Mattress Pad vs. Mattress Topper vs. Mattress Protector

Mattress Pad, Topper, or Protector: Which Is Best for Me?

Mattress pad, protector, or topper, those are the terms sleep experts swirl around and often offer as part of their mattress deal. However, the concept of the three may be unfamiliar to some people, while others may be making mistakes while trying to differentiate them. With this in mind, we provided a detailed explanation of which of the three types of products is the right one for you to choose from.

Also, we included a model of each product that will visually help you make the difference.

If you already shopped for sleep equipment in different stores, the workers have probably offered you different mattress pad or a topper, while others also provided insight into the mattress protectors.

Still, for a person who’s not so savvy and doesn’t shop for a mattress more often than once in ten or more years, all that terminology may appear a bit confusing and hard to understand. Below, you can read about the benefits each of the three products offer and which one is exactly what you need.

Mattress Pad vs. Mattress Topper vs. Mattress Protector: Quick Summary

Mattress Pad vs. Mattress Topper vs. Mattress Protector
Terry Cralle, RN, MS, CPHQ

Now that we defined all three types of bed accessories, and reviewed the best model of each, it’s time to pinpoint the differences. If the differences weren’t obvious to you before, we’ll talk about it here with more details.

The mattress pad is a thin layer of cloth or memory foam covers the mattress to add a small portion of comfort and protection. It’s thicker compared to the mattress protector, but thinner than the mattress topper and provides less comfort and support to it.

We can say that the mattress pad is something in between. It’s not waterproof, but it’s often hypoallergenic and good at providing minimal comfort. Most likely, it’s designed from the same materials as a mattress topper.

The Mattress topper is way thicker compared to the mattress pad and works better for providing more comfort and enhancing mattresses. A good mattress topper should have a thickness that measures between 2 and 4-inches, which is more compared to the other two.

Note: Neither mattress pads nor toppers have waterproof features, but the topper may feel way cooler than the pad because of layered construction.

The pads often come with strapped pockets that wrap at the corner of a mattress while the topper doesn’t have that (on most occasions.) It naturally lays to the mattress, making it softer.

The mattress protector doesn’t have comfort nor cooling properties (although some more premium options do.) It covers and protects the mattress like a sheet or bedding – from dust, bacteria, and more importantly water. Mattress pads and toppers may be good at creating the better motion isolation, but the protectors are quite loud due to their waterproof elements.


  • Mattress pads cover the mattress with straps and provide low-level support.
  • Mattress toppers are thick layers of memory foam or other materials that lay on the bed and soften a firm mattress.
  • Mattress protector extends your mattress lifespan by protecting it from spills and bacteria-caused decay.

Mattress Pad

mattress pad
Terry Cralle, RN, MS, CPHQ

A lot of people tend to confuse the mattress pads with mattress toppers and below, you’ll see how often it happens and why. Essentially, a mattress pad defines as thin padding of soft sleeping material that goes over the mattress top. It usually comes with a fitted sheet that adds up to its look and covers up your original mattress. Usually, they’re thin in composition and serve only to provide a decent comfort layer above the bed. Imagine you purchase a pillow top mattress, a pad would serve as the pillow top material above the mattress.

They are mostly used to protect the bed from allergens and dust, while also adding up to the look of the mattress and adding significant change to your sleep. On most occasions, they’re thinner than mattress toppers which feel much more different than the pads, but they’re thicker than mattress protectors.

Why You Should Use Mattress Pad

  • To add more support – Usually, people prefer buying pads if they need just a slight adjustment of their sleep surface. Firmer pads are usually recommended when needing to recover a mattress that is breaking down.
  • To alleviate firmness – If your new mattress feels firm, but not too firm to search for a mattress topper, the pad is a more affordable option. Its thin layer of memory foam or another soft material can help you fix your sleep cycle and enjoy a softer version of your new mattress.
  • It can protect your bed – A mattress protector does a great job at protecting your mattress, but it doesn’t add as much comfort as the mattress pad. With that in mind, you can invest in both comfort and protection in one.
  • Hypoallergenic properties – Most mattress pads were made to be hypoallergenic. This is ideal in situations where you purchased a perfect mattress, but it doesn’t come with hypoallergenic properties.
  • If you want silent sleep experience – Mattress protectors are sometimes loud due to their waterproof materials. However, the mattress pads do a great job of isolating creaking and crinkling noises.
  • They are affordable – Pads are way affordable compared to toppers which are why they’re an appealing pick to people who want only a slight improvement over their sleeping experience.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Mattress Pad

