We spend almost 1/3rd of our life sleeping. But, unfortunately, we don’t spend the same time and effort we take to buy a mobile for deciding which mattress to buy. Worse, most people don’t feel the need to use a mattress protector to guard it against the dirt and allergens surrounding them. Let us explore why we need a mattress protector and how to choose the right one.
What Is a Mattress Protector?
A mattress protector is like a fitted sheet that envelopes the mattress and protects it against stains, dirt and allergens. Most of the mattress protectors come with a terry cotton surface which resembles soft bath towels. This makes the surface comfortable to touch and avoids that plasticky feeling. Beneath it, there is a layer of TPU ( Thermoplastic Polyurethane) which makes it waterproof and prevents staining on your mattress.
Most mattress protectors can be washed safely in washing machines.
Cheaper mattress protectors come with Polyurethane (PU) or a vinyl layer for making it waterproof. These layers may disintegrate after a while or even emit unpleasant smells and are best avoided.
Allergens In Your Mattress
The primary reason to use a mattress protector is to protect it from stains. Bloodstains because of mosquitoes and during periods, saliva, sweat and other bodily fluids can stain the mattress even if you use a bed sheet on it.
You can see in the picture below two mattresses of the same brand that are almost 3 years old- the one on the right was covered with a mattress protector, while the one on the left wasn’t. As you can see, the one which was protected looks as good as new, while the other one has been stained badly and looks disgusting.
Equally important is protecting your mattress from allergens. Our body sheds dead skin on which dust mites feed. These dust mites which are invisible to the naked eye, are one of the leading cause of indoor pollution and triggers allergic reactions like sneezing, runny nose and even asthma attacks.
Dust mites live on your bed sheets as well as on unprotected mattresses. By washing bedsheets and towels in 60 C hot water, you can kill these dust mites easily. But if your mattress is infested with dust mites, you may have to use a HEPA vacuum cleaner and run it thoroughly over every nook, corner and crevice to get rid of the dust mites. Anyone who has used vacuum cleaners on mattresses knows that it is no easy feat. Or else, you have to professionally deep-clean it.
Related reading: 6 Vacuum Cleaner Hacks That Work
How To Choose A Mattress Protector?
The first and foremost aspect to look at when buying a mattress protector is the size. It should match the size of the mattress you have. As mattress protectors are stitched like fitted sheets, they should be a perfect match not just in terms of length and width, but also the height of the mattress.
Next, take a look at the material used as the waterproof layer. Ideally, it should be TPU or a polyester blend. Avoid vinyl and Polyurethane which imparts an unpleasant smell.
Finally, ensure that the surface which comes in contact with the bedsheet is made of soft cotton, suede or terry cotton. Sometimes, parents of young children use plastic sheets underneath the mattress to protect it from potty training accidents. But these plastic sheets heat up and as a result, even if you cover them with a bedsheet, kids and adults will feel quite uncomfortable sleeping on them.
Maintaining Mattress Protectors
If maintained correctly, a mattress protector lasts for 3-5 years. The reason it doesn’t last forever is that the waterproof layer degrades slowly over a period of time, especially when you wash it frequently. As a result, stains, dirt and dander may seep through it, defeating the whole purpose of having a mattress protector.
To maintain mattress protectors, clean them immediately if your child or an adult has had an accident. Urine stains can be stubborn if not treated promptly. Also, if the mattress protector is old, the smell may seep into your mattress itself.
Otherwise, wash the mattress protector every 3-4 months following the manufacturer’s instructions. Usually, it is a good idea to wash it in cold or mildly warm temperatures using a mild detergent. Air-dry it in shade and avoid exposure to harsh sunlight as it may result in the waterproof layer crumbling.
Unless specified by the manufacturer, avoid using bleach and fabric softener on mattress protectors. Bleach may damage the waterproof layer and fabric softeners adversely impact the absorption capacity of the terry cotton.