June 2020

Mattress protectors and bed covers explained

Mattress protection is something that every mattress and bed should have. It not only can help extend the life of your mattress but can also provide a much-enhanced sleep experience. So if you're buying a new mattress this article is going to explain how a relatively low cost mattress protector will help keep it in tip-top condition for longer.

Updated 2020: Mattress protectors are often an overlooked part of buying a new mattress. Most people tend to dive straight into bed and forget about keeping their new purchase feeling like new for as long as possible. That’s where mattress protectors come into their own. They are relatively inexpensive and can help keep your mattress like new for far longer. This guide will help explain why a mattress protector is an essential component when choosing a new mattress.

A deep mattress with a mattress topper on top
A mattress protector should always be used on a mattress. This guide explains why and how to choose one.

What is a mattress protector?

A mattress protector is usually a cotton or polycotton fitted sheet that is quilted. This relatively inexpensive item is the first line of defence your mattress has against sweat, spills and other fluids. Without this, your mattress may quickly become stained and damaged by nightly use. Think of it as a washable protective cover that sits under your bedding.

Mattress protector on a mattress
A mattress protector is an inexpensive way of ensuring your mattress lasts for years to come.

Do I need a mattress protector?

The simple answer is yes! Most mattress protectors are relatively cheap to buy and are machine washable. Meaning you can wash and clean them alongside your regular bed linen maintenance routine.

How to choose the right mattress protector?

Buying a new mattress protector is relatively easy and nowhere near as detailed as buying a new mattress! Mattress protectors all follow a similar construction method. They are usually a stretch material (containing polyester or another stretch fibre) with elasticated corners so they fit snuggly directly on top of your mattress. The main choice of mattress protectors is the material they are made of:

  • Synthetic / Polyester Mattress Protectors (Cheap easy to replace)
  • Natural fibre blend ie Cotton/Polycotton/Linen Mattress Protectors (More Expensive but breathable)

Mattress protectors are relatively inexpensive, you certainly should be paying more than £40 for a kingsize synthetic one. Natural fibre protectors may reach the £100 mark which is where they start to stray into mattress ‘topper’ territory (more on that below).

Ideally, if you have a natural fibre mattress then you want to mirror this with the mattress protector. There’s no real point putting polyester over a natural fibre mattress reducing its breathability. At the least, a poly-cotton blend is far better than pure synthetic.

How to fit a mattress protector

Fitting a mattress protector is really easy as they usually have elasticated sides. Slide the mattress protector over your mattress (and mattress topper if you have one). The stretch each corner over the matching corners of the mattress. Just like you do with a fitted bedsheet. The short clip below shows how they fit on and off a mattress and mattress topper combination. It also shows how lightweight they are making them ideal for washing compared to the much thicker Natural Latex topper beneath it.

Mattress protectors and covers
Mattress protectors usually use elasticated sides to stretch onto your mattress with ease.

What’s the difference between a mattress protector & mattress topper?

Mattress protectors differ significantly from mattress toppers as they are far thinner. They can be washed and are at a price point where they can be replaced more frequently than a mattress topper. When you start to move towards £100 for a protector it may be worthwhile looking at a mattress topper. Though a protector of some sort should always be used.

John Ryan Latex Topper For Fusion Range
Mattress Toppers are more substantial than a protector and add comfort layers to your mattress.

Mattress toppers are separate items of bedding that you add yourself to the mattress in order to increase the level of longevity to the built-in primary layer and also to add a separate layer of primary comfort layer to suit you. Mattress toppers can help tweak and perfect your mattress along with offering them protection. Mattress toppers act as a comfort layer where a protector does not.

