Life is messy. Things get dirty; things tear; things get stained. Nobody likes to think about it, but the truth is far from pretty - even while we're sleeping, we're sweating, dropping hairs and shedding dead skin cells all over our nice, clean mattresses and pillows.

Why do we deny this truth so intently? Nobody knows for sure, but our Brand Name staffers have got a hunch - we pretend that we don't shed gunk during the night so we have an excuse to clean our mattresses and pillows way less frequently than we probably should. But, luckily, there's a simple way to fight the mess AND avoid the necessity of constant cleaning.

What is this simple solution, you ask?

Well, all you've got to do is zip or strap your mattress into a high-quality, cleanliness tested organic mattress protector!

We've talked about toppers (see here). We've chatted about pads (head over here). But the truth is there's still another way to keep your mattress clean and critter-free - and, in our personal opinion, it's the most effective and efficient solution of all. Of course, as with all bedroom items, there are a staggering amount of mattress protector types and varieties currently available for purchase. Luckily - and also as always - the Brand Name staff are right here with a handy dandy guide to introduce you to the very best protectors on the market!

​What is a Mattress Protector?

A mattress protector is a, usually fairly thin, piece of material which is placed around a mattress in order to keep it safe from stains, insects, mold or other daily dangers. Unlike mattress toppers or pads, protectors typically wrap around the entire mattress and cover all four sides rather than simply being placed on top. In fact, mattress protectors are often visually similar to simple sheets, to the point that the only difference between your mattress protector and your fitted sheet might be the presence of straps, zips or Velcro!

Typically, a mattress protector serves as the outermost layer of the mattress setup itself. It is placed below the fitted sheet but above any toppers, padding or other similar add-ons. Most protectors have a specific method of fastening or attaching them to the mattress below so that they will not shift around or slip off during the night. Even the most restless of sleepers can safely utilize a mattress protector without having to worry about dislodging it in the midst of their tossing and turning!

The most common types of mattress protector, categorized by the method of fitting or attaching them, include:

  • Fitted protectors, which have "cupped," elastic corners that slip over the mattress's corners, similar to a common fitted sheet

  • Garterized protectors, which have straps made from elastic or Velcro that fasten across the bottom of the mattress

  • Zippered protectors, which enclose the mattress entirely and are closed with a secure metal or plastic zipper

As with mattresses, toppers, pillows, sheets and blankets, mattress protectors can also be made from a wide variety of different materials. These can be divided into all-natural materials, such as cotton, bamboo, natural latex or occasionally wool, and synthetic materials, which include polyester and vinyl. (As with all bedroom accessories, it is usually also possible to purchase "blended" protectors, which are made from a mix of one natural material and one synthetic material, such as cotton and polyester or rayon and bamboo). Thicker mattress protectors - sometimes considered to be topper-protector hybrids, which focus on both comfort and protection - may also contain a thin layer of down stuffing in the middle.

​Why Should You Use a Protector?

The benefits associated with using a mattress protector are practically uncountable. They are thin enough that they usually do not impact your comfort in one way or another, while providing protection from any number of problems both human and animal in source. Whether you find yourself sweating through each humid summer night or helplessly battling a dust mite invasion, a lightweight, high quality, organic mattress protector is exactly the solution you've been looking for.

First and foremost, mattress protectors repel stains and prevent them from being absorbed into the mattress below. Your mattress will be completely free from sweat, skin oils, stray hairs and dead skin cells - not to mention accidental emissions of additional bodily fluids such as urine or menstrual blood. For the most part, the protector will reject stains entirely - however, should it pick up any of the stains, it will be significantly easier to clean and launder than a thick, bulky, awkward to maneuver mattress could ever be.

In addition to "human" stains such as sweat, your organic mattress protector will also be effective against nasties of many other varieties. Insects such as dust mites and even the bafflingly persistent bedbugs will find that your properly protected mattress provides only the unfriendliest of environments, and will be completely deterred from making your bed their new home. Rot will not set in as your mattress remains fully clean and dry at all times. Mold, mildew and bacteria will have nowhere to grow or establish themselves when faced with your protector's state of the art anti-microbial properties.

If that wasn't enough to have you purchasing a protector, there's even more! Studies have shown that protected mattresses experience much longer lifespans than those which are not similarly wrapped up. On average, mattresses covered by a protector will take far longer to begin to show signs of wear and tear. They are also less likely to develop rips or snags in their outermost layer which can cause certain stuffings to leak out, ending the mattress's time prematurely. Not only that, but certain mattress manufacturers offer significantly better warranty options for mattresses which remain in pristine condition as long as possible.

Protectors can even safeguard your own personal health in addition to the health of your mattress! Recent studies have identified dust mites as one of the most common household allergens. Because dust mites feed on the flakes of human skin, a significantly serious infestation can provoke reactions in sleepers at any stage in their life, regardless of whether or not they had previously had a mite allergy. Dust mites can irritate the skin, leading to raised, itchy red bumps, hives and rashes. They can even affect the sensitive skin on the interior of the throat and nasal passages, causing shortness of breath - which, of course, can force you awake in the middle of the night as you feel your ability to breathe rapidly slipping away. With a mattress protector, you will be able to keep your bed completely safe from dust mites, and eliminate the risk of experiencing these potentially dangerous symptoms entirely.

Dust mites are not the only household irritant which can potentially result in negative reactions and the rapid or gradual deterioration of the sleeper's health. Various types of mold and mildew can damage the lungs and respiratory system if they are breathed in night after night. Not only will your health be at risk, but the quality of your sleep will decline as coughing, wheezing, nausea and the inability to breathe properly keep sleep from you night after restless, uncomfortable night.

