Should you clean your mattress with a Rug Doctor? An expert replies

A mattress being stem cleaned to get rid of dust bites and bed bugs
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether it’s baking soda, white vinegar or even shaving foam, there are several household items that have become popular mattress-cleaning solutions. One of them is the Rug Doctor upholstery cleaning machine, with many people on TikTok flocking to watch videos of filthy mattresses get cleaned and restored to their prime by these wonder machines. 

But are Rug Doctors safe for use on all mattresses? And should you try it to get deep stains out of your mattress? To answer this question, we asked a cleaning expert to give us the low down. Here's what you need to know about cleaning your mattress with a Rug Doctor – and which types of mattress need to steer clear.

Don't forget that all mattresses have an average lifespan, and if yours is over eight years old, or it's feeling uneven, then no amount of cleaning it will help you sleep comfortably. If it is time for something new, then now is a great time to buy as all of this year's best mattresses for all sleepers and budgets are discounted in the 4th of July mattress sales.

Why are people cleaning mattresses with a Rug Doctor?

Rug Doctor is a company that sells cleaning products for carpets, upholstery and other soft surfaces. It's best known for carpet cleaning machines that can be purchased or rented from outlets such a Home Depot and Lowes, but TikTok cleaning influencers swear by using Rug Doctors to remove stains from mattresses.


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Rug Doctors don't just tackle flooring – they come with an upholstery or hand tool attachment and use a hot water extraction method to effectively lift dirt, stains and allergens from whatever surface you’re cleaning, whether that be your carpets or your mattress. 

So can a Rug Doctor machine give your mattress a deep clean compared to cleaning and vacuuming it manually? And is it safe or will it damage your mattress? Here's what we discovered...

Is it safe to clean a mattress with a Rug Doctor? 

Delah Gomasi, owner and managing director of MaidForYou, told us that, “Rug Doctors and their products are perfect for carpet and upholstery cleaning and using them to clean a mattress is no different.

“The Rug Doctor comes with an upholstery hand tool that can be used on upholstered furniture and mattresses.”

However, be careful of the products you use to clean your mattress when using a Rug Doctor. “You want to ensure you only use the specific Rug Doctor upholstery products. That means no bleach or vinegar." Says Gomasi. "These cleaners have the tendency to damage the internal components of the machine and, in my experience, cause irreparable staining to both carpets and upholstery.”

When not to use a Rug Doctor on a mattress

When it comes to cleaning your mattress with a Rug Doctor, it’s important to take note of the type of mattress you have. If you have a memory foam, latex or goose down mattress, you can't use a Rug Doctor to clean it.

Emma Original memory foam mattress on a wooden bedframe

If you own a memory foam mattress, put the Rug Doctor down and choose another cleaning method (Image credit: Future)

Why? Because these materials are highly porous and shouldn’t under any circumstances get too wet. But also, because Rug Doctor uses hot water to clean and this can damage the material of the mattress, causing it to break down and sag or dip.

Another reason why you shouldn’t clean a Rug Doctor to clean memory foam, foam, latex or down mattresses is that they take too long to dry, which could create the perfect environment for mattress mold growth. Mold spores thrive in damp environments and inhaling them can cause respiratory problems.

“Once you've got the above in order, then you can start cleaning your mattress," Gomasi says. "We recommend spot-cleaning heavy staining and then turning the mattress on to each side and cleaning each side with two passes. With the second pass being a vacuum. We rinse and repeat until the staining has subsided.”

How to safely use a Rug Doctor to clean your mattress

What you'll need

  • A Rug Doctor machine with an upholstery attachment
  • Rug Doctor Upholstery Cleaner solution (or a similar, gentle cleaner approved for your mattress)
  • A bucket
  • Clean towels
  • A fan or dehumidifier (optional) for faster drying
  • A soft bristle brush
  • Baking powder

1. Prepare your mattress

Before you start cleaning your mattress you need to prepare your space. Strip all the bedding, including your mattress protector if you have one and pop them in the wash whilst you clean your mattress.

