Before considering the different types of protection available for your future mattress, let's go back to the importance of protecting it.
Protecting your mattress: a necessity as much for its life as for yours!
The first reason to offer protection is simple: it allows the mattress to last longer! How does it do this? By preventing moisture from penetrating the mattress. This is crucial, because moisture is one of the main causes of mold formation and early sagging. Moisture should therefore be avoided if you want to keep your mattress as long as possible! However, you will be able to limit breakage with mattresses that promote maximum ventilation, such as the Polysleep foam mattresses.
Second point that will shorten its useful life: the sleeping surface if it’s not clean. An unprotected bed will be the preferred terrain for dust mites and dust that will accumulate. If you're allergic to it all, hold on to your hat! Your nights will be greatly affected by the discomfort of your symptoms. But don't think you're out of the woods if you don't suffer from allergies: your bed will smell like death without protection. Not very attractive for you and your bed partner! So both allergies and bad odours caused by an unprotected bed will make you want to change mattresses in the long run.
The difference between a mattress pad or protector: it's all about protection!
The mattress pad and mattress protector are the most commonly used protections. However, a primordial variable distinguishes them: impermeability. While the mattress pad offers a completely waterproof surface, the mattress protector does not. It only insulates your mattress from dust and dust mites. However, it is not very absorbent and can be a good barrier against sweat, as long as you change/wash it every week!
What are the different shapes available for mattress pads/protectors?
There are three different shapes of mattress pads and mattress protectors:
The so-called "tray" shape
These mattress pads/protectors are presented in the form of a sheet with four elastics (one at each corner), which will slide under the mattress for effective support. The sides are usually not covered.
The "fitted sheet"
Here, the elastics are replaced by "cups" forming the corners of this type of mattress protector. Not only is the top protected, but also the sides!
Here, all sides of the mattress will be protected since the cover completely encapsulates the mattress. This type of mattress pad/protector closes with a zipper.
Each of these shapes has the disadvantages of its advantages. With the same material, it is obvious that a tray mattress protector will provide better air circulation since it only covers the sleeping surface. The "fitted sheet" type will offer an interesting in-between since, in addition to protecting the sleeping surface, it also protects the lateral sides. On the other hand, the underside of the mattress will be in the open air. The integral risers offer maximum protection, but this will have the disadvantage of offering less optimal ventilation.
The different materials that can make up a draw sheet/mattress cover
First of all, the more the weight of the fabric increases per square foot, the better it will be absorbed. Now, concerning the materials themselves, there’s:
Made of 100% cotton or polycotton (a hybrid of synthetic and cotton), it is a knitted fabric that offers the mattress pad/protector an interesting suppleness, elasticity and lightness. This material is very common for mattress pads/protectors that take the shape of a fitted sheet.
Materials with waterproof properties
The mattress pad has an additional material with water repellent properties that can be:
This is the well-known PVC. However, it is used less and less because it offers poorer air circulation than polyurethane.
In addition to offering more optimal ventilation, it also has a lot of flexibility and lightness. It’s also less noisy than PVC when you move around.
A natural material from a tree called hevea, latex has a surprising softness, while efficiently evacuating heat. However, the mattress pads that contain it cannot be machine-washed, which makes them more difficult to maintain.
Finally, although some mattress pads/protectors can be made entirely of non-allergenic materials such as organic cotton, others have been treated to fight against the proliferation of dust mites and/or bacteria. So, depending on the material used, it will be important to care for your mattress protector or mattress pad according to the manufacturer's precise recommendations, especially regarding washing. Otherwise, you risk damaging it or even losing its original properties. So be careful!
Mattress protector vs. mattress pad: when to choose one over the other?
There is no clear answer to this question. Indeed, it all depends on who will sleep on the mattress, but also on the season and the sleeper's allergies.
If you get hot quickly
Choose a mattress protector, which will be more breathable (no waterproof material as a barrier).
Sponge mattress protector
Hybrid sponge and polyurethane mattress pad
If you perspire a lot or if the mattress protector is for a person with cleanliness problems, opt for one that will not let any liquid through.
Prefer heat-retaining materials. This way, a fleece mattress protector or draw sheet will be perfect! If your mattress protector is made of PVC, it will be less annoying because the reduced air circulation will allow your body to be warmer when it is cold. Perfect if you are easily cold!
Finally, a word of caution: carefully check the composition of your mattress protector or draw sheet. In fact, possible chemical treatments to make it antimicrobial may be potentially harmful to your health and/or cause allergies, as with latex.
Learn more: What is an antimicrobial agent and how can it improve my mattress?
Conclusion: The protection of your bed is essential. However, there’s not a solution that is always better than the others!
Ultimately, protecting your mattress will make it last longer, by preventing moisture from penetrating it. Two types of protection are available: the mattress pad and the mattress protector. These come in the form of an elasticated tray, a fitted sheet, or a complete cover. However, there is a fundamental difference between them: while the mattress protector is not waterproof, the mattress pad is. But this impermeability makes it less breathable. However, it's all relative: it depends on the materials chosen. For example, mattress pads and protectors can be made of "sponge", a material offering optimal ventilation. On the other hand, fleece is known to retain heat.
The mattress pad, for its part, will always have an additional waterproofing material (PVC, polyurethane or latex). Finally, some mattress pads/protectors have undergone chemical treatments to make them anti-microbial. As such, you will have to pay attention to their composition if you are allergic, but also to maintain them properly so that they keep their properties.
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