Ask UfYH

Ask UfYH: Mattresses are Gross

Q: How do I get a pee stain out of a mattress? There isn’t a smell, but there is a stain. Things I have done: put high strength peroxide on it and cleaned it with my mix of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and Dawn, which de-yellows white shirts but will not de-pee my mattress.

Q: How do you get cat pee smell out of a mattress?

Q: I’m giving my mattress and bed frame to a family member, but would like to know if there’s a way to get menstrual stains out of the mattress first.

A: Oh, mattresses. You’re so amazingly disgusting sometimes. Mattresses can be tricky, because you can’t really saturate them, since they’d take forever to dry, and many of our usual stain solutions don’t work because of the material, getting to the stain, and having the mattress dry and usable by bedtime. So, let’s start with the general process, and then move on to specific stain fixes.

  1. Blot. As soon as you can after the mess happens, blot up as much of the liquid (because it’s almost always liquid) as possible.
  2. Treat. Get your stain remover on to the spot by applying it first to a rag, towel, paper towel, or sponge, and then dabbing, blotting, and patting it onto the mattress. Applying the stain remover directly to the mattress will generally result in too much moisture, and then you’re looking at a forever-to-dry situation.
  3. Scrub (if necessary).You may find that you need to work the stain treatment into the fabric. An old toothbrush is great for this.
  4. Vent. Point a fan at it. Get the air moving. This will help speed up your drying time.
  5. Finish. Before you remake your bed, your stain should be completely and totally dry, otherwise you’re going to be writing to me in a few weeks asking what to do about mold in your mattress.

OK, so let’s look at what works for various types of stains:

  • Urine (human or otherwise): Your best bet is an enzymatic cleaner like Nature’s Miracle, which is made to break down the enzymes in urine that make it smell and leave stains. Cat pee is especially terrible, and I know several of P-Mag’s resident cat ladies swear by Cat Faeries’ Anti Icky Poo. The benefit to an enzymatic cleaner is that it’ll get rid of the smell as well as the stain. If you find that the smell is lingering, a paste of baking soda and water, worked into the material with a toothbrush, then vacuumed up once the paste has dried, will help.
  • Blood: Hydrogen peroxide. I’ve found very little else that will lift blood stains out of fabric that can’t go in the washing machine. A baking soda and water or salt and water paste is also somewhat effective, but as long as you remember that peroxide has bleaching properties, it’s the fastest way to make blood stains go bye-bye.
  • Ink/dye/makeup: Rubbing alcohol.

Other mattress considerations:

  • Vacuum ’em. At least once a month, give your mattress a quick once-over with the vacuum (this is a great use for those handheld attachments). Why? Two words. Dust mites. If you have allergies, this can make a huge difference.
  • Flip ’em. Seasonally. Alternate between rotating (swapping head to foot) and flipping (top to bottom). Enlist help, because it’s a two-person job.
  • Wash your damn sheets. Weekly, in hot water.

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