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How often should you wash a mattress protector?

Mans hands pulling white mattress protector over a mattress

Just because you don’t sleep directly on top of your mattress protector, doesn’t mean they don’t get dirty like the rest of your bedding. Your sheets and pillowcases should be washed once a week at least, but how often should you wash your mattress protector? Keep reading to find out just how often you should be deep cleaning your mattress protector, and instructions on how to clean several different types. 

What is a mattress protector?

What is a mattress protector? Well, it’s in the name. A mattress protector protects your mattress from dirt, oil, sweat, accidents, and spills so your mattress is safe from damage. Since mattresses are extremely difficult to clean, a mattress protector gives you that extra layer of security. Additionally, a mattress protector can even save you money. It will increase the longevity of your mattress so you’ll be required to replace it less frequently. Considering the “annual expenditure on mattresses in the US has risen by over 50% since 2011, there’s never been a better time to start investing in protection for your mattress”[1]. Mattress protectors can also be more hygienic, as they will collect most of the dead skin and bacteria that otherwise would settle into your mattress, and they can be cleaned more easily. Some mattress protectors also add extra cushion for added comfort or are completely waterproof, to protect kids’ mattresses from accidents. 

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How often should you wash a mattress protector?

Just like pillowcases, sheets, and duvets or comforters, mattress protectors need to be washed often to keep them in their best condition and to stay hygienic. While your regular bedding like sheets and pillowcases should be washed weekly, you can wait a little longer between washing your mattress protector. Carolyn Forte the director of the Cleaning Lab at Good Housekeeping says “it’s only necessary to wash your mattress pad several times per year”[2], or every few months in other words. The frequency of cleaning also depends however on your lifestyle. 

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If your mattress protector is being slept on every night, you should stick to the 2-3 month rule. If your mattress protector is in a guest bedroom that is rarely used, you can stretch that to 6 months. If you sleep with pets, however, you should consider washing your mattress protector more often, about every 1-2 months. Sweat, body oils and sebum, salt, bacteria, dead skin, and dust all make their way into our mattress protector. Even though there is a sheet in between the protector and us, the dust will find a way. Dust mites also flourish in environments like the soft fibers of a mattress protector. Dust and dust mites can cause allergic reactions in allergy sufferers, and the build-up of bacteria in your bedding can cause acne or other skin conditions. So it’s important to give your mattress protector a good clean at least 4 times a year. 

If there is a food or drink spill on the bed that soaks through the sheet and to the mattress protector you should wash it immediately. If food or drink gets trapped in the fibers of the fabric it could begin to rot damaging the mattress protector, and spreading harmful bacteria. Use a spot cleaning solution and a damp sponge to spot clean any small spills or stains, and then use a dry towel to soak up any moisture. Allow the protector to completely dry before making your bed again. You can also spray your mattress protector with Lysol to kill any potential bacteria. If your mattress protector is being used to protect children’s beds and there happens to be an ‘accident’, you should wash it immediately, or consider replacing depending on the damage. 

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Womans hands with red nail polish putting strap of mattress protector over mattress

How do you clean a mattress protector?

Because there are so many different types, there is no one way to clean all mattress protectors. However, we have broken down how to clean the most common types of mattress protectors; cotton, waterproof, foam, and down. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide on how to get the best clean for your mattress protector. 

How to clean a cotton mattress protector

Cleaning a cotton mattress protector is usually quite simple. Always check the care instructions tag first before washing. In general, cotton mattress protectors can be washed in the washing machine and dried in a dryer. They should be cleaned about every 2-3 months[3] depending on a number of factors, for example, whether or not you allow pets to sleep in the bed. Wash your cotton mattress protector in the washing machine with a mild detergent in warm or cool water. Run a gentle cycle with not too much detergent to prevent any soapy residue from damaging the fibers. Tumble dry on the lowest possible temperature and setting, and throw in a couple of dryer balls, or even clean tennis balls to keep your mattress protector fluffy. Make sure your mattress is completely dry before making your bed to avoid any mildew or mold. 

How to clean a waterproof mattress protector

If your mattress protector is waterproofed on one side with a vinyl backer follow these instructions for a deep clean. First, always check the care instructions. If the care instructions permit, wash your vinyl-backed mattress protector in the washing machine in cold or warm water and a gentle cycle, using a mild detergent. Using bleach or hot water can damage the vinyl on your mattress protector, as bleach can eat away at the vinyl, and hot water can even melt it. Dry your mattress protector on the lowest heat possible in your tumble dryer (as long as the care instructions permit). You can also include dryer balls so your protector dries more evenly. 

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How to clean a down mattress protector 

Most down mattress protectors can be machine washed but always check the care instructions tag first. Before you wash, also check for any holes or tears in your down mattress protector. Repair any holes or tears before washing to avoid any feather stuffing coming out in the wash or dryer. You can spot-treat stains before washing with laundry detergent or a spot treating product and allow them to soak for up to 20 minutes. Run a delicate wash cycle with cool water and minimal detergent, as soap residue from too much detergent can damage the down the feathers. You can do an extra rinse to make sure there is no residue. Dry in your tumble dryer at the lowest temperature and throw in some dryer balls to evenly redistribute the filling. Shake out the mattress protector every once in a while to help it dry evenly. Continue drying it until it is completely dry. 

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How to clean a foam mattress protector

Foam mattress protectors can be difficult to wash as they cannot be put in the washing machine, and are very fragile. They can shred and tear or even melt at high heat. Again, always check the care instructions, but in general, foam mattress protectors can be cleaned with the following steps. Your best option for cleaning a lightly soiled mattress protector is to spot clean. First, vacuum both sides, and then spray a spot cleaner on any stains or spills. Use an “enzyme-based cleaner, such as Oxi-Clean or a solution made from equal parts water, distilled white vinegar and lemon juice”[3]. Allow the cleaning solution to sit on the stain for up to 20 minutes, and then remove with a clean damp sponge or towel. Follow up with a clean dry towel to remove any excess. 

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If there have been any major accidents on the mattress protector and it needs to be completely deep cleaned, you can spray the entirety of it with a cleaning solution and allow it to sit for up to 30 minutes. Then, gently wash in the bath or shower. Use a reusable shower head to rinse the mattress protector, or fill the tub slightly with clean water, squeezing the foam to remove the cleaning solution. Avoid tugging or ringing the foam as this can tear it. Keep rinsing and squeezing out the moisture until the water runs clear. Allow the foam mattress protector to dry on a flat surface for several days turning and flipping occasionally to dry evenly. 


Article Sources: 

  1. The Beloit. “How Frequently Should You Wash Your Mattress Protector?
  2. Good House Keeping. “How Often Do You Need to Wash Your Mattress Pad?
  3. Today. “How to clean a mattress pad”