Four reasons you need a mattress protector

Disclosure: By clicking on the product links in this article, Mattress Nerd may receive a commission fee at no cost to you, the reader. Read full disclosure statement.

A mattress protector might be the most important accessory to have for your mattress. There seems to be a lot of confusion about what a mattress protector does. Often, when I bring up a mattress protector when selling a mattress, I get an immediate “no” as soon as I start talking, the customer fearing being “upsold.” Other times, the customer laughs and proclaims proudly that they don’t “pee the bed,” not realizing all of the other fluids that the human body produces. It baffles me that so many people sleep on mattress without a mattress protector. So what does a mattress protector do?

What does a mattress protector do?

A mattress protector accomplishes four things:

  • Keeps the mattress clean. Human bodies are pretty gross. We all perspire at night. We all produce oil from our skins. Some of us wear makeup. We all also shed dead skin cells. There are other activities that can produce a “wet spot” on the bed. All of this can soak through your sheets and into the mattress. Once a little gets into your mattress, it’s almost impossible to get it out of your mattress. A mattress protector prevents any of that from getting into the mattress and can be taken off and washed.
  • Keeps the mattress feeling in “like new” condition for longer. Perspiration (or any moisture, like spilling a drink) will wear down the foams in the mattress, shortening the comfort life. It’s a similar effect to a kitchen sponge after too many uses. Even if only a little moisture gets through, after years of every night use that adds up. You will need to replace your mattress more quickly without the protector.
  • Helps prevent dust mite allergies from acting up. Dust mite allergies are very common and can lead to issues such as sneezing, runny nose, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Dust mites eat dead skin cells, and there will be dead skin cells in your mattress if you don’t use a protector.
  • Helps protect the warranty. As I mentioned in my warranty post, a stain will void the warranty. Even if the stain has nothing to do with the warranty issue, it still voids the warranty.

For all those reasons, everybody needs a mattress protector.

A mattress protector is different than a mattress pad. Mattress pads generally add some level of padding to the mattress (hence the name,) and is not generally waterproof. Mattress protectors are thin, won’t change the feel of the mattress, and are waterproof. If you buy the correct mattress, you won’t need any extra padding on the mattress, and you get to use the thin, waterproof mattress protector instead.

There are also mattress toppers, which are even thicker than mattress pads. If you use a foam topper, I’d recommend using the mattress protector over the topper, such that it covers both the topper and the mattress.

Types of mattress protectors

There are a few types of mattress protectors. The best protectors will have some sort of performance fabric on the top to wick away heat and moisture from the body. These tend to be the most expensive, but are great for people who sweat a lot at night. These are both waterproof and breathable. An example of this is the Bedgear Dri-Tec protector. This is the one I use.

If you’re concerned about your bedding being all organic, Naturepedic sells organic mattress protectors here.

Another type of protector will also be waterproof and breathable, but won’t have the performance fabric on the top. This tends to be more moderately priced, but has most of the function of the most expensive ones. An example of this is the Protect-A-Bed Premium.

The cheapest type of protector are the ones that feel more like plastic. These tends to be less breathable, and some are less durable but these are less expensive. At the bare minimum, everybody needs at least something like the SafeRest protector, which gets very high reviews on Amazon.


Everybody needs some type of mattress protector on their mattress. Having a mattress without a protector is like having an expensive smartphone without a case. If you don’t have one, get one, even if it’s the cheap one for $30. It’s more sanitary and it could protect your investment, which may have been $1000 or more.

Related articles

What to look for in a good set of sheets

Types of pillows

Tips to not sleep hot

Additional resources

Questions & Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Types of pillows | The Mattress Nerd Says

October 18, 2018 at 11:22 pm

[…] Do you need a mattress protector? […]

How to take care of your mattress | The Mattress Nerd Says

October 16, 2018 at 4:06 pm

[…] The advanced foams in today’s mattresses need to be kept dry. Oils, perspiration, other bodily fluids, food or drink, and just regular humidity can all infiltrate the foams of your mattress and break them down, leading to premature sagging. This is aside from the other reasons to get a mattress protector. […]

Kim Says

September 3, 2018 at 4:21 pm

Hi mattressnerd, My question is: I purchased a memory foam with gel infused mattress.If I buy a breathable mattress protector that won’t take away the coolness of the gel will it?Also;if I purchase a breathable mattress protector for a gel infused mattress topper that won’t take away from the coolness will it. thank you very much. Kim

MattressNerd Says

May 24, 2018 at 9:49 am

You're talking about a six-sided cover with a zipper? Standing it up seems to be the easiest... you can do it however you want though.

Kathy Poetzsch Says

May 24, 2018 at 8:55 am

Can you give me some advice on how to put the vinyl mattress protector on a twin mattress by myself? They recommend you stand it up, but there is no way I can do that alone. Can I gradually work it on over the mattress while it is lying down?

