But whatever your mattress are coming from, cleaning it before you sleep on it for the first-time is non-negotiable.

Is it hard to clean a used mattress? In spite of how complicated it may seem, cleaning a mattress is not rocket science. As long as you follow the right steps, you can end up with a mattress that smells great and looks fairly new. Read further down in the article to learn how to clean a used mattress. 

Preparing to Clean a Used Mattress

Here are the critical steps to clean a used mattress. As long as you follow it to the core, you’ll be amazed at how good your mattress can look and feel after the process.

1. Inspect the Mattress 

It is important to take a good look at the state of the mattress the moment it arrives in your home. This can give you a better idea of the magnitude of the job at hand so you can undertake the necessary preparations.

The first step is to ask yourself how the mattress looks. Is it just covered with dust or can you spot lots of dirt? Also, are there any stains? and if so, do the stains look recent or old?

Once you get answers to these questions, the next step is the mattress scent. Does it smell good or does it give off a stale smell? This should give you an idea of the effort it will take to clean the mattress.

2. Get the necessary Cleaning Supplies

detergent being sprayed

So you have concluded that your mattress needs deep cleaning and deodorizing. The next step is to get the necessary supplies. Do you have a vacuum cleaner in a good working condition? If yes, baking soda, vinegar, citric acid or dishwasher can also come in handy during the process.

3. Make Alternative Sleeping Arrangements

No matter its physical condition, sleeping on a used mattress the same day it arrives in your home can be a bad idea for your health. Even if you clean it, you should allow it to air out and dry up for at least 24 hours.

Anything less and you’re risking breathing in potentially harmful chemicals. Also, an insufficiently dried mattress can become breathing grounds for molds, mildew, and bacteria.

How to Clean a Fairly New Mattress

Cleaning a fairly new mattress can be a relative walk in the park compared to deep cleaning. These mattresses are usually stain-free and smell okay. You may only need to get rid of some dust.

Even in the event of stains, they’re usually caused by recent spills from food and drinks. Here is a step by step instruction for cleaning fairly new mattresses.

1. Vacuum Cleaner  

You can easily clean the entire length and breadth of fairly new mattresses with your vacuum cleaner. However, pay attention to the crevices as they can be quite difficult to reach compared to the other areas. The right vacuum cleaner should not only get rid of the dust but dead skin cells and pet dander from the previous owner too.

If you or your partner is asthmatic, it is important to use a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner. Such cleaners are effective at removing all sorts of allergens and dust mites. This ensures that you can breathe in good air throughout the night. The Shark Navigator Lift-Away Deluxe NV360 from Amazon is the number one HEPA certified vacuum cleaner on the market today. It can sanitize even the dirtiest and stained mattresses to look like new again. It is highly recommended.

2. Dry it Out 

Once the cleaning job is complete, the next step is to leave it out to dry. This can be achieved by turning on the air conditioner in your bedroom for 24 hours. Make sure the mattress is placed at a spot that receives direct cool air from the air conditioner.

In the absence of air conditioners, ceiling fans should be able to do the trick but the best option is direct sunlight. If your bedroom receives a good amount of sunlight then you’re in luck. Place the mattress in its path and you can expect it to dry out quickly.

Carrying the mattress outdoors to dry in your patio or balcony can another good option if applicable to where you live.

Looking for the best portable air conditioner? The Black + Decker 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner is the best one on Amazon according to independent consumer reviews.

How to Deep Clean A Mattress

Have you just received a second-hand mattress that looks like it was taken straight out of a playground? Does it contain multiple stains and dirt with a stench that makes you feel like passing out? Deep cleaning might be your best bet to make it sleepable.

Here are the steps to follow to thoroughly clean your mattress.

1. Vacuum Clean the Surface 

Vacuuming is the first step in the second-hand mattress deep cleaning process. But before the process begins, make sure the cleaner itself is clean. The last thing you want is to make the mattress dirtier so pay particular attention to the nozzle and brush attachments.

The vacuum cleaner’s wide brush attachment can help you clean every inch of the mattress surface. Don’t forget to switch to the upholstery attachment when it gets to difficult-to-clean areas such as cracks and crevices as well as the sides and corners.

The piping and edges of the mattress may also be quite hard to clean and this is where the upholstery attachment can come in handy.

