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Spring Cleaning Day 7: Deep Clean Your Bed and Linens

A bare white mattress, ready for deep cleaning.
New Africa/Shutterstock

We opened the bedroom cleaning segment of the Spring Cleaning Challenge with some serious dusting, now it’s time to shake the dust out of the ol’ bed and pillows for a pristine and clean bedtime experience.

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There is a certain deep and primitive pleasure in throwing open the windows when spring arrives, letting the fresh clean air in. We’d argue that it rivals the feeling of sinking into a perfectly clean and fresh bed at the end of the day. After today’s cleaning session, you can overload your senses by combining fresh spring air and fresh linens for one of the finest experiences a spring evening can offer.

What You’ll Need to Deep Clean Your Bed

There are several stages to deep cleaning your bed and linens, so we’ll prep you for all of them with this one-stop list.

If you have no serious staining on your mattress you wish to address, you can skip purchasing an enzymatic cleaner. That said, a good broad-purpose enzymatic cleaner is handy for so many things around the home it’s practically a must-have item anyway, so it can’t hurt to have a gallon on hand.

Dyson Multi Floor 2

The long hose and combo stair/upholstery tool is perfect for cleaning a mattress.

While busting out the enzymatic cleaner might be optional, busting out a powerful vacuum with an upholstery attachment is not—you can’t deep clean your mattress effectively without it. If you’ve been limping along with a lackluster vacuum, then there’s no time like the present—in the midst of a cleaning challenge—to upgrade.

Launder Your Linens and Pillows

Let’s start by stripping your bed of all its linens. We need to get those linens in the washer immediately so they’ll be dry and done, ready for the bed when we’re finished cleaning it.

We recommend filling your washer’s fabric softener cup with white vinegar to soften and deodorize your linens in the final stage of the wash cycle.

  1. Strip your bed linens.
  2. Launder the mattress pad/protector, pillowcases, and sheets first to ensure you have a clean set to go back on the bed by nightfall. (If you have spares of all of them, skip to the next step.)
  3. Launder your blankets and pillows (if your pillows are machine washable). If it is late in the day, you can opt to launder heavier blankets, comforters, and/or pillows on the weekend when you’ll have more time to wash and dry them.

Do note, we’ve planned all the daily guides in the Spring Cleaning Challenge as after-work tasks that can be squeezed in with some sustained effort. But part of squeezing them in like that requires some skillful time management at points.

Get your first load of laundry into the washer immediately, and set a timer on your phone so you can swap it out as soon as it is done. If you don’t tend the washer and dryer during our speed-round style deep cleaning, you’ll be left with wet linens when the final bell rings.

Vacuum Your Mattress

A woman vacuuming a bare mattress with a vacuum hose.
Beton Studio/Shutterstock

If you’ve never vacuumed your bed before, this step might feel a little silly. But just like upholstery in a car or living room couch, your mattress needs to be vacuumed.

Warning: When stripping a memory foam mattress for deep cleaning, do not remove the fabric encasement the mattress came with. For many memory foam mattress brands the fabric encasement, even if it looks removable, is integral to the construction of the mattress and its fire safety features. Removing it may damage the mattress.

A tidily made bed might keep most free-floating dust in the bedroom off the surface of the mattress, but your use of the bed introduces dust, tiny bits of dander, and if you have pets they help, too. The best way to take care of that stuff is with a trusty vacuum.

  1. With the bed stripped to the bare mattress, attach the upholstery tool to your vacuum’s hose.
  2. Vacuum the surface and sides of the mattresses as if you were vacuuming your couch.
  3. If the surface of the mattress appears to be distorted or tugged by the force of the vacuum suction, use your hand to stabilize the fabric in small sections. Place your hand a foot or so above where you are vacuuming and press down, so that as you vacuum you are only tugging on a small section at once, instead of the whole length of the mattress encasement.
  4. Vacuum from one corner down to the opposing corner in a systematic fashion, row by row.
  5. Pay special attention to seams, texture, and piping on the surface of the mattress. Just like on your couch, these are spots where dust accumulates.

Treat Any Stains

A man, wiping a stained mattress with a microfiber cleaning cloth.
Isaeva Studio/Shutterstock

We’re including this section so that you can clean your mattress as thoroughly as you would desire, but let us open with a time-saving tip.

Unless a stain is actually odorous or the presence of the stain just distresses you because you don’t like the idea of a stained-up mattress, we’d encourage you to leave any discoloration from routine wear-and-tear alone.

Tip: If you have a traditional innerspring mattress and you have your carpets or furniture steam cleaned regularly, talk to your cleaner about mattress service. Many steam cleaners offer mattress deep cleaning for around $50-100.

Why? It’s easy to go overboard trying to deep clean stains from your mattress and then you end up with a damp mattress that smells of cleaner for days or even weeks as it airs out. If you want to go to bed tonight in a dry and fresh bed, we’d advise you to only tackle surface staining if it meets the criteria above.

