Bought a new mattress? Then you need a mattress protector, pronto – here’s why

Image shows how a white mattress protector prevents a cup of spilled black tea from seeping through to the mattress beneath
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

You’ve just spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a new mattress, so how do you keep it safe from stains, spills and nasties? Enter the humble mattress protector, a fabric covering designed to safeguard your comfy bed from allergens, urine and more. 

Investing in one of these fabric covers is necessary if you want to prolong the lifespan of your new or older mattress and keep your sleeping space hygienic. They are especially vital if you have recently bought the best mattress for your budget and are testing it out on a trial period; you could void the terms of the returns process (and warranty) if you don’t protect it properly. The key thing here is that while it's tricky to clean a mattress, it's very easy to wash a mattress protector

So if you’re wondering whether mattress protectors are necessary, here are five reasons why, plus our recommendations for top-rated covers for each scenario...

1. Mattress protectors ward-off bedbugs

Dust mites and bed bugs aren’t house guests that any of us want. Both can cause problems for allergy and asthma sufferers, and bed bugs can leave us with nasty, itchy bites. These little blighters feed on our blood at night, so you really don’t want to share your bed with them.

Image of a bed bug in a red circle with a line through the middle

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Mattress protectors are tightly woven covers and casings that form a barrier to stop these household parasites from gaining access to your skin.

In addition, protectors stop us shedding oils and skin onto our bed and, because they can be easily washed, any dust mites and bed bugs that do pitch up on the protector are killed off during washing and drying.

Linenspa Zipped Waterproof Mattress Encasement: From $19.99 at Amazon

Linenspa Zipped Waterproof Mattress Encasement: From $19.99 at Amazon
Available in a variety of sizes, the genius of the Linenspa protector is that it surrounds the entire mattress, zipping closed to create a tight seal that prevents any nasties getting onto your mattress. It’s reasonably priced too and offers protection from common allergens.

2. They protect against bedwetting and spills

If you have young children, a mattress protector is a must as they progress through potty training and learning to stay dry at night. 

Waterproof protectors are made of two-layer constructions, with a soft, absorbent top layer and a waterproof bottom layer to prevent liquids reaching the surface of your mattress. 

Modern waterproof mattress covers also offer excellent breathability. So not only do they protect against urine and other accidental spills, they’ll allow good airflow through and from your mattress too. If you need to clean urine off a mattress, read our in-depth feature on how to clean a mattress for step-by-step guidance.

Coop Home Goods Lulltra Mattress Protector: From $37.99 at Amazon

Coop Home Goods Lulltra Mattress Protector: From $37.99 at Amazon
Coop’s own Lulltra fabric is breathable, soft and silent, and has a durable waterproof membrane to protect against spills and sweat. Coop tested its mattress protector by pouring five gallons of apple juice onto it and not a single drop got through.

3. Without a protector, you could void the terms of a mattress trial

Most mattresses in a box offer risk-free trial periods (usually 100 nights, but some, including DreamCloud, picture below, Nectar and Avocado Green offer a full year). Check the small print though and most will say that you need to return the mattress in a clean and presentable condition.

The DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid Mattress with a golden retriever lying happily on the top

(Image credit: DreamCloud)

If you change your mind during the trial period and try to return a mattress that has staining, wear and tear, or other signs of use, you may not get a refund.

In fact, many mattress manufacturers stipulate that you must use a proper protective covering throughout the entire trial period. Beyond that, using a mattress protector is part of the terms of warranty on some hybrid, innerspring and memory foam mattresses.

Tuft & Needle Mattress Protector: From $50 at Tuft & Needle

Tuft & Needle Mattress Protector: From $50 at Tuft & Needle
Tuft & Needle make high quality products for reasonable prices, meaning you can rest assured your mattress will be well protected throughout its trial period. Their mattress protector is machine washable, snug, waterproof and has a luxe fabric at the bottom for added comfort.

4. Mattress protectors reduce staining

Mattresses absorb liquids and sweat and body oils very easily, which does nothing for their lifespan. Mattress covers are designed to either absorb or repel liquids, preventing nasty stains from ruining your bed. 

This is due to their water-resistant inner layer that prevents liquids soaking through, whilst an absorbent outer layer dissipates liquids so that they don’t puddle on top. You can use them over mattress toppers and pads too, and as these are normally spot-clean only, a protector is once again necessary to keep them free from stains.

Purple Mattress Protector: From $71 at Purple

Purple Mattress Protector: From $71 at Purple
This is the most expensive product in our best mattress protectors guide, but it offers the best all-round mattress protection. It covers everything apart from the underneath of your mattress and is completely stain resistant as well as waterproof. Its dual-layer design means that it safeguards extremely well against stains and spills. 

5. Some help your bed feel cool to the touch

Cooling mattress protectors regulate the surface temperature of your mattress to keep you comfortable while you sleep. In general they are constructed from breathable materials, such as copper or gel, alongside shell fabrics including cotton, Tencel or rayon from bamboo.

A woman with dark hair wakes up smiling after a great night's sleep

(Image credit: Getty)

These draw heat away from your body and wick away sweat and other moisture. This also helps to prevent heat from building up underneath the covers as you sleep, and will contribute to regulating your body temperature. If you overheat in bed, we’d recommend investing in the best cooling mattress for hot sleepers. 

Brooklyn Bedding Cooling Mattress Protector: From $99 at Brooklyn Bedding

Brooklyn Bedding Cooling Mattress Protector: From $99 at Brooklyn Bedding
If you’re prone to overheating at night and suffer broken sleep because of it, this protector is worth the investment. Made from breathable TitanCool fabric, the Brooklyn Bedding Cooling Mattress Protector draws away heat. It’s also water-resistant and hypoallergenic.

Are mattress protectors necessary: Conclusion

Compared to buying a new bed or some squishy pillows for sleeping, a mattress protector is a boring purchase. However, they are vital to maintaining a healthy sleep environment and will keep your mattress safe from a whole brigade of nasties. 

You don't have to spend a lot of money to get one, but you should add a proper mattress covering to every bed you own. Yep, even the guest bed. When you see how hard they work, and how many spills and stains they save your mattress from, you'll quickly see their value.

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Jo Plumridge
Mattress tester and sleep writer

Jo Plumridge is an experienced mattress reviewer with several years' experience covering all things mattresses and sleep, and who tests memory foam, hybrid and organic mattresses. What Jo doesn't know about a boxed mattress isn't worth knowing, so naturally we tasked her with producing a series of features for Tom's Guide looking at all aspects of mattresses, from how to pick between latex and memory foam (it's a tricky one), to the seven mistakes people make when buying a mattress for the first time. When testing the DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid for Tom's Guide, Jo said: "I loved the back support and pressure relief it offered. Plus, it looks far more expensive than it is." When she isn’t writing about sleep, Jo also writes extensively on interior design, home products and photography.