As adults, we spend almost a third of our time sleeping. And for young children, over half of their time is spent asleep! That’s why it’s so important to protect your mattress from spills and stains with a waterproof organic mattress cover.
We all know kids can put a lot of wear and tear on their mattresses. Between potty training accidents, stomach bugs that start in the middle of the night, and random surprise nose bleeds (this just happened with my toddler – it was a mess), small children are a huge source of all sorts of… fluids that get on mattresses.
If you’ve invested in a quality non-toxic mattress for your child, you want to protect that investment. But here’s the thing: Most traditional waterproof mattress protectors contain harmful chemicals. So if you put an old-school vinyl mattress protector on top of your fancy organic mattress, you’ll lose the benefit of the safe breathing space that your mattress provides.
RELATED: Best non-toxic mattresses for kids
For this reason, choosing an organic mattress protector is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from harmful toxicants while also keeping your mattress free of stains and moisture.
Of course, it can be difficult to know which mattress covers are okay and which are dangerous. That’s why I’ve used my scientific background (I have a PhD in exposure science, where I study how kids are exposed to toxic chemicals) to help you choose. I’ve partnered with Avocado Mattress, who provided me one of their waterproof organic mattress covers to write this review (plus tell you everything you need to know about mattress protector safety).
Why Avocado’s organic waterproof mattress cover is the best choice
We got my daughter’s organic waterproof mattress cover from Avocado a few weeks ago, and honestly, it’s perfect.
I was afraid that when we switched out her mattress cover she might dislike it (she’s not big on change). But honestly, she hasn’t even noticed, and that’s a great compliment! There’s no crinkly / rustle-y noises, no overheating… no complaints at all.
And of course, I feel good knowing this mattress protector is keeping my child’s mattress safe while also keeping her health safe. Avocado’s organic waterproof mattress protector is made without vinyl, formaldehyde, phthalates, flame retardants, or any other harmful chemicals.
The polyurethane layer is thin enough to not interfere with the feel of the mattress, and it’s machine-washable and dryer-safe for easy cleaning.
It’s very difficult to create a truly organic waterproof mattress protector. That’s because it must be 95% organic (and natural) materials, but still contain enough waterproof material to work.
The fact that the Avocado waterproof mattress protector has so little polyurethane (only 5% by weight) has some great benefits besides the organic certification. There are extremely small pores in the layer, which allows the cover to breathe (great for those who feel hot when they sleep) but doesn’t allow liquid to get through.
Organic cotton wicks away moisture, helping you sleep better. So if you’re someone who deals with night sweat (a big deal the first few weeks postpartum), or even if your child gets sweaty at night (like my 2 year old), this is a big pro for the Avocado mattress cover.
What to look for in organic mattress protectors
With all the hype out there, it can be hard to know what to expect from your mattress cover. Sure, you want it to be waterproof (especially if you’re getting it for your kid’s mattress), but what else do you need to look for? Keep reading to learn more about the certifications you may find that tell you you’re getting a good mattress cover.
(By the way, Avocado’s mattress covers have most of these certifications, plus more.)
Greenguard GOLD is probably the most common certification you’ll find for organic mattress protectors. While it covers the most important chemicals of concern in a mattress cover (volatile organic chemicals or VOCs), it is incomplete. That’s because Greenguard GOLD doesn’t test for the chemicals in a product. Instead, it only tests for what chemicals off-gas into the atmosphere surrounding a product.
For example, lead is a very toxic metal (granted, it is also unlikely to be present in a mattress protector), but it will not be in the airspace around a product. It’s too heavy to off-gas, so whether or not it is present is not discovered by Greenguard’s test.
VOCs, like formaldehyde or flame retardants, will volatilize and “off-gas” from a mattress protector over time. They will be most concentrated right above the mattress surface (you know, where your child’s face is while sleeping). These are the types of chemicals that Greenguard GOLD tests for.
Bottom line: If a mattress protector is certified Greenguard Gold (like Avocado’s waterproof mattress cover), you’ll know it produces an extremely low amount of VOCs, but you don’t have information on other toxic chemicals that won’t be airborne.
OEKO-Tex certifies all sorts of textiles / fabrics, whether they are natural (like cotton or bamboo) or synthetic (like vinyl or polyester). So if a mattress protector is OEKO-Tex certified, you’ll need to check what the fabric is made of.
For example, I prefer cotton sheets and bedding, not microfiber or polyester, because it’s more comfortable and stays on the bed better.
And honestly? Most of the OEKO-Tex certified mattress protectors I find on the internet are made of polyester. And in fact, some are even made of vinyl (not awesome). So while I love OEKO-Tex certifications for some things, it’s not my favorite for mattress protectors.
To me, this is the best certification for an organic waterproof mattress protector. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) includes all natural textiles, such as cotton, wool, silk, or bamboo fiber.
There are two tiers of GOTS certification. A product may be certified “made with organic” if it contains at least 70% certified organic fiber (the other 30% may be natural or synthetic). If a product is labeled “organic,” it must be made of 95% certified organic fiber.
Since waterproof products generally contains some sort of plastic, it’s difficult to qualify a waterproof mattress protector as truly organic. However, Avocado has done it! Their waterproof mattress cover is 95% organic cotton and only 5% polyurethane.
B Corp Certified
B Corp certification shows that a business demonstrates social and environmental leadership, as well as transparency about their performance in these fields. This goes for everything from fair wages for field workers to accountability to all stakeholders (not just the higher-ups in the company).
Plus, B Corp Certification takes multiple environmental points into consideration. They think about the local impact of a manufacturing plant, all the way down to the health of an end user of a product.
