How to choose a mattress protector for bed bugs, dust mites, urine and more

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

Using a mattress protector is the best way to ensure your bed stays in great shape for longer. Not only do these humble slips of fabric keep your mattress feeling fresh, protectors also act as a barrier between your mattress and bed bugs, dust mites, urine, sweat, body oils, drinks and more.

But how do you choose a mattress protector for bed bugs, dust mites, other nasties and accidents? We’ve pulled together the five things to look for, plus what happens to your mattress if you don't use protection. 

Many of 2024's best mattresses for all sleepers come with anti-mold and mildew treatments infused in the cover, but you should still give them a helping hand with a bed protector. Here's what to look for...

What is a mattress protector?

The best mattress protectors keep your mattress clean, fresh and safe from contaminants such as spills, urine accidents, stains, allergens and even bed bugs and dust mites. A mattress protector is a removable item of bedding that is like a fitted sheet that just sits on top of the mattress. 

Having a mattress protector is one of the best ways to keep your mattress hygienic and the good news is that they are easy to put on your bed and easy to remove in case of an emergency. Most mattress toppers can also be machine washed and dried, although do check the care label of your specific one before adding to your machine. 

A mattress protector and sheets stripped off a bed before washing in the machine

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mattress protectors have roughly the same dimensions as standard mattress sizes. This is because they need to fit your bed properly so that you can still enjoy a comfortable night's sleep. Mattress protectors also come in different depths. It's important to measure your mattress to ensure that your chosen one is deep enough before you click that buy button. 

Mattress protectors also come in a range of materials from cotton to cashmere, which means that they can also add an extra touch of luxury to your bed and enjoy cooling properties that hot sleepers will love. 

Why do you need a mattress protector

Mattresses are not cheap items to replace, so whether your mattress is brand new or you just want to try and extend the lifespan of your current model, a mattress protector will act as a shield to safeguard it from everyday wear and tear. 

Liquid spills and accidents happen but with many mattresses you simply cannot get them wet without risking some serious damage to the fibers. A mattress protector will help to prevent any damage and also make cleaning urine from a mattress a lot easier. 

And not just that, if you or your sleeping partner suffer from allergies a mattress protector could help to solve your problems. There’s nothing worse than waking in the morning sniffling and feeling like your bunged up with a cold.

Man sneezing into tissue because his allergies have worsened after sleeping on a mattress infested with dust mites

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A mattress protector will create a barrier between you and the allergens that lurk in your mattress. They can act as a physical barrier to dust mites which are often the cause of allergy symptoms like sneezing, coughing, and runny noses. 

How to choose a mattress protector for bed bugs

Mattress protectors, unlike mattress encasements, won’t directly help bedbugs however, they can help to deter them and if you do have an infestation, having a mattress protector will make it easier to remove them. 

When looking for a mattress protector to deter bed bugs, try find one with tightly woven but breathable fabric. This will mean that you won’t over heat at night but it will stop the bed bugs squeezing through. 

Also, make sure you choose a mattress protector that can be machine-washed and dried at a high temperature. If you find out you have bed bugs, you can follow our step-by-step guide on how to get rid of bed bugs and one of those steps is being able to wash your bedding on the hottest cycle allowed in your washer and dryer. 

Image shows a person in blue disposable gloves pointing to bed bugs on a mattress

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The AllerEase Ultimate mattress protector can be washed at temperatures up to 120 degrees. It also has an allergen and bed bug barrier, making it a great choice for protecting yourself against bed bugs. This mattress protector is available in a queen size on Amazon for $45.75.  

The Sleep Tite mattress protector is another good option, this one protects five sides of the mattress, so will do a good job of keeping bed bugs away and can be washed on a high heat. The Sleep Tite Protector costs $64.80 for a queen size at Amazon.  

How to choose a mattress protector for bedwetting

Accidents happen and usually when you’re least expecting it so having a mattress protector will help alleviate some of the worry. When it comes to choosing the best mattress protector for bedwetting then advanced waterproofing is the key. Be sure to look for protectors that are labeled as “waterproof” or “water-resistant”. 

These will help to block the moisture from ever reaching the mattress. Some protectors offer layers which are both waterproof and absorbent, these are a great choice as the absorbent layer will wick moisture away from the surface, which is particularly good for children who may not wake up if they have an accident, and then the waterproof layer protects the mattress.

Be sure to pick the right size when choosing a mattress protector to tackle bedwetting issues. This will help it stay in place overnight and prevent any leaks from reaching the sides of the mattress. 

