Most of us spend about a third of our lives in bed. But if you were to think about all the germs, bacteria and little critters that make themselves at home in your mattress, chances are you wouldn't get much sleep. Even though you may change and wash your sheets faithfully every week, your mattress still requires cleaning. This is due to dust mites, body oils, sweat and dead skin that make their way through your sheets to the mattress.
With a little effort, you can clean and disinfect the surface of your mattress. The insides are a different story, unless you happen to have access to an industrial-style steam cleaner and a sterile containment unit. But most of the time, it's the surface you're concerned about, anyway.
How to Clean Your Mattress
If at all possible, clean your mattress outside on a warm, sunny, not-too-humid day. There's a reason we have spring cleaning and fall cleaning instead of winter cleaning and summer cleaning! The sunlight will help your mattress dry as you clean it; better yet, it acts as a natural disinfectant, helping you kill bacteria with a good dose of UV rays. If you can't get outside, the next best option is to clear some space in your room and lean your mattress against the wall in front of a sunny window.
Start by removing as much dust as possible (and maybe a few dust mites, if you're lucky) by going over the entire surface of the mattress with your vacuum cleaner's upholstery attachment and crevice tool. If your mattress-cleaning spree has been inspired by a fresh spill, pet accident or bedwetting event, use clean towels to soak up as much liquid as possible before you vacuum.
The easiest way to remove stains is with a carpet and upholstery cleaner formulated to remove pet stains. Lightly spray the cleaning formula onto your mattress and dab the stain working from the outside edge inward. This should keep the stain from spreading. When the stain is gone, all you need to do is sponge the area with a damp cloth and then blot the area with a dry cloth.
How to Disinfect Your Mattress
Once you've removed the dust and stains, there are a few different methods you can use to disinfect your mattress. Run a garment steamer or other handheld steam cleaner across the surface to kill germs and dust mites, and sprinkle baking soda to help freshen the upholstery and remove mild odors (let it sit a few minutes, then vacuum). But to kill more bacteria, you'll need to use a disinfectant solution of some kind.
Choose an antibacterial spray or solution with a scent you like (you can use a solution of vinegar and baking soda or just some cheap vodka!) Avoid using bleach — it's great at killing germs, but it's too harsh for the fabric covering on most mattresses. If you use a liquid cleaner, dilute it with warm water according to the directions on the label, dip a clean rag into the solution, and then — this part is key — wring the rag out thoroughly so that it's just barely damp. The goal is to clean the surface of the mattress without letting it get saturated with moisture, which can lead to mold or mildew.
For disinfectant sprays, spritz lightly across the surface of the entire mattress, then wipe with a clean rag that's been dipped in warm water and thoroughly wrung out. Be sure to give your mattress plenty of time to dry —a few hours on each side is best. Then cover it with a freshly cleaned mattress pad, sheets and bedding and enjoy a good night's sleep!