How to Get Bad Odors Out of a Mattress – 9 Solutions

Whether you have a lovely new mattress or an old favorite, you will want to keep it smelling fresh and free from bad odors. A smelly mattress dramatically impacts how well you sleep and how much you enjoy resting, relaxing, and recuperating in bed. As such, it pays to ensure you take a proactive approach to preventing foul odors and remove unpleasant smells as soon as they appear.

With this in mind, we put together an in-depth guide covering the science behind bad odors, why you want to prevent them, and how to get smells out of your mattress. Read on for a comprehensive list of top tips from Polygiene experts who know all the secrets. 

What causes bad odors on mattresses?

Several factors can cause smelly mattresses. These are often connected, so people have to tackle a few issues before their mattress is completely odor-free. The most common contributors to a smelly mattress include:

Sweat and body secretions – Mattresses absorb the sweat and body oils you produce while sleeping over weeks, months, and years. These organic substances provide bacteria, mold, and mildew with the metabolic inputs they require to produce energy, allowing them to grow and prosper. These bacteria often produce the compounds responsible for foul odors and are a primary source of unpleasant smells.

Dust mites – Dust mites are microscopic creatures that consume dead skin cells. They are relatively common in mattresses and produce waste products that can smell pretty awful.

Mold and mildew – When a mattress becomes damp, it creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive. These microorganisms then release volatile organic compounds that add to the nasty smells emanating from your mattress. It usually occurs if you spill liquids on your bed or the bedroom suffers from high humidity.

Pets in beds – If you have a pet who shares your bed occasionally, their fur and body oils will shed and work their way into the mattress. Eventually, this will result in a smelly mattress.

Poor ventilation – Your mattress needs good ventilation and air circulation to prevent an accumulation of moisture. If you have a solid bed frame or cover your mattress with non-breathable materials, you may be trapping the moisture. It will lead to conditions in which bacteria and other microorganisms thrive.

Aging – Sometimes, smelly mattresses are just a result of old age. As mattresses wear down and the materials slowly disintegrate, the degrading particles can accumulate and contribute to unpleasant odors.

A smell-free mattress

Negative aspects of a smelly mattress

Having a smelly mattress is never nice. It can affect your health, comfort, and confidence, resulting in a situation where you don’t enjoy going to bed. To help you better understand why preventing odors is so crucial, here are seven keyways smelly mattresses can impact your life.

  • Poorer sleep quality – A comfortable, clean, and pleasant sleeping environment is essential to a good night’s sleep. If you are contending with bad odors, it may disrupt your sleep, leaving you tired and frustrated. 
  • Allergies and respiratory problems – While dust, debris, and other small particles can aggravate allergies, a smelly mattress can be caused by factors that have an even bigger impact. Mold, mildew, and dust mites are all responsible for mattress odors and often trigger allergies and other respiratory conditions, such as asthma. Prolonged exposure may exacerbate these conditions to the point where sleeping is almost impossible.
  • Unpleasant odors can spread – If things get too bad, smells can spread from your mattress to the surrounding room, affecting other items, such as clothing and furniture. It makes the problem that much worse, as you now have to deal with several sources.
  • Embarrassment and self-confidence – A smelly mattress can be embarrassing. If your guests stay over and the smell is noticeable, you might feel awkward or uncomfortable. It’s also not very pleasant for your guests.
  • Mattress damage – If you allow moisture, mold, and bacteria to accumulate in your mattress, you are probably reducing its lifespan. Regular cleaning not only keeps your mattress smelling fresh but also helps protect it, too. 
  • Irritated skin – Allergies and respiratory problems aren’t the only health complications. The factors contributing to bad smells can also irritate people with sensitive skin.
  • Your overall well-being – A smelly mattress will often impact your general well-being, affecting you emotionally, psychologically, and physically. It sounds simple, but a clean and pleasant living environment can really help with your mental health.

How to prevent foul odors on mattresses

The best way to protect your mattress is to take positive, proactive preventative measures. This stops the problems occurring in the first place or, at the very least, means they are less of an issue if they arise. To prevent odors on mattresses, we recommend the following advice.

1. Invest in a mattress protector

Mattress protectors are affordable and easy to find and are one of the most effective ways of preventing bad odors in your mattress. They protect the mattress from spills, sweat, and body oils. And, in doing so, help prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria.

2. Clean your mattress regularly

Cleaning your mattress is also an effective method. The easiest way is to vacuum your mattress to remove dust, debris, and any dead skin cells that may have accumulated. This will remove vital food sources for odor-causing bacteria.

3. Rotate and flip it

Another simple tip is to rotate and flip your mattress every so often. It ensures every side of your mattress is exposed to airflow and stops everything from accumulating in one spot. It is particularly effective if you sweat heavily during your sleep.

4. Ventilate properly

While we are on the topic of ventilation, it is good practice to ensure you place your mattress on a bed frame that allows air to flow around and beneath it. Usually, this means using a slatted frame or one manufactured from breathable materials. If possible, avoid placing your mattress directly on the floor.