It's really important to make sure you give yourself enough time to complete this task. You will have to make sure that you leave your mattress to fully dry before you sleep on it again and that could take hours. Plus if you need to make a second pass over your mattress with you'll have to leave it dry between goes. 

Vacuum cleaning the surface of a white mattress

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

2. Vacuum the mattress cover and sides

Before you set about cleaning your mattress with your Rug Doctor you will need to get rid of any dirt, dust or debris that is on the mattress. Use your upholstery attachment and vacuum the entire mattress surface. Make sure that you get right in to the corners and seams. If possible use a vacuum with a HEPA filter so that the dust doesn't get pushed back in to the air. 

3. Pre-treat any mattress stains

If you have stubborn stains then you may want to pre-treat any stains before using your machine. You could pre-treat them according to the stain removal instructions on the Rug Doctor cleaner or take some baking soda, add a couple of tablespoons of water and mix together until it creates a paste. Add this on to your stain and work in gently with a soft bristle brush, leave or a couple of hours to work. Once it's dry then vacuum to remove. 

4. Fill the Rug Doctor's tanks

Following the the manufacturer's instructions, fill the Rug Doctor's clean water tank with hot tap water. Mix the Rug Doctor Upholstery Cleaner solution (or your chosen mild detergent ) with water in the separate tank as directed.

If you are renting a Rug Doctor and planning to use your own detergent just check that you're able to do so as per your rental agreement. Also, not every cleaner is suitable for use in the Rug Doctor so double check your ideal cleaning solution can be used as you don't want to risk damaging your machine. 

A blue rubber-gloved hand hold a cleaning spray bottle over a dirty mattress

(Image credit: Getty Images)

5. Try a test patch first

Before cleaning the entire mattress, try the cleaning solution out on a small, inconspicuous area to ensure it doesn't cause any discoloration or damage. Once you're sure that the cleaner isn't going to damage your mattress it's time to start the cleaning process. 

It can be tempting to do this all in one go, but our advice is to clean your mattress in sections, This will make it easier to handle the Rug Doctor and it will ensure you get an even clean. 

6. Clean your mattress with the Rug Doctor

Use slow, even passes, and apply the cleaning solution by gently squeezing the trigger on the upholstery tool as you move it back and forth over the mattress surface. Remember, avoid getting your mattress too wet as it will prolong the drying time and could cause damp and mildew to grow within the layers.

You will then need to suck any water released back up in to the machine. To do this don't release the trigger, instead slowly pull the upholstery tool back towards you to extract the dirty cleaning solution. 

Don't worry about overlapping strokes as this will help ensure thorough cleaning. Follow these steps for each section of your mattress. Some Rug Doctor models recommend a clean water rinse cycle after using the cleaning solution and follow the manufacturer's instructions for this step. 

7. Let your mattress fully dry

You must let your mattress dry fully before you add your sheets back on the bed and certainly before you sleep on it. It will take hours or longer for it to fully dry, but you can speed up the process by opening all the doors and windows and using a fan to increase airflow.

A mattress leans against the side of a building in bright sunlight to dry off after being deep cleaned with a Rug Doctor

(Image credit: Getty)

According to Gomasi, "If you're cleaning your mattress in colder climates, it's ideal to place a dehumidifier inside a sunlit room and run a fan to reduce the drying time. If your mattress is soaked without the above precautions it may develop a musty smell in addition to mold and mildew growth."

Using a Rug Doctor on a mattress: Final thoughts

Cleaning your mattress with a Rug Doctor is an efficient way to clean your mattress. It is important to follow the instructions of your particular model so that you don’t risk damaging your mattress. Cleaning your mattress using a Rug Doctor isn’t a fast process, it can saturate your mattress and take a long time to dry. 

However, if you don’t have access to a Rug Doctor then you can still deep clean your mattress. And to be able to tackle stains we really recommend that you spot treat stains on your mattress and keep up your mattress maintenance by regularly vacuuming the surface. 

Also, get ahead of any stains and spills by investing in one of the best mattress protectors. A mattress protector will create a barrier between you and your mattress and keep it fresh as well as being a lot easier to clean. 

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.