7 pro tips for vacuuming a mattress to get rid of bed bugs, dust mites and smells

 Vacuum cleaning a mattress.
Vacuum cleaning a mattress.

Vacuuming a mattress is essential for keeping dead skin, dust mites and bacteria at bay. It can also help you get rid of bed bugs, but there are some key things you'll need to do (and not do) when vacuuming a mattress to get rid of these nasties.

Chief among these? Always fully empty and clean your vacuum cleaner outside of your home after vacuuming a mattress filled with dust mites and bed bugs. If you don't, you risk opening up the rest of your home to infestation.

Regular vacuuming a mattress can make a huge difference in helping it to stay healthy and hygienic for years to come, and these seven tips will help you do just that. But if after reading this you decide your bed has seen better days, now is a good time to buy the best mattress for your sleep needs and body type as we're fast-approaching the Memorial Day mattress sales with big discounts on top-rated beds.

For now, here are our seven key tips for vacuuming a mattress to get rid of bed bugs, dust mites, bacteria and smells...

1. Vacuum your mattress weekly

A couple change the sheets on their mattress together before vacuuming it to get rid of dust mites, bacteria and smells
A couple change the sheets on their mattress together before vacuuming it to get rid of dust mites, bacteria and smells

Mattresses are the perfect home for dust mites because they thrive on the dead skin flakes that we naturally shed overnight. Dust mite droppings can trigger allergies and asthma, leaving you waking up each morning feeling stuffy with itchy eyes and skin.

By vacuuming your mattress weekly (we'd suggest doing it after removing your bedding), you’ll be getting rid of the dust and dead skin cells dust mites feast upon. This prevents them from accumulating deep within your mattress, which can cause wear and tear over time, so you’ll increase the lifespan of your mattress.

Regular vacuuming also helps keep mattress smells at bay, especially if you sprinkle baking soda onto the cover and leave it to work its magic for at least two hours before you vacuum up any loose powder.

2. Don't forget the sides and headboard

When it comes to vacuuming your mattress it isn’t just the surface you need to concentrate on. You also need to vacuum around the sides and your headboard if it’s fabric. If you have a wooden or metal bed frame then before vacuuming just give these a wipe over with a damp cloth, the same as any bedside tables and lamps.

We advise that you use an upholstery attachment when vacuuming your mattress, this will allow you to get deep in to the corners, seams and tufts where dust mites could be hiding out to avoid detection. To ensure that you get every part of your mattress then set aside enough time to go over the surface areas at least twice.

3. Treat any mattress stains first

Cleaning a mattress to get rid of freshly spilled red wine stains
Cleaning a mattress to get rid of freshly spilled red wine stains

If you have stains on your mattress then you must tackle these before you start to vacuum. Stains appear for various reasons, but it’s usually a build-up of body oils and sweat that accumulate on the mattress whilst we sleep.

Accidents and spills can also cause stains; if they’re not treated, you may notice a foul odor. Some mattresses can even start to develop mold so it is worth learning how to spot mattress mold and deal with the issue quickly.

  • To spot treat stains easily make a natural cleaning solution using one cup of white vinegar, one cup of water and a small dash of laundry or dish detergent.

  • Combine these in a spray bottle and spritz the stain. Taking a clean cloth or paper towel blot at the stain until you start to see it lift.

  • If the stain is built-in then leave to soak on the area for around 15 minutes.

  • You can repeat this step as many times as you need to but be mindful not to soak the area as this can cause damage to the mattress.

4. Don't use excessive force

Whilst it may be tempting to push the vacuum hard into the mattress to get deep in to the fibres, this can make things worse. Mattresses, especially those made with memory foam or with quilted pillow tops, can be delicate and aggressive vacuuming can compress the layers, causing them to loose their shape and supportive qualities.

This then leads to an uneven sleeping surface which could result in your getting joint and back pain. Using a super strong suction or pushing too hard can also put stress on the stitching which may result in rips or tears.

Instead just gently glide over the surface areas of your mattress and repeat a couple of times to remove and dislodge any dirt, dust or mites that are present.

5. Use baking soda to get rid of smells

With so many different sprays and potions on the market these days it can be tempting to freshen up your mattress surface by squirting shop bought chemicals. However, before you reach for the fabreeze consider going down the natural route. Baking soda is a great way to remove funky odors from your mattress leaving it feeling fresh and clean.

A spoonful of baking soda next to a spilled jar and a cork lid
A spoonful of baking soda next to a spilled jar and a cork lid

You could even add a couple of drops of essential oils if you want it to smell good too. All you need to do to make your mattress smell amazing is mix together some baking powder and a couple of drops of your favourite essential oils, we love lavender and lemon together because it’s calming and relaxing whilst also smelling super fresh.

After you strip your bed give your mattress a quick run over with the vacuum cleaning, then using a flour sifter for even coverage spread the baking powder over the surface of your mattress and leave for around two to three hours. After you’ve let it sit, vacuum it away and you’re left with a fresh smelling mattress.

6. Empty the vacuum of dust mites and bed bugs

When you’re done with vacuuming your mattress you don’t want to risk spreading dust mites elsewhere in your home, so always empty your cleaner after vacuuming your mattress.  This is especially important if you have bed bugs in your mattress.