Basically, B Corp Certification requires a company to go “above and beyond.” And yes, Avocado is B Corp certified.
Should you use a waterproof mattress cover?
You may think that since many waterproof mattress protectors contain toxic chemicals like phthalates, formaldehyde, and more, you should just skip it entirely. But that’s not the case!
Remember, a lot happens on your (and your child’s) mattress. Spit-up, potty training accidents, stomach bug situations, or even just sweat (who else is moving towards their forties and suddenly waking up soaked?) all end up on your mattress.
If you don’t have something to protect your mattress, it won’t take long for all that yuckiness to soak in. (True story: My five year old caught a stomach bug after the toddler. He threw up beside/ partly on the bed and then FELL BACK ASLEEP. I’m not sure if finding that was better or worse than being woken up by a sick little boy at 4 AM).
Not only is that gross (and the smell!), but it can lead to mold and mildew, which can ruin a mattress.
So if you’re buying a non-toxic mattress for yourself or your little one, it may feel nerve-wracking to spend yet more money on an organic waterproof mattress protector. But trust me, it’s an investment worth making.
Looking to buy an organic mattress for yourself? Avocado has a super comfortable (and affordable) organic mattress that I’ve reviewed here.
RELATED: Best medium-firm to firm non-toxic mattresses
Pros and cons of a waterproof mattress cover
Waterproof mattress covers have a lot going for them. For example, they:
- Keep your mattress clean and free of stains
- Prevent moisture from damaging the mattress
- Can be easily cleaned, often by just popping in the washer and dryer
However, many of them (not all!) have a lot of problems. For example, many waterproof mattress covers:
- May be crinkly sounding
- Cause overheating and sweating
- Are made with environmentally-unfriendly materials like vinyl
- Contain toxic chemicals like phthalates
- Off-gas toxic chemicals like VOCs or formaldehyde
That’s why it’s so important to get a breathable, non-toxic waterproof mattress cover like the one from Avocado. Choosing an organic mattress cover can make a huge impact on lifelong health.
Toxins in traditional mattress protectors
As I mentioned above, traditional mattress protectors can contain all sorts of toxic chemicals that cause chronic issues.
These health effects are especially important for children. Think of it like the butterfly effect: A small change made by exposure to a toxicant can cause a huge difference later. That’s why a non-toxic mattress protector is so important for kids.
Here’s just some of the toxic chemicals found in traditional waterproof mattress covers, plus their dangerous health effects:
Vinyl, made from polyvinyl chloride (or PVC) is the cheapest option for waterproof mattress covers. It also off-gases a large amount of a known carcinogen, vinyl chloride. Vinyl chloride is linked to a ton of chronic health effects, including asthma, learning disabilities, reproductive effects, birth defects, and even cancer.
Plus, vinyl products can be up to 50% plasticizers, including phthalates, which are also toxic.
Phthalates are a class of chemicals added to some plastics (including vinyl) to make the more flexible. Unfortunately, they are also known for reproductive effects and as potential carcinogens.
As a side note, this is why I don’t recommend vinyl mattress covers even if it’s called “non-toxic” or “phthalate free.” All that really means is that the product doesn’t contain one of the 8 phthalates banned here in the US.
There are lots of alternative chemicals that are used in the place of phthalates, but haven’t been tested yet. For this reason you don’t know what you’re really getting in “non-toxic” vinyl. I’d stick to a different material that doesn’t require plasticizers.
As we’ve mentioned before, volatile organic compounds are ones that “off-gas” from a product (causing a chemical smell). But even if you don’t smell something coming off your mattress protector, it can still produce VOCs.
Again, vinyl is notorious for emitting VOCs. And since they’re going to be most concentrated directly above the mattress (right where your nighttime breathing space is), it’s super important to avoid them.
PEVA (or EVA)
Polyethylene vinyl acetate is a newer alternative to vinyl that isn’t made with chlorine. For that reason, it is someone less toxic than PVC. However, studies have shown that toxic VOCs still off gas from PEVA. If you can get a different material, that would be best.
Is polyurethane in mattress protectors toxic?
If you don’t use vinyl or PEVA in your mattress protector, but you definitely want it to be waterproof, then polyurethane is your best bet (polyethylene is non-toxic, but it’s not sturdy enough to use as a mattress protector).
With that said, some polyurethane is safe, but some can be made with toxic chemicals (especially when it’s made into a foam like with a mattress). Therefore, you’ll need to do your homework to know if a waterproof mattress protector is truly safe.
That’s why I love the Avocado waterproof organic mattress. Even though it contains polyurethane, the fact that it’s Greenguard GOLD certified and GOTS certified gives me peace of mind that it is safe for my kids.
How to wash a waterproof mattress protector
While different waterproof mattress covers will have different washing instructions, caring for your Avocado organic waterproof mattress cover is easy. You can either spot clean it, or you can toss it into the washer before tumble-drying it on low.
In fact, the Avocado mattress protector is designed for washing. It comes a bit bigger than your actual mattress because organic cotton shrinks in the wash. Over a few washes, it will actually fit your mattress better. Easy-peasy!
Conclusions on choosing a waterproof organic mattress cover
If you’re looking for a safe and healthy way to protect your mattress, consider investing in an organic waterproof mattress protector. Not only will this keep your mattress free of stains and moisture, but it will also protect you and your loved ones from harmful chemicals often found in traditional waterproof mattress protectors.
Avocado’s organic waterproof mattress protector is made of cotton with a thin layer of non-toxic polyurethane. So why not give one a try? Protect your mattress investment—and your child’s health—with an organic waterproof mattress protector today.