The Many Guises of Mattress Covers
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Mattress covers seem to have so many names that it’s all got a bit confusing. What’s the difference between a mattress cover, a mattress pad, a mattress protector, a mattress topper and an underpad? Well, here we look at the features and variations you will come across in covers, sheets or pads that will sit on top of the mattress or entirely wrap around it to essentially protect your mattress from damage, rather than adding any comfort to it.
A mattress cover really has one goal and that’s to keep stains and wear and tear from damaging your mattress, which of course will nullify your warranty. That’s an important function because you want to make sure that your $2500 Tempurpedic mattress lasts the ten to twenty years that you were told it would. For the minimal cost of a mattress cover it would seem to make sense to protect your investment.
Mattress toppers, on the other hand, while they will certainly protect your mattress, are made with comfort layers of memory foam and latex that are primarily made to keep you more comfortable when you sleep. They work out expensive if you buy them just as a protector.
Going back to mattress covers then, what choices are available when you are searching for your protector? What should you be looking for?
Well firstly there are covers that sit on top and tie to the corners of the mattress or grip the edges with an elastic fitting, or those that envelop it completely. The simplest form is a lightly-quilted fitted sheet, which will be very cheap but may not really provide much protection against spilled liquids, excessive perspiration or dust-mites. Others are more like quilted sheets and these will usually be made of breathable cotton and polyester – the higher the thread count the more silky they will feel, but normally you will use with sheets on top anyway.
Other, waterproof mattress covers, will be thicker and will be treated to make them resistant to liquids. They can be flat rubberized flannel pads (usually used for kids) or, more likely, special breathable covers. Another benefit of this type is that they will prevent formation of mold in the mattress, which can bring on allergic reactions.
Some mattress covers will be aimed at protecting the sleeper from other allergies, especially those brought on by dust-mites, whose waste products can irritate the lungs and bring on breathing or skin reactions, especially in small children. These covers will usually completely encase the mattress and will have a zip for easy fitting over the mattress.
There are also heated mattress covers. Here we are moving away again from the protective function of these covers into the comfort function. These are obviously more popular in cold climates and are usually remote controlled, allowing you to heat up the top of the bed before you get in, and then adjust it easily during the night.
Whatever your choice of mattress cover, it is best to find one that is relatively easy to remove and that can be machine-washed regularly to keep it stain and odor-free.