Can a heavily soiled mattress be saved?

Heavy soiling represents a problem for mattress cleaning when the contaminants have seeped through the various layers. Most mattresses are sealed products, so cleaning the inner layers is virtually impossible.

However, whether a heavily soiled mattress is saveable depends on the contaminants and how ingrained they are in the mattress’s fabric.

The good news is that you can do a deep clean with a wet vacuum cleaner to suck out dissolvable contaminants in most situations.

The bad news is that even the deepest wet clean won’t eradicate all dirt and bacteria, so stains and odours will likely persist.

What’s the source of the soiling?

The most common mattress soiling sources include:

  • Urine and faeces
  • Roof leaks
  • Milk solids
  • Tea and coffee
  • Red wine and fruit juice

You should know immediately that all of these have unique problems, which we will run into below with tips on removing them.

Tools of the trade

To clean a heavily soiled mattress, you need these tools:

  • A wet vacuum cleaner with a handheld attachment – higher horsepower variants are best, with 3hp ideal for mattresses.
  • Enzyme cleaning product – enzyme cleaners break down organic contaminants such as bacteria and odorous compounds in faeces.
  • Oxygen-based bleach – this is designed for fabrics and breaks down salts like those found in urine.
  • Probiotic cleaning product – probiotic cleaners help tip the odour balance in your favour with healthy bacteria that fight odours.
  • Soft-bristled brush – this is for lifting dead skin and dried contaminants away from the mattress’s outer cover.
  • Standard sponge – a standard sponge lets you soak and remove contaminated liquid from your mattress by hand.
  • Two buckets – one for clean liquid, one for waste.

Tackling different soiling

Here’s how to tackle heavy soiling of different types:


When urine dries, it produces natural salt crystals called crystalluria, which stink to high heaven and absorb moisture. These crystals can be broken down with oxygen-based bleach, but the liquid still needs to be extracted with a wet vacuum. Additionally, urine salts love to come back from the brink, so you must be thorough.


Most poop soiling runs centimetres deep at best, but diarrhoea can seep much further. The best way to remove it is by soaking the mattress with an enzyme cleaner, which will break down the faeces’ organic components. You can then extract the contaminated liquid with a wet vacuum, but you will need to do this several times.

Milk solids

When milk dries into milk solids, it experiences an overgrowth of bacteria and odorous compounds that smell cheesy and make you gip. The good news is milk solids dissolve, so you can remove heavy soiling with a mild detergent and a wet vacuum. Use a probiotic spray to freshen up your mattress afterwards.

Red wine/juices

The red pigments in fruit juice are natural dyes, so they can permanently change the colour of natural fibres. Additionally, when left alone, red wine and fruit juice grow bacteria and mould. You can clean it with white vinegar (this neutralises red pigments) and laundry detergent, but some pink staining may remain.

Tea and coffee

Tea and coffee are the easiest stains because they are not massively odorous without milk. The main issue is the dark pigments in the liquid, which change the colour of the fibres. You can remove tea/coffee soiling with a wet vacuum and oxygen-based bleach, which will eat away at the dark pigments.

Roof leaks

If you are unfortunate enough for a roof leak to soak your mattress, cleaning your mattress is probably the last thing on your mind. The good news is that roof leak soiling is mostly water and dirt. You can clean your soiled mattress with a wet vacuum cleaner and regular soapy detergent without any worries about nasty smells.

If you found this article helpful, read our article on how to clean a memory foam mattress (memory foam is notoriously difficult to clean).

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Simone Ribeiro
Hi! I'm Simone, a citizen of Britain, where I live for over a decade, and of Brazil, where I was born. Midlands Traveller is where I combine my passion for travelling, business and an Eco-friendly lifestyle.

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