MattressNerd Says

March 13, 2018 at 1:28 pm

Any mattress protector will put a barrier between you and the mattress, but in most cases, the "chemicals" in the mattress stay in the mattress. You're unlikely to rip open the mattress and start scraping the foam. If you're that concerned about "chemicals" in the mattress, I suspect no mattress protector will be secure enough, and you should get an organic mattress. For those, I recommend Naturepedic, and have a review of Naturepedic here.

Marie Myers Says

March 13, 2018 at 1:25 pm

Is there a mattress protector that protects YOU from the mattress (its chemicals, formaldehyde, etc.), or must one buy an organic mattress?

MattressNerd Says

December 20, 2017 at 8:33 am

If you're doing that, you should get Twin XLs, not regular twins. Twin XLs are 80 inches long, just like a king is, so it will better fit the frame. Also, you may want to get mattresses that are a similar height, even if they're different firmnesses.

Manny Says

December 19, 2017 at 10:34 am

We would like 2 single size mattress in king size frame with different types of firmness

4 Simple Ways to Extend Mattress Life| Saatva Sleep Blog Says

August 11, 2016 at 4:05 pm

[…] mattress protector is a great way to maintain the health and cleanliness of your mattress. In addition to keeping your mattress safe […]

Anne Says

June 26, 2016 at 1:57 pm

I was surprised to read your comment, i have looked into Protect a bed and didn't find the same things you have. they seem to have a great company. i just watched and read many other blogs about them. and i didnt find all of the "complaints" that you have. interesting eh?

MattressNerd Says

May 28, 2016 at 9:50 pm

Glad you like it, I like my Dri-Tec as well.

Rachel Says

May 28, 2016 at 4:59 pm

Thanks for this article! I put a nice mattress pad on my fancy new mattress and I found it ruined the feel of the pillow top, and ended up being overkill. Found your article, round a local BedGear retailer, and love the Dri-Tec!!! Returning that mattress pad tomorrow. Thanks again!

MattressNerd Says

May 16, 2016 at 2:54 pm

I've heard a lot of mixed reviews about Protect a Bed. I've had a lot of good luck with bedgear. I just wish more places carried them to make it easier for me to link to and recommend.

V Says

May 16, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Protect a Bed is horrible. Material broke down quickly despite very careful washing care. Warranty ended up being total BS... such a waste of money. Leaving me with a stained a mattress and no cleaning as promised. Now I'm searching for a better solution.

MattressNerd Says

April 12, 2016 at 10:03 am

I don't know exactly which one is most similar to what you had before, but Amazon has a pretty big selection. You might be able to find a similar one there.

MattressNerd Says

April 12, 2016 at 10:01 am

That's rather expensive. You could buy something similar from Amazon for $50 and replace it yourself for less. Unless their offer is $160 for free replacements for life, and you're young, then sure, that's a fine deal.

Saumya Satish Says

April 11, 2016 at 7:23 pm

What about the mattress protectors from Macy's ? They said it costs $160 and they replace for free everytime we need a new one. Please give your feedback on this ? Are they good ? Too expensive ?

Michelle Grosse Says

April 11, 2016 at 6:12 pm

I was sold a wonderful protector when I purchased my new Simmons BeautyRest mattress a few years ago. It's a very thin microfleece that does an amazing job of keeping my mattress pristine. I want to buy another just like it but they don't seem to be available. It is a Guardian Microfleece Mattress Protector. Are you at all familiar with this one? What night be a similar brand that is more widely available? Their website doesn't offer them for some reason so I'll make do with a similar product., if necessary. Thank you. ~Michelle~

MattressNerd Says

April 9, 2016 at 10:56 pm

I don't know about the people on Amazon, but I have used Bedgear's DriTec ones for a while, and they haven't broken down yet.

Elliot Says

April 9, 2016 at 5:34 am

So, I just read your article. The Badgear protector has terrible reviews and many reports of it failing on Amazon. I was sold a Protect-A-Bed by a Sterns and Foster retailer. and it failed and my mattress got stained and it voided the warranty with the springs broke down after 3 years.

MattressNerd Says

November 11, 2015 at 10:20 pm

Gel foams don't cool the mattress. They just warm up slightly more slowly than mattresses that don't have gel foam. That said, if you get a cheap plasticky mattress protector, that can get warm no matter what mattress you get. I have the DriTec by bedgear on my mattress, and it works great. However, I don't think that's being sold anymore. It seems to have been replaced by one called the Ver-Tex. Here's the link. You can also consider the Sleep Tite Omniphase from Malouf. I haven't actually slept on that one, but it's constructed similarly to the one I have. The negative reviews complain about it "not being cool," but I think that's an issue of setting expectations too high. The mattress protector will not keep the mattress cool. It just won't warm it up as much.

