We all (hopefully) love our babies. We want to make sure that they are happy and healthy, and we generally do our best to ensure their maximum comfort. However, sometimes babies can make that difficult for us. Between babies going to the bathroom, so to speak, in their cribs, and doing all sorts of other messy activities from drooling to throwing up, their crib mattresses can get rather dirty. What is more, sometimes the baby may not even be responsible and another person or thing entirely guilty for the mess.

Whatever or whoever the culprit may be, the fact of the matter is that crib mattresses get messy, and when they do one needs to know the proper ways and procedures of how to clean a crib mattress so they are not forced to rest, sleep, and play in a filthy environment. 

That is why we have written this article where we will explain exactly how to clean your baby’s crib mattress in several ways, while also giving you tips and tricks regarding general crib mattress hygiene and cleaning principles.

General Cleaning

What you will need

  • a vacuum cleaner
  • disposable gloves
  • scrubbing brushes
  • a sponge
  • washcloths
  • a small bucket/basin
  • laundry detergent (hypoallergenic if your baby has sensitive skin or allergies)
  • rubbing alcohol
  • lemon or vinegar juice
  • spray bottle
  • baking soda
How to clean a crib mattress
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

In this first section, we will discuss the steps to thoroughly and completely clean a crib mattress. The later sections will be about more specific stains and types of mattresses and spillage. Without further ado, let us start with:

Step 1 – Vacuuming

Vacuuming a mattress is important before doing anything else as it is arguably the safest thing to do. You are not using any liquids and there is little probability of damaging the mattress. Vacuuming a crib mattress is quite important as it will remove any dust, dirt, or other particles from the mattress which can be allergens and irritate your baby.

When vacuuming, make sure to get all the sides of the mattress and not just the top. Do not forget the edges as well, as dust can often hide here as well. A narrow-neck upholstery attachment can be your biggest ally here as it can help you get at those little nooks and crannies where dust can sometimes remain unnoticed for a long time.

Step 2 – Brushing

After you have vacuumed all of the dust off, it is time to get more up close and personal with the mattress. We recommend that you fill a bucket with approximately a gallon of water and combine it with a 1/4 cup of hypoallergenic detergent (especially if your baby has sensitive skin).

Then dip a fragile-surface scrubbing brush and use it to gently scrub the mattress. The reason you want to be careful with this and use a soft brush is that mattresses can often be fragile and you do not want to risk accidentally causing damage to an otherwise good mattress.

After this, replace the water-detergent mix in the bucket with just water and use that as a rinse station for the next step.

Step 3 – Rinsing

With your bucket full of clean water and without any detergent in it, dip a cloth in it and wring it until it is damp but not too wet. Afterward, carefully and thoroughly wipe down the mattress as best you can, taking care to get all the detergent residue off of it. Make sure to frequently rinse the cloth and when you do, do it as thoroughly as possible. You do not want to leave any detergent on the mattress because your baby’s skin can become irritated. Still, take care not to wipe so hard that you damage the mattress, as all of your cleanings are then for naught.

Step 4 – Disinfecting

As we have mentioned in the introduction to this guide, babies are filthy creatures. This is not a point against them, but they can very often leave stains on their crib mattress. These stains can vary in origin from being caused by acidic liquids such as certain varieties of fruit juice to stains that your baby made by soiling itself.

If your baby’s crib mattress is stained and you are at a loss for what to do, then we have the solution for you. It is very simple. All you need to do is take some rubbing alcohol, pour it into a spray bottle, and apply it to any stains on your crib mattress. You should take special care to spray the alcohol on visible stains but you can also spray other areas (without overdoing it, of course). Afterward, you need not worry about wiping off the alcohol as it will soon evaporate on its own.

Disinfecting your baby’s crib mattress is important as it is a great preventative measure against infections and other types of diseases.

Step 5 – Removing Stains and Odors

Sometimes, even after you have applied alcohol in an aforementioned way, some stains and odors will persist. If this turns out to be the case, then you will need a more thorough way to address this hygiene issue.

Mix equal parts water and lemon or vinegar juice in your spray bottle and spray it on any parts which still have stains on them or where you can smell an odor coming out of. Afterward, take some baking soda and sprinkle it over a wet or dry mattress. The reason why we do this is that it is a great way to remove unpleasant odors. After some 20-30 minutes, thoroughly vacuum the mattress to get all the baking soda off of it.

Step 6 – Drying

Before putting out the mattress to dry, use a dry towel to gently absorb some of the moisture still left in it. It is most recommended that you air dry your mattress as most crib mattresses are not suited to be dried in a tumble dryer as this can damage the mattress rather severely. Instead, put it out on a balcony or another place outside if it is warm, or you can just leave it inside to dry. If you feel like it is taking too long then you can put the heating on in the room where your mattress is drying to speed up the process.