  • It’s not that effective at rejuvenating an old mattress. Even thicker comfort layers such as toppers can be ineffective. Usually, the new mattress is the only solution to an old model that sunk too much.
  • They’re not waterproof like the mattress protectors, so they don’t offer a high level of protection.
  • They don’t provide enough comfort because the layer of soft memory foam is usually thin.

Things to Consider When Buying Mattress Pad

  • Price – some pads may be more expensive than toppers.
  • Materials – aside from the memory foam, there can also be wool, feather, and latex options.
  • Hypoallergenic – whether it protects from dust mites and bacteria.
  • Straps – can the straps cover the corners of your mattress is it too thick.
  • Cooling effects – whether it regulates the temperature well.

What We Recommend: Utopia Bedding Quilted Fitted Mattress Pad

Utopia Bedding Quilted Fitted Mattress Pad
Know More Details on Amazon

Utopia Bedding mattress pad is one of the most gorgeous pads that can flatter your bed. It is available in all possible sizes and is equipped with strong straps that can pocket mattresses up to 16-inches thick. It is an extremely affordable and valuable investment, which easily fits with every kind of mattress.

Unlike many other mattress pads available on the market, Utopia Bedding uses special diamond stitch quilting which is constructed in such a way to offer impeccable soothing and restful experience. It adds up to your comfort during the night, as well as breezy peace. The cloud-like surface that the pad boasts will undoubtedly add up to falling asleep easier, with good motion isolation and easy movement through the bed. It also uses vinyl and elastic material to ensure that the pad will stay in one position and won’t slip off, regardless of how fast or restless sleeper you are.

It uses microfibers and a fiber-filled top so it feels extremely comfortable.  While it’s completely hypoallergenic, protecting you from dander, dust mites, fungi, bacteria, and other germs, it’s not waterproof, and spilling a drink will go onto your mattress. Keep in mind you can wash it in the machine, but without using bleach and tumble drying is permitted at a low temperature.

Key features:

  • Super comfortable to use and has ideal motion isolation.
  • It’s made out of hypoallergenic materials so it’s protective.
  • Beautiful diamond stitch quilting
  • Supports mattresses up to 16 inches.

Note: The bad side, however, is that this mattress pad isn’t waterproof, so for those who are expecting some additional protection can forget about it. Also, although there is only a thin layer of micro-fiber material making the pad, it can make you get hot and sweaty at night which can result in tossing, turning, and eventually waking up several times through the night. Some pads are made out of natural temperature regulators like wool and down which are great at providing more breathability.

Mattress Topper

Mattress topper for back pain
Terry Cralle, RN, MS, CPHQ

Mattress topper, while visually similar to the mattress pad is something entirely different. Like we defined above, the mattress pad is a thin layer of cloth that has a certain level of comfort and protection, but mattress topper is much more than that and offers way more cushioning and support compared to the mattress pad. It is a thick layer of memory foam or some other material that comfortably lays on your mattress to make it softer, while some firmer models may be used to rejuvenate an older model that began sagging and sinking.

There are a lot of mattress topper types. Certainly, the memory foam and latex toppers are the most popular, although you may also find cotton, wool, and down models across the market.

Each one has its properties. One of the main reasons people use mattress toppers is because they are comfortable, balanced, and add extra support to the mattress that may not be sufficiently thick.

It won’t replace an entire mattress and isn’t a permanent solution to a mattress that began sagging.

Things to Consider When Shopping For Mattress Topper

Mattress toppers and pads have similar properties so their buying guides are similar. Still, you should consider additional features.

  • Thickness – For some sleepers, 2 inches may not be enough, so you should look at 4 and 4-inch toppers if you’re one of those people.
  • Mattress topper can’t replace a sagging mattress – Like mentioned above, toppers seldom help an old and sagged mattress. In that case, you should consider buying a new one.
  • Motion isolation – Some toppers are good at isolating motion so you won’t notice your partner moving or standing up.

