Although the surface of a mattress can be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner, it is very difficult to completely remove stains from most standard mattresses. An unprotected mattress can become marked or stained quite quickly as natural perspiration produced throughout the night passes through a standard cloth sheet and creates a characteristic yellowish-brown tidemark where it has been absorbed into the upper surface of the mattress. Mattresses are also susceptible to many other contaminants.
The simplest form of a mattress protector is a lightly quilted fitted sheet. It provides minimal protection against liquids and little or no protection from dust mite allergens.
The use of a mattress protector is often recommended to individuals who are known to be susceptible to certain kinds of allergies, especially dust mites. Dust mites produce waste products that irritate the lining of the airways and lungs and particularly with children can bring on allergic reactions, asthma and can irritate skin conditions such as eczema.