No matter how you slice it (unless you actually slice it, which we wouldn’t recommend) it’s just not possible to fit your mattress into your washing machine, so how can you get it looking and smelling fresh and clean again? Steam cleaning is one great option, but make sure you know all about the process before attempting this method on your own.
You probably don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about the cleanliness of your mattress, but it is actually an important thing to pay attention to, especially if you consider that we spend up to a third of our lives in bed.
Mattresses also come into direct contact with our bodies and, as such, can collect sweat, skin cells, dust mites, bacteria, stains and smells over time. One study has even suggested that a typical mattress can contain up to 100,000 to 10 million dust mites—yikes!
If you are somebody who struggles with breathing issues like allergies, asthma, or sleep apnea it is especially important for you to make sure that your mattress is staying clean. A clean mattress can actually improve your health, your home’s air quality, and your sleep.
Keeping your mattress clean is essential, but is steam cleaning it really necessary? Well, it depends on a few factors.
First of all, think about the measures that you are already taking to ensure a clean mattress. If you use a mattress protector or sleep on a hypoallergenic mattress, like most natural latex mattresses, you will likely not need to clean your mattress as often.
If, however, you tend to sweat at night, you sleep with your pets, you eat in bed, or you have kids who are in the process of potty training, it is pretty likely that your mattress will need more frequent TLC to prevent smells and stains from setting in.
Steam cleaning can be a really effective method for keeping any upholstered item clean. Steam, which can reach an upwards of 250℉, does an excellent job of killing everything from dust mites to bacteria while also breaking down stains and dirt.
Steam cleaning is also an incredibly environmentally friendly method of cleaning, too, because it simply consists of water and heat. Additionally, when you steam clean any upholstered item, it is recommended that you use a gentle cleanser, not one with harsh chemicals that will negatively impact your skin and the earth alike.
We have seen some mixed reviews about steam cleaning a mattress though, and the main point of contention boils down to (get it?) moisture. An excess of moisture in any upholstered furniture item can lead to mold and mildew, which will only worsen any allergies that are being caused by a dirty mattress. It is important to be mindful of the amount of moisture that your mattress collects when you steam clean it, and also to allow your bed to dry completely before putting sheets back on it and sleeping on it. Ultimately though, as long as you let the bed properly dry, the benefits of steam cleaning your mattress really cannot be beat by any other cleaning method.
Steam cleaning isn’t something that you will need to do all that often—especially if you do a good job of keeping your mattress protected from stains and spills—but sweat, skin cells, dirt and dust are inevitable so we’d recommend deep cleaning your mattress at least seasonally.
This is a bit of a time and labor intensive process, so make sure that you allow for ample time for your bed to dry before sleeping on it. Start the process early in the morning, or make arrangements to sleep in a different bed for the night after you steam clean your mattress.
So, how exactly do you steam clean a mattress? Well, it’s relatively simple. You’ll first want to make sure that you have all the materials on hand that you will need. We’d recommend having:
There is no need to go out and buy an expensive commercial steam cleaner in order to deep clean your mattress. If you have an iron with a steaming function or a garment steamer, those should work fine. You can also go out and pick up an affordable upholstery steamer machine for around $100 at stores like Walmart or Target, as well as online. Or, if you’d like to use a higher-end steamer, you can actually rent one from places like Home Depot or Lowe’s. No matter what you use, just make sure that your steamer is able to heat to at least 212℉ to fully benefit from the steam cleaning.
After you have stripped your bed of all sheets, blankets, pillows and additional mattress pads, thoroughly vacuum the surface of the mattress. This step is really important to ensure that you get a deep enough clean that will allow the steam to penetrate deeper into the bed. Vacuuming will help to remove any hair, skin cells, dirt and other materials that won’t dissolve when steamed.
If you have any lingering smells or want to make sure your bed smells fresh, try sprinkling the entire surface with baking soda before you vacuum it. You can even add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the baking soda during this step to get your bed smelling extra fresh and deodorized. We recommend lavender as it has been proven to help calm and relax your mind and muscles in preparation for sleep—pretty perfect for a mattress, wouldn’t you say? Allow the baking soda mixture to soak up smells and oils on your mattress for at least an hour before vacuuming it off.
When you vacuum your mattress, make sure you are using a hose attachment that gets a close suction to the bed. Use short strokes as you cover the entirety of the bed, paying special attention to the areas that are most likely to get dirty, like underneath your head and feet.
Another thing that you should do when preparing to steam clean your mattress is to spot clean any stains. A solution of gentle detergent and water dabbed with a sponge is a great option for stain. Or, because you already have the baking soda out, sprinkling an extra pile of baking soda on the stain then dabbing at it with some white vinegar is also a really great natural alternative for stain removal. Just make sure that, either way you go, you do not saturate the stain with too much liquid because as we’ve already noted, it is important that your mattress is able to dry completely after you’ve washed it.
Set up your steam cleaner by filling the water tank and making sure all the parts are properly attached, then get to steaming. You’ll want to hold the steamer a few inches above the surface of the mattress, not actually directly touching the fabric, as you slowly move it across the bed in long and low strokes. Pay attention to the dampness of the mattress: it should feel slightly moist but not soaking wet, think gentle drizzle instead of thunderstorm. If it seems like it is getting too saturated by moisture, move the steamer further up and away from the surface and continue as usual. For an even deeper clean, try steaming along the sides of the mattress as well.
Note: If your mattress is flippable, you’ll want to wait for the first side to dry completely before flipping the bed and repeating the process on the other side. Most mattresses are not double sided though, so no need to worry about steaming the underside of the bed.
Once the entire bed has been steamed, allow it to dry for at least three hours. To speed up the drying process, open the windows, set up a fan or two to blow directly at the bed or, if you have a clean space outside and the weather’s nice, you can even move your mattress outside to dry in direct sunlight.
To check if the mattress is dry enough to put the sheets back on, use dry towels and press forcefully in various spots on the mattress. If they pick up any moisture, allow the bed to dry out more.
If you find that you are having to clean your mattress often, or you are still having breathing problems associated with your bed, here are a few other tips to make sure your mattress stays fresh and clean.
We’d recommend investing in a good mattress protector that will add an extra layer of protection between your body and your bed. These come in all sorts of materials and can easily be removed and thrown in the washing machine. Just note that some mattress protectors can actually change the feel and cooling features of certain mattresses. We’d recommend looking for one made of a breathable material, like organic cotton, or one that has enhanced cooling features, especially if you are someone who is a hot sleeper.
Your bedroom should be a relatively cool and dry place in your home, not only is a cooler temperature ideal for sleep, it will also help prevent any night sweats. Keeping your room dry, as well, will minimize any mildew or bacteria growth in your mattress. This is especially important if you live somewhere with a damp and humid climate. If this is the case, consider investing in a dehumidifier for your room.
This also refers to preventing any damp things from being left on your bed. That means, avoid throwing dirty towels and not fully dry laundry on your bed. Also, if your pet likes to hang out on your bed, make sure that they haven’t just come in from a romp in the rain before they jump up to cuddle with you.
Finally, direct sunlight is not only great for you and for your plants, it can also help to keep your mattress clean and healthy. If you are able, placing your mattress outside in a clean and dry spot about every other month can kill any bacteria or moisture and also freshen the smell of the bed.
We hope this guide has helped you figure out how to steam your mattress and keep it clean and fresh for years to come. If you have any other mattress related questions, maybe take a look at some of our mattress reviews, and as always, thanks for stopping by the Slumber Yard!