Mattresses are on the receiving end of dead skin cells, sweat, stains, dust mites, and all manner of lovely things. Despite linens and mattress pads, you still need to periodically clean the thing you sleep on every night. Follow these steps, and rest easy in the knowledge that your bed isn't crawling with ick.
After removing your mattress cover, take a pass with the vacuum cleaner first. You'll get rid of those cracker crumbs from late night munching sessions, along with any other dirt, pet hair, and dust that's accumulated over time.
2. Spot Clean
How you clean, and what you use, will depend on the type of stain you're dealing with. Unless you spilled red wine or coffee in bed, chances are good that they are protein-based stains of the bodily variety (we're talking the good stuff here: sweat, urine, blood). They also probably aren't new, which means they'll be tougher to remove after having set and chemically bonded with the fabric.
Here are a couple of options:
Treat stains with a combination of hydrogen peroxide, liquid dish soap, and baking soda. Mix them into a spray bottle and treat the stained area. Blot and/or rub with a clean rag.
Use non-toxic, natural enzyme cleaners, like Simple Solution, that chemically break down stains and odors.
Make a paste of lemon juice and salt. Apply the mixture to the stain, and let it stand for 30–60 minutes. Wipe off salt with a clean towel.
Sprinkle a light layer of baking soda over the entire surface and let it sit for a long time — at least a couple of hours. It will absorb any excess liquid from the stain removal process, and leave your mattress smelling fresh and clean. Vacuum off the baking soda, making sure to get into any crevices to remove the powder.
4. Air it Out
Perhaps the best thing for your mattress is fresh air and UV sunlight. Not everyone will be able to haul their mattress down the stairs and into the backyard (hi city folk!) but if you can, it's a great way to naturally eliminate bacteria. Plus you'll get extra household Brownie points for cleanliness.
5. Cover & Protect
If you don't have a mattress cover, now is a good time to pick one up. They are an important line of defense against future dirt and stains, and can be thrown into the washing machine on a regular basis.