Warning: Enzymatic cleaners work so effectively because they break down proteins and other organic substances. You are made of proteins and other organic substances. Wear gloves while using them to avoid very irritated and cracked skin.

If you do decide to tackle them keep in mind two key things. One, you should never pour water or cleaner directly on your mattress as it’s essentially a giant sponge. A cup of fluid left to soak in will take ages to dry out and you’ll be unable to appropriately rinse the cleaning solution out of the mattress. Two, all cleaning should be spot cleaning.

  1. Fill a small bowl with warm water and a few drops of dish soap.
  2. Slightly dampen the corner of a microfiber cleaning cloth and use it to brush and scrub lightly at the stain.
  3. Be sure to wear gloves to protect your skin for this step. If the stain appears unresponsive to the warm water and dish soap, lightly soak the edge of the microfiber cloth in enzymatic cleaner and massage the cleaner into the stain and immediately surrounding area.
  4. Leave the enzymatic cleaner in place, it will continue to work as it dries, breaking down the stain and removing the accompanying odor.

Enzymatic cleaners are best reserved for spot cleaning. Use them to spot clean blood, urine, pet stains, and other isolated issues. If you clean the whole mattress with them, the smell will be pretty overwhelming, and it’ll take much longer to dry.

Deodorize with Baking Soda

While many times baking soda seems like a folksy or poor fit for a particular cleaning task, in the case of cleaning and deodorizing your mattress, it’s practically a perfect fit. It’s cheap, easy to spread, non-toxic, and most smells are caused by organic acids which baking soda is great at neutralizing.

Cuisinart Stainless Steel Strainers

You can dust powdered sugar over a cake or a pound of baking soda over your mattress with this handy dandy sifter set.

A mesh kitchen strainer is quite handy for this task as it allows you to evenly dust the baking soda, as if sifting flour, across the surface of the bed. Applying it that evenly by hand is practically impossible.

  1. With the mattress bare, liberally sprinkle baking soda across the surface. The goal is a fine and even layer.
  2. Leave the baking soda for at least an hour. Longer is better, so if you use this trick in the future, it’s ideal to do it before you go to work or even before an overnight trip away from home. Now would be a great time to check on your laundry while you wait.
  3. After the hour has passed, vacuum up the baking soda using the same method you used the first time.
  4. Although the powder tends to come up very easily, you can also firmly pat the surface (as if you were beating the dust out of a rug) at the very end to loosen up any lingering baking soda and vacuum it up.

Protect Your Mattress and Pillows

A bare bed outfitted with a Luna brand mattress and pillow protector.

Putting a barrier between your mattress and your body (as well as between your pillow and your face) is a great way to keep both the mattress and pillow cleaner, longer. Even with clean sheets and pillowcases on your bed, bits of skin dander and oil work their way through the fabric, but the protectors will keep out dust, dander, and even bodily fluids.

We’ve used the Luna brand protectors, both for mattresses and for pillows, on all the beds in our home for years. They’ve served us well through having small children, less than perfectly behaved pets, and general daily use. Not only do they protect against stains and spills, but they act as a dust mite and allergen barrier too.

Luna Waterproof Mattress Protector

A good mattress isn't cheap. Protect it from spills, stains, and odors with this soft but waterproof protector.

The real pro-tip when it comes to using a protector isn’t just purchasing a high-quality one, but purchasing two: that way you always have a clean spare to put on the bed and are never left without one.

Hospitology Pillow Protectors

Drool on your pillow all you want, the world will never know as long as it's wrapped up in one of these quality protectors.

Remake the Bed with Fresh Linens

A bed made up with fresh and crisp percale weave cotton sheets.
Bumble Towels

At this point, you’ve been working hard to beat the ghost of odors past out of your mattress. It’s time to pulls the fresh-smelling linens and bedding out of your dryer and wrap it up for a cozy night’s sleep.

While you have sheets on hand to refit your bed, naturally, we’ll close with a nudge to treat yourself to a new set both as a reward for a job well done and to ensure you have a fresh and new set on hand to make future cleaning and laundry days earlier.

Bumble Luxury Cotton Percale 4-Piece Linen Set

Percale weave? 100% Pima cotton? We dare say these are the perfect sheets.

Want a solid suggestion? We can’t recommend percale weave cotton sheets enough. Forget ultra-high thread counts and smothering microfiber sheets, the crisp light luxury of percale weave sheets is where it’s at. This sheet set from Bumble Towels is peak optimal sheet design if you ask us.

We’re moving along in the bedroom quite nicely. At this point, your surfaces are decluttered and dusted, and now your mattress is dust-free and fresh smelling, too. Not bad for two days into the bedroom segment of the cleaning challenge.

As always, you can follow along on our Spring Clean Challenge landing page or get the lessons, along with all our other great content, delivered right to your inbox!

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »
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