How to Clean a Smelly Mattress (5 Best Tips to Deodorize a Mattress)

Keeping your mattress clean is crucial for both its longevity and your health. When you sleep, you naturally sweat and shed dead skin cells, creating a breeding ground for dust mites and allergens. This can lead to unpleasant smells and potential health issues.

To maintain a fresh and odor-free mattress, consider the following steps:

Why It’s Important

As an adult, your sweat and dead skin cells end up in your bedsheets and mattress. This creates an ideal environment for dust mites and allergens, impacting both your health and the freshness of your mattress.

Effects of Allergens

Accumulated allergens may cause breathing difficulties, a runny nose, sore throat, watery eyes, or skin irritation. Beyond health concerns, this buildup can also result in unpleasant odors, necessitating the need to freshen and deodorize your mattress.

How to Freshen and Deodorize

Dust mites, sweat, body oils, and skin cells permeate bedding and eventually reach the mattress. Refreshing and deodorizing your mattress every six months helps keep allergens under control.

Caution with Liquids

Be careful when using liquids on your mattress, as moisture can encourage allergen growth. Dry methods, such as using odor-absorbing baking soda, are often a safer choice. If using liquid methods, ensure your mattress is thoroughly air-dried before making your bed.


Utilize the upholstery attachment on your vacuum to remove accumulated dust and germs from the mattress surface. Clean around the bed frame as well to address dust, body cast-offs, or pet dander on the floor. Washing the upholstery attachment before vacuuming ensures effective cleaning.


Vinegar and Water

To eliminate odors left by germs and allergens, consider using a simple water and vinegar solution. Mix equal parts water and distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle. Lightly spray the solution on your mattress, ensuring it doesn’t get too wet. Let the mattress air dry completely, propping it against a wall. For a finishing touch, sprinkle baking soda on the mattress to neutralize any lingering odors.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a fantastic natural way to eliminate odors, and it works wonders on memory foam pillows and mattresses. Simply use a flour sifter to evenly sprinkle baking soda over your mattress surface, letting it sit for at least 30 minutes. For optimal results, you can leave it on for up to 24 hours.

While the baking soda works its magic, open your windows to let natural light in. Sunlight helps dry up moisture in your bed, enhancing the elimination of odors. After the designated time, use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum to remove the baking soda.

Baking soda is especially effective for treating fresh urine stains and smells. Pairing it with an enzyme cleaner can boost its effectiveness. Additionally, it can be a vital tool in drying a wet mattress after water damage, complementing methods like wet/dry vacuums or cat litter for absorbing excess moisture.

Laundry Detergent

A gentle laundry detergent is a great ally in tackling smelly stains, but avoid pouring it directly onto your mattress. Instead, create a paste by mixing laundry detergent with baking soda. Apply this paste as a spot cleaner on the mattress surface, allowing it to sit for a while before wiping it away with a towel, knife, or spoon.

For particularly stubborn stains, mix a bit of laundry detergent with two parts water and one part vinegar in a spray bottle. Mist this solution over the affected area, being careful not to spray directly onto the mattress. Blot up any excess moisture with paper towels.


Cornstarch is excellent at absorbing body oil, another contributor to unpleasant odors in your bed. Combine cornstarch with baking soda and evenly scatter the mixture over your mattress surface. Let it rest for a day, and then use your vacuum to pick up the cornstarch-baking soda blend, leaving your mattress refreshed.

Essential Oils

Enhance the freshness of your mattress by combining 15 to 20 drops of your preferred essential oils with baking soda. Sprinkle this fragrant mix over your mattress, and enjoy the revitalizing scent lingering for several days. Opt for soothing options like eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, or lemon essential oils.

For a more intensive treatment against stains and odors, mix two parts hydrogen peroxide with one part baking soda and add a few drops of essential oils to a spray bottle. Gently mist the mattress surface with this cleaning solution and let it air-dry before covering it back with your bedding.

Check out our guide to the best essential oils for sleep for more options.

Wash Your Bedding Regularly

Maintain a clean and healthy sleeping environment by washing your sheets, duvet covers, and pillowcases every week. Regular washing removes sweat, skin cells, and allergens, reducing the chances of dust and germs seeping into your mattress.

Use hot water for washing sheets unless the care label suggests otherwise, as higher temperatures effectively eliminate germs. Wash your pillows every three to four months to prevent allergen buildup. Occasionally expose pillows and comforters to sunlight to keep them fluffy, as sunlight dries up moisture and kills germs with its UV rays.

If you use a bed skirt, consider washing it every few months. Visible dust on the bed skirt is a clear indicator that it’s time for a thorough cleaning.

Other Steps to Keep Your Mattress Fresh

After giving your mattress a refresh, maintaining its cleanliness is essential for a lasting, pleasant sleep environment. Follow these additional steps to ensure your bed stays free from dust, germs, and allergens:

1. Use a Mattress Protector

Invest in a mattress protector to shield your mattress from sweat, dust mites, allergens, and accidental spills. These protectors are easy to put on, cost-effective, and extend the lifespan of your mattress. Ideal for children’s beds to prevent lingering urine stains, they are also beneficial for keeping new mattresses with a faint chemical smell protected during the off-gassing period.

While a mattress cover may be wrapped around your bed’s materials, it is usually not impermeable or removable, unlike a mattress protector, which provides better coverage and cleaning capabilities.

2. Keep Your Room Airy

A damp mattress attracts various unwanted elements like dust mites, bacteria, fungi, and mold. Allow time for moisture to evaporate by waiting a bit after waking up before making your bed. Keep your room well-ventilated by using a ceiling fan, opening windows for natural light and air circulation, and consider using an air purifier for additional filtering benefits.

Including a bedroom plant not only adds decoration and a fresh fragrance but can also improve air quality, enhancing your room’s overall freshness.

3. Use a Bed Skirt or Dust Ruffle

Beyond adding a stylish touch to your bed frame, a bed skirt serves the practical purpose of catching dust before it accumulates on the floor and under the bed. It also conceals the lower half of your bed frame, bed risers, or underbed storage.

Bed skirts work well with various bed types, including platform beds and those with adjustable frames, providing an elegant look and preventing dust buildup.

4. Clean Box Spring or Foundation

Include your mattress base in your cleaning routine by vacuuming the surface of the box spring, foundation, or platform bed. This prevents dust and germs from transferring onto your mattress. Regularly wash the bed skirt, if you have one, to maintain overall cleanliness.

Using a bed base is crucial to elevate your bed from floor accumulations, reducing the risk of moisture buildup and mold growth.

5. Stay Clean and Eat Carefully

Ensure personal cleanliness by showering before bedtime to minimize the transfer of sweat and body oils to the mattress. Avoid eating or drinking in bed to prevent spills and crumbs. Be mindful of your diet before bedtime to reduce the likelihood of indigestion or unpleasant smells affecting your mattress.

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