When it comes to mattresses, the old adage that prevention is better than cure is spot on, because as anyone who’s tried to clean a mattress can tell you, it’s not easy.

Mattresses really aren’t designed to face the daily onslaught that they do: they’re bulky, heavy, and made of several fabric and foam layers that readily soak up and retain any spilled liquid. Yet they’re routinely exposed to sweat, urine and other bodily fluids, as well as food spills.

It’s no wonder that over time, unless fitted with waterproof mattress protectors, most mattresses will end up stained, soiled and smelly.

If you and your family are sleeping on mattresses without protectors, then read on, because the chances are high that one day you’ll be needing the cleaning advice that follows.


The majority of mattress stains are protein-based bodily fluids or food spills. These substances become more difficult to remove once they set in and bond with the fabric of the mattress, so tackle the spill as quickly as possible.


Any moisture that soaks into the mattress must be removed – even if it’s a cleaning solution – otherwise the mattress may develop an odour, or mildew and mould. (Don’t, whatever you do, drag your mattress outside and hose it down on the lawn.) Over-wetting a stain could also drive the spilled substance or body fluid deeper into the mattress.

Apply cleaning solutions as a paste where possible. If using a liquid cleaning solution, spritz lightly with a spray bottle, or dab on sparingly with a cloth (a white cloth will prevent dye transfer to your mattress).


There are several common household products that can be used to tackle a spill or stain on a mattress. You may need to try more than one of these methods to achieve the cleaning results you’d like.

  • For a fresh bedwetting accident, try bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). After blotting up as much of the urine as possible with a dry towel, cover the patch with bicarb and let it stand for a few hours before vacuuming off.
  • If the stain has dried, try soda water and table salt. First dampen the stain with the soda water (or white vinegar mixed half-half with water), then cover with salt. After a few hours, the salt should have absorbed most, if not all of the stain. Vacuum or brush off.
  • Make borax into a paste with a little water. Spread it on the stain and work it lightly into the fabric (not too vigorously, or you might spread the stain). Leave to dry and vacuum or brush off.
  • Mix lemon juice and salt into a paste and apply to the stain. Leave for about an hour. Vacuum or brush off, then sponge the stain with cold water to rinse. Blot with a dry towel.
  • For dried blood, apply a paste of hydrogen peroxide (3%), salt and a few drops of washing-up liquid. Once dry, vacuum off and dab at any remaining stain with neat hydrogen peroxide. Or in a spray bottle, mix a quarter of a cup of hydrogen peroxide (3%) with washing-up liquid and baking soda. Spray the stain, then blot with a clean cloth. Hydrogen peroxide is a weak bleach, and could bleach a coloured mattress, so it’s a good idea to do a spot-test first.
  • If one or more of these pastes don’t shift the stain, try a cleaning solution of washing-up liquid and water. Dab on sparingly and scrub the spot. You can also try a household ammonia product like Handy Andy, dabbing it on and wiping off with a damp cloth.

After cleaning a stain, it’s important to remove any lingering traces of moisture. Sprinkling the cleaned area with bicarbonate of soda and leaving it for a few hours serves the dual purpose of drawing out any last moisture, while absorbing odours from the fabric. If you’re able to, take your mattress outside into the sunlight for a good airing. (Just keep an eye out for approaching rain.)


After going to all that trouble, it’s time to invest in a good mattress protector to prevent any further damage to the mattress. A mattress protector is not a nice to have … it’s an essential defence that no bed should be without.

Choose a good quality mattress protector that won’t crinkle, rustle, or leave you feeling hot and sweaty. It should also be easy to clean. Protect-A-Bed is the world’s best-selling mattress protector brand. Backed with a whisper-quiet fabric called Miracle Membrane, it is completely waterproof yet breathable, ensuring a cool and comfortable sleep while protecting the mattress from spills and stains, and providing an effective barrier against allergens such as dust mites. And being machine washable, any future spills can be cleaned with a quick spin in the washing machine …

… which certainly beats all that dabbing and rubbing and blotting.

view our products
buy now