Waterproof Mattress Protector – What’s Safe and What to Avoid

Waterproof Mattress Protectors

A waterproof mattress protector is essential to protect your mattress from urine, spit-up, sweat and other bodily fluids that are part of life.  Wet or damp mattresses provide a perfect environment for bacteria, mold, mildew and fungi, which can lead to a toxic sleep environment.

Plus, wetness can ruin your mattress!

Currently, the only way to get complete waterproof protection for a mattress is with a plastic lining or membrane in a cover or protector pad. But it’s important that you choose the right plastic, as not all plastics are the same. In fact, most can be quite toxic.

Most waterproof mattress protectors you find will be made of one of these plastics:

  • vinyl/PVC
  • PEVA/EVA
  • polyurethane

Vinyl/PVC –Avoid it completely

Vinyl is dangerous on two levels. First PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a known human carcinogen. Second, the plasticizers that are used to soften the hard PVC plastic and make it flexible enough to use as mattress protectors or pads are phthalates. Every day we learn more about how toxic phthalates (and  phthalate variants) are, especially to babies’ and children’s small, developing bodies.

Phthalates make up 30%-40% of the weight of the vinyl surface, and have been linked to:

  • reproductive harm
  • asthma
  • early onset of puberty
  • cancer
  • kidney and liver damage

Even more alarming, they are weakly bound to the vinyl and leach or off-gas into the surrounding air, to be breathed in.

What about “non-toxic” or “phthalate-free” vinyl?

Due to the clear science that indicates phthalates are a health risk, several types of phthalates have been banned in the US. But manufacturers are always coming up with new variants, some only slightly different, that are legal and not tested for safety.

Until all of these variants are tested (if that ever happens), it’s better to avoid “non-toxic” and “phthalate-free” vinyl or PVC.  No one really knows what level and type of plasticizers or additives in vinyl is safe, especially for children.

PEVA/EVA – Caution Needed

You may see products made with PEVA (Polyethylene vinyl acetate) or EVA (Ethylene vinyl acetate) touted as less-toxic than PVC. Although these types of vinyl are free of chlorine, they still may contain chemicals that are better avoided.

Polyurethane – Can be safe but do your research

Polyurethane on its own can be relatively safe, depending on how it’s formulated. It can be formulated with added chemicals or solvents. Polyurethane foam, for example is highly toxic due to additives to make it into a foam. You definitely want to avoid mattresses made with polyurethane foam, but the plastic is a different story. If you see a waterproof mattress protector made with polyurethane plastic, you’ll need to dig deeper to determine its safety. It’s difficult to know if a plastic is off-gassing, but sometimes the toxic smell will give it away.

Some other materials and factors to consider

Polyethylene – Safe but unsuitable for mattress pads

Polyethylene is a safe plastic. If you want to buy a MATTRESS that is already waterproof, then get a mattress that has a built-in covering made with polyethylene. Naturepedic makes a waterproof kids mattress and organic crib mattresses that are waterproofed with plant-based polyethylene made from non-GMO sugar cane.

Unfortunately, polyethylene is not ideal for mattress pads that need to be washed frequently, since it does not hold up wash after wash. It’s rare to find a polyethylene waterproof mattress protector on the market and if you do, don’t expect it to last long.

Coating – not worth the risk

Some mattress pads are marketed as anti-microbial, antibacterial and/or anti-mildew. Usually this means the pad has an extra coating of something that’s potentially toxic. If you wash the pad when needed, coating is unnecessary. Better to avoid inviting other chemicals into your bed.

Wool Mattress Pads – a natural, safe option but not entirely waterproof

Since wool is moisture-resistant and dries quickly, wool mattress or “puddle” pads are sometimes used with mattresses that are not waterproof. Many wool puddle or piddle pads actually have synthetics in them, such as polyester, so look for 100% certified organic wool from a company you can trust.

You can’t count on wool alone to waterproof a mattress. If there is a lot of wetness from a baby or child, it can go through to damage the mattress and create mold and mildew problems. I recommend layering one or two organic wool mattress pads (specifically designed to block wetness) with an organic cotton mattress protector to serve as extra layers of protection. Cotton absorbs moisture and wool repels and wicks moisture away. When used in concert, the wool and cotton pads together can block the wetness.

What do I recommend for a guaranteed non-toxic, 100% waterproof mattress protector?

Naturepedic Organic Cotton Waterproof Mattress Pad

The Naturepedic Organic Cotton Waterproof Mattress Pad is completely waterproof, confirmed non-toxic, and hypo-allergenic. Made with an ultra-thin film of polyurethane plastic (2% of the product) completely surrounded by two layers of organic cotton, it can withstand even the worst nighttime accidents while still allowing the material to breathe. There’s no plastic chemical odor and the organic cotton provides a non-sweaty sleep surface. The Naturepedic waterproof protector pads are of the highest quality, and easy to machine wash and dry.

The polyurethane plastic film that Naturepedic uses has no toxic chemical additives. It does not leach chemicals or off-gas into your sleeping environment. This has been tested and confirmed through Greenguard SELECT certification – the most stringent Greenguard standards. At Healthy Child, we trust Naturepedic because we know they are committed to safe materials.

As I searched everything out there on the market, I can definitely say you can’t find a safer waterproof mattress protector than this for your family’s sleep environment.

 

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Comments

  1. says

    I bought a latex mattress and I have been sick ever since and Please is there anything you have to cover a double latex mattress so the fumes will stop coming to me as i can’t afford a new mattress PLEASE HELP.
    Blessings Melissa.