A great choice for a mattress protector that can help with bedwetting is the UltraBlock WaterProof Mattress protector, it has a cotton Terry top so is also comfortable to sleep on. A queen size will cost you $38 at Amazon.  If you have toddlers then the Gorilla Grip washable toddler mattress protector for $17.99 is another good choice.

How to choose a mattress protector for dust mites

Mattress protectors are great for reducing exposure to dust mites. If you’re waking up in the morning feeling like you have a cold, maybe you’re coughing, sneezing, or have itchy eyes, then it’s likely your mattress has dust mites. Don’t panic, this is totally normal, dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments — just like your mattress. 

Vector of dust mites eating dead skin on a dirty mattress

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A good-quality mattress protector can help trap allergens from dust mites, pet dander, and pollen, leaving you sleeping much better and waking feeling fresh. It’s important to look at the pore size of your mattress protector. 

Anything under 10 microns should mean that even the smallest dust particles are blocked. Always look for options such as microfiber, tightly woven cotton, or specific allergen-proof materials. 

Many good mattress protectors are labeled as “allergen proof” so this should make your decision a lot easier. You could try the PlushDeluxe Premium Bamboo Mattress Protector which is just $37.99 for a queen size on Amazon and is made from a soft bamboo that protects against dust mites. 

Also, the SafeRest 100% Waterproof Queen Size Mattress Protector is another good option, this is also breathable and waterproof so you’ll stay comfortable all night, a queen size of this protector will cost $47.99

How to choose a mattress protector for mold

Mold thrives in damp environments, so it’s really important not to get your mattress wet, and to choose a protector that will combat mold growth.

Unfortunately, some waterproof protectors can trap moisture, creating a breeding ground for mold. So, when you’re choosing your ideal protector, make sure you look out for one with breathable and moisture-wicking properties.

Consider going for materials such as cotton terrycloth, which absorbs moisture whilst allowing air to circulate, or breathable PU, which, again, is waterproof but will breathe. It’s also worth looking for mildew-resistant mattress protectors or ones with anti-microbial properties that will help suppress mold growth. 

Image shows black mold on a mattress and the corner of a scrubbing brush used to clean the mold

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Another thing to look for is whether you can machine wash it. Regular cleaning is crucial when it comes to preventing mold growth. Choose a protector that can not only be machine-washed but also dried on high heat. 

A 100% Waterproof Queen Mattress Protector costs $54.99 at Amazon and is waterproof, breathable and hypoallergenic It can also be washed at a high heat whilst the bamboo fiber gives ultra-soft comfort. Another top choice is the Pure Bamboo protector for $25.99 for a queen at Amazon and protects against moisture, spills, stains, and will keep you feeling comfortable. 

What happens if you don’t use a mattress protector?

It may be tempting to skip buying a mattress protector but they are really important to maintaining the good health of your mattress. For a start, when you don’t have a mattress protector on your bed you’re risking damaging your mattress from stains and spills.

Of course, accidents happen all the time, whether it’s accidentally spilling your morning cup of coffee or a bedwetting incident, you can’t guarantee that your mattress will never face a moisture emergency. But at least when you have a mattress protector, you are protected against these spills. 

Another thing is that we all sweat at night, our body oils leak and go on to the mattress which in turn causes stains. And no one wants a mattress that is full of stains. Not only that but sweat and body oils can cause a damp environment, which is ideal for mold growth which has negative health ramifications as well as causing nasty odors.

Woman cleaning a mattress stained by sweat

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Then there’s the exposure to dust mites and allergens. Over time our dead skin cells, sweat and other dust and debris build up on the mattress and create a breeding ground for dust mites. This then can cause allergic reactions from coughing and sneezing to itchy skin.

Everyday wear and tear can take its toll on your mattress. If you want it to stay fresh and enjoy a long life, then a mattress protector can provide the barrier that you need. Skipping a mattress protector may save you a couple of dollars, but buying one is the perfect investment as you’ll enjoy a cleaner, healthier sleep space.  

When you’re shopping the monthly mattress sales pay close attention to those brands that offer bedding bundles as part of the package. Major mattress retailers such as DreamCloud, Nectar and Sealy offer free bedding bundles with their mattresses.

Rachael Penn

Rachael is a freelance journalist based in South Wales who writes about lifestyle, travel, home and technology. She also reviews a variety of products for various publications including Tom’s Guide, CreativeBloq, IdealHome and Woman&Home. When she’s not writing and reviewing products she can be found walking her Sealyham and West Highland terrier dogs or catching up on some cringe-worthy reality tv.