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 –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
- early onset of puberty
- 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
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.
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 an organic wool mattress pad (specifically designed to block wetness) with an organic cotton mattress protector to serve as an extra layer of protection. Cotton absorbs moisture and wool repels and wicks moisture away. When used in concert, the wool and cotton pads together can block up to a cup of liquid.
What do I recommend for a guaranteed non-toxic, 100% waterproof mattress protector?
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.