Why You Should Use Mattress Topper

  • It’s hypoallergenic – Most mattress toppers available on the market were made to protect against dust mites and other bacteria. Mattresses are large and can often be the home to some germs you didn’t previously hear about. The topper is easily removed to the sun which can clear all the bacteria, so it’s the front-line of protection against the bacteria that can disrupt your sleep and health.
  • It has cooling properties – Wool, down and natural latex have the natural materials which are temperature regulators. Wool, for example, can keep you cool through the summer, but warm during winter and so does the feather model. Natural latex and cotton naturally feel cool. The memory foam toppers are a bit more difficult story. They’re made out of synthetic materials so it’s expected they are warmer. Still, a lot of premium mattress manufacturers either use gel memory foam or gel beads, which make the toppers more breathable and thus suitable for summer nights.
  • Reduces Pressure – This benefit of mattress toppers specifically applies to the memory foam toppers. That’s because the memory foam naturally conforms to your body and helps alleviate pressure points, distributing the weight evenly and allowing you to sleep naturally and get plenty of restful sleep. Of course, latex mattress toppers, as well as others have certain pressure alleviating properties, but none are as good as those of the memory foam. That’s why a lot of sleep experts offer to describe memory foam mattresses and toppers as a sleeping surface that “hugs you to sleep.”
  • Adds comfort – One of the most important features of a good mattress topper is that it provides more comfort and relaxation to the body. That’s because over time, and even from the start, your mattress may feel too firm. Instead of swapping or buying a new mattress a lot of people choose to get a mattress topper.
  • It improves health – Different studies showed that using mattress toppers promotes neutral sleeping positions and health in the lumbar region, improves blood circulation, and relieves pressure from hips, knees, and shoulders.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Mattress Topper

  • Your mattress sagged too much – Some people think that buying a mattress topper can replace your old mattress. While on some occasions, it can rejuvenate an old and firm mattress, it can’t replace a sagging mattress.
  • You’re heavy sleeper – Unfortunately, people who are overweight or obese may have difficulties sleeping on a topper. Toppers are usually a plush improvement over a hard mattress so the plushness may cause heavier sleepers to sink and eventually grow intense back pain.
  • Memory Foam Traps Heat – Always ensure you’re using a gel memory foam mattress topper because otherwise, you may end up sweating or exhausted.
  • Unwanted smells – Sometimes memory foam mattresses may come with an uncomfortable scent that resembles something plastic or toxic. To stay snug and compressed manufacturers use different materials which “off-gas” through the few days of stay after purchase. While the smell doesn’t stay for too long, it sure is uncomfortable to bear.

What We Recommend: Layla Memory Foam Mattress Topper

Layla Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Know More Details on Layla

Layla memory foam mattress topper is the best and most valuable mattress topper we could find in the market. It’s flattered by great features that make sleeping more restful, balanced, and beyond everything comfortable. It boasts memory foam construction, which is especially great because the mattress naturally cradles your body curves and conforms to all the pressure your body took throughout the day. It boasts a zoned construction so each zone conforms to certain bodily features. It will soften an extremely firm mattress and make sleeping more relaxed.

Thanks to the copper-infused memory foam, there is a 2-inch thick sleeping surface that will easily take you to the dreamland, creating superb cloud-like sleeping experienced. The copper-infused beads also help because of the gel-like sensation which guarantees a cool sleeping experience. The features also work for people who have hip and shoulder problems. The mattress is Certi-PUR US-certified, which means you have no reason to worry about toxic materials imbued in the cheap mattress toppers. Another great thing is that the sleeping surface is antimicrobial and hypoallergenic.

More Mattress Toppers You May Also Like Based on Your Needs:

Key Features:

  • The gel copper-infused foam will not only extend the comfort, but it will also create a breezy and breathable sleeping surface.
  • Conforming to your curves, comfortable and clean.
  • It has hypoallergenic properties, which is ideal for people allergic to dust mites.
  • Amazing five years warranty
  • 120-day worry-free sleep trial, which guarantees you can test the quality before deciding to give it up.

Drawbacks: The disappointing bit is that the Layla topper is fairly expensive. In addition to that, it boasts only two inches of foam, which may make it feel more uncomfortable for heavier sleepers. Other than that, the mattress topper is superb and excels in its competition.

