Mattress pad vs. mattress topper

Courtney Love

Both mattress pads and mattress toppers are available in a variety of sizes-- twin, twin XL, queen, king, and more.

Mattress pads vs mattress toppers

One is best for protection; one is better for comfort: Which mattress accessory is best for you?

Mattress pads and mattress toppers are both mattress accessories that serve a unanimous purpose: They protect your mattress from wear and tear and stains while providing you with an extra layer of comfort. Specifically, a mattress pad is 1-2 inches thick and is placed on top of a mattress compared to a mattress topper that is 1-4 inches thick. A pad is focused more on protection, while a topper is more about added comfort. 

While there are a few differences between the two products, whether you’re looking to add a layer of protection, comfort or both, there are plenty of options available. 

Mattress pads

If you’re looking to prolong the life of your mattress, protect it from any potential stains and perhaps add some cushioning, a mattress pad could be right for you. A mattress pad goes on top of your mattress but under your sheets.

Mattress pad pros

  • It adds plushness and protects your mattress thus, prolonging your mattress’s life. 
  • Mattress pads are 1-2 inches thick and durable (lasting for up to 5 years).
  • They are machine washable thus, extremely easy to take care of.
  • They can help protect against bed bugs, allergies and wetness.
  • Mattress pads are an affordable option for those seeking an extra layer of protection and support.

Mattress pad cons 

  • Mattress pads are not a solution for anyone seeking a new layer on top of their mattress; support will be minimal.
  • They are not meant for routine accidents and instead work more as a ‘just-in-case’ extra level of protection. 

The best mattress pads available now

Matbeby Bedding Quilted Fitted Queen Mattress Pad: available at Amazon
Available in a variety of sizes, this 21-inch deep mattress pad is thick, plush and made with microfiber, which adds an element of breathability. It is inexpensive, easy to wash and has a 360-degree elastic rim so that you can easily place it over your mattress.

Easeland King Size Mattress Pad Pillow Top Mattress Cover: available at Amazon
This mattress pad fits snugly and provides a thin-yet-comfortable layer of support and protection. It is machine washable, made of 100% cotton and is 21 inches deep. It also includes 30 ounces of down alternative filling,  making it a softer option than most mattress pads. 

Mattress Pad: available at Wayfair
This 0.5-inch mattress pad offers a layer of waterproof protection, as well as bed bug protection and a small amount of padding for comfort. It is easy to place onto your mattress — much like a fitted sheet — and made of polyester.

Mattress toppers

If you’re looking to add a thick and supportive layer to your mattress, a mattress topper may be the best choice for you. These are noticeably thick, sometimes foam products that rest between your mattress and underneath your fitted sheet. 

Mattress toppers are a great option for anyone who is displeased with their current mattress. For example, if your mattress is too firm or too soft you can use a mattress topper to add cushioning or the desired firmness.

Mattress toppers pros

  • They are typically about 3-4 inches thick and are available in different thicknesses and firmness. You’ll have the option to select one that suits your individual needs.
  • If you are displeased with your mattress but do not want to buy a new one, a mattress topper is a great way to transform the feel of your bed as they cost significantly less than a new mattress would.
  • If you’re seeking a layer of protection from spills and accidents, mattress toppers are quite thick and will offer a great sense of protection that will spare your mattress — which also helps prolong its lifespan.
  • Some mattress toppers are available with memory foam and/or a cooling gel that can help keep you comfortable and cool while you sleep.

Mattress toppers cons

  • Compared to a mattress pad, they tend to cost a bit more. However, they have a shorter lifespan between 3-5 years. 
  • They are not machine washable so if accidents happen frequently, it’s cumbersome to go about cleaning them. 
  • Depending on the material that’s used to fill them, mattress toppers can be very hot.
  • The filling can shift or get bulky in one area making the topper uneven. 
  • Sometimes, even when a mattress topper is meant to add firmness, it can still be too soft. 

The best mattress toppers available now

3-Inch Mattress Topper Down Alternative: available at Wayfair

Filled with an allergen-friendly down alternative, this mattress topper won’t have any clumps or shifts in the filling over time. It’s a great option for anyone seeking some cushioning, support and mattress protection.

ViscoSoft 3-Inch Memory Foam Mattress Topper Full: available at Amazon

This memory foam mattress topper is a great option for those who feel they have back pain or sink into their current mattress. It offers 3 inches of supportive foam to mold to the shape of your spine, allowing you to rest comfortably.

Simmons 5.5-Inch Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper: available at Wayfair
For a thick option, this Simmons 5.5-inch mattress topper is made of a thick, durable foam that not only offers a layer of protection but transforms the feel of your current mattress. It also helps reduce heat, allowing for a cool and comfortable sleep.

Should I choose a mattress pad or a mattress topper?

Depending on your budget, if you’re seeking ample comfort and protection, a mattress topper is highly recommended. Although they are not machine washable like mattress pads, they can transform your mattress — giving you the chance to make it the mattress of your dreams. A mattress topper is a great way to revitalize your current mattress while still protecting it.

Courtney Love is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money

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