How to wash a mattress protector: A 5-step guide for a squeaky clean sleep

Not sure how to wash a mattress protector? Whether you pop it in your washer-dryer or clean it by hand, our tutorial will make sanitizing this bed accessory a breeze.

Eve mattress protector
(Image credit: Eve)

Not knowing how to wash a mattress protector isn't something you should sleep on. Whether your bed looks clean, or it presents tangible signs that it needs a little TLC, the removable item that sits on top of your mattress should be sanitized every now and again.

You shouldn't just be looking for significant marks and stains to trigger a clean. Odors can often indicate that bacteria, dust mites, bed bugs, and other nasties are present, and of course, some of these things can't be seen by the naked eye...

And, while some of the best mattress protectors on the market claim to provide some protection against pests and skin irritants, disinfecting your topper needs to be done occasionally as a preventative measure to stop mold and other organic matter to thrive.

How to wash a mattress protector

The good news is that you don't need to send your mattress protector off to a specialist service or spend money on expensive equipment. All you need is your washing machine and some household items you'll likely already have to hand. 

So whatever your reason for needing a mattress protector, be it to alleviate the symptoms of any allergies, increase the longevity of your best mattress, or... if you tend to be a little clumsy when eating or drinking in bed... You should be able to get good results.

You may need

1. A vacuum cleaner with brush attachment/handheld vac
2. A mild
laundry detergent
3. A soft cleaning cloth:
get one from Amazon (opens in new tab)
4. Your
washing machine

Prior to bunging your bed accessories in your washer, you'll want to check it for any damage. Using your washing machine to clean your cover without glancing over it first could impair the item and may even break your appliance in the process.

'Before you finally put up the mattress protector for washing, you must check for any signs of damage, like holes, wear, or tears. If these holes are left unrepaired, they could fill your washing machine with fluff and even empty mattress protectors.' warns Eric Jones, CEO, Couture Candy (opens in new tab)

1. Remove dirt and debris

We spoke to Martin Seeley, a startup enthusiast, entrepreneur, CEO, and Founder of Mattress Next Day (opens in new tab) notes how 'First and foremost, you need to remove any and all materials that may be on the mattress protector. This includes sheets, blankets, pillows, and anything else that might be on the surface.' 

Next 'You can use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to gently remove any dirt or debris that may be on the surface.' Think pet hair, dust, dirt from mucky feet and all the rest.

2. Spot clean and pre-treat stains

Next, you'll want to do any pre-stain treatments beforehand. Seeley adds 'Once you've vacuumed the surface, you can start spot-cleaning any areas that seem to be particularly dirty. You can use a mild detergent and a soft cloth for this purpose.'

 'If there are serious stains, it’s better to work on them before throwing the mattress protector into the washing machine.' explains Alex Savy, a certified sleep science coach and the Founder of SleepingOcean.com (opens in new tab).

'If you're removing blood from bedding, the stain needs to be pre-soaked in cold water mixed with a bit of salt. When dealing with urine stains, it’s better to soak the mattress protector in a mix of lukewarm water, dish soap, and half a tablespoon of ammonia solution (opens in new tab).'

Tony Klespis, also a certified sleep science Coach, and Sleep Accessories Editor at Mattress Clarity says that you can also 'use a mixture of equal parts hydrogen peroxide (opens in new tab), dish soap, and water in a spray bottle (opens in new tab). Simply spray this on your mattress protector and blot it out to tackle stains.'

3. Target lingering odors with baking soda

If your mattress protector is particularly smelly, try adding in a baking soda step as recommended by Klespis. 'You can use baking soda to clean your mattress protector and get rid of any pesky odors!'' This will work best by sprinkling it on then spraying it with water and letting it soak for a while before the main wash.

4. Hand wash or use the machine (on the right setting)

Just as you'd check the labels on your clothing when doing laundry, you also need to do your due diligence when washing a mattress protector. 

Seeley continues 'When you're finished spot-cleaning, you can put the mattress protector in the washing machine. Be sure to use a gentle cycle and mild detergent.'

We spoke to Larry Snider, VP of Operations of Casago Vacation Rentals (opens in new tab) who says: When cleaning your mattress protector, be sure to check the label. Depending on the brand and type, there will be different care instructions and you'll want to follow them in order to protect the quality of the mattress protector. The label will tell you the temperature of water you should use, the dryer cycle that works best, and whether any special washing practices are recommended.

Amar Vig, managing director, London-fs (opens in new tab)adds: 'A true mattress protector is machine-washable, unlike mattress toppers. This accessory ranges from fabric that acts like a fitted sheet to others that protect against dust mites and liquids.'

