Get stains and smells out of your mattress using this common kitchen cupboard ingredient

This cleaning hack uses minimal effort, and you have what you need in your kitchen already

woman making the bed
(Image credit: Getty)

Cleaning a mattress is not a straightforward process. They're big and bulky, and won't fit in a washing machine. It's not an ideal situation, because as numerous stats outline, mattresses harbour distressing volumes of sweat, dead skin and the like. Of course your first step should be to invest in a decent mattress protector, which provides a barrier for sweat and spills to soak into, and which can easily be chucked into a washing machine on high (this is also a good idea for getting rid of dust mites).

Even with a good protector, at some point you're doing to need to freshen up your mattress, though. We have dedicated articles on how to clean your mattress and how to clean a memory foam mattress, but there's one technique we've found that requires minimal effort, promises to effectively remove odours from your mattress, and has been known to work wonders on stains too. More good news, you probably already have what you need: baking soda. Or, if you're in the UK, that's bicarbonate of soda. Here's how to clean a mattress with baking soda...

1. Sprinkle your mattress with baking soda

To remove odours, the process is simple. Strip your mattress (this is a good opportunity to wash your bed sheets, which you probably aren't doing as often as you should be, in any case). Then sprinkle baking soda / bicarbonate of soda all over the sleep surface. You're going to need a fair bit – perhaps between one and three cups (let's say 200-600g). If there are areas that more smelly than others, concentrate a bit more soda in these places. If you want, at this point you can massage the soda into the fabric to help it work. 

2. For stains, make a paste

If you have stubborn stains you want to tackle, baking soda will help you with that too. In this case, it might help to turn it into a paste by adding a bit of water. Spread the paste over the stained area and massage it in – pat and lift rather than rubbing vigorously, or you might damage the fabric of your mattress. Leave this on for a minimum of 30 minutes. When you're ready to remove the paste, rinse with water and leave the mattress to dry out before remaking your bed (a hairdryer can help, if you're really pushed for time).

3. Leave the baking soda to work

Now you need to leave the baking soda to work its magic. Ideally, you want to leave it on there for a full 24 hours, although if that's not practical because you need somewhere to sleep, just leave it as long as you can. A minimum of 20 minutes is a good idea. Leaving it longer than 24 hours isn't going to do any damage either, but it's also not going to help – after this long, the baking soda will have absorbed as much of the odour as it's going to. 

During this time, it will help if your mattress is exposed to bright sunlight – the UV light helps kill off bacteria in a natural way. If possible, shift your mattress next to a window. Or if you're really committed and it's definitely not going to rain, take it outside.

4. Vacuum it off

After you've left the baking soda for as long as you can, it's time to get rid of it. The easiest way to do this is to hoover it off. Use the crevice tool on your machine to really get into the seams and make sure all the powder is gone (here's our guide to the best vacuum cleaners, if you're in the market for a new one). That's it for the freshening up part – your mattress should now smell good as new. If you have stubborn stains, however, check out step 4...

If your mattress is beyond saving, and you've decided it's time to invest in a new one, head to our best mattress guide for our tried-and-tested recommendations. It might not even be as expensive as you think, because there are good cheap mattress sales and deals all year round. 

Ruth is currently on secondment as Sleep Editor for Tom's Guide and TechRadar. The role is an extension of her work on T3, where she ran the site's Wellness channel, which includes sleep, relaxation, yoga and general wellbeing. She was also Outdoors editor, reviewing and writing about everything from camping gear and hiking boots to mountain bikes, drones and paddle boards. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy, for fear of getting smothered in the night.