Make sure that the mattress is completely dry before placing it back in the crib as even a small amount of retained moisture can result in potential diseases for your baby from mold and mildew infestation. You can also consider buying a mattress pad to ensure maximum hygiene (you can check out our guide to make sure you pick the right one)

Individual Messes or Spillage

What you will need

  • sponge or cloth
  • mild soap
  • warm water
  • towel (paper or fabric works)
  • washing machine (optional)
  • disinfecting wipes (optional)

In this section, we will teach you what to do in case you are dealing with an isolated crib-cleaning situation. Maybe your baby had an unfortunate accident in bed or there was some spillage that needs to be dealt with asap otherwise it will leave a stain. Either way, this section of the guide will focus more-specifically on these situations. Look at the above section if you need general instructions on cleaning a crib mattress.

If you have a vinyl/plastic mattress

Step 1 – Cleaning off Excess Fluids

If there is only a low amount of moisture and there was a crib sheet present, then you can take your disinfecting wipes or sponge and just pick up what is left of that. Alternatively, if there was no crib sheet and you see that a puddle has formed, then you can use a towel to soak it up or pick it up either disinfecting wipes or a paper towel.

Step 2 – Wiping It Down

Take your sponge and add some soap and water to it. Do not rub in the mess further. Try not to put your soap directly on the sponge as the fabric tends to soak it up and then it is an absolute nightmare to get out. Getting liquids inside of the mattress is something you should be looking to avoid. Work your way in from the outside, gently dabbing the spot.

Step 3 – Drying It Off

One of the worst things you can do is let the moisture remain on the mattress after you have successfully cleaned it. The thing to do now is taking your paper and regular towels and press on the leftover moisture, making sure that you do not spread the fluids that were left from cleaning.

Another thing to remember is that there are tiny holes in most plastic mattresses and you want to make sure that the moisture does not get into the foam and ruin it or cause toxic mold (unless the mattress is waterproof).

Step 4 – Replacing the Sheets

Once you have ensured that the mattress is no longer moist, you can safely put on a new crib sheet. After that, it is safe to place the baby back in the crib and they will have freshly-cleaned and, equally importantly, dry surface to play and sleep on.

If you have a fabric mattress

Step 1 – Quickly Wiping up Fluids

If you do not hurry up and wipe up all the fluids from the mess, they can easily leak into the mattress and ruin the insides. Cloth/fabric mattresses are normally not waterproof (but rather only water-resistant) and are thus quite vulnerable to this sort of damage. Likewise, not being fast enough could result in permanent stains. Do your best to remove the fluids and gunk as gently but as possible so you do not rub it in any further.

If the cover comes off, you can also quickly remove it and put in in the washer on the delicate cycle with some mild detergent.

Step 2 – Gently Dabbing the Spot

You do not want to make the mess even worse by rubbing it in, so the method to use is gently dabbing the spot with a sponge that has some soap and water added to it. Just like before, we want to avoid putting soap directly on the spot so the fabric does not get ruined. We will also once again work our way from the outside in, gently dabbing it.

If you have a removable cover that you do not have time to wash, you can also place a towel under the cover so that the mess you press on will be transferred on to the towel instead of the mattress.

Step 3 – Drying

Drying this type of mattress is done similarly to drying plastic/vinyl mattresses. Take a towel or some paper towels and gently dab them on the spot, trying to soak up as much water as possible. If there is a removable cover with a towel under it, you can press as hard as you want.

You can also, somewhat counter-intuitively, take a wet/dry shop vacuum cleaner and suck the liquids out of the cover. It will be more effective than using a towel alone.

Step 4 – Replacing the Sheet

Once the cover is as dry as possible, you may replace the crib sheet and put the mattress back in the crib. If it is daytime you can also leave it out to dry for a little longer, just to make sure you are not putting your baby on a wet surface.


Cleaning a crib mattress is not rocket science but it does take some common sense and a little bit of guidance. We hope that this article has provided you with that guidance and that by now you know how to clean a crib mattress. Our babies are special to us and we want them to have the best environment possible.

How to clean a crib mattress

One last thing we want to say is that when it comes to buying cribs, it is usually better to buy a new one than to buy a used one and try and clean it. Even with our expert guidance, that can be a recipe for disaster. As such, we recommend you use our guide only to clean new mattresses that you have dirtied and stay away from used ones as no matter how much you may clean them, they can still cause problems.

We hope this guide will be of use to you. Happy cleaning!