Extend the life of your bed
Mattresses and many pillows cannot be washed, but can get soiled from perspiration, body fluids, and spills. (Doesn't everyone eat and drink in bed?) The right kind of pad, which protects the top of the mattress, or cover, and the sides, will keep mattress clean and fresh and make it last longer.
The ultimate in protection are mattress protectors (also called encasements), which are zippered and fully encase the mattress. Some are designed only to keep the mattress clean, while others are designed to act as barriers to dust mites. Some protectors are even treated with antimicrobial chemicals. The jury is out about whether these bacteria-inhibiting finishes actually do any good or if they merely hasten the breeding of super-bacteria that are resistant to the chemicals.
Covers and protectors are generally made of a single layer of fabric. Pads, on the other hand, have cushioning designed to make your mattress more comfortable. A thicker type of pad called a "topper" is even more luxurious.
When shopping, look for
- Products that will extend the life of your mattress, including pads, covers, and protectors.
- Wool toppers. These 2- or 3-inch-thick pads can give you many of the benefits of an all-natural mattress at a lower cost. The wool will wick moisture away from your body, which helps keep you cooler on warm nights. And on cool nights, the air pockets between the wool fibers trap your body heat, helping keep you warmer.
- Plain cotton cover. All a pillow needs to keep it clean is a plain cotton (preferably organic) zippered cover, although if you are allergic to dust mites, you may want to buy a pillow protector that serves as a barrier to dust mites.
- Mattress protectors lined with vinyl because of the hazards associated with vinyl production.
...to you and your health
Placing pads, covers, and/or protectors on mattresses and pillows will keep them clean, fresh, and comfortable. The products that serve as a barrier to dust mites can help allergy sufferers.
...to your wallet
Keeping your mattress and pillows clean will help them last longer, which means you'll save money on replacements.
...to the Earth
With less frequent replacements, you'll save energy and other natural resources.
Making assumptions. Some of these products say they are "natural," but actually use a combination of natural and synthetic materials. There's no regulation of the word "natural," so if you want to avoid synthetic fibers, read the label carefully.
Natural-fiber mattress pads, toppers, covers, and protectors can be found in stores where bedding is sold. But there are more choices online. So look around and consider your options before you buy.