5. Wash your bedding

Often, dirt, body oils, and sweat transfer to the mattress from other pieces of bedding. As such, you wash pillowcases, sheets, and protectors regularly and make sure they are fully dry before putting them back on.

6. Try to minimize humidity

Wherever possible, try to maintain a dry sleeping environment. Moisture and humidity are crucial contributors to bacterial growth and will make your mattress smell more. You may need to utilize a dehumidifier if there are no other ways of controlling the humidity in the bedroom.

7. Use natural odor absorbers

Several substances feature natural anti-odor properties and are a great way of mitigating any slight smells in the bedroom. For instance, you can place dried lavender, activated charcoal, or dried citrus peel around the room. Some of these also benefit from antimicrobial properties.

8. Use sleep products featuring antimicrobial properties

Purchasing sheets, duvets, pillowcases, and even mattresses incorporating antimicrobial freshness technologies, like Polygiene StayFresh™, is the single, most effective way to prevent a smelly mattress. The antibacterial technology in these solutions stops bacterial growth and eliminates odors at the source, helping you keep your bed and bedroom smell-free.

Sealy Mattress Crown Jewel with Polygiene odor control

How to get smells out of your mattress

If you already have a smelly mattress and want to know how to eliminate foul odors, we can help with that, too. However, it is essential to note that these measures are much more effective when used in conjunction with the preventative measures listed above. It is far easier to prevent the smells in the first place than try to remove them once established.

Sprinkle baking soda on the mattress

Baking soda is a fantastic odor-absorber. It is also cheap and widely available. However, it can be a hassle to use on your mattress. Start by sprinkling baking soda generously across the mattress surface. You then want to let it sit for a few hours. If you have a spare mattress, it’s best to let the baking soda work overnight. Once you are done waiting, vacuum the mattress to remove all the baking soda.

Expose to sunlight

The UV rays in natural sunlight can be an effective antibacterial, while the fresh air dries out your mattress and removes moisture. As a result, leaving your mattress outside on a sunny day will kill some of the bacteria present and eliminate odors. However, do not leave it outside for too long, as over-exposure may damage the mattress.

Use a vinegar solution

Vinegar is another excellent antibacterial and also helps with anti-odor. Your mattress may smell of vinegar for a short period afterward. But it will dissipate as it dries. Mix white vinegar and water in equal parts to apply the vinegar solution, then pour it into a spray bottle. Spray the solution across the mattress until you achieve a light coverage. Then, let the mattress dry. With this in mind, you can combine this step with leaving your mattress outside in the sun.

Spray essential oils

Essential oils smell great and often benefit from antimicrobial qualities. Good examples of these oils include lavender, tea tree, and eucalyptus. Mix the oils with water in a spray bottle as with the vinegar solution. A few drops will suffice. You can then apply the solution to the mattress.

Leave activated charcoal on the mattress

Activated charcoal soaks up moisture and bad smells, making it a powerful tool for removing odors from mattresses. It typically comes in sachets, so you can leave a few on the mattress for several days to eliminate the problem.

Odor-neutralizing sprays

You can find a variety of specialist odor-neutralizing sprays on the market, and they are a popular choice among businesses that don’t have time to try other techniques in this list but want to guarantee customers enjoy fresh-smelling mattresses.

Apply lemon paste

As we already mentioned, citrus fruits are a natural antibacterial and smell lovely. You can mix lemon juice and salt to apply a paste to the mattress surface. It will get to work in around an hour, after which you remove it with a damp cloth and let the mattress dry. It is a messy but effective process that works best if you have time to air the mattress outside.

Steam clean your mattress

Steam cleaning has two benefits. First, it removes all the dirt, sweat, and dead skin cells that bacteria and other microorganisms love to munch on. Second, it kills the bacteria, leaving you with a wonderfully clean and odor-free mattress.

Professional cleaning services

If all other cleaning techniques fail, we recommend contacting a professional cleaning service and requesting assistance. They will have access to commercial cleaning tools that are usually more effective than most of the home techniques listed above.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that you should always check the manufacturer’s instructions, guidelines, and recommendations before you attempt to remove odors yourself. Sometimes, you may find that your mattress requires a specific cleaning procedure or will not react well to a homemade cleaning product.

With all the cleaning techniques in this guide, it is essential to ensure your mattress and bedding are completely dry before sleeping on it. If any part of your mattress is damp when you replace it, smells will likely return quickly.

8H mattress Milan with antibacterial protection

A smell-free mattress with Polygiene StayFresh

While the tips we have provided in this guide are effective and will help prevent and remove odors from your mattress, nothing quite beats the advanced antibacterial protection of Polygiene StayFresh. Polygiene StayFresh utilizes silver ion technology to eliminate bacteria and other microorganisms, disrupting their ability to grow, multiply, and produce the by-products responsible for foul odors. 

Better yet, Polygiene StayFresh is integrated into materials rather than applied to them. This ensures it protects a product for its entire lifespan. When it comes to mattresses and bedding, Polygiene StayFresh guarantees you don’t have to worry about bad odors and can always sleep comfortably.

To learn more about this innovative antimicrobial technology and what products utilize it, check out the Polygiene StayFresh product page.