Remember, these areas are where all the dirt, dust, and other unpleasant stuff collect so you cannot afford not to pay attention.

Also, vacuum-cleaning can help get rid of dust mites, allergens, bacteria, and any organisms that can affect the quality of the air you breathe.

2. Spot-Clean Any Stains

Vacuuming can be an effective way to get rid of all sorts of unpleasant stains, dirt, and other undesirable stuff from your mattress. But, it is not uncommon to find a few stains remaining on the mattress after the process.

In such instances, spot-cleaning may the best way to get rid of those discolored areas. An upholstery cleaner or pet-odor remover and old toothbrush combination can also be vital here.

Just spray the affected spots and gently scrub with an old toothbrush to remove any stains. This method is effective for getting rid of blemishes caused by bodily fluids, dirt, food, and drinks.

It is important to use the smallest amount of water during the cleaning process, especially on a memory foam mattress. The effects of water on memory foam can be bad so you should keep it as dry as possible.

3. Disinfect the Mattress

Once the used mattress looks clean, it is time to get rid of the funky stench. Sprinkling baking soda on each side of the mattress is the first step.

Lastly, make sure to leave the baking soda on the mattress for at least 24 hours.

4. Re-Vacuum the Mattress 

12 hours or so after applying baking soda over the mattress surface, you should vacuum the entire area again. This should remove any leftover allergens and potentially harmful organisms so the mattress can gain its optimum appearance.

Remember not to ignore any areas no matter how clean it may appear. Instead, try to reach every spot, side, crevice, and crack like the first time you vacuumed

5. Dry it Out 

Lastly, allow the mattress to air out by turning on the fan in your bedroom. Also, try to open all windows to enable direct sunlight rays onto the mattress.

Note that natural sunlight offers a two-fold benefit to a deep-cleaned mattress. Firstly, it speeds up the drying process to eliminate bacteria and allergens. Additionally, the sanitizing power of sunlight also speeds up the odor-removal process.

Drying it out gets rid of any remaining moisture in the mattress so you can sleep on it comfortably.

6. Clean the Mattress Periodically

Deep cleaning a second-hand mattress one-time does not put you in the clear for the rest of its lifetime. It is important to repeat the process every six months or so. This should help the mattress stay in shape and remove any stains or odors that build up over time.

Also, make sure to observe the best mattress sanitation practices to help you keep your old mattress in a good shape throughout its lifetime. 

How Do Mattresses Get Stained? 

If you’ve just bought a used mattress or been gifted one, you could be amazed at the level of its physical deterioration especially concerning stains.

But how do mattresses get stained in the first place? Well, blemishes usually occur when a difficult-to-remove liquid or solid makes contact with your mattress.

Here are the most popular sources of mattress stains to look out for. Remember, each of the strains listed below can be difficult to clean but with the right techniques and cleaning supplies, you should come out on top.

  • Urine 
  • Vomit
  • Blood
  • Drinks
  • Food
  • Semen
  • Sweat
  • Dirt
  • Pet Dander
  • Molds
  • Mildew
  • Pus
  • Phlegm
  • Saliva
  • Tears
  • Feces

How to Prevent Mattress Stains and Odors in The First Place

Old mattresses wear out and stink over time. Well, unless you take the necessary steps to maintain their physical condition. Here are the critical tips to ensure your mattress can stay like new throughout its lifetime.

1. Sleep on Bed Sheets

sleeper lying down in a bed with white bed sheets

One of the surefire ways to stain a mattress is to sleep without sheets. This can lead to a quick exposure to sweat, dirt, pet dander, and other types of stains. 

Thus, we recommend that you should always sleep on some type of sheets. Bedsheets also protect the mattress from dead skin cells and potential allergens. This can be the secret to keeping your mattress in a good shape for many years.

Have you read the article we wrote on the dangers of sleeping without sheets? Click here to check it out.

2. Change Your Sheets Regularly

Bed sheets get dirty over time meaning you have to change them regularly. Failure to do this can lead to odors that affect your sleep and breathing.

Often, leaving dirty bedsheets on your mattress for long periods can turn your bed into fertile grounds for bacteria  and allergens

These odors build up over a period which can make the mattress stinky even when you lay a fresh pair of sheets.

This is why you should try to change your sheets every few days. Note that fresh sheets can also promote good sleep.

