Illustration of a mattress being stained by a spilled mug of coffee

If only you could throw a mattress in the washer. Since that’s not an option, we found out the best ways to get rid of stains by consulting the American Cleaning Institute and experts at Procter & Gamble Fabric, maker of Tide laundry detergent.

“Generally, when it comes to treating mattresses, you can treat them similarly to spot-treating carpets,” says Mary Begovic Johnson, principal scientist of Tide & Downy at P&G Fabric Care.

Johnson adds that you’ve got to attack the stain immediately and be prepared to treat and repeat multiple times until the stain is gone.

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One tried-and-true preventive measure: Get a mattress protector.

“Having one is crucial to keeping your mattress from being ruined by stains and spills, because it will typically include a layer of liquid-resistant or waterproof material,” says Brian Sansoni, senior vice president  of communications at the American Cleaning Institute. “Think of it as your security guard against stains."

Follow the advice below for treating tough stains. You'll also find information on the best stain-fighting detergents in Consumer Reports' tests (to use for dabbing in mattress stains).

If you’re looking to outfit your mattress with new bedding, check out the sheets and pillows from our tests. And if you decide to replace your mattress, check our mattress ratings and buying guide to see how mattresses perform in our rigorous tests. 

How to Get Stains Out of a Mattress

1. Remove your bedding immediately. Treat stains on your sheets with a laundry stain remover and then throw them in the wash. 

2. For most mattress stains, a dab of liquid detergent or an all-purpose stain remover should be enough. Treat the stain as soon as possible so it doesn’t set in. If it’s a fresh spill, use a clean cloth to soak it up by gently blotting the area first. 

In Consumer Reports’ laundry detergent tests, we found that Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release and Persil ProClean Stain Fighter work as well as the top stain remover from our tests. Before using any stain remover, do a quick test on an inconspicuous area of the mattress to make sure you won’t ruin the fabric.

3. If the stain is still there once everything dries, repeat the steps for cleaning it. 

4. Allow the mattress to dry completely before putting on sheets or mattress covers.

Tougher stains—like the ones in alphabetical order here—require different cleaning methods. Here's what to do for:

Blood: Blot with a cloth and cold water (hot water could set the stain). Pour some hydrogen peroxide on a cloth and dab the stain—it's a disinfectant and natural bleaching agent. Use an enzyme cleaner next and let it sit for several minutes to dissolve the blood. Blot dry.

Mud: If it's wet, wipe it up. If it’s dry, use a vacuum. Slightly dampen a wet cloth and blot. Then use a—you guessed it—enzyme cleaner to attack the stain. Blot dry with a cloth. After the surface is dry, spread a little baking soda on the spot to absorb any odor, then vacuum it up.

Poop: Once you remove the poop, spray an enzyme cleaner product on a washcloth until damp and dab the stain with it to dissolve any remaining poop and remove the stain and odor.

Red wine: Blot the stain with a cloth dampened with cold water. If you have a red wine stain remover product, try using it first. Otherwise, mix one part dish soap and two parts hydrogen peroxide, and pour it onto a damp cloth; blot the stain with it. After several minutes, blot again until the stain is gone.

Urine: Blot what you can with a dry cloth. Don’t rub it in! Spray an enzyme cleaner, such as Angry Orange or Nature’s Miracle (available at home improvement stores), on a dry cloth. Enzyme cleaners will break down the uric acid in the urine, thus eliminating the color and smell. Use enough to get the cloth damp, but don’t oversaturate it. Dab the stain with the cloth. Use a second cloth to blot it dry.

Vomit: Clean up the mess, and sprinkle on baking soda, which helps lift any leftover bits and absorbs odors. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then vacuum up the baking soda. Dab on an enzyme cleaner to further break down the organic matter and odor from the vomit.

No matter the stain, remember that if it doesn't come out after several cleaning attempts, you might have to call in a professional mattress cleaner.

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