how to remove mattress stains - image of coffee spilled on mattress

The Best Ways to Remove Tough Stains From Your Mattress

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/ September 30, 2021
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Picture this: You're propped up in bed on a Saturday morning, window blinds open to the soft sunshine, settling in with a news app and a mug full of fresh coffee. You lean forward to take that much-anticipated first sip when—GAH!—your partner (or your cat or your kid) chooses exactly that moment to leap onto the bed for a snuggle. 

Now that rich, dark brew is all over your PJs, sheets, and, worst of all, your mattress.

Mattress stains usually void a mattress warranty, but getting them out is fairly simple if you act fast and take the right steps. Below, we share our best expert advice for this how-to guide for how to clean a mattress.

How to clean a mattress

No matter what kind of mattress stain you're trying to clean, be sure to check the care label on your mattress for manufacturer recommendations or cautions. 

Never drench a mattress with water or liquid cleaners. Mattresses aren't designed to get wet, especially memory foam mattresses. They don't dry quickly, and if yours stays damp for some time it can start to develop mold and mildew.

Rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, laundry detergent, citrus-based household cleaners, and dish soap are all good mattress stain removers. 

Watch this video for mattress-cleaning tips:

The best solution? 3/4 cup warm water, 1/4 cup vinegar, and a tablespoon of liquid dish soap in a spray bottle.  

This DIY combo can crush just about any stained area on a mattress. Simply spraying it on the affected area and following these quick and easy steps should take care of most stains in no time.

4 steps for removing stains from your mattress

Experts recommend this basic four-step plan for treating most minor mattress stains:

1. Absorb. For wet stains, blot with a dry towel until no more liquid can be absorbed. Don't rub or scrub. Blot and use pressure to remove as much wetness as possible. For dry mattress stains, scrape off or vacuum up any excess mess, slightly wet using a damp cloth, then move to step 2.

2. Add soap. Lightly spray or dab the cleaner you're using onto the area. Some mattress stains, such as blood, need to sit with the cleaning solution on for 10 to 15 minutes. (See stain-by-stain specifics in the next section.)

3. Blot. Press and blot with a dry cloth or paper towels to absorb liquid. Keep going until you can't get any more liquid out. Repeat steps 2 and 3 if necessary.

4. Air dry. Putting the mattress outside in the sun is ideal, but if that's not possible, just get as much air circulation and sunlight in the room as you can. Open windows, curtains, or blinds, and set up a fan. Depending on the size of the mattress stain, it may take several hours to dry completely.

Optional: Deodorize. Once the mattress is totally dry, sprinkle a little bit of baking soda over the area (a sifter works well) to absorb lingering odors.

The most common mattress stains and how to remove them

Different types of mattress stains need to be removed in different ways. If you follow these tips for cleaning mattress stains, you'll be able to easily remove the most common types of stains and extend the lifetime of your mattress.

Blood

There are a few different ways to remove blood stains from mattresses, but the most effective way to do so is using either white vinegar or 3% hydrogen peroxide. These are both very commonly found in most households, so these stains shouldn't be too difficult to remove in a timely manner. 

What to use: White vinegar or 3% hydrogen peroxide

How to use: Pour a small amount of vinegar or peroxide directly onto the mattress stain. 

  • If using vinegar, let soak for 10 minutes, blot dry, and repeat, if necessary. 
  • If using one cup of hydrogen peroxide, bloodstains will foam up on contact. Blot the foam away, then let the area sit for 5 minutes. 
  • Dab with a towel dipped in cold water to "rinse" away vinegar or peroxide. Then blot and air dry per steps 3 and 4 of the basic plan above.

Pet urine

Urine stains are the most common on mattresses, especially from pets. With these types of stains, you don't want to use things like bleach or hot water because of the way that they could affect different mattresses. Follow these best practices when trying to remove urine stains from a mattress:

What to use: An enzyme-based upholstery cleaner specially formulated for pet stains

How to use: After step 1 of the basic plan, soak up even more liquid by adding weight and pressure: Put several paper towels or a damp terry cloth towel over the area and place some heavy books on top for a few minutes. Repeat using dry towels until the area is barely damp. 

  • Dab with a clean towel dipped in cool water to "rinse;" let sit for 1 minute.
  • Apply enzyme cleaner and let sit for 15 minutes or per instructions on the product label.
  • Thoroughly soak up liquid as above, adding weight by pressing down with your body or some heavy books, then air dry. 
  • If odors or visible soiling linger after drying, try a pet-odor neutralizer or carpet stain remover next.

infographic explaining how to get rid of mattress stains

Urine

You'll want to handle human bodily fluids differently than you would with pet urine stains. There are specific enzyme-based upholstery cleaners on the market made specifically for pet stains, but you'll want to avoid those in this case. 

