How to Steam Clean a Mattress

Hand holding a steam cleaner wand over mattress

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Overview
  • Working Time: 1 hr - 1 hr, 30 mins
  • Total Time: 4 - 8 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

We spend nearly one-third of our lives in bed, and even though your mattress is covered with a protector and sheets, it still takes a great deal of abuse from sweat, dead skin cells, dust mites, pets, and food spills. If you see stains and notice a funky odor, it's definitely time to steam clean your mattress.

While steam cleaning a mattress is not difficult, it does take a bit of planning and timing. If the mattress does not dry as quickly as possible, mold and mildew can begin to grow in the mattress. To achieve the best results, follow these guidelines before starting the process:

  • Choose a day when the bed will not be used for at least four or five hours.
  • Start the cleaning process in the early morning (if you follow a regular nighttime sleeping schedule).
  • Increase the ventilation in the bedroom. This may mean using an overhead fan, circulating fans, or open windows.
  • Choose a sunny, breezy, low-humidity day to steam clean the mattress.
  • Make arrangements to sleep elsewhere if the mattress is not dry at bedtime.

How Often to Steam Clean a Mattress

Your habits in bed will help determine how often the mattress needs to be cleaned. If you have pets, eat and drink, spill things, are potty-training a child, or someone is bed-ridden, you probably need to steam clean your mattress more often.

If the mattress is only used for sleeping, then steam cleaning it seasonally will keep the mattress fresh and odor-free.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Vacuum with upholstery brush attachment
  • Steam cleaner
  • Microfiber towels

Materials

  • Baking soda
  • Laundry stain remover

Instructions

  1. Clear the Mattress

    Strip all of the bedding, including the mattress cover, from the bed. Now would also be a good time to wash all of your bedding following the care label instructions.

  2. Vacuum the Mattress

    Use the vacuum's upholstery brush attachment to suction away as much dust, hair, dead skin, dust mites, and pet dander as possible. While you can use a hand-held vacuum, a vacuum with a hose and brush attachment will have more suction and produce better results.

    Work slowly and use short strokes to loosen and capture as much soil as possible.

    Tip

    If you are noticing a strong odor, sprinkle the mattress with a thick layer of baking soda before vacuuming. Allow the baking soda to absorb odors and oil for at least one hour. Vacuum away the baking soda before moving to the next step.

  3. Spot Treat Stains

    If there are visible stains on the surface of the mattress, they should be spot treated before the steam cleaning process. Use a commercial laundry stain remover that contains enzymes to help break apart the stain molecules. Follow the directions on the product label, or place a dab of stain remover on a damp microfiber cloth.

    Work the stain remover into the stained area and allow it to work for at least 15 minutes. Use a clean, damp microfiber cloth to blot away the cleaning product and the stain. Do not over-saturate the area with water or cleaning product.

  4. Prepare the Steam Cleaner

    Fill the steam cleaner with water and bring it up to full heat. The water should reach 212 degrees F to fully destroy bacteria and dust mites.

    You can use a clothes steamer, a steamer designed for cleaning, or even an iron that creates steam. Obviously, a small travel steamer or iron will need to be refilled more often and take longer to use.

  5. Steam the Mattress

    Hold the steamer head two or three inches above the surface of the mattress and move slowly in long strokes down the surface of the mattress.

    Being careful to avoid the blasts of steam, check that the surface of the mattress is damp, but not wet. If it is wet, you are holding the steamer head too close to the surface. Remember to clean the side surfaces of the mattress as well.

  6. Let the Mattress Dry

    Open the windows, turn on the fans, and allow the mattress to air dry for at least three hours—the more time, the better. You do not want any moisture to be trapped inside the fibers.

    To determine if the mattress is completely dry, place a dry paper towel on the surface and press down with some force. If any moisture is detected, it needs more drying time.

Tips to Keep Your Mattress Clean

  • Use a thick mattress protector at all times to help absorb body oils and moisture. Wash it at least monthly.
  • Monitor humidity levels in the bedroom to prevent the growth of mold and mildew spores. Never leave damp items on the bed, and be sure that bedding is completely dry before placing it on the bed.
  • Change and wash sheets and bedclothes frequently.