Have you seen ugly yellow stains on your mattress? Although unsightly, especially when they start to turn brown, yellow stains on a mattress are quite common. This is definitely true if you’ve owned your mattress for several years, and luckily, there are ways to get most of them out.
There are many reasons mattresses turn yellow, and even the best mattresses suffer from these stains over time if not properly protected.
To understand why this happens, we asked Yordan Yordanov, upholstery and mattress cleaning specialist at Fantastic Services (opens in new tab), to explain the top four causes of yellow mattress stains, how to remove them (if you can), and how to know if they are safe to sleep on. As it turns out, only one of them is safe.
Yellow stains on the mattress: the four main causes
- 1. Mattress of old age (these stains cannot be removed)
- 2. Sweat and body oils (can be removed)
- 3. Urine (can be removed)
- 4. Vomit (can be removed)
1. Mattress old age and natural decay
As with most things in life, as your mattress ages, it is prone to natural deterioration. “The main reason for this is oxidation,” explains Yordanov. “It’s a natural process aided by exposure to the effects of the sun.”
This natural process cannot be stopped entirely. However, you can slow down time by limiting the mattress’s exposure to direct sunlight. “If you’re airing your mattress outside, it’s best to choose a shady but warm spot,” advises Yordanov.
“The good news is that this type of yellowing is not harmful in any way. The bad news is that it cannot be removed. Still, oxidation can be slowed down with a good mattress protector, but you should make sure you get one that covers the entire mattress.”
2. Urine (human and animal)
Whether from a human or a pet, pee can quickly cause yellow stains on the mattress if left untreated. But here’s the good news: according to Yordanov, both fresh and dried urine stains on a mattress can be removed.
How to remove yellow stains from the mattress caused by urine
“To remove recent stains, it’s best to treat them as soon as you notice them,” says Yordanov. “First, wipe off the excess urine with a dry cloth, but be careful not to rub it, as this is sure to set. Then, mix equal parts of water and white vinegar and spray the area generously.
“Finally, sprinkle some baking soda on top and let it sit overnight (or at least for eight hours). Once dry, vacuum the residue and inspect the stain and repeat the procedure if you are not satisfied with the result.”
Dry pee stains are more difficult to remove. “Here you’ll need to create a solution of 8 ounces of hydrogen peroxide, 3 tablespoons of baking soda, and two to three drops of dishwashing liquid,” says Yordanov. “Spray the stained area and wait for it to dry before vacuuming the residue. You may want to do this several times, depending on how bad the dry stain is.”
3. Sweat and body oils secreted every night
Sweating and excreting body oils is a normal bodily function, and these two fluids are also among the main causes of why pillows turn yellow.
When sweat and body oils build up over time, they can cause yellow stains on the mattress. Although it is difficult to clean, this type of stain can be removed. In fact, Yordanov says that there are two “very good methods” to try, and they often come up during tutorials on how to clean a mattress.
How to remove yellow stains from mattress caused by sweat
For the first method, get some baking soda and a bristle brush. “The good thing about baking soda is that it absorbs moisture and unpleasant odors, which makes it effective for cleaning your mattress,” says Yordanov.
“Spray the entire mattress. Once done, gently scrub the mattress with a bristle brush. The longer you let the bicarbonate work, the better. Several hours should do this, and for a really stained and dirty mattress, leave it overnight.” Vacuum the residue when finished.
For the second method, Yordanov recommends the following:
- Create a solution using a cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide
- One cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide
- Two to three tablespoons of baking soda
- A few drops of mild liquid dishwashing soap
- Stir the mixture until the soda completely dissolves.
- Spray the entire stained area
- Let the solution soak
- Air dry the mattress for at least an hour
- Speed up the drying process by using a fan or hair dryer in cold temperature.
4. Vomiting also causes yellow and brown spots
If you threw up on the bed, it can turn your mattress yellow very quickly. Fortunately, you can get those blemishes out — but you’ll need a strong stomach to get started.
How to remove yellow stains from mattress caused by vomiting
“First, get the vomit off the bed. Then remove all bedding and wash it on high heat to kill all germs.
“Next,” says Yordanov, “take an old rag or paper towel and wipe the stain. Mix some warm water and a mild detergent and clean the area. After that, mix three parts white vinegar with one part water and dry the spot with the solution. This will not only clean the stain, it will also disinfect and deodorize it.”
For next-level disinfection and deodorization, follow Yordanov’s final tips, but check your mattress care instructions first to ensure it can withstand the following products…
“To thoroughly disinfect, spray the area with a little rubbing alcohol (and add some essential oils if you want to reduce its strong smell). To remove any lingering odor, sprinkle on some baking soda, which will absorb the smell. Don’t forget to vacuum up the residue as soon as it dissipates.”
Are yellow mattress stains safe to sleep on?
According to experts, the answer to this question depends on what caused the yellowing. “If the yellowing is just due to oxidation and good hygiene has been observed, then you are completely safe,” Yordanov reassures us.
But in all other cases, a deep cleaning is recommended to ensure safety. “If you notice any itching, coughing, or allergic reactions, it could be a sign that you have mold. This is a major health hazard and must be treated immediately because it grows fast, is difficult to clean, and is especially dangerous for people with asthma.
“The mites feed on dead skin cells, sweat and bacteria, and their droppings also trigger allergies in some people. To help combat these adverse effects, bedding should be changed weekly and the mattress should be cleaned and vacuumed every two to three months.”
Want to know how often you should replace a mattress? The average lifespan of a mattress is six to ten years, depending on what it’s made of, so if you’ve had yours for longer and it shows signs of sagging and wear and tear, including yellow stains, it’s time to replace it.
There is a higher turnover with pillows, with experts recommending that you change them every year or two. Need a new one? Then take a look at our guide to this year’s best pillows for every sleep position.
How to avoid yellow spots
The best way to prevent yellow stains on a mattress is to protect them from day one. A good mattress protector is your friend here, and we’ve rounded up some of our favorites below. Depending on the type you buy, they can protect against bed bugs and bacteria, as well as vomit, urine, and sweat.
According to Yordanov, deep cleaning the mattress also helps keep it stain-free for longer. “The mattress itself should be steam or dry cleaned according to label requirements once a year. In the meantime, you can vacuum it regularly to prevent dirt, dust and dead skin cells from accumulating, or deep clean it of blemishes, which will sanitize it. ”
You may find that your bed topper has also developed yellow stains, and in many cases you can use the tips above to remove them. If you decide your topper has seen better days, take a look at our guide to the best mattress toppers for a more comfortable and healthier sleep.
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