A new mattress can cost thousands of dollars, so it’s smart to protect it from spills, stains, and critters like bed bugs. Unfortunately, not all mattress protectors against the same things, and most are made with toxic materials and chemicals. As part of the Leaf Score Guide to Non-Toxic Bedding, here are the important factors to consider when choosing a mattress protector.
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Mattress protectors are a great idea for all mattresses, new and old. In fact, many mattress companies insist that you use a mattress protector to avoid invalidating your new mattress warranty. As for older mattresses, a protector can help keep infestation in check and give your mattress a few more months or even years of life while you budget for a replacement.
What do you need to think about when choosing a mattress protector, though? In general, factors to consider include:
- Materials, i.e., what the protector is made of – including any chemicals of concern
- Size, shape, and fit
- Levels of mattress protection – waterproofing, bed bugs, allergens, etc.
- Care and maintenance
We cover all of these below, with links to more in-depth guidance where relevant.
Materials matter – What’s in your mattress protector?
There are two main reasons why materials matter in a mattress protector. First, you want a mattress protector that is good at doing what you want it to do, namely, protect your mattress. Second, you don’t want a mattress protector that contains harmful materials and chemicals that make your sleep space less healthy overall.
To help you figure out which type of mattress protector will best meet your needs, we look at the pros and cons of different types of mattress protectors, including:
- Cotton mattress protectors
- Wool mattress protectors
- Waterproof mattress protectors
- Bed bug and dust mite-proof mattress encasements.
While there are many great options for organic cotton and organic wool mattress protectors, most mattress protectors are made of plastic and contain a plethora of unpleasant chemicals and synthetic materials. These definitely don’t support good sleep, even if they can keep your mattress safe from spills and stains.
We give you the inside scoop on which chemicals and materials to avoid, and which are okay, right here.
Mattress protectors – Size, shape and fit
Mattress protectors come in a variety of styles and sizes. Before you buy, make sure you know about all the different types of mattress protector, including:
There are pros and cons to each fit or style of mattress protector, which we look at in more depth here.
Levels of mattress protection
Mattress protectors offer different levels and kinds of protection. Some offer all-round protection to prevent bed bugs and dust mites getting into your mattress. Others offer an extra layer of absorption to minimize mattress damage from minor spills. Some mattress covers even help to minimize off-gassing.
The type of mattress protector you need will depend mainly on what you want to protect your mattress from.
We look at mattress protector options in depth here, including full encasements, waterproof protectors, and water-resistant protectors that are often more eco-friendly and affordable.
The long and short of it, though, is that you can now purchase a waterproof mattress protector with GOTS certification made with organic cotton and an inner waterproof membrane comprising less than 5% of all materials.
Care and maintenance of mattress protectors
Mattress protectors also need protecting! Mostly, though, this is from overly exuberant or improper cleaning.
For minor spills and accidents, you can usually just spot-clean a mattress protector and let it air-dry. For more serious messes, it’s best to launder the protector to keep things clean and hygienic.
Whatever mess you’re dealing with, follow the care instructions that come with your particular mattress protector. This will help keep your protector in good shape for longer.
We also offer more information on care and maintenance of mattress protectors and pads here.
When should you replace your mattress protector?
Mattress protectors are made with plastic and all plastics degrade. This process happens faster with exposure to heat and moisture, so a mattress protector that sees frequent action and regular washes in a machine will need replacing sooner than one that’s rarely used or cleaned.
In general, a mattress protector made with vinyl or PVC will need replacing every two to three years. If it gets torn or otherwise damaged, replace it sooner (with one that’s less toxic and more durable!).
Some of the newer types of mattress protector are more durable and can easily last five or more years with the right care. Some Sleep & Beyond mattress protectors come with a 10-year warranty, though, so it’s always best to check with the manufacturer if life expectancy is a high priority for you.
Final thoughts on factors to consider when choosing a mattress protector
There’s a lot to think about when deciding on a mattress protector. Often, your best bet will be the protector offered alongside your new non-toxic, organic mattress. Usually, you can get this at a discount if you buy it when you buy your mattress.
Sometimes, though, you may want a different level of protection, or your preferred mattress company may not make a protector (even if it recommends you use one). That means looking into other options from other reputable bedding companies.
Now you know what to think about when choosing a new mattress protector, use our guides as a reference when perusing product listings. If you’re not sure about certifications, we’ve got you covered here. If you’re not sure about materials, ditto.
And if you’re still wondering about levels of protection, whether you really need a mattress protector in the first place, or if a mattress pad is a better choice, our Guide to Mattress Protectors and Pads covers all that and more.