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Allergens, bacteria, and sweat—oh my!

Southern Living Editors

We’re always looking for new ways to keep our homes spic and span, but one place we rarely think of is—you guessed it—the bedroom mattress. It’s a collector of dirt and grime, and it’s a spot to which we should devote more of our cleaning energies. Why? Reason #1: Have you ever woken up with a stuffy nose? The culprit could be your mattress.

While you’re sleeping, dust mites, bacteria, and skin cells collect, and—because we sweat when we sleep—all of this creates an environment that is hospitable to icky stuff and it is, of course, not ideal for the sleeper atop said mattress. Because of this combination of factors, your mattress can become a place that negatively impacts your health, instead of the sanctuary you expect it to be. (If you’re aiming for 7-9 hours a night, then this is really inconvenient.) All of these factors—dust, sweat, microbes, the list goes on—contribute to corresponding allergies and sicknesses. However, we need not resign ourselves to grubby mattresses. There’s a way to mitigate the assorted negatives that collect in our sleep spaces.

The greatest barrier, which will keep your mattress clean and your sleep sound, is an actual, physical barrier. You should seal up your mattress (and your pillows, while you’re at it) with allergen-tight cases, such as zippered mattress and pillow covers, which shield the bed and maintain a barrier between your body and the surface of the mattress. If you use a cover and change it every few months, you’ll be working toward maintaining a cleaner sleep space. You should also wash your bed linens often to keep dust, allergens, and bacteria at bay.

Before you seal up your mattress, you shoud deep clean it. To deep clean your mattress, start by vacuuming the surface of the mattress, and spot clean as needed. You can deodorize the mattress by sprinkling baking soda on the surface of the mattress, letting it sit, then vacuuming up the baking soda. Also be sure to flip and rotate your mattress regularly to ensure it’s wearing evenly with daily use.

While your mattress is the dirtiest spot in your bedroom, it’s not the only spot in your bedroom you should be cleaning regularly. Because of the dust factor, another very dirty spot is under your feet. Invest in floor cleaning supplies and make a plan to clean the hardwood floors or vacuum the carpet each week. Also watch the remote controls and light switches in the room—they’re places we touch daily but often forget to clean, making them ideal spots for germs to thrive.

WATCH: 5 Brilliant Cleaning Shortcuts

What is your cleaning schedule? Do you have a strategy for combatting mattress grime and keeping allergens away, or will you be investing in a mattress cover asap?