Mattress maintenance and care

Despite the fact that we may spend up to a third of our lives stretched out on one, the mattress is one of the most underrated pieces of furniture in the home.

It is, however, crucially important, and in particular to the health and wellbeing of not only yourself, but your guests as well. It makes sense then to ensure that the mattresses in your establishment are well looked after and cared for, and that they are always in tip-top shape. It is, after all, the first thing your guests encounter in the morning and the last thing they encounter before drifting off to sleep.

A good enough reason to look after the mattresses in your establishment is increasingly an economic one. When last did you go shopping for new beds? The prices of new beds and mattresses are staggering at the moment, and this in itself should make you consider mattress maintenance. If properly cared for, a mattress could last 5 years or more.

A mattress may not be the healthiest place to sleep, and in fact may be a stomping ground for a variety of nasties that could make your guests suffer allergic reactions or leave them feeling tired and listless. It is said that every person sheds an average of 4.5 kilograms of skin annually while they sleep and that they produce up to 8 litres of sweat in the same time. There is only one place that this dead skin and sweat goes: into the mattress! This creates the perfect breeding ground for dust mites and bacteria that thrive on the waste material and in turn create their own waste. This microscopic material be comes an allergen and turns the mattress into an un healthy sleeping environment.

Some of the symptoms of dust mite and bacteria allergies that could be caused by an improperly cared for mattress include a stuffy nose, sneezes, headaches, red and itchy eyes, sinus problems, asthma, hay fever, bronchitis and a general feeling of fatigue or depression. Although a clean and well cared for mattress may not cure these ailments and allergies, it will definitely go a long way in helping reduce the symptoms. Ensuring that the internal structure of the mattresses in your establishment are in good working order and are well-supported, may also help to prevent posture problems and aches and pains.

Caring for your Mattress

The most sensible approach to caring for your mattresses is to keep them clean and rotate them regularly. It is said that prevention is better than cure, and in this case, you should rather prevent spills and accidents before worrying about how to clean them.

The number one no-no is eating and drinking while in bed. Besides accidentally spilling large amounts of liquid or food and staining the mattress, crumbs can be ground into smaller particles and rubbed into the mattress itself, where they will create a veritable banquet for visiting bugs. This is obviously something that is difficult to control in an accommodation establishment, especially when you offer room service or deliver a tea/coffee tray laden with delicious treats to the room.

Using good quality mattress protectors will go a long way to preventing minor spills and other mess from causing irrevocable damage, but mattress protectors are seldom good enough for major spills.

While you may not be able to expressly request that guests refrain from eating and drinking in bed, there are a few subtle ways to approach the problem.

  • Create an “eating area” in every guest room. This need not be a dining room table per se. A table that is placed away from the bed, which is at a comfortable height, is uncluttered and has at least two comfortable chairs next to it, should suffice. This area could easily double up as a relaxation nook. Train your staff members to always place the tray on the table – never on or near the bed!
  • If your guest rooms are spacious enough to allow it, have a separate space for a desk, so that travelling businessmen need not move papers and laptops to make room for the tray.
  • Position the TV so that your guests don’t have to sit on the bed to be able to watch television comfortably. Many guests will watch television while eating, especially if they are solo travellers, so ensure that the television is best viewed from the “eating area”.

Accidents will still happen though, and when you need to clean a mattress, remember the following tips:

  • Never soak a mattress, as it will not dry inside, leading to a breeding ground for mildew inside, which will be near impossible to get rid of.
  • Stains should be removed by using a mild soap and cold water, and by dabbing and rubbing very lightly.
  • Once the stain has been removed, sprinkle some baking soda over the area to absorb the remaining moisture and get rid of any odours.
  • Leave it on for a good few hours before vacuuming the powder up.

A blessing in accommodation establishments, is that sheets are washed regularly. This is crucial in preventing dust mites, dead skin and other allergens from getting to the mattress in the first place.

Finally, it’s up to your housekeeping staff to give the mattress a good vacuum each time they flip or rotate it.

Flipping and rotating a mattress

The life of a new mattress can be extended by following a regular maintenance routine. Firstly, any new mattress should be installed and placed upon a sturdy base that fits the mattress perfectly, as this will prevent sagging. A mattress should be carried on its side as it is less likely to be damaged and should never be bent, as the inner springs may be compromised.

Most manufacturers agree that flipping and rotating is the most important way to prolong the life a new mattress. This will break it in evenly, and ensure that the springs react evenly all over. Also note that there are now mattresses on the market that do not require “flipping” or “turning” – all they need is a quick twist or rotation once a month.

Some mattresses have the “flipping and rotating” pattern indicated on the mattress, but for those that don’t, the following pattern works well.
Write or stamp the following numbers on the ends of the mattress, top and bottom.

1 5 9
Side A
2 6 10
3 7 11
Side B
4 8 12

Now just ensure that the number coinciding with the month of the year is always face-up at the foot of the bed. This means that at the beginning of month 2 (February) you will twist the mattress, at the beginning of month 3 (March) you will flip the mattress, at the beginning of month 4 you will twist the mattress and so on.


If this description is a little abstract, take a clean sheet of paper, copy the diagrams above on either side of the page and try it – you’ll see that it works!

Regular flipping and rotating will help reduce patterns of wear – the most common being a dip in the middle. No-one should ever try to flip a mattress alone; it really is a “two man” job. Finally, no matter how well you look after your mattresses, they will eventually wear out and require replacing. If it no longer feels supportive it is time to replace it. If it isn’t good enough for you, it definitely won’t be good enough for your guests!

Did you know? The word mattress is derived from Arabic words meaning “to throw” and “place where something is thrown” or “mat, cushion.” During the Crusades, Europeans adopted the Arabic method of sleeping on cushions thrown on the floor, and the word materas eventually descended into Middle English through the Romance languages.

Though a mattress may be placed directly on the floor, it is usually placed atop a platform (such as a bed or a metal spring foundation) to be further from the ground. Historically, mattresses have been filled with a variety of natural materials, including straw and feathers. Modern mattresses usually contain either an innerspring core or materials such as latex, viscoelastic, or other polyurethane-type foams. Mattresses may also be filled with air or water, or a variety of natural fibres, such as in futons.

Source: Wikipedia