How to buy a mattress protector


What is a mattress protector?

A mattress protector is a piece of removable and washable bedding. Mattress protectors do just what their name implies: they protect the mattress and the investment you’ve made in it. The protective bedding can either sit on top of the mattress, or it can encase it.  They will extend your mattress lifespan and help it keep its properties longer by absorbing the effects of the environment. Besides safeguarding the mattress, a protector also secures the sleeper. It erects a clean, renewable barrier between the sleeper and the mattress. The protective barrier prevents undesirables such as allergens, mold, odors, and other emanations that lay dormant in the mattress from reaching the person(s). Many protectors on the market also add a level of comfort to the underlying mattress using a layer of thick padding material.

What is a mattress protector good for?

Every mattress protector offers at least two-way protection. A mattress protector insulates a mattress from the environment and the sleeper’s body; on the other side (literally), it protects the sleeper from any substance that the mattress is potentially hosting.

Protecting the mattress

Mattresses are absorbent by design. Not only are they not machine-washable, but they are also notoriously difficult to clean by other means. Mattresses don’t come with a removable outer layer: it is impossible to remove and wash the cover of a mattress. This is the problem that mattress protectors intend to remedy: they provide a washable surface between the mattress surface and the person(s) resting on it. This protective surface prevents material such as stains, sweat, and other bodily fluids, bacteria, allergens, spills (liquid or otherwise), mold, pet residue (hair, dirt, and fluids), and skin cells from making their way into the mattress. Because they are akin to giant sponges, mattresses and moisture don’t mix! Moisture in your mattress can breed mold and other undesirables. Keeping your mattress dry will prolong its life. Even if you aren’t planning on drinking your latte in bed or think you are skillful enough to avoid accidents, there are many ways for moisture to get into your mattress other than human errors. Sweat and other body fluids, either from yourself or your pet companions, can make their way through the sheets and into your mattress. Allergens like dust mites, bacteria, and even skin cells can be found in unprotected mattresses. Those also accumulate over the life of the mattress. A mattress protector will help shield your mattress from stains and all the other icky items listed above. Because mattresses are so difficult to clean, the undesirable tenants mentioned are likely to establish permanent residence. As a mattress owner, you want to avoid providing them housing for long. Mattress protectors absorb and lockout such residual material; they are washable, so it is easy to renew the resting surface by cleaning the protector regularly.

Protecting the sleeper

In addition to safeguarding the piece of furniture it covers or encloses, a mattress protector will isolate the sleepers from chemicals and allergens. But the protection doesn’t end there: protectors also safeguard the sleeper’s health by isolating him or her from unpleasant odors, phthalates, flame-retardant chemicals, as well as fungi. In the case of mattress protector encasements, the bedding will protect against bed bugs and dust mites, as it completely encases the mattress.

Top bonuses

Well-rounded mattress protectors add a layer of comfortable padding to the basic barrier. This additional padding is meant to give the sleeper a more satisfying night of sleep. Furthermore, when the padding is made of a material such as wool or cotton, the padded protector will also wick away any moisture and will help maintain a comfortable temperature for the sleeper throughout the night.

The Different Styles of Mattress Protectors

Mattress covers

The most common type of mattress protector is a mattress cover. As its name suggests, a cover will protect the entire upper surface of the mattress. A mattress cover is often fitted around the edges, similar to how a fitted sheet wraps around. Some protective cover models may instead use elastic straps to attach themselves to the mattress. While the fitted models offer marginally better protection by enclosing the mattress’s sides, both models are designed to make it easy to remove, wash, and put the protection back on again.

If you’re looking to shield your mattress from spills and other liquid accidents, you should select a model of mattress protector that is waterproof.
A mattress cover is typically thin and doesn’t have a padded surface. It may or may not be waterproof and, in most cases, remains undetectable underneath the sheets.

Mattress Pads

On the other hand, a mattress pad is thicker and provides anywhere from half an inch to an inch and a half of padding. The padding itself doesn’t affect the quality of the protection, but it serves as a temperature regulation surface, translating into additional comfort for the sleeper(s). From that point of view, mattress protection pads act much like mattress toppers. Often quilted, the padded layer may use natural materials such as cotton or wool, both of which will help regulate temperature and wick moisture away.  However, in most cases, padded protecting covers are not waterproof. If you’re looking to shield your mattress from spills and other liquid accidents, you should select a model of mattress protector that is waterproof, or else add a separate mattress topper that offers a waterproof barrier. If you are looking for a waterproof mattress protector, there are eco-friendly options that are soft and do not crinkle.

A moisture-resistant pad is another option. It will not provide complete spill protection but will allow some protection from sweat or small amounts of other fluids.  

Mattress encasements

A mattress encasement completely wraps around and encases the mattress. Depending on how tight the weave of the fabric is, an encasement will provide the sleepers with complete and total protection from bed bugs or dust mites. Most encasements are zippered shut. Mattress encasements are typically more noticeable to the sleeper. If not all-natural, they tend to be somewhat noisy, depending on the material. They are also trickier to remove and put back: having to wrestle your mattress regularly will definitely cut down on how often you will clean the protector.  Because of the amount of fabric involved, they are generally more expensive than their cover counterparts. Mattress encasements are commonly used in hospitality venues.

Features of Mattress Protectors

What features should you look for when looking for the perfect mattress protector?  Here is a handy checklist you can use while shopping and comparing:

  • Machine washable
  • Machine- or hang-dryable
  • Ease of removal
  • Size: pocket, thickness, and other dimensions
  • Fabric type
  • Cover or encasement style
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Extra padding
  • Waterproof
  • Quiet or noisy
  • Eco-friendliness

Organic vs. Natural vs. Synthetic

The most common type of mattress protector is made of synthetic material: in most instances, the manufacturing process is outsourced and automated. Synthetic-based protectors are built using material that is meant to imitate the properties of natural elements. They are relatively inexpensive; they also suffer from many of the flaws generally associated with mass-produced industrial products. You can often expect synthetic mattress protectors to lose their advertised properties quickly and need to be renewed often.

If a mattress protector is all-natural, it is made entirely from natural materials and uses no synthetic components.  These tend to retain their quality for a longer period than their synthetic counterpart. They are also more comfortable and feel significantly more natural to the sleepers, as they are breathable.  However, they have not made the criteria for "organic." Organic mattress protectors are made of 100% organic fibers that are non-GMO. They contain no harmful chemicals since none were used in the fibers’ growth. As with most organic bedding, they are often hand-crafted and designed to provide maximum comfort for a very long time. One of our most popular mattress protectors is the Coyuchi Organic Cotton Mattress Pad


  • Check out exactly how a mattress protector needs to be cared for before you buy. The whole point of the mattress protector is that it is washable (while the mattress isn’t).  You’ll want to pick a protector that fits your family’s lifestyle.
  • Keep in mind that the mattress protector should also fit over the mattress topper, should you choose to have one over your mattress. If you have a topper on your mattress, your mattress protector will protect the topper as well. With a topper, you will want to be sure you have deep enough pockets on your protector to fit over both the mattress and the topper.