Natural ways to clean your mattress

Having a clean mattress is an effective way to improve your sleep, maximise its life and ensure your sleep environment is as clean and calming as possible. We asked Wendyl Nissen, journalist, broadcaster, former magazine editor and author of 10 books, mostly about living a chemical-free, old-fashioned life, to share her expert advice on how to sustainably clean your mattress.

Slipping between clean sheets at the end of the day is something we all look forward to. But how often do we consider what lies beneath those sheets and the best ways to look after our mattress?

Keeping a clean mattress is something which was taken very seriously in days gone by when servants and housewives were instructed to brush mattresses once a week, beat them once a month and insert pieces of camphor inside the mattress to disinfect it. These days such precautions need not be adhered to, but it is a good idea to keep your mattress aired and as clean as possible to ensure the best night’s sleep you can get.

Utilise the sun​

There are many eco-friendly and low-cost ways to look after your mattress including a natural, sustainable cleaner which will cost you nothing – the sun. Few people realise that sunlight is a free cleaning agent as it is a natural bleach and it also does a great job of airing anything you put in its path. Once a season I lift my mattress off my bed and treat it to a day in the sunshine. It’s important to choose a day when you are guaranteed to get a full day of sun and find a spot where the sun will shine for most of it.

Get someone to help you lift the mattress and if you can, prop it up (supported) on one side so that the air can run through it rather than lay it out flat. If you do have to lay it out flat, be sure to turn it half way through the day as moisture may gather underneath it.

To prepare your mattress, give it a good brush on both sides with a stiff natural bristle brush to release any dust particles which may be hiding in the creases. Use a vacuum to remove any dust which may have settled under the mattress covers. Now prop it up and let the sun do its work. At the end of the day your mattress will be cleaner and fresher and will even smell great.

According to a recent study *leaving fabric in the sun produces numerous organic molecules that our noses might recognise from plants and perfumes. After a sunbathe your mattress might emit pentanal which is found in cardamom, and octanal which produces citrusy aromas, or nonanal which smells of roses. Heaven!

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Eco-friendly ways to clean stains on your mattress



This is especially good to do just before you put your mattress in the sun. Simply spread a little fresh lemon juice on the stain and sprinkle with salt. Mix it together on the stain and let it dry in the sun. At the end of the day, the natural bleach in the lemon juice combined with the natural bleaching powers of the sun will combine with the salt and your stain will disappear. Once the day ends, simply brush off the salt.



You can buy borax at the chemist or online. This is a very old-fashioned cleaner which is a natural mineral salt with mild bleaching powers. Simply mix some borax with a little water to make a paste. Spread it on the stain and leave for 10 minutes. Wipe off the borax paste with a damp cloth and then dab with fresh water working from the outside of the stain inwards. Place a clean towel on the spot and put a heavy weight on it to soak up any moisture. Allow to dry.



This is useful for mild stains. Mix to a paste with a little water and rub on the stain. Leave for as long as you can then use a damp cloth to wipe it off. Dampen with fresh water working from the outside of the stain inwards. Place a clean towel on the spot and put a heavy weight on it to soak up any moisture. Allow to dry.



Spray the stain with neat white vinegar and allow to sit for about half an hour. Wipe off with a damp cloth, dab with fresh water and place a weighted clean towel on to absorb any moisture. Allow to dry.



For old stains it can be useful to soak them in glycerine which is another old-fashioned cleaning tool. You can buy glycerine, sometimes called glycerol at the chemist or online. It will soften an old stain and lift it. Simply rub some on the stain and leave for as long as you can, then rinse out by dabbing with a damp cloth.

Before returning my clean mattress to its base, I brush and vacuum the base to make sure any dust particles have been cleared away.

While you’re giving your mattress a sunbath, it’s a good idea to hang out your duvet and pillows as well to get the full sun treatment. When you bring them inside you will be surprised how fluffy and comforting they are.

In between your mattress’s seasonal sunbath try to leave it uncovered once a week, especially if your bedroom attracts sunlight during the day. Simply leave your mattress naked for a day to get some sun rays as a refresher.

Air your bedroom

It’s a good idea to think about airing your bedroom regularly as well. In winter, condensation can form on your windows, so wipe that down every morning and no matter what the season try to open all your windows and doors for 10 minutes a day to give your room a good air out and keep it fresh for you to return to that night.

I find placing a fresh posy of flowers in the room makes it welcoming after a day away. You can also heat some essential oils in a diffuser before bedtime to ease you into a peaceful sleep. Popular essential oils to aid relaxation and sleep are lavender, rose geranium and chamomile.

Once I have my clean, dry mattress back on the bed I always give it a quick lavender spray. Simply make up a bottle of lavender water by mixing 1 teaspoon of lavender essential oil with 60mls of vodka and 750ml of water. Shake well then spray lightly over your mattress. You can also use this spray on your freshly dried sheets as well.