Mattress pads and protectors can greatly improve your sleep, keep your sleep-space clean and hygienic, and extend the life of your mattress. To get the most out of these bedroom accessories, though, it’s important to treat them wall. Here’s the 101 on care and maintenance of mattress protectors and pads.
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Following the care instructions included with a mattress pad or protector is the best way to get the most out of these products. Before you buy, though, it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into.
Appropriate care and maintenance of your mattress pad and protector will depend largely on the materials and design of these bedroom accessories. Wool, cotton, and other materials need different kinds of care. And while some wool pads are washable, others are not.
If you’re looking for a pad or protector you can just throw in the washing machine and dryer, rest assured that those do exist. However, not all pads and protectors fare well with such simple care.
We offer some general rules of thumb for mattress pad and protector care and then get into the specifics of different materials, so you can keep your bed comfortable and clean with ease.
General care and maintenance of mattress pads and protectors
Mattress pads and protectors are designed to protect your mattress, mostly from moisture, be it from sweat, spills, or toddler incontinence. Even without the latter two incidents, sweat can take its toll on mattress pads and protectors.
Over time, natural body oils and sweat begin to break down natural fibers like cotton and wool. In addition, nightly use can also compress the fibers in a pad and reduce performance.
Keep your pad and protector in good condition by following the steps below.
- Turn down your bedding daily to allow your mattress protector and pad to breathe – i.e., pull back your duvet, comforter, and/or top sheet and fold over the bottom of your mattress
- Change your sheets at least once a week to refresh your bedding
- Spot-clean minor spills and give the pad or protector enough time to dry fully before using again.
If having a washable mattress pad is important for your lifestyle, but your washing machine is small (or you don’t have one), look for a pad that’s on the thinner side. This will be easier to wash at home, and easier to carry to a laundromat. You might even consider using two pads on top of each, as these can then be washed separately as needed.
I also strongly recommend using a mattress protector on top of your mattress pad. This helps minimize how often you need to wash the pad itself, and most protectors are easy to wash in a regular household washing machine.
How to care for cotton and washable wool pads and protectors
Most cotton mattress pads and protectors are machine washable. The main difficulty is that some pads are too bulky to fit in a household washing machine and dryer. Note, too, that cotton and washable wool mattress pads can get very heavy when wet. This may overtax your washing machine and dryer, so be careful not to overload the machine and consider line drying wherever possible.
If your home machine can’t accommodate your mattress pad, find a laundromat with a larger drum. Wash the pad once a month or so, spot-cleaning as necessary in-between. This will help to prevent premature breakdown of cotton fibers.
Avoid dry cleaning mattress pads and protectors, as this can compromise their performance and expose you to hazardous chemicals that cause skin irritation, respiratory issues, and other health effects.
Most washable wool and cotton pads and protectors do best when washed and dried:
- On a cold, gentle cycle
- Using mild detergent
- On low or on the line in indirect sun.
Use less detergent than you would for a regular load of laundry. Too much detergent can clog the fiber fill in mattress pads, compromise pad performance, and prematurely degrade the fibers, shortening the life of your pad.
Make sure that the pad and protector are fully dry before you put them back on your bed. And try to rotate and flip mattress pads if possible to even out compression and avoid body imprints.
Note that some mattress protectors contain a thin layer of plastic, whether bioplastic or petroleum-based. These tend not to do well with high heat, so avoid anything more than warm water and the lowest dryer setting.
Caring for non-washable wool mattress pads and protectors
Wool is naturally water resistant. Washing it with detergent can compromise its performance and make your mattress pad or protector far less comfortable and protective.
Similarly, some mattress protectors and pads made with natural materials, including bioplastics, tend to degrade faster if they’re frequently machine washed and dried. Following gentler care protocols can help extend their life. For these items, though, keep things hygienic with a full wash cycle following more serious spills, sweats, or other mishaps.
To care for non-washable pads and protectors:
- Let the pad and protector breathe and release moisture daily by turning down your bedding in the morning
- Air out your pad and protector (in indirect sun if possible) every two or three months to release moisture and revitalize padding
- Rotate and flip mattress pads every few months to even out any compression
- Shake out or fluff up the fiber fill by hand or, if care instructions allow, on low or no heat in a tumble dryer
- Spot-clean with mild detergent and water (use a spray bottle) and a soft brush (an old toothbrush can work really well)
- Ensure the pad or protector dries fully before putting it back on the bed
- Vacuum the pad or protector once a month or more if very sensitive to dust mite feces and other allergens.
If absolutely necessary, use non-chlorine bleach to tackle serious spills and stains.
Where to find care instructions for mattress pads and protectors
The best way to care for your mattress pad and protector is to follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer. If there isn’t a care label on the product itself, look for specific guidance in the following places:
- On a care card in the product packaging
- In the product description on the company’s website
- In the FAQs on the company’s website
- In a specific ‘care and maintenance’ page on the company’s website.
Still at a loss? Reach out to the company for further advice, via online chat, email, phone, or even in-store if the company has retail outlets. No response from the company? Get in touch and we’ll do our best to help.