Sleep Accessories

Do I Need a Mattress Protector?

By Jack Mitcham

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?

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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.

Comments (40)

  1. My question is if l put on a mattress protector, do l continue and lay bedsheets on top and another thing do l have to leave the mattress protector all the time . Thanks

  2. I will get a new mattress protector because I am not sure how long mine is guaranteed for. I have many skin allergies and cannot sleep at night lately.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

    • 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.

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

    • 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.

    • 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.

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