If left uncleaned, a mattress can collect enough dust mites and dead skin cells to double its weight in 10 years. The thought of lying on all that built-up gunk is pretty disgusting, which makes it clear why mattresses need to be cleaned and sanitized. If you're still not convinced, consider that you sweat 1/2 pint of liquid into your mattress every night -- plus, you spend one-third of your life in bed. Getting rid of germs and dirt helps alleviate allergies and can prevent the spread of illness. A thorough cleaning is especially important if you've purchased a secondhand mattress. Though you'll never get a mattress completely sterile at home, you can keep the mattress clean and sanitary if you give it some extra attention at least four times a year when you rotate it.

Step 1 Prepare to Vacuum

Wash the crevice and upholstery tools for your vacuum cleaner in a sink filled with warm water and 1/2 a cup of oxygen bleach. Rinse them thoroughly and allow them to dry completely before use. This prevents dust and dirt from transferring from the vacuum cleaner attachment to your bed. Strip the sheets off your mattress to air it out while waiting for your vacuum attachments to dry.

Step 2 Vacuum

Use the upholstery attachment to clean the surface and sides of your mattress and use the crevice tool to remove dirt along the seamed edges. Remember to vacuum both sides of the mattress as well as the sides and top of the box spring.

Step 3 Treat Stains

Examine the mattress for any stains. If you find them, blot them gently with a rag dampened with hydrogen peroxide. You can make a stain remover by placing 1/4 cup of liquid dishwashing detergent in a small mixing bowl. Beat the soap in a mixer on low and add water 1 teaspoon at a time until you have a bowl full of soap suds. Lift the dry suds out of the bowl with a spoon or spatula, leaving the water behind. Rub the stain with a soft brush or sponge dipped in the soap suds.

Step 4 Disinfect

Sanitize the mattress and remove odors in one step with vodka. Pour a quart of vodka into a spray bottle and lightly mist the surface of the mattress. Allow the surface to air dry.

Step 5 Deal With Dust Mites

Research conducted at Egypt's Alexandria University suggests that clove and eucalyptus essential oils help eliminate dust mites. Before putting your sheets back on your freshly cleaned mattress, wash them in hot water and add about 10 drops of one of these oils to the load. If you prefer, add 20 drops of oil to 1 quart of water in a spray bottle and mist the mattress with it. Make sure the sheets and the mattress are both completely dry before remaking your bed.