How to steam clean your mattress with an iron — 7 dos and don'ts

An iron emmits a jet of steam against a blue wall
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Steam cleaning your mattress is one of the most effective ways to deep clean your mattress. This method uses high-temperature steam to break down dirt, stains, odors and bacteria that’s made it’s way in to the fibres of your mattress. 

Even the best mattresses require regular cleaning. Keeping your mattress clean won’t just leave your sleeping surface feeling fresh but it’ll also stop any nasty stains and smells from forming, as well as preventing a buildup of allergens, like dust mites, which can impact your sleep quality. 

While handheld mattress cleaners are incredibly effective at keeping your mattress clean and stain-free, there is a way of replicating this deep cleaning method at home with your standard household iron and a clean cloth. Here, we'll outline exactly how to steam clean your mattress with an iron, as well as any safety precautions you need to be aware of. Let's get started. 

What are the benefits of steam cleaning a mattress?

Steam cleaning your mattress has a whole host of benefits that can improve the overall hygiene of your mattress. One of the key benefits of steam cleaning is that it can kill dust mites and beg bugs, because neither don’t tolerate the heat. Dust mites feed off dead skin flakes that we shed overnight and can trigger allergies and asthma symptoms, while bed bugs lurk in the seams and folds of your mattress close to their food source (you.)

Another big benefit of steam cleaning is that it can kill bacteria and germs that accumulate over time from sweat, sebum and other bodily fluids. If you’ve discovered yellow stains on your mattress, steam cleaning your mattress can also help to lift these stains as well as remove any odors that come with them. 

Steam cleaning mattresses means that you’re also helping to remove any dirt or grime that can break down the fibers of your mattress, so just this simple job can help to extend the life of your mattress. 

Can you steam clean a mattress with an iron?

Yes, you can steam clean your mattress with an iron. To steam clean a mattress you need to  fill your iron with water and then setting it to the highest steam setting. The iron then should be slowly moved 6-8 inches above the surface of the mattress, allowing the steam to penetrate the mattress fabric without burning it. 

Person steam cleaning a white mattress to get rid of bed bug residue

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A dedicated steam upholstery cleaner is best, but if your iron has a steam function then it’s a good alternative to giving your mattress a quick refresh. Before you get started, make sure your mattress is suitable for steam cleaning as certain materials such as memory foam or cashmere, can be damaged by heat and moisture. Also, before you go full steam ahead, test a small area first to check for any adverse effects. 

It's also crucial that you avoid using excess steam or pressing the iron directly on to the fabric as this could cause damage. You also need to give yourself plenty of time to undertake this task as the mattress will need to full dry before your make your bed in order to avoid an outbreak of mold and mildew.

How to steam clean your mattress with an iron — 7 dos and don'ts

Do  —  prepare your bed

A woman leans over the top of a bed as she starts to remove bedding

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Before you start steam cleaning your mattress you need to prepare your work surface. Remove all bedding and make sure you vacuum the surface of your mattress thoroughly. Use the upholstery attachment and make sure that you go deep into all the seams and tufts to remove all dust, debris and pesky dust mites. 

Whilst your bedding is off, look for any marks or blemishes as it’s important to pre-treat these stains before you start the steaming process. Also, always check the care instructions to make sure that you’re able to apply heat to your mattress. 

Don’t — steam clean a memory foam mattress

Even the best memory foam mattresses are sensitive to the effects of extreme heat, so you should never attempt to steam clean a memory foam mattress. If you apply heat to memory foam then it will break down the structure of the foam causing it to lose its supportive properties and become lumpy and uneven. What's more, using a steam cleaner (or an iron) on your memory foam mattress may also void any warranty you have with your mattress provider.

Do — move slowly and evenly

Your iron isn’t going to cover as much ground as a dedicated steam cleaner would do so you’re going to have to be very methodical about how your clean your mattress. You don’t want to blast steam in one spot for too long so instead hold your iron 6-8 inches above the mattress and glide is over the area in slow, even strokes making sure you cover all of the surface. 

Don’t — soak your mattress

In order to ensure that it completely dries before sleeping on it, you don't want to saturate your mattress. If your mattress is starting to feel wet then hold the iron a little further away from the surface. If it does get wet, use a clean, dry towel to blot any excess liquid and allow to air dry completely. If you get your mattress too wet, you risk the growth of mold which can damage the mattress.

Do — make sure your iron cord reaches your bed

Your mattress is a large area and you need to make sure that your iron cord reaches all edges of your bed before you start. You don’t want to risk burning yourself by having to stretch over an area to reach it. As well as being a risk to your personal safety, you also risk over-saturating or spilling liquid on your mattress if you don’t have full control of your iron. 

Don’t — touch your mattress directly with the iron 

A close up image of a corner of a mattress

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The iron should never make direct contact with your mattress. This can cause burns to the fabric and the excess heat could also damage the mattress fibres. Instead, hold the iron at least 6 inches away from the surface. You can also take a damp cloth and wrap this around the iron and run the iron across the surface of the mattress if you think that it would be easier for you to deal with and make sure that the hot plate of the iron and the mattress fabric never meet. 

Do  —  use distilled water

The water you use can make a huge difference to the outcome. Distilled water will prevent limescale build up within your iron. However, when it comes to steam cleaning your mattress, it’ll also help to prevent any water marks and stains that could appear after cleaning.

Safety tips and precautions

Whilst steam cleaning your mattress using your iron is a great way to deep clean your mattress and get rid of dust mites, allergies and any odors, it’s important that you do it safety to avoid hurting yourself or damaging your mattress. 

Always check your mattress label before you start as some materials such as memory foam and latex are not suitable for steam cleaning. It’s important to ensure that your power cable is long enough to cover the whole mattress. 

Never use any harsh chemicals when steam cleaning as chemicals can react to extreme heat, which could lead to breathing in toxic fumes and gasses. Ensure you keep all your windows open so that you let some of the excess moisture that will build up in the air out. 

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.