What to use: A solution of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap 

How to use: Combine 8 ounces of hydrogen peroxide, 3 tablespoons of baking soda, and half a teaspoon of dish soap into an empty spray bottle. Shake the bottle gently to combine before use, then spritz onto the stain.

Vomit

Vomit stains are common when you have children but can be some of the most time-consuming to clean up. Follow these easy steps to make cleaning these old stains a little easier. 

What to use: Baking soda and an enzyme-based cleaner

How to use: Scrape the surface clean, then blot with rags or paper towels to absorb as much moisture as possible. 

  • Pour on a generous amount of baking soda to absorb odors and excess moisture. Let sit for 15 minutes, then vacuum up using the upholstery or crevice tool. (Be sure to clean the vacuum canister thoroughly afterward.) 
  • Apply a pet-stain product or enzyme-based cleaner or a liberal amount of the vinegar/dish soap solution. 
  • Absorb liquid again and air dry. Repeat the whole process if any odor remains.

Coffee

Coffee is something many of us like to enjoy in bed for a little bit. After all, it helps us wake up in the morning. But there's nothing worse than a spilled cup of coffee to ruin your morning. A combination of dishwashing liquid and vinegar is the best way to remove these tough stains.

What to use: The vinegar/dish soap solution we referenced earlier—but instead of putting it in a spray bottle, use a bowl or dish

How to use: Absorb liquid if the spill is fresh; slightly dampen with warm water if it's dry. 

  • Carefully blot with a light-colored, dry cloth, starting at the edges and moving inward to keep color from spreading. Continue until no more brown transfers onto your cloth.
  • Dip a clean cloth in the dish of vinegar solution and blot onto stain from outside edges moving inward. Blot dry. 
  • If there was cream and/or sugar in the coffee, also dab a mixture of laundry detergent and warm water onto the stain, "rinse" by dabbing with a fresh wet cloth, then blot dry.

Wine

Much like coffee, wine stains are the worst to clean—especially red wine. Spilling a glass of red wine on your mattress can be devastating. Using the following simple steps to remove wine stains, your mattress will be clean in no time.

What to use: Cold water and salt, or Wine Away, a spray formulated specifically for red wine stains (it also works on red stains from spaghetti sauce, juice, or cough syrup)

How to use: Absorb as much wine as you can with a cloth or paper towels.

  • If using Wine Away, apply according to label instructions for cleaning the carpet.
  • If using salt, dab cold water onto the stain with a wet cloth and blot away liquid. Sprinkle salt all over the soiled area; wait three minutes. Dab with cold water and rub into the stain. Blot dry. Sprinkle, rub, and blot as many times as you need to lift the stain; then air dry.

Oily foods or lotions

Oily foods and lotions can cause stains you may not be able to see right away. They can also be difficult to clean because they're different from regular liquid stains. Here’s how to clean them. 

What to use: Baking soda; dish soap

How to use: Scrape off as much of the grease as you can. A credit card works well for this.

  • Sprinkle with baking soda, let sit for 20 minutes; scrape away baking soda and vacuum area.
  • If soiling remains, grab some original blue Dawn dish soap. (It's famous for removing oil, even from sea birds in oil spills.) Mix a few squirts of dish soap into warm water and dab onto the stain.
  • Blot with a dry towel to absorb wetness, then air dry.

Mattress accessories to help prevent stains

Mattress protectors, pads, and toppers can help protect your entire mattress and make the cleaning process a whole lot easier when spills do happen.

Mattress protectors

Mattress protectors are some of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to prevent stains on a mattress. They work just like a fitted sheet but have a little extra padding to help prevent staining. 

You can wash these in a regular washing machine with your regular linens. Just keep in mind they don't offer the additional padding and comfort that a mattress pad or topper on the market does. 

Mattress pads

Mattress pads are small, removable covers that wrap around the sides of your mattress. They add an additional layer of extra comfort but mostly function to protect a mattress from stains. Mattress covers like these are great for those that don't want to change their mattress comfort level.

Mattress toppers

Mattress toppers are plusher and can change the overall feel and comfort level of a mattress. These are thicker than mattress protectors and pads and are generally made of latex, down, or memory foam.

If you're in the market for something to just add additional comfort but not protect against stains, a mattress topper might be good for you. They still tend to extend the life of a mattress but don’t offer much protection against stains. 

Too many stains? It may be time for a new mattress

If you've got one-too-many yellow stains on your mattress, it may be time for a new one. Saatva has a wide selection of mattresses, bed frames, and bedroom accessories to make refreshing your bedroom easy. 

With mattresses ranging in crib size to California king, our large selection of mattresses offers something for everybody. Take our quick and easy online mattress quiz to find out which Saatva bed is the best mattress for you.

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