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.


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!

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Related post: Mattress Cleaning and Other Indoor Sports


  1. Nancy Swiss on May 20, 2013 at 2:46 am

    Thank you for the advice! I have the same problem too.

  2. Phill Cook on May 20, 2013 at 2:40 am

    I absolutely agree with Heather. Why worry about the stains? They are completely harmless to your mattress. The best thing for you to do is to clean it, preferably with steamers, and make sure to eliminate, if there’s any, the pungent smell of the stains. 🙂

  3. HeatherSolos on July 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm

     @HeatherSolos Dude, ALL I said is [the title] “…just makes me think someone left the body on the mattress too long.”

  4. guest on June 21, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Serious request for help here. I stayed overnight as a favor to a friend when she was ill. I stayed in the bedroom she uses for her grand kids when they visit. The bed ponged quite a bit, and I wondered if one of the grand kids wet the bed.  During the night the mattress pad shifted and when I woke up I realized the pillow, my arm and hand had made direct contact with the mattress. It was heavily stained, major gross out moment. I couldn’t wait to shower and determined never to stay over again. By the end of the day I had an itchy rash, on my arms, neck and face. Little blistery like pimples with redness and itching. This was a month ago and it hasn’t gone away. I called the doctor’s and went in hoping after an examination the doc might give me a skin culture to find out what this was. He really passed the buck and I’m not happy. It’s not going away I’ve never had anything like this in my life.

  5. MicheleN on June 11, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    I second for the mattress protector option recommended by Heather.  Not only do they cover any un-removable old stains, they keep new ones from forming on the mattress (they tend to sink into the easily washable cover, instead) AND, if you get a nice cushy one, they can improve the comfyness of the aged hide-a-bed mattress.  It’s a win-win-win solution!

    • JayMonster on June 11, 2012 at 4:24 pm

       But the thing to remember here is that if you get a “cushy one” that extra fluff could potentially cause a problem when closing up the unit.

      • MicheleN on June 12, 2012 at 8:35 am

         @JayMonster In all honesty, I assumed a big cushy one would be removed before storage and replaced when one puts the sheets on the mattress. 😉

        • HeatherSolos on June 12, 2012 at 9:38 am

           @MicheleN  @JayMonster shhh these are teh Interwebz, you check logic at the door before connecting. . .

        • MicheleN on June 12, 2012 at 10:22 am

           @HeatherSolos  @JayMonster So -that’s- what I’ve been doing wrong all of these years!  It appears I’m sorely in need of “teh Interwebz 101”; how long until the launch?

        • JayMonster on June 12, 2012 at 11:12 am

           @MicheleN  Just remember, while you and I (and others) may think of such things, and take them for granted, not everybody does.  They will try to go back to where they purchased their item (which in the past 10 years or so has become far more difficult with all the furniture companies that have either contracted in sized or went the way of the Dodo bird), and if they can’t get the mattress there, assume they are stuck.  (Same thing holds true with the fluffy.  You may take it on and off (which makes sense), but others may just try to fold it up with the cover in place).   Thus when I try to make recommendations to people or warn of potential pitfalls, I am not trying to tell YOU (or those like you) what to do or how to do it, I am simply trying to add to the knowledge-base for those that may not automatically know or consider such things.

        • TheAmyTucker on June 12, 2012 at 9:27 pm

           @JayMonster Hold on a minute. You’re supposed to take the sheets and pillows and stuff OFF and THEN fold it up? Oops…

        • HeatherSolos on June 12, 2012 at 9:29 pm

           @TheAmyTucker AND properly dispose of the body, because there are some stains even I won’t help you with.

        • Amy @ Sims 3 Gamer on June 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm

           @HeatherSolos Dude, ALL I said is [the title], “…just makes me think someone left the body on the mattress too long.”

        • TheAmyTucker on June 12, 2012 at 11:01 pm

           @HeatherSolos Dude, ALL I said is [the title] “…just makes me think someone left the body on the mattress too long.”

        • HeatherSolos on June 12, 2012 at 11:03 pm

           @Amy @ Sims 3 Gamer I’m pretty sure you were testing our friendship. . .

        • TheAmyTucker on June 12, 2012 at 11:05 pm

           @HeatherSolos  @Amy @ Sims 3 Gamer Basically I was asking if you’d help me hide a body in my [now disposed of] hideaway bed. FYI, there was NO body in the hideaway when I deposited said hideway in the dump.

        • TheAmyTucker on June 12, 2012 at 11:05 pm

           @HeatherSolos  BLAH. This is what I get for having two Livefyre accounts.

        • HeatherSolos on June 12, 2012 at 11:22 pm

           @TheAmyTucker I’m pretty sure you’re just being dissociative on purpose (I like making up words)

  6. SandeeHill on June 11, 2012 at 10:48 am

    If the rust stains really bother you (just knowing they were there would eat at the back of my mind, even though they’re not hurting anybody), there’s a product called Whink ( that will take out any rust stains you can think of. It was considered a miracle product around my house growing up. We had very hard water, and even the water softener sometimes wasn’t enough to keep rust stains out of the sinks, tubs, or laundry, and that’s where the Whink came in. It is highly corrosive, so I’d recommend treating the stains before doing the steam cleaning, and ALWAYS wearing rubber gloves when you’re using it. A little goes a long way, so squirt some on, scrub it in with a brush or sponge (in this case probably a brush would work best) and repeat! Good luck! 🙂

  7. JayMonster on June 11, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Of course the other possible option is just replace the mattress.  This used to be (prior to the days of the Internet) darn near impossible.  But not any longer.  Try something like (I am in no way affiliated with them, just a helpful… I hope.. hint).
    The thing to remember which is particularly important with fold aways is that the thickness of the mattress is VERY important.  If it is designed for 4″ mattress and you get a 5″, then it will not fit properly, and may not be able to be folded into the chair.

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