Mattress Protector

Mattress Protector
Terry Cralle, RN, MS, CPHQ

Mattress protectors are the third bed equipment and mattress enhancements you can invest in. They’re extremely popular and every household should sleep with one for several reasons. They work like a fitted sheet or a cover above your mattress and protect it from various factors.

There are two types of mattress protections, one is the mattress protector that works like a simple cover you put over the mattress to protect it from bacteria, allergens, or simple spilling, as they’re known to be waterproof.

On the other hand, a lot of people may also use mattress encasement which wraps over the entire mattress and provides the protection for it. They’re both highly effective in safeguarding your mattress, but you may have different sleeping preferences.

Things to Consider When Shopping for Mattress Protector

  • Whether it’s an encasement or protection. If encasement, you should measure properly with your mattress.
  • Hypoallergenic – It should also protect from the spills of water and other liquids.
  • Cooling effects – Some protectors can be truly loud, silk protectors are better at retaining the cooling effects of your mattress.
  • Noise – Some waterproof mattress toppers can be extremely loud due to the elements they host inside.
  • Washable – Check whether the protector is machine washable.

Why You Should Use Mattress Protector

  • They’re waterproof and are great protectors for children’s beds because they can prevent clumsy drops or spills.
  • They’re hypoallergenic. Mattress protectors are made out of antimicrobial materials that protect from bacteria, fungi, dust mites, and other allergens.
  • I want to make cleaning and laundry easier.
  • You’re looking for an affordable option to stay clean.
  • Preserves your mattress. Given that your mattress is now covered, there’s nothing that could make it dirty and that makes cleaning and maintenance easier.
  • It helps protect the warranty of a mattress topper or the mattress itself.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Mattress Protector

  • They can’t replace a mattress topper or a mattress pad. They don’t offer comfort and support enhancement compared to the two aforementioned options.
  • Depending on the materials, mattress protectors can get too hot, even with good cooling technology in a mattress.
  • Waterproof mattress protectors can be extremely loud.


Know More Details on Brooklyn Bedding

Brooklyn Bedding Luxury Cooling Mattress Protector is a model we fell in love with when searching for protectors with the best properties. The reason for that is the smoothness of the sheets, top-notch materials, and special features like water-resistance, hypoallergenic features and finally, cooling technology that will make sleeping during hot summers more relaxing.

If you own a good mattress, this mattress protector is just what you need to make sleeping seamless while also extending the warranty of your existing mattress. It is made out of silky smooth fabric that feels luxurious and doesn’t interfere with your sleep cycle. Hypoallergenic materials will protect you from bacteria and dust mites, while the waterproof features will protect from all kind of spills coming from a wide range of fluids and liquids.

Lastly, the best part about Brooklyn’s luxurious mattress protector is that it’s easy to care for. You can easily wash it in the machine, although no bleaching is permitted. The tumble drying is also allowed, although keep it on the low temperature so that you can preserve the cooling materials of the protector.

More Recommendations: 5 Best Mattress Protector in 2021

Key Features:

  • Silk and smooth material which makes sleeping more comfortable and relaxing.
  • It’s infused with gel-like materials that enhance the cooling features of your mattress.
  • Hypoallergenic materials decently protect from bacteria and germs.
  • It’s also waterproof and protects from all kinds of liquid
  • 30-day free return policy.
  • It can easily be washed and tumble-dried.

Drawbacks: The price is a serious deciding factor as this mattress protector can cost as much as some mattress encasements or even some more affordable mattress toppers. Additionally, this protector may unappealing to you due to the noise caused by waterproof materials. Certainly, that noise is much less prominent compared to some cheaper protections. If the price isn’t the deciding factor in this case, the protector will work great for you.


A lot of people confuse the mattress pads and mattress toppers. Surprisingly, even some mattress-making companies do. Essentially, a topper is just a thicker pad, and they both function in a way that will add to your mattress’ comfort.

On the other hand, the mattress protector is also an extremely important asset in your bedroom and can help your mattress live well-past its warranty due date. We hope this article helped you distinguish between the three, as well as pick the best option to flatter your bedroom.

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