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Mattress Pad vs. Mattress Topper: What's the Difference?

Mattress Pad vs. Mattress Topper: What's the Difference?

There are a number of reasons why someone might want to add a cushioning mattress pad or mattress topper to their bed. These items often get confused, even though they affect the feel of your mattress in different ways. 

They may not seem so different at first glance, but they actually work against separate issues that sleepers face, ranging anywhere from softening a mattress that is too firm to finding a cost-friendly solution to an old mattress. 

If you want to know more about which option is best suited to your needs, read on! 

Mattress Topper: The Breakdown and Benefits 

Mattress toppers are thick slabs of foam that you place on top of a mattress for a number of reasons. Mattress toppers can offer extra support for those struggling with any back issues. They also make overly firm beds more comfortable, and they’re an effective way to make an old mattress feel new again! 

Here are some benefits of a mattress topper: 

Pros of a Mattress Topper 

  • Affordability: Mattress toppers are far less expensive than purchasing a brand-new mattresses. The additional layer can make your old bed feel fresh for a fraction of the price. 
  • Soft Mattress: Mattress toppers change the texture of the top of your mattress, making it softer and relieving pressure points.
  • Extends the Life of Your Mattress: Mattress toppers will extend how long your mattress will last you! 

There are also a variety of mattress toppers to choose from, so let’s break down some types of mattress toppers and their key differences. 

Wool Mattress Toppers

Wool mattress toppers are soft while providing additional support to your body if that’s something you need. They also are extremely breathable, making them ideal for hot sleepers. Wool toppers are known for keeping the bed warm in the winter and cold in the summer! 

Featherbed Mattress Toppers 

These mattress toppers are plush, almost like a cloud. They also are great for long-term use since they can be fluffed back up for repeated use. 

Latex Mattress Toppers

These toppers are great for those looking for the extra support that they are lacking from their current mattress. This hypoallergenic material is also resistant to mold and mildew, and it can protect your mattress from pests like bed bugs. Latex toppers are a good choice for people who struggle with allergies to dust mites, pet dander, and other common allergens.

Memory Foam Mattress Topper 

Memory foam mattress toppers are ideal for people who are dealing with body aches and anything to do with pain relief. If you are struggling to get to sleep or stay asleep due to something like joint pain, then a memory foam mattress topper will be perfect for you. 

In short, mattress toppers are meant to extend the lifespan of your current mattress, and some types of toppers can offer extra support to sensitive spots like your back and neck. 

Mattress Pad: The Breakdown & Benefits 

Mattress pads are a thin layer of comfort-boosting material that lies over your mattress. Like toppers, they are made from a variety of materials that offer different benefits. 

These also alter the feel of a mattress and are meant to protect the mattress from any liquids, stains, or dirt. Their main aim is to make your mattress feel a little plusher, and they do not do much to alleviate pressure relief. 

Mattress pads also tend to be a bit thinner than mattress toppers, and the effects a mattress pad can have on one’s sleep depend on what the pad is primarily made of. 

Here are some benefits of having a mattress pad: 

Pros of a Mattress Pad

  • Affordable: This is another cost-effective option to help soften the surface of your mattress as opposed to swapping it out for a new one! 
  • Extra Comfort and Convenience: Mattress pads also tend to come with fitted skirts or elastic straps around their edges, so the pad can remain on the top of the mattress with any sort of movement or readjusting. 
  • Can Be Machine-Washed: Due to their smaller sizes, most mattress pads are machine-washable. 
  • Protection: Mattress pads also protect against any unforeseen mishaps, spills, or dirt from getting on the mattress itself. 

As mentioned earlier, the benefits of mattress pads depend on their materials. To get a better understanding of what types of mattress pads are out there and what they mean for your sleep, read on! 

Fiberfill Mattress Pads 

These mattress pads are made from cotton, polyester, and rayon and are a great option for fighting and resisting stains! 

The only con with these is that the materials they are made of can make the pad a bit noisy when shifting positions in bed. These mattress pads also cannot be put in the washing machine. 

Memory Foam Mattress Pads 

Memory foam mattress pads provide more plushness compared to other options but still are not thick enough to claim to be pressure relieving. These are generally also not stain-resistant. 

Latex Mattress Pads 

Synthetic or natural latex pads have a bouncier feel, although this largely depends on how thick the pad is. These pads are often more expensive options, but they also are good for warding off stains from spills and preventing issues with wear and tear. 

Feather and Down Alternative Mattress Pads 

Feather mattress pads are made with feathers from ducks and geese, making them a good choice if you are looking for something a little more soft and comfortable. They also provide more warmth compared to the other options, but these types of mattress pads are not resistant to spills. 

Feather and down alternative mattress pads are generally a good choice for those looking for an option with less thickness and more protection for the mattress itself. They are easily applied and often machine washable. 

Mattress Pads Vs. Mattress Toppers: The Best Mattress Accessory for You 

Now that you have an idea of what each option looks like and would offer, let’s go over some of the main differences between the two so you make the purchase that best suits your needs. 

Mattress Toppers Have Thick Layers

When deciding between the two, keep in mind that each has different levels of how thick the actual pad/topper is. Mattress toppers tend to be thicker than one inch, whereas mattress pads have a thin layer of padding, so if you’re looking for something that is extra plush, keep this in mind! 

Mattress Toppers Provide Protection From Wear and Tear 

Mattress pads are not the ones to go with if this is your main concern. Since mattress toppers are typically much thicker than mattress pads, the thickness will be the best thing to protect your bed from any wear. 

Certain Mattress Pads Provide Spill Protection 

Certain mattress pads are great at preventing spillage from seeping into your bed or creating stains. 

Mattress toppers, on the other hand, do not have any technology to prevent spills and stains. If you’re looking to prevent any unseen issues with spillage, mattress pads will be the better choice. 

Mattress Pads Are Generally Easier To Clean 

Lots of mattress pads are thin enough to be machine washable, and even if they are not machine washable, some can be hand washed. Mattress toppers are very heavy and are more of a pain to clean due to their weight and thickness. 

If convenience is one of your main priorities, then a mattress pad could be a better fit for you!

Overall Purpose 

Mattress pads add a bit of softness, and their primary aim is to provide some protection for your bed. A mattress topper changes the feel of your bed, making it seem like a softer or more firm mattress depending on what you prefer.

Keep these differences in mind when deciding between a mattress pad and a mattress topper because they won’t provide the same amount of comfort and protection. 


It can be hard to understand the more nuanced differences between a mattress pad and a mattress topper. At the end of the day, one is meant to provide protection more than comfort (the mattress pad), while the other works to make your bed more comfortable — whether that means more firm or more soft, depending on the sleeper. 

If you are having back pain, body aches, or any other pain due to your mattress, mattress toppers tend to be a better choice for those types of issues! If you are struggling with keeping your bed free of damage and stains, the mattress pad is the best way to go if you have that in mind. 


Mattress Pad vs. Mattress Topper | Sleep Foundation

How Sleep Works - Why Is Sleep Important? | NHLBI, NIH

How to Wash and Care for a Mattress Protector | The Spruce 

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