A mattress cover is typically defined as the ‘native’ removable or non-removable encasement provided by the manufacturer to protect the core layers of the mattress.
However, a mattress cover is also often referred to as a mattress protector that can be bought separately and is designed to protect the mattress from spills, stains, and damage.
But neither a native mattress cover or a separately bought mattress protector is the same as a mattress topper which – whilst theoretically offering some protection – is primarily designed to alter the firmness, feel, and comfort of the mattress.
Similarly, a mattress pad is a thinner version of a mattress topper that’s designed to alter the firmness of the mattress to influence the comfort – whilst providing some collateral protection.
All this terminology can make it incredibly difficult to figure out if your mattress cover can be washed or not – further complicated by the fact that some mattress covers can be machine washed; whilst others can only be hand-washed, spot cleaned, dry cleaned, or cannot be washed at all.
Here’s the simplest and most concise answer that I can give you:
Removable ‘native’ mattress covers that come with the mattress can often be machine washed, hand-washed, or dry cleaned – whilst non-removable mattress covers can typically only be spot cleaned, or cannot be cleaned at all. Separately bought mattress covers/protectors can usually be machine washed.
The most practical and actionable advice that I can give you is to check the instructions/label for your individual mattress cover as this is the best way to find out if your mattress cover can be washed or not.
But you really need to get this right.
Because if you get this wrong for your native mattress cover, you could end up voiding the warranty, damaging the material, or even shrinking the cover so much that you can’t put it back over the mattress.
And using the wrong technique or temperature to wash your separately bought mattress cover/protector could impede its functionality.
There’s also the added complication of removing a mattress cover that shouldn’t be removed – potentially releasing fiberglass into your bedroom (more on this later).
And whilst you may be tempted to skip cleaning your mattress cover altogether to avoid potential issues, it’s critical to note that doing so may result in the build-up of dust mites, bacteria, mold, sweat, dead skin cells, and other particles that could potentially lead to an allergic reaction, skin irritation, bad smells, or a very unhygienic mattress at the very least.
That’s why I’ve provided some more specific guidance for finding out which types of mattress covers can be washed below; as well as how you can actually wash and dry them too.
Disclaimer: This is just a general guide – be sure to check the label/instructions for your specific mattress cover/protector and if in doubt, consult with a professional cleaning service like Johnson Cleaners (UK)  or USA Clean Master .
Which Mattress Covers Can Be Washed?
Below is a table that highlights which types of mattress covers can be washed and the method for doing so.
This covers the 7 most common types of mattress covers and protectors – whether they come as part of the mattress that you have purchased or are bought separately.
See the sections below for more information and ALWAYS check the instructions/care label for specific guidance for washing your mattress cover.
|No label or instructions:||Avoid washing – or contact the manufacturer for specific instructions. Buy a separate mattress protector and use a fitted sheet for protection.|
|Non-removable mattress cover:||Spot clean or avoid cleaning if there are no instructions.|
|Removable mattress cover:||Machine wash, hand wash, or dry clean – check the label for instructions.|
|Waterproof mattress cover:||Usually machine washable – check the instructions for guidance on the method, temperature, and how to dry.|
|Vinyl mattress cover:||Usually machine washable – check the instructions for guidance on the method, temperature, and how to dry.|
|Polypropylene mattress cover:||Usually machine washable – check the instructions for guidance on the method, temperature, and how to dry.|
|Stretch polyester mattress cover:|
1: Cover Without a Label or Instructions – Avoid Washing
If your mattress doesn’t come with any specific instructions or a care label that makes it clear that you can wash your native mattress cover then the best option is to NOT wash it at all because this may cause damage and/or void the warranty.
One step that you could take here is to contact the manufacturer or retailer that you bought the mattress from and ask them if you can clean the mattress cover.
If it turns out that you cannot wash the cover – or you’re unable to find out – then the next best thing to do is buy a separate mattress cover/protector that you can wash.
And make sure that you’re using a high quality fitted sheet that you can remove and wash regularly to keep your sleeping space hygienic.
2: Non-Removable Mattress Covers – Spot Clean or Not at All
If your mattress has a native, non-removable cover then the first thing to do is check the instructions, warranty, or label for specific guidance on how to clean it.
If you cannot find any information then I would suggest defaulting to my advice in step 1 above – contacting the mattress manufacturer/retailer for specific advice, or simply taking no action.
However, if your non-removable mattress cover is stained with blood, urine, or other biological substances and you’re forced to take action then the next best thing to do is spot clean the surface.
You need to be really careful when doing this because the use of harsh chemicals can damage the materials – hence why it’s best to start with less abrasive substances like baking soda or white vinegar.
For full instructions, check out my mattress cleaning guide where I walk you through the process of cleaning your mattress in 4 simple steps – plus specific guidance on spot cleaning blood, urine, and other stains with household items.
The video below also shows you how to clean your mattress and spot clean stains – just be careful with the use of hydrogen peroxide.
3: Removable Mattress Covers – Machine Wash or Dry Clean
Can you see a zipper on your mattress?
Then do NOT automatically assume that you can remove the cover!
Because in many cases, although a mattress cover CAN be removed – you actually SHOULDN’T remove it at all.
This is because many mattresses contain fiberglass as part of the fire barrier and removing the cover can release fiberglass particles into the atmosphere – with some people reporting skin and lung irritation as a result.
For example, one woman even had to throw out most of her furniture as a result of removing the cover on her mattress which caused fiberglass to be released into her home – resulting in health issues for her children (see the video below for the full story):
CRITICAL: Check That Your Mattress Cover is Designed to be Removed and Washed
So before you even think about removing your mattress cover, you should once again check the warranty, instructions, or care label to ensure that you can remove your mattress cover and that it can be washed.
