7 proven tips for getting yellow stains out of your mattress and pillows

Image shows a white pillow and mattress covered in yellow stains
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Yellow stains on your mattress and pillows are unsightly, and how easy they are to remove depends on the cause of the stain and how long it's been there. Getting yellow stains out of white fabric is also a balancing act, and you'll need to do a patch test on the fabric before putting any cleaning solutions near them.

Investing in protective covers is one way to prevent yellow stains, but if you’ve already noticed them appearing, it’s important to take action before they get worse. Here we'll walk you through seven proven tips for removing yellow stains from a mattress and pillow, leaving your entire bed smelling fresh and new.

If after reading you decide that your mattress and pillow actually need to be replaced, we're expecting many of this year's best mattresses for all sleepers (and pillows too) to be discounted in the forthcoming Memorial Day mattress sales.

How to get yellow stains out of a mattress and pillow: 7 tips

1. Add white vinegar to your wash

If you’re planning on spring cleaning your pillows and bed sheets then simply add three cups of white vinegar into the conditioner compartment of your washing machine. The acidity in the white vinegar will help you get rid of the yellow stains from your pillows and bedding leaving it stain free. 

White vinegar is also a safe option for most fabrics when it’s diluted properly but when washed at a higher temperature it can really do a good job. Always check the care label of your pillows before adding them to your washing machine as some pillows can’t be machine washed such as ones made of memory foam. 

2. Use shaving foam

Shaving foam does an amazing job of lifting stains from mattresses and pillows.  Ingredients found in many popular brands of shaving foam will breakdown protein and oil-based stains, making it ideal for removing stains  on mattresses and pillows caused by sweat and body oils. 

Just grab a can of shaving foam and spray generously on the area. Rub it in to the stain and leave it for around an hour before wiping away with a damp cloth.  Whilst it’s generally safe for most mattresses, especially as the foam doesn’t create wet areas, it’s always worth testing a small amount of shaving cream in a hidden area before ensuring it doesn’t react with the fabric. 

3.  Use limes

Limes are not just a garnish for your gin and tonic, they can also help to remove stains from your pillows and mattresses. If you want to get rid of stains from your pillows, squeeze two limes on to the stains before popping in the washing machine on a hot wash. 

If you want to get rid of yellow stains on your mattress using limes, then cut one lime in half and rub over the stain, leave to work for at least an hour and then wipe away with a cloth dipped in hot soapy water. This won’t work for super stubborn stains but for fresh stains then the acidity in the lime should be enough to lift it. 

Don’t do this with memory foam mattresses as if the material gets wet, it can damage the structure of the foam. And always leave to dry fully before replacing your bed sheets. 

4. Use baking soda


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Baking soda will do two things, it’ll break down the proteins in the stains making it easier to lift and it’ll neutralize any odors.  Strip your bed and give the surface a thorough vacuum before sprinkling a generous amount of baking soda over the mattress. 

Leave this for a few hours, and the longer you leave it, the better it’ll work, before vacuuming it up. The baking soda alone will work with light yellow staining for stubborn stains, follow the next tip. 

5. Make a baking soda paste

If you’re trying to tackle tough yellow stains on your mattress and pillows then this baking soda paste will work wonders. Take a cup of baking soda, two tablespoon of white vinegar, a couple of drops of essential oils and a tablespoon of water. 

Mix it together, the paste needs to be thick so when you have the right consistency apply it to the stains. Leave to fully dry, which may take a couple of hours and then vacuum up. If the stain is still visible then repeat the process. 

6. Try hydrogen peroxide 


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Sometimes we have to turn to chemicals to get rid of super stubborn stains. Hydrogen peroxide has mild bleaching properties that can help lighten yellow stains caused by sweat, body oils, or even urine. 

Create a solution of 3% hydrogen peroxide diluted with equal parts water in a spray bottle. Before you do this, always test the solution on a part of the mattress that you can’t see to make sure that it doesn’t react. Spray the spot with your solution, take your damp cloth and work it in. You should notice the stains lifting. 

7.   Use alcohol


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We recently wrote about using alcohol to clean your mattress and this tip shows how you can use a mixture of rubbing alcohol, soap suds, toothpaste and dish soap to remove yellow stains. Add all these ingredients to a spray bottle along with some warm water and shake well. 

Spray the mixture over the stains on your mattress and using a soft bristle brush work the mixture in. Simply leave to dry and watch the stain lift. You may have to repeat a couple of times for set-in stains. 

How to protect your mattress and pillows from yellow stains

The best way to stop yellow stains on your mattress is to protect your mattress from day one. Buying one of the best mattress protectors. The best mattress protectors create a barrier between you and your mattress absorbing any sweat, body oils or other stuff that can cause stains before it even hits the surface of your mattress. Look for one that can be machine washed as you’re going to want to keep it fresh for longer. Also, look for one that it waterproof to protect against any spills. 

Pillows could also benefit from a pillow protector. These add an extra layer to your pillow to protect them from drool, spills, stains and general wear and tear. You pop them on like you would a regular pillow case and then add your pillow case on top. Most pillow protectors are also machine washable so when you clean your sheets, you can pop these in too. Of course, with pillows, once they get to a certain point it becomes a case of having to replace your pillow

If you don’t already then get in to a habit of washing your sheets regularly. Washing your bedding weekly will stop sweat and oils from transferring to your mattress.  Plus, it’s a good idea to practice mattress maintenance whilst your sheets are off. 

Vacuum the entire surface your mattress, and if you have time sprinkle some baking soda on and leave for at least an hour before vacuuming again to freshen the surface. It’s also a good idea to leave your sheets off the bed for a few hours when you change them to let your mattress and pillows air out. 


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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.