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How To Ban Bed Bugs and Other Health Dangers From Your Mattress

How to clean your mattress

You spend about a third of your life in bed, so your mattress should help support and promote your health and well-being. But do you know how to clean your mattress and protect yourself against bed bugs and other health dangers?

What’s hiding in your mattress?

Even if you are the only person in your bed, you are not alone. Chances are you have uninvited bedfellows, including bacteria, dust mites, allergens (including mold and mildew), fungi spores, mite feces, dust, perspiration, and viruses. It’s enough to give you nightmares!

You may even have (and I hope you don’t) bed bugs, which have made a big comeback in recent times. Although preventing and eliminating the aforementioned bedfellows takes some routine effort, getting rid of bed bugs can be a major challenge and quite expensive if the infestation is considerable.

So what can you do to ensure your mattress is as clean, healthful, and restful as possible? Consider these tips.

Baking soda: The next time you are ready to change your bed linens, strip the bed and sprinkle baking soda on the mattress (you can use a cheese shaker or other similar container that has holes in the lid). Be sure to get all the crevices. Then put a clean mattress cover and sheets on the bed.

The baking soda will be working while you sleep every night—absorbing moisture, odors, and dust--until you change the linens again. When you strip the bed the next time, vacuum all the baking soda from the mattress. Use baking soda every other time you change the linens.

Vacuum: Every time you change the bed linens, vacuum the mattress. It’s also a good idea to vacuum both sides of the mattress (you may need to enlist some help to turn the mattress over).

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Alcohol and water: If you live in a humid area of the country, it’s easy for your mattress to absorb moisture and to promote a welcoming environment for mold and mildew. To prevent or to treat a mild case of mold or mildew, combine equal parts of isopropyl alcohol and water in a spray bottle and spritz the mattress. Wipe the mattress with a clean damp cloth, then a dry cloth.

Enzyme-based cleaners: These natural cleaning products, which are available through a variety of manufacturers, contain enzymes that are especially helpful in eliminating urine stains and odors (including pet stains), mold, mildew, bacteria, and more. Follow the instructions on the product you purchase.

Even if your mattress does not have any stains, it can be healthful to spray your mattress once or twice a year to help keep it fresh and to ward off any lurking health hazards.

Full mattress and box spring covers: You can purchase mattress and box spring covers that completely encase your bedding to protect it against bed bugs, dust mites, molds, and other health hazards. People who have allergies sometimes buy these covers because they are effective in significantly reducing exposure to allergens.

These covers typically need to be washed only once every 12 to 15 months; follow the manufacturer’s directions. Use of mattress and box spring covers eliminates the need to vacuum and clean your mattress every time you change your linens if you want to keep out bed bugs and other unwelcome bedfellows.

A mattress spa day: If you want to air out your mattress and gain the benefits of ultraviolet rays (which can kill mold and mildew and evaporate moisture), then put your mattress outside on a sunny warm or hot (not humid) day. This is labor intensive, but it may be worth the effort. If you have a balcony off your bedroom, you might prop it up there to get the sun. A sprinkle of baking soda is a good idea a well.

If you do get bed bugs
Sometimes the little critters invade your mattress even if you are diligent in keeping them away. If you do get bed bugs:

  • Spray the bugs in your mattress with alcohol (see above). This should kill them immediately; however, that’s not the end of them because they leave eggs. Thoroughly vacuum the mattress, including all the crevices. Wash all your bed linens in hot water.
  • Use diatomaceous earth. This all-natural substance kills bed bugs by causing them to dehydrate, but it is safe for people and pets. Be sure to purchase food grade diatomaceous earth and not other grades.
  • Suffocate them. You can encase your mattress and box spring in a case and keep it zippered, trapping any bed bugs inside. Eventually they will die. However, you may still have bed bugs in your linens, crevices in your room, and in other furniture.
  • Call in the professionals. If the bed bugs are enjoying your mattress much more than you are, then it may be time to call in professional pest removers.
  • Image: Morguefile