3. No Food and Drinks in Bed

Food and drinks are popular sources of mattress stains. Many of us love to enjoy having breakfast in bed and while that may sound romantic, it can be a recipe for disaster if you want to keep your mattress in tip-top shape.

Soda, green tea, coffee, fruits, and chocolate are some of the common snacks we love to enjoy in bed. But quitting the habit can be great for the long-term state of your mattress.

If you have young kids at home, enforcing a no-food-and-drinks-in-bed rule can protect their mattresses and save you the cost of shelling out on a new one prematurely.

4. Vacuum Clean 

It is important to vacuum clean your mattress regularly. There’s no point in waiting until it is dirt-stained before cleaning it.

Vacuum cleaning can get rid of dust quickly while saving the mattress from severe staining in the future.

Lastly, make sure to vacuum clean each side of the mattress. Don’t forget to pay particular attention to the sides, corners, cracks, and crevices to ensure a thorough cleaning job.

5. Mattress Pad or Protector

Mattress pads or protectors can help preserve the physical state of your mattress. They’re placed on top of a regular mattress to serve as a buffer between the sleeper’s body and the mattress.

Any spills or stains will end up on the pad or protector instead of the mattress itself. Thus, you can be sure that your mattress can maintain its fresh-out-of-the-box condition for a long time.

The good news is that there are lots of waterproof protectors and pads to protect against urine, teas, and other liquids.

Have you read the detailed article we wrote that reveals everything you need to know about choosing the best mattress protectors?

6. Flip The Sides of Your Mattress

Flipping your mattress routinely is recommended if you want to keep it in pristine condition. The practice allows each side to receive exposure to sunlight and natural air. It also protects one side from overuse as this tends to wear the mattress out quickly.

Try to flip your mattress, not just 360 degrees but 180 degrees too. This should keep it clean and improve its longevity.

7. Air Out Your Mattress 

Mattresses deserve some time in the sun now and then. Even if it looks and smells great, regular airing can be a good way of killing bacteria, germs, mold, and mildew.

Routine periods in the sun can also help remove potential sources of stench. After all, nobody wants to sleep on a stale-smelling mattress.

Even if open-air drying is impossible due to your living arrangements or local climate, you can still dry it out in your room in the following steps:  

  • Strip the mattress of any sheets and bedding
  • Open any doors and windows in your bedroom to allow direct sunlight on the mattress
  • Turn on the fans or air conditioner
  • Flip the mattress after drying out one side

Professional Mattress Cleaning 

If a DIY cleaning job is impossible or you don’t have the time for it, you can always opt for a professional mattress cleaning service.

After all, mattress cleaning can be a cumbersome and complicated process. This is why many people shy away from it. 

Advantages of Professional Mattress Cleaning over DIY 

There are several reasons why many consumers choose professional cleaners for their dirty mattresses. A few of these benefits include:

  • Saves time – Hiring professionals saves you the time it takes to do it yourself. If you’re an ultra-busy professional, finding a couple of hours to deep clean your mattress may be next to impossible. You only have to pick up the phone, call a cleaning service, and be rest assured that your mattress is in good hands.
  • Maintain Warranty – Cleaning a mattress can be tricky especially if you want to stay within the warranty terms. Professionals are more likely to do a better job which protects your warranty in case something goes wrong shortly.
  • Better Results – If you want the best results especially from deeply stained used mattresses, professional cleaners are the way to go. They have the best cleaning equipment and professional knowledge to remove the hardest stains. Additionally, professionals are more adept at removing the nastiest smells from stained mattresses.


Whether you’ve just bought a used mattress or been sleeping on your old one for a while, it is time to clean it.

A clean mattress can improve your sleep and protect you from all sorts of allergens and bacteria. The result is an improved bedroom environment that smells fresh and looks attractive.

We’ve shared various mattress cleaning options above so it is up to you to choose the right one. If DIY cleaning is not an option, you can choose a professional mattress cleaner.

Hopefully, you can enjoy better sleep after cleaning.

Gabriel Smith

Hello, my name is Gabriel and I LOVE to sleep. Okay, you’re right, a lot of people do like sleep. But my passion is actually not sleeping. My interest lies in the “theoretical part”. What to do before bedtime. What a good night’s sleep is. etc. In short, how to sleep well. I hope you share the same interest as me, and enjoy reading everything about sleep.

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