If you discover that it is washable, then you will typically find that the cover can either be machine washed, hand-washed, or dry cleaned.
If there is no such guidance then I would treat it like a non-removable mattress cover – either not washing it at all or carefully spot cleaning it.
If you machine wash, hand-wash, use a tumble dryer – or otherwise expose the mattress cover to any form of heat – you MUST ensure that you do NOT exceed the temperatures advised by the manufacturer.
Because if your removable mattress cover shrinks – you’ll have a very difficult time getting it back on to the mattress.
If you discover that your mattress cover is NOT removable, then I advise buying a separate mattress protector at the earliest opportunity to make future cleaning and maintenance much easier.
4: Waterproof Mattress Covers/Protectors – Machine Wash
A separately bought, waterproof mattress cover is one of the best ways to protect your mattress because it can potentially protect against stains, water damage, and even bed bugs.
However, not all waterproof mattress protectors are made out of the same materials – so you should check the instructions to see if you can wash it, and the instructions for doing so.
And upon inspecting the instructions, you’ll probably find that your waterproof mattress cover can be machine-washed in cold or warm water on a gentle or delicate setting .
You should use a bleach-free laundry detergent, and make sure that you stick to the temperature guidelines (usually 40°C) for washing and drying (drip-drying is often the safest method; although tumble drying is often allowed but be careful not to leave it in the machine too long where heat damage may occur).
The care instructions for your waterproof mattress cover/protector may also suggest that you wash it before first use to remove packaging scents and soften it up.
5: Vinyl Mattress Covers/Protectors – Machine Wash
Many waterproof mattress covers contain vinyl and you’ll typically find that they can be washed in the machine using cold water on a delicate cycle, with a low spin.
You may find that one side has a cloth top with vinyl backing and some brands may recommend that you turn the cover inside out before washing and/or that you use a mesh wash bag.
Using a dryer, iron, or steam may be inadvisable.
Always check the instructions first for your mattress cover before washing it.
6: Polypropylene Mattress Covers/Protectors – Machine Wash
Some people choose polypropylene mattress covers because they are often quieter than vinyl, can prevent bed bugs, and can be waterproof-lined or non-waterproof.
You will usually find that polypropylene mattress covers can be washed in the machine but be sure to check the instructions for your exact product just to be sure.
7: Stretch Polyester Mattress Covers – Machine Wash
Stretch polyester mattress covers are popular because they are typically very durable, less likely to tear, can be waterproof, resist bed bugs, and are usually flame retardant.
Polyester mattress covers tend to be machine washable – cold water tends to work best to prevent shrinkage but if the label allows it then you might want to select a higher temperature to combat dust mites.
Hang drying your cover in the sun can also help to remove microbes and bacteria.
Here are the answers to some common questions related to washing mattress covers and protectors.
How Often Should You Wash a Mattress Cover?
For general maintenance, wash your mattress cover once per month – you can increase this to once per week if you have allergies and want to remove allergens like dust mites and pollen more readily; spot clean stains as soon as they appear before they set (setting often makes the stain harder to remove).
Should You Wash a Mattress Protector Before First Use?
Many manufacturers will recommend that you wash your separately bought mattress protector before you use it in order to remove the ‘new’ smell, break the material in, and even shrink the cover which is usually stretched during production (thus making the cover fit your mattress more snugly).
Always Check the Label First
I’ve said it several times in this article already, but the most important thing to do is to check the care label, instructions, or warranty for your mattress or separately bought mattress cover/protector to find out if it can be washed, and the strategy for doing so.
And I would avoid attempting to wash or spot clean any mattress cover where you cannot find the exact instructions for doing so because you may be at risk of damaging the cover and/or voiding the warranty in the case of a ‘native’ mattress cover.
The same goes for non-removable ‘native’ mattress covers; using spot cleaning strategies for when you absolutely must remove a substance like blood or urine.
Removable ‘native’ mattress covers can often be machine washed, hand washed, or dry cleaned – but you absolutely MUST check the instructions first to ensure that your mattress cover really can be removed (otherwise you may end up with harmful fiberglass particles contaminating your house).
And finally, separately bought waterproof, vinyl, polypropylene, and polyester mattress covers/protectors can often be machine washed – but be sure to check the label for the exact strategy, temperatures, and drying guidelines.
If you have any questions or you’d like to share your own mattress cover cleaning experiences and tips – leave your comments below.
Sources and References
 Johnson Cleaners – Duvets & Mattress Toppers. Accessed 5/6/20.
 USA Clean Master – Mattress Cleaning. Accessed 5/6/20.
 SFGate – How to Wash and Dry a Waterproof Mattress Cover. Accessed 5/6/20.
Image Attribution and Licencing
Main image: ‘Bedroom Décor Details’ by DLMcK – used with permission under the terms of Canva’s One Design Use License Agreement.
Dan is the founder and head content creator at Bedroom Style Reviews.
He has been working as a professional online product reviewer since 2015 and was inspired to start this website when he ended up sleeping on a memory foam mattress that was too soft and gave him backache.
Through in-depth research and analysis, Dan’s goal with this website is to help others avoid such pitfalls by creating the best online resource for helping you find your ideal mattress, bedding, and bedroom furniture.
Dan is a qualified NVQ Level 2 Fitness Instructor with 6 years’ experience helping clients improve their health through diet, exercise, and proper sleep hygiene.
He also holds several college and university-level qualifications in health sciences, psychology, mathematics, art, and digital media creation – which helps him to publish well researched and informative product reviews as well as articles on sleep, health, wellbeing, and home decor.
Dan also has direct personal experience with insomnia, anxiety, misophonia (hypersensitivity to sounds), and pain from both acute and long-standing sporting injuries – he enjoys writing insightful articles around these subjects to help fellow sufferers of such conditions.
Learn more about Dan here.