  • A mattress protector can be washed and removed easily
  • A mattress topper will increase the comfort layers of a mattress
  • A protector will offer no comfort difference to a mattress
  • A mattress protector should be washed with your bed linen
  • A topper usually can’t or shouldn’t be washed. (this disturbs the fillings and they’re usually too large for a washing machine)
  • A protector is still required on top of a mattress topper


A mattress protector should always be used, even if you have a topper.
A mattress protector should always be used, even if you have a topper.
Natural protectors/toppers are always preferable. They are more breathable and don't retain as much heat as synthetic covers
Natural protectors/toppers are always preferable. They are more breathable and don't retain as much heat as synthetic covers

The best type of mattress topper

Yes. The general rule of thumb is that the upholstery used to make the topper should be ‘in keeping’ with what is used as the primary layer within the mattress. This means that if the mattress has a wool or wool and cotton primary layer, the topper should also be built with the same or similar upholstery components. On the other side of the scale, a latex mattress should have an additional topper consisting of latex, a memory foam mattress should have a topper consisting of memory foam.

If you have read the techniques of mattress construction in another post you will know that as you get higher up the mattress to the actual sleeper, the material has to get softer. This thesis stops when the mattress is fully constructed and you start again using the mattress as the support element and begin again to add further bridging and comfort layers in the form of toppers.

If we look again at the Savoir Royal State, we see that the primary comfort layer in the mattress is carded cashmere wool, one of the softest and most luxurious primary layers in any mattress. But if we look at what toppers are placed on top of this, we see that the first one is a horsetail foundation with carded cashmere as the primary. The second topper is loose horsetail completely encased in lambswool. The toppers they utilised on this mattress set are not softer than the carded cashmere within the mattress, but they start using what can be deemed as relatively firmer components and going softer as you get closer to the users body.

Why are mattress toppers useful?

Now we have discussed the difference between mattress protectors and mattress toppers its important to look more closely at toppers. Mattress toppers are useful for two main reasons:

1. Adding additional Comfort layers to your mattress
2. Aiding in the longevity of your mattress

A hand made mattress topper
Mattress toppers increase comfort and extend the lifespan of your mattress.

1.Additional Comfort Layers

Mattress toppers will never firm up a mattress but can increase the comfort layers. They will help increase the sink and upholstery feel of a mattress. This is particularly useful in helping even the most high-end mattress provide the absolute best comfort possible. As toppers are separate they can be turned, fluffed up and rotated just like your mattress. Meaning you can help keep them in a nearly new state for longer. It’s far easier to revive a topper than an entire mattress.

Understanding this, we can go on to say that the topper will in effect be an additional substantial comfort layer that there was no room on the mattress to include. The topper will be making what is essentially a fabulous mattress even more fabulous. If you add two well, you will certainly be in heaven!

2.The longevity of the mattress

Taking all the above on board, we can now understand the basic principles. It now stands to reason that if you were to sleep directly on the mattress there is nothing there to combat the three main enemies to your mattress:

1. Body Perspiration
2. Dead skin cells and bacteria
3. Undue Settlement and Indentations

Even by themselves should give cause for concern, but when all three are considered and this is a fact of life, not pseudo scare tactics of which we are vehemently opposed to, should impress upon you the absolute validity of utilising toppers with your mattress. Going back to the questions we received over the years, we have concluded that the more you have paid for your mattress the more essential the topper element is.

The additional benefits you get from utilising toppers will, in the long run, pay dividends, so you should not be looking at this purchase as an expense, but insurance that your mattress will be lasting – and staying as new as possible for a greater period of time. When the topper has taken all it can after the brunt of nightly activities, it is a small expenditure to replace as necessary rather than reaching the stage where the complete mattress requires replacement.

Bedroom flowers on White Duvet


Over the years we have all purchased, tried, sampled and discussed the merits of all protectors and mattress toppers in general. Our conclusions are that you do not have to go to enormous expense although we say to steer away from ultra-cheap versions particularly if they are the feathered variety. In our experience, there is far too little material in them to be of any use or benefit.

With both toppers and protectors the more natural the fibres contained within the better your sleep experience will be. A protector is a must have for any mattress, whereas a topper is for those who want the absolute finest sleeping comfort!

We have our own range of contemporary single and double mattress toppers, in particular, we specialise in high-quality latex mattress toppers, perfect to provide that initial sink to a bed without losing the support or getting too hot, unlike memory foam counterparts. We would love to hear your views on toppers so ask a question or get in touch for further help. Alternatively, for more information on bed toppers, read our article on bed toppers.

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