How to Get Stains Out of Your Mattress

How to Get Stains Out of Your Mattress

Breakfast in bed can be pure bliss—until someone knocks over a cup of coffee. To the rescue: expert tips for removing stains from your mattress

Relax. Chances are, you can successfully treat mattress stains and spills like this one as you would spot treat a carpet.

By Haniya Rae, Justin Krajeski

If only you could throw a mattress in the washer. Since that’s not an option, we consulted Brian Sansoni, the senior vice president of communications at the American Cleaning Institute, about best ways to get rid of stains.

When it comes to removing stains from mattresses, you should “always attack stains as quickly as possible to ensure they don’t set in,” says Sansoni. Use a stain remover. Be prepared to attack the fresh stain with a dry towel, get rid of excess moisture, and then “attack the stain with a stain removal product” again, he advises.

Sansoni tells us that removing stains from a mattress is similar to spot-treating a carpet, except that with mattresses, “you have the option of adding a mattress protector that can help protect it from stains and can be laundered.” (Although CR doesn’t test or rate mattress protectors, also known as encasements, you can find them across retailers like Amazon and Target. Look for brands such as SafeRest and Hollander Sleep Products.) “Having one is crucial to keeping your mattress from being ruined by stains and spills, because it will typically include a layer of liquid-resistant or waterproof material,” says Sansoni. “Think of it as your security guard against stains."

Follow the advice below for strategies and the best stain-fighting detergents you need for treating tough stains. 

If you’re looking to outfit your mattress with new bedding because unsightly messes have ruined them past the point of throwing them in the wash, check out the sheets and pillows from our tests. And if you decide to replace your mattress, explore our mattress buying guide, as well as our comprehensive mattress ratings, where you can sort through more than 230 models we’ve rated across to a variety of needs.

How to Clean a Stained Mattress

If you don’t have a mattress protector—or your mattress protector fails you—our cleaning experts share four quick steps to treat an accident before a stain sets in. 

  1. Remove your bedding immediately. This will prevent liquids from seeping into the mattress and penetrating more deeply. Treat any staining on your sheets with a laundry stain remover as soon as possible, then throw them in the wash with one of our highly-rated laundry detergents, like the Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release or Persil ProClean Stain Fighter.
  2. Soak up the spill on your mattress. Gently blot the area with a clean cloth (a microfiber cloth, washcloth, or paper towel should do, according to experts).
  3. Add a dab of liquid detergent. You can also try an all-purpose stain remover, but before using it, do a quick test on an inconspicuous area of the mattress to make sure you won’t ruin the fabric. In either case, pour a little onto a cloth and blot gently. If the stain is still visible after everything dries, repeat.
  4. Allow the mattress to dry completely before replacing sheets or mattress covers. This could take hours, depending on the size of the mess. Remember, even if the surface itself seems dry, it may still be damp underneath.

Tough Treatments for Nastier Stains

In general, Sansoni says to use a microfiber cloth or a washcloth—or even a paper towel if you want the ability to discard the cloth—to treat stains. Bigger messes require more intense tactics, though. Before resorting to a professional cleaner, try the strategies below.

  • Pee: Blot what you can with a cloth—don’t rub it in. Then spray the cloth with an enzyme cleaner like Angry Orange or Nature’s Miracle to dampen it, but don’t oversaturate it. (The enzyme cleaner will break down the uric acid in the pee to eliminate the color and smell.) Dab the stain with the cloth. Use a second cloth to blot it dry.
  • Poop: Once you remove any solids, spray an enzyme cleaner on a cloth until damp, then dab the mattress with it until the stain and odor dissolve.
  • Blood: Blot with a cloth and cold water (hot water could set the stain). Pour hydrogen peroxide, a disinfectant and natural bleaching agent, onto a new cloth—or a part of the cloth that hasn’t been used yet. Finish off with an enzyme cleaner and let it sit for several minutes to dissolve the blood. Blot dry with a new cloth.
  • Vomit: After removing the solids, sprinkle on baking soda, which helps pick up any leftover mess and absorbs odors. Let the baking soda sit for 10 minutes, then vacuum it up. Dampen a cloth with an enzyme cleaner and dab on the stain to further break down the organic matter and odor.
  • Mud: If it’s wet, wipe it up with a dry cloth. If it’s dry, use a vacuum. In each case, follow that up with a cloth slightly dampened with water and blot. Then use an enzyme cleaner to attack the stain. (Follow the cleaner’s instructions as to whether you should spray it directly onto the mattress or a piece of cloth.) Blot it dry with a cloth. After the surface has dried, spread a little baking soda—enough to cover the stain, no need for more—on the spot to absorb any odor, then vacuum it up.
  • Red wine: If you have a red wine stain remover product, try that first. If not, blot the stain with a cloth dampened with cold water. If that doesn’t work, mix one part dish soap and two parts hydrogen peroxide, dip a damp cloth into the mixture, and blot the stain with it. After several minutes, blot again until the stain is gone.

Best Laundry Detergents From CR's Tests

These highly rated cleaners tackled icky messes in our lab—body oil, dirt, even salad dressing—without a problem.

Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release

CR’s take: Procter & Gamble’s Tide has a variety of product offerings, which is why you’ll see 10 liquid Tide detergents in our ratings, including Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release. Stains from dirt and body oil? No sweat. Chocolate? Easy. Tide Plus Ultra aced our pretreat tests, which means you can pretreat stains with a dab of this detergent and the result will be better than that of most spray-on stain removers we tested.

Persil ProClean Stain Fighter

CR’s take: Of the dozens of liquid detergents we tested, only two easily tackle body oil, dirt, and chocolate, and capably remove tough stains like blood and grass. Persil ProClean Stain Fighter is one of those detergents. Plus, you can also use it to pretreat stains. Like the Tide Plus, our tests found it’s better than most of the spray-on laundry stain removers we tested.

Persil ProClean Sensitive Skin

CR’s take: Persil ProClean Power-Liquid for Sensitive Skin is the best of the detergents we tested that are marketed for sensitive skin—it does a top-notch job of tackling stains like body oil, chocolate, and salad dressing, and it does a solid job of cleaning dirt and coffee stains, too. That said, it’s also among the priciest in our tests.

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2023, Consumer Reports, Inc.

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