Mattress Cleaning and Other Indoor Sports

Dear Home-Ec 101,

What is the best way to clean a mattress? Dec 2008 I splurged and upgraded from a queen bed to a fabulously huge king size bedset.I’m wondering what is the best way to clean the mattress? I have a small “spot” cleaner by Hoover (I think)-and I use that to get stains/spills-thank goodness there have only been a few. But I’ve been thinking how does everyone clean their mattresses? I’ve heard of putting it outside and letting it “air out” but that’s not feasible where I live. Recently in a yoga catalog I saw a sanitizing “wand” sort of thing (uses UV I think) and have thought about getting that. Just curious as to what other people do.

Signed,

Bedwarmer

Heather says:

We humans are fairly nasty creatures and we spend a lot of time in bed. We shed skin cells, which the dust mites adore and then there’s hair oil, sweat, drool, and potentially other bodily fluids. Even if you don’t have allergies, it’s something to think about. Mattresses can get pretty funky without attention.

Let’s give a thought to prevention. Let your bed air out daily and no, I don’t mean drag the whole thing outside. Just fold the sheets back toward the foot of your bed. Take a shower, eat breakfast, then make your bed. Dust mites love moisture and if you create a favorable environment, they’ll hang out eating, breeding, excreting. . .

Change your sheets frequently, they are your mattress’s first line of protection.

Invest in a good mattress pad. These are absorbent and made to soak up sweat and other people funk.  Wash the mattress pad every other week or once a month. In the Solos house, it’s every other week in the summer and monthly in the winter, unless someone has been ill.

If you have allergies, consider encasing your mattress in an allergen barrier, these can make a huge difference if your mattress is several years old.

Speaking of allergies, your bed is a haven for dust mites.

Vacuuming is the only recommended cleaning technique by Sealy. Simmons, Serta, and Sealy all recommend using a mattress pad since stains are not covered by their warranties.

Never use dry cleaning chemicals on a mattress, not only can they damage the fibers, most are toxic.

Never soak a mattress, they take a long time to fully dry and this could encourage the growth of mildew.

If your mattress is dirtier than a vacuum can clean and still under warranty, contact the manufacturer for advice.

As a last resort, for a mattress that is no longer under warranty, consider steam cleaning, but approach the job with care, try not to get the mattress too wet, and remove as much moisture as possible with the unit. Allow the mattress to dry fully before replacing the mattress pad.

Some carpet cleaning companies offer mattress cleaning services.

Good luck and take care of your investment.

Send your household questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

Mattress Stains, When to Worry and When to Say to Heck with It

Dear Home Ec 101,

I’ve got a problem that I haven’t seen addressed on the blog, or anywhere else for that matter.  We have an older twin-size, leather sofa-bed; which lived happily in our library in our home for several years, did an eight-year stint as extra seating at my office, and now has been moved to its permanent home in the boys’ bedroom of our new cabin.  Taking it to the cabin was a chore; and as we’re getting older, we thought it would be a good idea to take the mattress-bed contraption out of the leather frame and take it upstairs in two trips.  No problem there, we got it apart.  Unfortunately, for the first time in probably decades, we unfolded the hide-a-bed part, only to discover rust stains on the top of the mattress!  Perhaps really cat pee stains from when it was at home?  Maybe coffee spilled behind the cushion at the office?  No clue.  I figure we can sand and paint the rusted metal hide-a-bed frame with no problem, but how do I possibly get the rust stains out of the mattress?

Any guidance would be most welcome.

Signed,

Secret Stains

Heather says:

We are going to look at these mattress stains from a couple of different perspectives.

Let’s pretend you do have a cat urine issue on your mattress.  Without a doubt you will know if you have cat pee on your mattress all it will take is a quick sniff test, not even up close and personal to your mattress, to determine if urine was anywhere near your couch. Cats are quite notorious for the amount of funk (ammonia) contained in their urine. There is simply no way a sniff test will leave you confused about the source of the stain.

Get yourself some Kids’n’Pets or other enzymatic cleaner and if you don’t own a carpet / or upholstery steam cleaner, rent one.  Also find a box fan or make sure there is lots of air flow in the room where the mattress cleaning will occur. You absolutely do not want to trade your stain issue for a mildew / mold problem. Only steam clean one side of the mattress at a time and make sure the first side is COMPLETELY -got it?- dry before doing the other.

The enzymatic cleaner should take care of any pet urine issues in your mattress.

Now here’s where I believe I’m probably going to give an unpopular answer.

If the stains were caused by rust. . . Do the stains on your mattress really matter at all?

Rust stains are harmless. Sure they aren’t attractive, but they aren’t doing anything to the mattress other than sitting there and being ugly. What’s the crime in ugly, I ask? This is a hide-a-bed, the mattress isn’t ever going to serve as a conversation piece in your home, right?

On another note, it’s not even like it’s an extremely comfortable mattress. (I’m sure someone, somewhere may make a comfortable hide-a-bed mattress, but I have never encountered one.)

If you want to ensure guests never see the stains, grab yourself an allergen mattress barrier. Zipper that around the mattress and voila! No one sees the rust stains unless they are creepy weird and unzip the barrier and really, who are you inviting into your home that would do that?

For what it’s worth, I do think you are on the right track to fix up the source of the rust stains, I just don’t think the rust stains themselves matter that much.

Good luck!

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

Related post: Mattress Cleaning and Other Indoor Sports