'Mattress protectors should be washed in lukewarm water with a mild laundry detergent on the gentle cycle. We want to remind you of the risks of bleach, dry cleaners, and hot water. Rinse after washing. Soap and suds can promote mold and mildew on mattress protectors. Before using the material, dry it thoroughly to prevent fungal growth.'

Brad Hall, co-founder, and CEO of SONU Sleep (opens in new tab) actually recommends a cold water cycle. 'You want to clean your mattress protector carefully because of the important job it does... Hand wash your mattress protector in cold water.'

5. Let it dry completely

Our experts recommend that however you wash your protector, you should ensure it's completely dry before putting it back on the bed. Hall says once washed, 'Then let it air dry completely before fitting it back onto your mattress in order to prevent bacteria buildup. Avoiding the dryer is important because heat will not only shrink your fitted mattress protector but will also begin to deteriorate the wet-wicking elements that keep your mattress clean and dry.' he adds.

However, Geoff McKinnen, a certified sleep coach at Amerisleep (opens in new tab) has a different viewpoint on the drying process. He says: 'You can either put your mattress protector in the dryer or air dry it under the sun or by a fan. If you choose to tumble dry it, do so with similar fabrics, but be sure to use a low heat and low tumble setting. After the topper is completely dry, it’s ready to use. Don’t iron your mattress protector as excessive heat damages the waterproof lining.'

How often should you clean a mattress protector?

'You'll want to make sure that you're washing your mattress protector about once per month,' says Grace Baena, interiors curator, and director of brand at Kaiyo (opens in new tab)

'If you suffer from allergies then you might want to increase the frequency to about once every two weeks. Because the mattress protector is covered by the bottom sheet, it doesn't need to be washed as often as your sheets – but it should still be washed regularly.'

And, of course, if you like to host friends and family overnight in a guest room, it's essential that you clean the mattress protector either side of their stay. The same goes for if you've been ill for example with a cold or flu, for obvious reasons.

'Always wash your mattress protector before and after guests visit. If the mattress protector isn’t being used regularly, there’s no need to wash it as often as other protectors. However, you should still clean it every two to three months to avoid dust build-up.' explains McKinnen.

What not to do when cleaning a mattress protector

As well as avoiding harsh detergents with bleach and chlorine, extreme heat is also something that your mattress protector shouldn't be subjected to as it can shrink and destroy the special textile matter that makes protectors, (in particular waterproof mattress protectors), function the way that they do.

'We don’t recommend dry-cleaning mattress protectors, as the heat can ruin the waterproof material.' says McKinnen.

A headshot of Martin Seeley, CEO and co-founder of Mattress Next Day
Martin Seeley

With over three decades of industry experience, Seeley's aim is for you to save money and sleep happy - the very next day. MattressNextDay stocks a range of products from well-known brands such as Silentnight (opens in new tab), Sleepeezee (opens in new tab), and many more, with a proven track record for great quality products and customer care.

A headshot of Alex Savy, certified sleep coach and founder of Sleeping Ocean
Alex Savy

Having written over 100 articles about sleep and sleep-related products, Alex Savy enjoys diving deep into the topic and discovering what can help people get a good night’s rest. He has reviewed over 20 products, including mattresses, toppers, pillows, and sheets, and makes mattress video reviews on YouTube, sharing important specs with the audience.

A headshot image of Brad Hall, CEO of SONU Sleep wearing blue blazer suit jacket and white shirt
Brad Hall

Brad received his healthcare background early on working as a pharmacist. In 2013, he then jumped into corporate leadership until co-founding SONU Sleep in 2019.

Geoff McKinnen

Geoff McKinnen is a writer focusing mainly on the healthcare industry and has written articles on everything from foods to help you lose weight to the connection between Alzheimer’s and sleep. He is passionate about helping readers improve their well-being to lead happier lives.

If peeling off your protector has revealed any stains on your bed, we've got a whole guide on how to clean a mattress too. Our stain removal methods include commercial cleaning products, eco-friendly supplies, and natural treatments you might find in your kitchen pantry.

Christina joined the Real Homes team as a digital writer in June 2021. Prior to this, she worked for Good Homes magazine and home interest events including the Ideal Home Show and Grand Designs Live. She lives close to Epping Forest and is spoiled for choice with lush green spaces, but loves her own English garden that adjoins her ground-floor maisonette, complete with a floral melange of roses, lavender, jasmine, and an apple tree.


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