On top of all of these amazing benefits, mattress protectors are extremely easy to clean and disinfect, further decreasing the risk that insects or bacteria will make their home in your bed. Most mattress protectors can be safely laundered on a gentle wash cycle with sheets or other similar household items. For extra protection, we recommend allowing your protector to air-dry in a warm, dry, sunlit location at least once per month.

​Special Types for Extra Protection

While most mattress protectors have excellent all-around protective properties, you can also purchase a model which has been specifically treated to repel one type of environmental nasty. This can be helpful if you live in a certain environment or area which makes, for example, a dust mite invasion more likely than an incursion by bedbugs, or mildew far more likely to infest your mattress than infectious bacteria. While the sub-types of mattress protector available are practically infinite, commonly encountered ones include:

  • Dust mite protectors, which are usually made from organic, hypoallergenic material and treated with anti-microbial ingredients or compounds. Keep in mind, even if your protector has been specially treated with ways to repel dust mites, you should still make sure to wash it regularly - along with your pillows, sheets, blankets and all other bedroom accessories. Keeping your bed clean is the number one way to keep dust mites away, as it decreases the amount of dead skin flakes, on which dust mites feed

  • Bedbug protectors, which typically enclose the entire mattress and are fastened with a solid zipper. Unlike other types of high quality mattress protector, which are usually made from all natural organic materials, bedbug protectors should ideally be made from thick synthetic materials such as polyester or polypropylene, possibly treated with ingredients to further increase strength. This is because bedbugs are often able to chew through thinner, softer fabrics and can often make a tasty meal out of something like cotton or bamboo
  • Waterproof protectors, which are specifically designed to prevent liquid stains from penetrating the protector and reaching the mattress. These are recommended for the beds of infants, young children, the elderly or anyone else who has difficulty holding their urine through the entire night. However, if you live in a hot, humid climate and frequently find yourself sweating at night despite purchasing the most breathable of mattress and pillow, you might find that you receive a lot of benefit from a heavily waterproofed mattress protector. These types of protector are often made entirely from vinyl or are layered, featuring an outer layer of soft, hypoallergenic, organic natural fabric and an inner layer of vinyl which completely prevents any liquid from seeping through.

Which type of special protector you purchase will, of course, depend on the particulars of your unique situation. However, unless you are looking for something specifically designed to repel a bedbug invasion, our recommendation here at Brand Name would be to purchase an organic mattress protector. Why organic? Well, keep reading to find out why...

​What is an Organic Mattress Protector?

The definition of "organic" is "made entirely from naturally occurring materials, containing no synthetic ingredients whatsoever." We talk more in depth about this definition in our introduction to organic mattresses here, and also discuss organic toppers here and organic pillows  over here.

When it comes to mattress protectors, the most commonly used organic material is cotton. This is because it is easy and sustainable to harvest, safe and environmentally friendly to manufacture, inexpensive to purchase, completely hypoallergenic, and reacts well with special antimicrobial treatments such as those discussed in the preceding section. However, several other organic materials can also be used to manufacture mattress protectors, including bamboo, flannel, natural latex, muslin, corn film, hemp, linen (made from the flax plant) and wool. Some protectors may also be stuffed with a thin layer of natural latex, a thick sap-like substance tapped from the rubber tree, or down, which are soft feathers harvested from the chests and backs of ducks and geese.

​Why Choose an Organic Mattress Protector?

Organic mattress protectors are just as strong and effective as those made from synthetic ingredients. They keep you completely safe from all molds, mildews and bacteria as well as human bodily fluids, dust mites, bedbugs and other nasty insects. However, they are far more effective when it comes to keeping your own self healthy in the process.

Why is this the case? Well, to be considered organic, a mattress protector cannot simply be made from natural materials and ingredients. It also cannot be treated with any harmful or potentially dangerous synthetic chemicals. A cotton, bamboo or linen mattress protector is guaranteed to be completely chemical-free! However, on the other hand, polyester, polypropylene, vinyl and other similar manmade materials are composed entirely from bizarre chemical compounds with long, unpronounceable names.

But just what is it about these chemicals which makes them so dangerous in the first place? The first reason is the risk which they present to your own health and the condition of your body. Many of these materials contain chemicals which can potentially damage internal organs such as the lungs, liver and kidneys. And while you're sleeping, you are in constant contact with these chemicals - you're both breathing them in AND absorbing them through your skin as it comes in contact with the mattress protector and stays there for 7-8 uninterrupted hours.

However, non-organic mattress protectors don't just pose a danger to your own health. In addition, they come with severe risks to the health of the very planet on which we live. Many of the chemicals involved in the production of synthetic materials are classified as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or ozone depleters. What do these names mean, exactly? These chemicals are capable of transitioning from a solid/liquid form into a gaseous one at extremely low temperatures, often around average room temperature. In their gas forms, these chemicals attack and destroy ozone contained in Earth's atmosphere. Because ozone performs the vital duty of keeping us safe from the harsh, damaging rays of the sun, its ongoing destruction is a major issue which affects all of humanity.

In general, organic mattress protectors are the safest, most environmentally friendly option. You'll avoid allergic reactions from dust mites or other nasties while also keeping your internal organs - and the entire planet! - safe from attacks by harsh synthetic chemicals.  They are even safe and healthy enough to be used by children and infants with no associated health risks. You can extend your mattress's lifespan by several years and protect it from environmental and household dangers while still enjoying peaceful, uninterrupted sleep night after night.

To learn more about other ways to protect your mattress, such as mattress pads or mattress toppers, check out our other helpful articles here and here. Alternately, if you're interested in converting your entire bedroom set into environmentally friendly, organic pieces, you can read all about organic mattresses here and organic pillows right over here. And, of course, if you're interested in purchasing some of these safe, healthy, sustainable bedroom items for yourself, you can check out our mind-bendingly extensive catalog of natural latex goods found here!

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