Mattresses are an investment, which is why a mattress protector is a perfect and inexpensive follow-up to help it last longer. Mattress protectors provide various forms of protection for your mattress: Most are waterproof or resistant and help keep you safe from allergens; some can even keep bed bugs far away from your mattress. Gone are the days of old-school, noisy protectors, the best mattress protectors are virtually undetectable under your sheets.
Mattress pads and toppers, on the other hand, mostly provide comfort. Of course, most also provide a machine-washable barrier between you and your mattress, so they do provide some protection. However, they tend to be more expensive than mattress protectors, and new mattresses ideally shouldn’t require an additional comfort layer. Mattress pads also can’t provide the complete protection of a mattress protector, especially when it comes to difficult problems things like liquid spills, dust mites, and bed bugs.
The ideal type of mattress protector for you depends on what you’re primarily protecting your mattress from. Heavy-duty, zip-around protectors are best for bed bugs but can be more difficult to remove and wash so they might not be the best choice for frequent spills. Mattress protectors that go on like fitted sheets won't protect all six sides of the mattress from crawlies but can be waterproof on top and a great choice for those worried about liquid, spills, or sweat. If you anticipate the need to wash your mattress protector frequently, you’ll want one of these.