  2. Joan Hemington says

    I bought a new mattress this week, just a sprung mattress than you turn regularly, I by a new cheap one every 2 yrs, because in the past I bought an expensive memory foam Matress & after a while it burnt my skin wherever I lay on it..with my new mattress I bought a mattress topper, I had it on for 2 nights, the second night in the middle of winter my skin where I laid on it burnt like hell, the whole room & me stunk of rubber.
    There’s polypropylene in the mattress topper, could this be causing the burning?
    Thanks.
    Joan Hemington

    • Jane Sheppard McMillan says

      Joan, I’m sorry to hear about your skin burning, that must be terrible. Polypropylene is one of the “better” plastics, so I don’t know if that’s the issue. It might be that your topper is coated with some sort of antimicrobial or other chemical. Difficult to know when ingredients are not specified. You may want to go with an organic wool, cotton or latex topper without any plastic or coatings.

  3. DJB says

    I too bought a tempurpedic memory foam mattress about 10 years ago. At first I could not be in the same space with it but I did not identify the mattress as the problem until some time later due to drift of the toxins to non-bedroom areas. These products are grossly unsafe. Initially, on coming into my home, my eyes and throat would become red and inflamed, then my breathing was affected. At night, after falling asleep, I would wake up exactly 30 minutes later with a racing heart and ‘anxiety’ type awakeness. The odor eventually dissipated but now I am finding that the toxins have changed my life and health. I have odd auto-immune symptoms, have developed an autoimmune response to my own hair (head and eyebrows etc itch all the time) and I am allergic to many things. I cannot be in the aisle of low price shoe stores because the shoes are ALL made of polyurethane and the smell puts me away and triggers symptoms. I continued to have some episodes of heart arythmia. After a few years the foam, just when it seems to have stabilized, begins to break down. Then the whole nightmare starts over again. GET RID OF THE MATTRESS. Your long term health is at risk. Note that I bought my mattress at Relax the Back, a high end store in Washington state that purports to give you a better sleeping experience. Ha! It has ruined my life and there is no real treatment because environmental toxins are not yet a full area of medical research. DO NOT PUT YOUR KIDS ON THESE MATTRESSES and I recommend you get polyurethane out of your lives. Better to live with less furniture than to die slowly. In the last 3 years i have been diagnosed with what appears to be a slow growing lymphoma and autoimmune issues are constant.

    • Jane Sheppard says

      So sorry to hear about your experience. Unfortunately it’s quite common with memory foam mattresses. They have ruined the health of many people. I would recommend finding a functional medicine doctor who can help with autoimmune issues and perhaps also the lymphoma. Typical medical doctors don’t have answers but there are some doctors who can truly help. It will take a lot of detoxing to get your health back, but I believe you can get it back! As for the polyurethane, it’s the foam, not necessarily the plastic, they are 2 completely different chemical compositions. But I totally agree that you need to stay away from the plastic as well, since now you are ultra sensitive. So sorry, I really feel compassion for you and what you are going through.

  4. EmilyS says

    This article is confusing. In one paragraph you mention that polyurethane is safe but “unsuitable for mattress pads” due to the fact that they quickly degrade after washing. Then you recommend the Naturepedic Organic Cotton Waterproof Mattress Pad which uses polyurethane. I really am looking for the best product for my family and this is not helpful. Any chance you could clarify why you reccommend the Naturepedic?
    Thanks!

    • Jane Sheppard says

      Hi Emily, it’s polyethylene that is not suitable for mattress pads. Not polyurethane. Here’s the paragraph again:

      If you want to be sure that you are buying a safe, non-toxic waterproof mattress, polyethylene is the way to go. Unfortunately, it’s not ideal for mattress pads that need to be washed frequently. Precisely because it is a benign plastic, it does not hold up wash after wash. It’s rare to find a polyethylene waterproof mattress protector on the market and if you do, don’t expect it to last long.

      The polyurethane plastic used in the Naturepedic mattress pads are confirmed safe.

      Hope this clears the confusion. – Jane

  5. Raquel Dacko says

    hello Jane
    This is what you quoted to to a friend requeating to clarify, but it sounds like a double standard. You first said
    ” polyethylene that is not suitable for mattress pads. Not polyurethane. Here’s the paragraph again:

    If you want to be sure that you are buying a safe, non-toxic waterproof mattress, polyethylene is the way to go. ”

    So what is safer? Polythylene or polyurethane?

    • Jane Sheppard says

      I think the confusion is in this statement:

      “If you want to be sure that you are buying a safe, non-toxic waterproof mattress, polyethylene is the way to go.”

      I think I see where the confusion is, and I apologize that paragraph is not clear. I will change that paragraph to give it more clarity. What I am saying is that if you want a MATTRESS that is already waterproof, then get a mattress that has a covering made with polyethylene. Naturepedic makes waterproof kids MATTRESSES that are waterproofed with polyethylene. You just wipe the mattress off, you don’t put it in the wash so polyethylene works for that.

      Polyethylene is the safest plastic and generally safer than polyurethane. But since PADS and COVERS need to be washed frequently and polyethylene does not hold up well in the wash with hot water, mattress pads are made with polyurethane plastic and not polyethylene. And the safety of polyurethane depends on the formulation. Naturepedic makes a safe polyurethane mattress pad – tested and confirmed.

      Does that answer your question? Let me know if you need more clarification. 🙂

    • Jane Sheppard says

      I don’t recommend vinyl mattress protectors due to toxicity of vinyl. They are not safe, especially with a heated pad.

  6. lana says

    is there a safe wool crib pad you can recommend? many that I’ve come across are treated with the chemical “ultra-fresh” , which I would like to avoic.

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