No one really likes to talk about it, but it’s practically an inevitability in life: At some point, someone will have an accident in bed, and pee will get on the mattress. Whether it’s a not-quite-potty trained toddler, a pet, or an adult who didn’t wake up when dreaming about using the toilet (no judgement — we’ve all been there) the result is the same: A wet, smelly, and stained mattress.
But an accident on your mattress doesn’t have to be permanent. The sooner you can clean the mess, the better, but even if the urine has a chance to dry, you can eliminate the stain and odor with simple household cleaners.
Dealing with Urine When It’s Wet
The best time to remove pee from a mattress is when it is still wet. When you clean up urine when it’s fresh, you may be able to remove it entirely and no one will ever know what happened. The same process applies no matter what kind of mattress you have.
Many newer mattresses come with zippered covers that can be removed entirely and machine washed; if necessary, you can pre-treat stains. Once you’ve removed all of the sheets and blanket – and the mattress cover if you can – and gotten them into the wash, blot as much of the urine out of the mattress as possible using fresh towels.
Be careful that you only blot, and don’t scrub or push the liquid further into the mattress. When the mattress is almost dry, spray a cleaning mixture on the affected area. Choose one of the following recipes for the cleaning mixture:
- 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water;
- 3 tablespoons of laundry detergent per one cup of warm water; or
- 8 ounces hydrogen peroxide mixed with 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing detergent and 3 tablespoons baking soda.
If you opt for the hydrogen peroxide mixture, test the mixture on an inconspicuous part of the mattress first to make sure it doesn’t bleach any color from the mattress cover. It shouldn’t, but it’s good to check. Also, with this option you should spray the affected area with white vinegar first to help activate the cleaner.
Whichever cleaning solution you use, spray it thoroughly over, and slightly beyond, where the pee was. With a clean towel, blot the cleaner to remove any excess liquid and eliminate the stain. Continue spraying and blotting until the stain is gone.
When the stain is gone, sprinkle a generous layer of baking soda over the entire area to absorb excess moisture and neutralize odor. Leave the baking soda on the mattress for at least 8-10 hours; the longer you can leave it on, the more effectively it will eliminate any lingering urine smell.
Ideally, you should leave the baking soda on overnight, which could mean finding another place to sleep. Once the mattress is completely dry, vacuum the remaining baking soda and remake the bed with fresh linens.
Dealing With Dried Urine or Old Stains
If you don’t deal with a wet bed right away, you don’t have to live with a stained mattress that contains strong odors. For dried pee stains, the best cleaning solution is the hydrogen peroxide/baking soda mix, sprayed on over vinegar.
However, instead of blotting to remove the urine, when the stain is set in you should thoroughly coat it with cleaner and leave it to dry; when it’s dry you’ll notice a film of baking soda on the mattress, which simply needs to be vacuumed.
Depending on how set in the stain is, you may need to repeat this process several times to completely remove the stain and odor. However, the longer you leave the solution on the bed, the more likely it will work the first time.
Dealing with Pet Urine
When the pee on your mattress is of the cat or dog variety, you may need to use a stronger cleaning product to fully remove the odor. Because animals have such a strong sense of smell, they may continue to soil the mattress even after you clean it because they can still smell the pee from before. This is especially common when you have male animals, who use urine to mark their territory.
To get rid of the strong animal urine smells, use an enzyme cleaner that will effectively eliminate all traces of scent. You can find these cleaners in pet stores, or in the cleaning supply aisle. Follow the directions on the bottle for cleaning the mattress. You may wish to clean with the enzyme product after cleaning with your homemade solution for an extra boost of odor removal.
Adding Extra Freshness
Although cleaning the pee and neutralizing the odor with baking soda will leave your mattress smelling fresh, you can make your bed smell even more fresh and clean. Try mixing a few drops of your favorite essential oil (lavender is a good choice for it’s relaxing properties) with the baking soda before sprinkling it on your bed. It will leave behind a slight fragrance.
After the stain is cleaned up, you can continue keeping your mattress smelling fresh by using scented odor eliminators (like Febreze), adding a few dryer sheets between your sheets and mattress or mattress pad, or spritzing it with a linen spray. Just be sure that the scents won’t be overpowering and trigger allergies or headaches.
Don’t Ruin Your Mattress
When cleaning your mattress, be careful to avoid ruining it or causing damage. Again, spot test any cleaners you use, and take care to remove all moisture from the mattress. When spraying on cleaners, use the least amount of liquid possible that will still remove the stain. The deeper the liquid seeps into the mattress, the longer it will take to dry, which can cause mold and mildew to grow inside it.
Other things to avoid:
- Steam Cleaning or Deep Cleaning: Resist the urge to use your steam carpet cleaner attachments to clean the mattress, as it will make it too wet and possibly cause damage. If the stains are too set in and you can’t get them out, call a professional who will know how to clean the mattress without damaging it.
- Using Bleach: Bleach might remove the stains and odors from your mattress, but they may damage synthetic fibers in the mattress cover, and leave a more obvious stain if the mattress isn’t already white. Not to mention, sleeping on a mattress cleaned with bleach can be unpleasant.
- Ignoring stains. Even if you cleaned up the urine and the mattress doesn’t smell, not taking care of the stain can void your mattress’s warranty, if it’s still covered. Mattress manufacturers expect customers to keep mattresses clean, and visible stains are considered unsanitary. Not to mention, the presence of a stain could indicate structural damage inside the mattress, and cause the manufacturer to void the warranty. Therefore, you should make every effort to address any stain as quickly as possible to ensure you’re still covered if necessary.
Protect Your Mattress
One you get the urine out of your mattress — or if you want to prevent it from getting on it in the first place — protect it against future stains by protecting it with a mattress protector or encasement.
The primary difference between these mattress protectors is that a cover will only protect three sides of the bed, while an encasement completely surrounds all sides and zips closed. An encasement is a better choice if you want full protection against allergens and bed bugs, but if it’s just urine and spills you’re worried about, a waterproof cover will be adequate.
Accidents happen, and some pee on the mattress isn’t the end of the world. Cleaning up the mess can be a time-consuming process, but it’s worth it for a clean and sanitary place to sleep.
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