Steam Clean For Mattresses: how to use your machine to get rid of bed bugs, dust mites, and more!

Today, we’re answering all your questions about steam cleaning and mattresses! As you know, we here at Steam Clean Reviews like to use steam for practically everything. In this quick how-to, we’ll focus on the important role steam can play in caring for your mattress!

Why you should put more effort into your mattress care routine

We all know our bedding gets filthy. It’s no wonder–consider what we do to it! We sweat, sloth off dead skin, shed hair, and leave behind thousands of germs from our daily grime. Those are just the polite things to mention!

What most people don’t realize is that the mattress gets as dirty as your sheets, especially since most people don’t clean theirs regularly. As you sweat, you shed up to 1/2 a liter of water, plus oils, dead skin, and germs. While the largest dust and skin particles stay on skin, the smaller ones end up on or in your mattress. And all that sweat and grease sinks into the mattress too!

So, cleaning your mattress should be part of your regular routine. No question about it!

Here’s our step-by-step guide to cleaning your sleeping area properly!

Wash bedding weekly

This is something you should already be doing with sheets, pillowcases, pajamas and duvet covers. Use high heat settings and a good detergent to kill mites and sanitize fabrics! Throw some unchlorinated bleach in with your load, too. It’s just hydrogen peroxide, so don’t worry about fumes or color changes. It’ll help sanitize and lift stains.

Wash the other stuff at least every 6 months


Pillows should be washed twice yearly, if they’re made from feathers or synthetic fill materials. Foam and memory foam pillows aren’t usually washable, so you’ll just need to vacuum them thoroughly and do the baking soda treatment we describe below to address odors and germs.

Throw your feather and synthetic pillows in the washer, as long as they can fit without too much bending (curvature is fine, just don’t fold them in half). Wash them on a gentle cycle with an extra rinse, and don’t use too much detergent.

You’ll want to run them through your dryer for at least an hour, if not more. Go longer than you think you need to! It takes a long time to dry the cores of pillows. The dryer will also restore the poof and loft of feather pillows, as long as you throw them in with dryer balls.


Most duvets can be washed in your home machines, although the largest might need to go to a bigger facility. Use high temperatures to kill dust mites and germs, and be liberal with the unchlorinated bleach to sanitize and remove stains. As with pillows, duvets need a long time in the dryer, preferably accompanied by dryer balls.

Any covers and liners you use

Mattress/pillowtop covers, liners, and so forth should be washed as often as possible, but every 6 months is a good rule of thumb. You can usually unzip covers from foam mattresses and toppers. It’s not something that’s easy (or necessary) to do on a weekly basis, but it’s a good part of your twice-yearly routine.

Throw all these in the wash, and use high heat, plenty of soap, and unchlorinated bleach. Wash and dry them thoroughly, just like with your pillows and weekly linens.

Vacuum your mattress every time you strip the bed

This is a great practice to be in, especially if you have a set day of the week when you do cleaning and washing. You don’t have to be super thorough–just wash the face of the mattress and do a quick inspection for bugs.

Removing dust and dead skin from the surface does a lot to keep mites away. It also makes foam mattresses safer to sleep on! As foams age, they off-gas  fumes which can be respiratory irritants. The gas particles bond with dust, and that’s how you end up breathing them in. Capturing those particles in a HEPA vacuum solves a lot of the problem.

Flip or rotate it if necessary, and use an upholstery attachment on the surface material. Rotary brush tools can also be helpful, as long as they don’t damage the fabrics. You’ll definitely want to use one of these if you have pets.

Clean it as part of your 6-month regimen

Twice a year, vacuum your mattress thoroughly.

Pay attention to seams, as well as the sides. Do the top and bottom, and spend some time to make sure you’re getting everything!

Strip liners and covers off, and if possible, get out the steam cleaner!

Steam is one of the best things you can do for your mattress. It will kill dust mites and germs inside the actual mattress, where your vacuum can’t reach them. Steam also does wonders in eliminating odors and loosening tough stains.

Go over all the surfaces carefully using either a canister system or a steam mop set to high and fitted with an appropriate attachment. You want the hottest, driest steam possible, so don’t try to do this with a crappier steam mop or a weak hand unit. You really want a canister system for this, unless you have a powerful steam mop that doesn’t leave too much moisture behind. If you need help finding one, read our buying guide!

Use an upholstery tool or a larger floor tool, preferably something with a cloth to protect the surface of your mattress. Plastic nozzles work, but they can tear or scuff some mattress coverings if you’re not very careful. Upright clothes steamers can also work, if you’ve got one!

Use short bursts, and don’t spend too much time over one area. You want to be thorough while avoiding soaking the material. Otherwise, you’re begging for extended drying times and mildew issues.

Steam cleaning is a simple, chemical-free way to deodorize, sanitize, and kill mites/bugs in your mattress! However, it’s not suitable for every mattress on the market. Always check your mattress’s documentation and warranty terms to see whether steam cleaning is possible.

If your mattress can’t be steam-cleaned, you’ll have to content yourself with vacuuming. You can use an upholstery cleaner for stain removal, but you don’t have as many deep-cleaning options. Vacuum as well as you can, and then follow up with a baking soda treatment (more on that below).

After steaming or cleaning, allow the mattress to dry. Use fans, open windows, and make sure it can breathe on all sides

As a final step, after steam-cleaning or using a topical detergent, sprinkle baking soda over the entire mattress! It’s a great way to deodorize and absorb residual moisture. You might think it sounds kooky, but even Consumer Reports recommends it: Leave it for 24 hours, if possible.This is a great thing to do when you’re leaving for a weekend!

Do a final vacuuming to remove the baking soda, and you’ve successfully cleaned your mattress!

Preventive measures

While a thorough cleaning like we’ve outlined will do a great job sanitizing and freshening your mattress, you can make your life much easier if you take some additional preventive measures.

We suggest adding some layers of protection to your bedding. It’ll reduce the amount of cleaning you need to do, and protect the valuable pieces (mattresses, pillows). Doubling up on pillowcases will cut down on mites and smells in your pillows, and adding a liner or cover to your bed does the same.

You can also get an impervious cover that prevents bed bugs from infesting your mattress, even if you’re so unfortunate as to bring them home from a trip. These work against fleas, too, so they’re a smart investment for any pet owner. It’s much cheaper to buy a cover than to have to replace a mattress, after all!