If you think you have signs of bed bugs in your mattress, immediately take your vacuum cleaner outside and empty the canister into a bag that can be fully sealed. Don't do this indoors as bed bugs are prolific and they will infest the rest of your home (such as sofas, carpets and chairs) rapidly.

You will also need to deep clean your vacuum cleaner because you don’t want to risk leaving behind any hidden bed bugs or their eggs. If you have a bagged vacuum, replace the bag. If you have a bagless vacuum cleaner, soak the canister and any removable filters in hot, soapy water for around 15 minutes. Leave to dry thoroughly before reassembling and using again.

7. For bed bugs, try a professional mattress clean

Image shows bed bugs nestled inside folds on a mattress
Image shows bed bugs nestled inside folds on a mattress

If you’re dealing with a bed bug infestation then it’s really important that you seek professional help. Vacuuming your mattress and paying special attention to the corners and crevices will help to remove bed bugs, eggs and any debris but it won’t always be enough to completely eliminate them.

Bed bugs hate heat so if you think you have an infestation, strip your bedding and place on a hot wash, that should remove any trace from our bedding. You can also try steam cleaning your mattress but be aware that for some mattress types, for example, memory foam, this method isn’t suitable. The best way to tackle a bed bug infestation is to combine vacuuming with professional pest control.

How often should you vacuum a mattress?

How often you vacuum your mattress depends on a couple of factors including whether you have allergies, if you sleep hot or sweat a lot at night, if you share your bed with your pets or if you use a mattress protector or mattress encasement.

But generally, you should vacuum your mattress at least once a month. It's a good idea if you can get into a regular cleaning routine when it comes to your mattress and you'll find plenty of tips on our how to clean your mattress guide.

Vacuuming your mattress every week is important during spring and summer when there's an increase of allergens and pollen in the air

But whilst vacuuming once a month is the rule of thumb, we suggest that you vacuum the surface weekly, you can time this to coincide with changing your bedsheets, that way  you also keep on top of the last time you vacuumed it too.

Vacuuming your mattress weekly is especially important during spring and summer when there is an increase of allergens and pollen in the air. And if you’re a hot sleeper you may find that you sweat more so regularly vacuuming will help protect your mattress against staining and odors.

If you use a bed protector or encasement then you can usually machine wash these so they can go in whilst you wash your sheets and it means that you don’t need to vacuum your mattress quite as often.

Can you vacuum any type of mattress?

It is generally safe to vacuum any type of mattress however if you want to avoid doing any damage to the fabrics or the stitching it is worth using your vacuum on teh lowest possible suction. High suction can be too much for a lot of mattresses and cause the fabrics to rip and tear.

Also, be mindful about how hard you push down when vacuuming your mattress.  Excessive force can cause damage to your mattress surface so use gentle strokes to go up and down the surface and repeat the process to make sure that you’ve reached all areas.

The only type of mattress that you shouldn’t use a vacuum cleaner on is a waterbed as the suction could damage it and you’ll end up with a flooded bedroom.

Should use a separate vacuum for your mattress?

You don’t need to use a separate vacuum for your mattress. A regular household vacuum is perfectly fine especially if you have an upholstery attachment. Upholstery attachments have a smaller nozzle which are designed for getting into the nooks and crannies of a mattress.

Cleaning a mattress with a handheld vacuum cleaner to get rid of dust mites
Cleaning a mattress with a handheld vacuum cleaner to get rid of dust mites

This is especially important for keeping on top of dust mites who like to hide in the seams and crevices. Upholstery attachments also are made for use on furniture and mattresses and regular vacuums don’t have heavy-duty suction as standard so there is no risk of causing damage.

You may want to consider a separate vacuum if you don’t want to risk spreading dust mites to other parts of your home, especially if you have a severe allergy or weakened immune system, but generally, this could be handled by emptying and cleaning the vacuum each time it’s been in use.

The other reason why you may want to consider a separate machine is if your vacuum doesn’t have a handheld option, if you’re working on a larger area such as a king or cal king mattress then a handheld vacuum will allow you to cover more of an area with ease.

Should you vacuum a mattress topper?

Think of a mattress topper as an extension to your mattress. Mattress toppers can also accumulate dead skin, sweat, body oils, dirt and dust so it’s important that these are also vacuumed often to keep them clean and maintain a healthy sleep environment for you.

If you do have a mattress topper then this is what you should be vacuuming on a regular basis with your main mattress being vacuumed every three to six months. Just like when you vacuum your mattress make sure to pay special attention to any seams or tufts. Some mattress toppers also have a removable cover that can be unzipped and machined washed, just be sure to read the care instructions as some toppers have specific cleaning recommendations.

How to protect a mattress after vacuuming it

One of the best ways to protect your mattress after vacuuming it is to buy one of the best mattress protectors. A mattress protector provides a barrier between you and the surface of your mattress protecting it spills, accidents, body fluids, dust mites, bed bugs and anything else you want to subject your sleeping surface too.

A mattress protector will keep your mattress clean, dry and more importantly, prolong its lifespan. In fact, some mattress manufacturers specify that you should use a mattress protector on your mattress in order to comply with the warranty conditions.

Mattress protectors come in a variety of different styles from waterproof to cooling so whatever your sleep style or preference you can find one to suit your bed.