How to wash a mattress protector

Child spilling drink on Co-Op Goods mattress protector
(Image credit: Co-Op)

A mattress protector does what the name suggests: wraps your mattress tightly to safeguard it from dirt, dust sweat, allergens, spillages and bugs. (Our guide to the best mattress protectors has more info, plus plenty of recommendations.) That means, of course, that it has to be cleaned regularly, otherwise it will itself become home to bacteria, mold and fungus. This guide will run through exactly how to clean a mattress protector to ensure it stays fresh and hygienic, and can continue to do its job properly. 

If you've invested in the best mattress, developing a regular cleaning routine for your mattress protector will help extend its life and keep you safe. And the good news is that you don't need any special equipment. In most cases, you'll just need a normal washing machine, and a light detergent. (Having said that, almost all mattress protectors will come with detailed cleaning instructions on the care label, so do check these first.) 

Also note that mattress protectors, which are thin and envelop your mattress like a fitted sheet, are not the same thing as mattress toppers, which are flat, plump and lie on top of it. If it's the latter you're interested in, you want our best mattress topper ranking and our guide to how to clean a mattress topper.

Otherwise, read on as we explain how you should clean your mattress protector in a safe and effective way, and how often you should do so.

1. Preparing to wash your mattress protector

Before chucking your mattress protector in the washing machine, there are couple of things you need to do. Firstly, check it for obvious dirt, dust, and human and pet hair. The more of this you can remove before putting it in the washing machine, the better. You may want to use a brush, or even a vacuum cleaner attachment. 

Secondly, check for obvious stains. If these are noticeable, it's better to spot-clean them first using a soft cloth and a dash of stain remover, or mild laundry detergent. Let the latter sit on the material for at least 10 minutes before adding it to your washing machine

Thirdly, if there is a nasty smell, then sprinkle over baking soda to absorb it, spray your mattress protector with water, and let the mixture soak in for an hour or so, before adding it to the machine.

2. Washing your mattress protector

Placing the Utopia Bedding mattress protector into a washing machine

Like most mattress protectors, the Utopia Bedding Waterproof Mattress Encasement needs to be put on a cold wash (Image credit: Utopia Bedding)

Mattress protectors are thin, light and fragile, so generally they should be washed on a gentle cycle using a mild detergent. Avoid adding bleach or chlorine as they may damage the fabric. That said, always check the care label first, as mattress protectors differ in their materials and design, and so cleaning instructions may vary. In particular, check the maximum temperature they can be washed at, which will be 100°F in most cases.

After the wash, put the mattress protector on a spin cycle so that every drop of detergent is removed. Otherwise, it can lead to mold and mildew growing on your mattress protector, as well as potentially causing an allergic reaction. 

3. Drying your mattress protector

Couple waiting for tumble drier to finish

Only ever tumble-dry your mattress protector on a low heat (Image credit: Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko via Pexels)

Like all bedding, it's important to dry your mattress protector thoroughly after washing. If any moisture remains when you put it back on your mattress, it will encourage mildew. So either air dry your mattress protector – outside in a well-ventilated place, ideally in the sun – or tumble-dry it on a low heat and low tumble setting. (Any hotter and it can cause the material to melt). 

It's normally safe to tumble-dry your mattress protector with other bedding or clothes. Again, though, it's important to check the care label first, as it may contain specific instructions for your mattress protector.

If you choose to air-dry, bear in mind that a mattress protector takes longer to dry than a fitted sheet. Depending on the conditions, it may take several hours to dry completely. So it's a good idea to have a spare one and rotate them, rather than having to spend a night without a mattress protector on your bed.

Lastly, mattress protectors should never, ever, be dry-cleaned or ironed. Both practices will damage the fabric and make them less protective.

4. How often you should wash a mattress protector? 

Boy and his dog sitting on a bed

If pets get on the bed a lot, you should clean your mattress protector more often (Image credit: Tuft & Needle)

Most experts advise you should clean or change your bedsheets, pillow cases and duvet covers at least once a week. Because your mattress protector lies beneath the sheets, though, it only needs to be cleaned every one to two months. However, there are exceptions to this rule. 

Firstly, you should always wash your mattress protector before you use it for the first time. This will help eliminate any bad smells. Secondly, if you experience spillages, then it's best to wash the mattress protector straight away, especially if they involve blood or urine. 

Thirdly, if you allow pets to frequent your room then it's better to wash your mattress protector more often; ideally, along with your main bedding. And fourthly, if you've had a cold or similar illness, it's best to wash your mattress protector – along with all your other bedding – as soon as it's passed.

Finally, a word about guest bedrooms. Even if no-one has slept in them for a while, you should still clean the bedding and mattress protector on them, at least every one to two months. Dust, dirt and bacteria don't need human help to infest a mattress, after all, so you still need to keep these invaders at bay through regular laundering.

For more handy cleaning guides to help keep your home sparkling, check out how to clean a microfiber cloth, how to clean a washing machine and how to clean leather. Before you get started though, make sure you read about the things you should never clean with baking soda and things you should never clean with vinegar.

Tom May

Tom regularly writes about sleep for Tom's Guide and our sister site Over the years he's tested a number of mattresses, duvets and pillows, and as a back pain sufferer, has a keen interest in finding ones that offer maximum support. Plus, in running a successful Airbnb business, sleep hygiene and providing the right bedding for guests has become a big part of his day-to-day life.