You fall face-first into your bed and what’s that smell? You sniff again and realize it’s your mattress.
Whether it’s the one you’ve been sleeping on for years — has it always smelled? — or a brand new addition to your sleep setup, relax. For older mattresses, it’s normal for the mattress you sleep on night after night, year after year to get a little scented. We sometimes sweat while we sleep, and body oils and dead skin cells can all seep into your mattress. Or if you’ve bought a new mattress, it might have an unfamiliar new mattress smell.
“There are certainly days where I wish I could just throw my mattress into a washing machine and be done with it,” says Nora Mitchell, editor-in chief of Household Advice. “But this is unfortunately not practical. Mattresses can be cumbersome to clean, but there are some great natural ways you can spot clean and deodorize them efficiently.”
And don’t worry: Deodorizing a mattress isn’t an all-day, elbow-grease-intensive task. It’s pretty easy-peasy. The actual labor will take you 10 minutes or less. Just don’t forget to add in time ahead of using your mattress for the products to do their work.
Depending on your method, here’s what you might need:
- Vacuum with upholstery attachment
- Baking soda or cornstarch
- White vinegar and a spray bottle
- Essential oil in a favorite fragrance
- A few small bowls
Tips for deodorizing an old mattress
If you’ve had your mattress for a while and need to nix odors, you’ve got a few options to deodorize your mattress using household items you likely already have on hand.
“There is of course the classic spreading of baking soda to help deodorize a mattress,” Mitchell says.
Pro tip: Can’t find that baking soda box at the back of your pantry? Cornstarch works well, too.
With a vacuum and some baking soda
First, use your vacuum cleaner’s upholstery attachment on your mattress. Then sprinkle either baking soda (or cornstarch) liberally so that you’re covering as much of the surface as possible.
Let the powdery substance sit for about 30 minutes — longer if your mattress needs a bit more freshening. Then grab that vacuum attachment again and hoover up all the granules, which should have absorbed the odor and oil.
With vinegar and essential oils
If you don’t have a vacuum, don’t stress. “Another natural alternative to baking soda is white vinegar,” Mitchell says. “Mixing vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spraying your mattress can also help with any smell.”
Vinegar, with its acetic acid, is a natural odor neutralizer, and as a bonus, it’s a mild disinfectant. You can even add several drops of your favorite essential oil to the mix, such as calming lavender or woodsy cedar. Let your mattress dry completely before redressing, ideally with a mattress protector, then your sheets of choice.
Getting rid of new mattress smells
If you are in the market for a new mattress, but concerned about new-mattress smells, take heart. The “off-gassing” odors of olden days should not be an issue, especially if you shop with brands that adhere to strict manufacturing and material standards.
Look for a mattress that carries certifications on its label, like GREENGUARD Gold, Certi-PUR-US, and Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX. Mattresses with these certifications will be less likely to off-gas when they arrive to your pad. But it’s also worth doing your research in-person and seeking advice from a Sleep Expert™ if you have a sensitive nose.
Like many new purchases, there can be a slight “new item” smell from the manufacturing process or packing materials. If it’s noticeable enough to be of concern, or it lingers past getting it out of its bag, box, or other packaging, don’t be concerned: You can easily banish the scent before getting your beauty sleep.
If you’ve just received a new mattress with a detectable chemical smell, you have a few options:
- Air it out outdoors, like on a porch or in a garage, for several hours. The fresh air will help the smell quickly dissipate, so that it’s not noticeable when you bring it inside.
- If you don’t have the extra space for airing out a new mattress, open a window in the room where you’re setting it up.
- You can also place a few bowls of baking soda mixed with a little water or a few bowls of white vinegar around the room to help absorb and neutralize odors in the air. Let sit until the smell is gone. Just be sure to place bowls out of reach of kids and pets, to minimize risk of spills.
Spot-treating smells before they become stains
So you spilled a glass of wine in bed and it soaked through the sheets, eh? Don’t panic. Accidents happen, and you can spot treat your mattress.
Add a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to a clump of baking soda to make a paste. Use a rag to rub the mixture over the stain, Mitchell recommends. Then blot with a dry cloth to remove. For minor stains, spraying with just white vinegar and water should be fine before then blotting dry.
When a smell means more than a smell
Mattress smells can be tricky to clean, but the methods mentioned above should help you deodorize. Of course, if you’ve tried those without success or your mattress has been around for seven years or longer, it may be time to look into getting a replacement.
If you managed to clean off the surface of your old mattress and still feel like there are deodorizing issues, chances are there’s a deeper issue of mold and mildew inside of your mattress. Stale, musky smells from the inside can’t be removed and your best action is to replace your mattress. After all, mildew or mold within your mattress can impact allergies and cause other flare-ups.
Another way to keep your still-good mattress a little more daisy fresh? Invest in a mattress protector if you don’t already have one. And keep your sheets on a regular cleaning schedule to contain bacteria, odors, and other buildup. A little bit of maintenance now can help keep your sleep space fresh and restful for years to come.