Gib Gahan Says

November 10, 2015 at 10:26 pm

What type of mattress protector would you recommend for the "cool" gel foam mattresses like the BeautyRest Hybrids? Seems like something that is water proof would also keep the heat in to the detriment of a cooler mattress?

MattressNerd Says

October 5, 2015 at 10:45 pm

Generally, the biggest sales happen around President's Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, and Black Friday. Other holidays have good discounts as well, but those are the big ones.

rainier emerick Says

October 5, 2015 at 5:17 pm

Where have you been all my life?? I have learned more on this site in the past 30 minutes than I have in 20+ hours of online research. I am looking to purchase 3 new beds (Beautyrest Recharge or similar) from an online retailer in the next 8 months. What is the best time/month to purchase for the best price? Thank you for the info and the great site!

MattressNerd Says

September 1, 2015 at 10:34 pm

Thanks for letting me know. Keeping up with ever-changing links is the bane of my existence these days.

W. Says

September 1, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Looks like the Bedgear link has breathed its last again...

MattressNerd Says

July 31, 2015 at 9:20 am

Good question. I recommend putting the mattress protector over both the topper and the mattress. The foam topper can break down due to sweat just like the foam mattress can. You might as well protect both. The exception would be if you had a really thick mattress, and the protector just wouldn't fit over both the mattress and the topper, but that shouldn't be the case.

evan Says

July 31, 2015 at 12:17 am

Hi! Recently bought a Leesa Queen after reading everything on your site. I upgraded from a 7 year old pillow-top that was sagging horribly in the middle and causing me and my girlfriend mild back pain. I've had the Leesa for a few weeks now and I love it so far. My lower back pain started disappearing almost immediately and I find it quite comfortable. My girlfriend likes it too but she's much lighter than me and finds it to be a little too firm. I just bought a mattress protector (no fluff, strictly for protection) and a mattress down-alternative mattress topper thinking the latter might add a touch of softness for her sake. My question is: Which goes on top of which? That is, does the protector go directly on the mattress with the mattress topper on top of both, OR does the topper go directly on the mattress with the protector on top of both? Thanks!

MattressNerd Says

July 22, 2015 at 8:41 pm

I usually wash the protector when I wash my sheets, and I don't really have a set schedule for that. As far as how to wash it, that depends on the protector. It'll generally have washing and drying instructions on it, though.

Mike Says

July 20, 2015 at 12:00 pm

I keep reading that people washing/dryer their mattress protectors keep wearing down the protector and voiding the warranty of the protector and allowing it to leak. My question is with normal sleeping and routine night time activities, and not including random spills, how often should you clean your mattress protector? What is the best way to wash/dry a protector?

MattressNerd Says

July 2, 2015 at 7:52 pm

Thanks, fixed the link. They're forever changing their links.

Ham Hawk Says

July 2, 2015 at 7:41 pm

FYI, the Bedgear link seems to be broken.

MattressNerd Says

May 29, 2015 at 6:58 am

I personally use the DriTech by Bedgear, and I'm quite happy with it. I haven't used SafeRest, but it gets good reviews. Honestly, as long as you have something, you're in good shape.

chiku Says

May 28, 2015 at 5:22 pm

Which mattress protector you recommend ? SafeRest protector or Bedgear? I just purchased Leesa King based on the review and other reviews.

MattressNerd Says

July 17, 2014 at 10:52 am

I chose to list Protect-A-Bed because it’s a well-known brand (virtually everybody carries them), they get decent reviews on Amazon (there are twice as many 5 star ratings as 1 star ratings), and it’s an average price. I don’t personally own Protect-A-Bed, so I don’t have personal experience with how they operate, but I cannot recommend the mattress protector that I currently *do* have, which is Fabritec. That has fallen apart within a few years, and I need a new one. I know some people who are happy with Dritec by Guardmaster, but they’re much more expensive and the Amazon reviews are weaker. You’ll notice that I do recommend shopping around for other brands of protector. I even say, “Feel free to shop other brands; as long as you have some mattress protector on your mattress, it’s better than nothing.” If you have any recommendation about a specific mattress protector that has worked for you, I’m interested in hearing your suggestion. I may add it to the post. I don’t have any strong loyalty to Protect-A-Bed, it’s just the one that more people would be familiar with that isn’t a crazy price.

confused Says

July 16, 2014 at 2:49 pm

I've gotta ask why you chose to recommend Protect-A-Bed. The top reviews are all horror stories regarding the company's terrible follow-through on the guarantees that come with their products. It seems like they're very low quality products and any time the product is tested (ie. water is spilled) it fails. When the customer sends back the product, the company runs "tests" in their "lab" and then comes back to say that they will not back up their guarantee because the cover wasn't washed properly (even though many claim to have babied it). If it was just one disgruntled customer, that would be one thing, but as you'll notice there are MANY very poor reviews. Apparently the company has a terrible BBB rating with plenty of complaints too.

Sign up for The Mattress Nerd® newsletter: