How to get yellow urine stains and smells out of a mattress in 7 simple steps

A person wearing pink disposable gloves cleans yellow stains from a white pillow
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Whether you’re dealing with a not-yet-potty trained child or a mischievous pet, its most likely that the words 'how do I remove pee stains and smells from my mattress' have found their way in to your google search at some point in your life.

And we get it, you’ve purchased the best mattress and you want to keep it in the best condition for as long as possible. The fact is, accidents happen, and while you can’t always prevent them from happening, you can arm yourself with the knowledge of how to clean them up afterwards. 

It may seem like a huge task but removing pee smells and stains from a mattress is pretty simple. It may differ slightly depending on what type of mattress you have and what it’s made from, but we’ll walk you through each step you need to know to protect your mattress against any damage. Grab your rubber gloves and let's get started. 

How to remove pee smells and stains out of a mattress

1. Tackle any wet areas first

If your mattress is still wet then it’s important to act fast. Grab a clean, absorbent cloth (either paper or microfibre) and blot up as much of the pee as you possibly can. Don't rub it in, just keep blotting until your cloth comes back dry. This is especially important if you have a memory foam mattress as if the foam gets wet it can damage the structure of the mattress, rendering it uncomfortable and unsupportive.

2. Make a baking soda paste

Baking soda and vinegar bottle

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Grab a clean bowl and mix together one cup of baking soda with a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of white vinegar. Mix this in to a thick paste, you want it to be quite gloopy so if it seems to be too thin, add extra baking soda.

3. Spread the paste over the affected areas

Add a generous amount of the paste over the areas where there are stains and odors. If you have a soft bristle brush then use this to work in to the mattress surface as the firmness will also help with lifting the stains. 

The baking soda will help to neutralize odors as well as absorb any left over liquids, which is helpful for fresh pee accidents as it will help to prevent odor-causing bacteria and old growth. The white vinegar works to break down stains and make it easier to remove them. Also, vinegar has some disinfectant properties so can help to remove some of the bacteria that might be hanging around.  

4. Allow the paste to dry then vacuum

Woman wearing beige shorts vacuuming her white mattress to get rid of bed bugs

(Image credit: Getty Images)

You’re going to want to leave the paste to dry thoroughly, we recommend leaving it for around 4-6 hours. Once it’s dry, vacuum it up. 

5. Use a steam cleaner (optional)

If spot treatments haven’t worked when it comes to removing pee smells from your mattress then you can use a steam cleaner to clean the entire mattress. You can’t do this if you have a memory foam mattress but we’ve put together a guide for how to clean a memory foam mattress to remove urine. However, for traditional spring mattresses, this is a great option. You need to ensure the mattress is fully dried before you add your sheets back on so set aside at least 10 hours for this process. 

6. For strong smells, use the baking soda trick

If you’ve cleaned your mattress but you can still smell pee, then try mixing a few drops of essential oils with baking soda. Vacuum your entire mattress and then sprinkle your baking soda mixture over the surface and leave for at least 4 hours to get to work. The longer you leave it, the better the results. Once you’ve left it just vacuum the baking soda up and leave your bed to air for another hour before adding your sheets. 

7. Allow to dry in natural sunlight

Once you've finished cleaning your mattress, it's essential that you allow it to dry completely. Dressing your bed before it's quite dry can lock in moisture, which can cause a buildup of bacteria and even become a hotspot for mold. If possible, open your windows wide and allow your mattress to dry in natural sunlight. Not only will this speed up the drying process, the sun's UV rays contain disinfectant properties, helping clean your mattress further. Be mindful of allowing your memory foam mattress to stand in the sun on very hot days as extreme heat can damage memory foam beds.

Why does my mattress still smell of pee? 

There are a few reasons why your mattress might still smell of pee after cleaning. The first being that you’ve not completely cleaned the area meaning that the odor might not be full neutralized. If you’ve used the baking soda paste we’ve recommended then it could be that the application was not thick enough or didn’t reach all the area that was affected by the urine. Repeat the above steps and use a generous amount of paste to really get the whole stain covered. 

Also, it depends how quickly you managed to get to the wet area before you cleaned it. If pee has soaked deep inside the mattress then simply cleaning the surface won’t be enough to solve the problem. This is because urine can crystalize and trap nasty odors even if the liquid has gone. 

Another really important factor that can contribute to your mattress still smelling of urine is that it wasn’t completely dry before you added your sheets. It’s really important to ensure your mattress is fully dry before you add your bedding as this can create a breeding ground for mold which smells similar to stale urine and over time will get even worse. Here’s how you can spot mattress mold and some advice on how to deal with it quickly. 

How to protect your mattress against future accidents

It’s really important that you keep up a regular cleaning regime when it comes to your mattress. Of course, accidents are going to happen but one of the things you can do to help stop any pee getting through to your mattress is to invest in a good mattress protector. A mattress protector provides a barrier between you and your mattress and as well as giving you a bit more time when it comes to cleaning up. They can also stop stains from sweat and body oils from reaching your mattress, helping to keep it fresh. 

Remember, if an accident does happen then act fast - the quicker you act, the easier it is to prevent pee from soaking into the layers of your mattress. 

Rachael Penn

Rachael is a freelance journalist based in South Wales who writes about lifestyle, travel, home and technology. She also reviews a variety of products for various publications including Tom’s Guide, CreativeBloq, IdealHome and Woman&Home. When she’s not writing and reviewing products she can be found walking her Sealyham and West Highland terrier dogs or catching up on some cringe-worthy reality tv.