If you have an older mattress or you’re looking to make your bed more comfortable, you might want to invest in a mattress pad or mattress topper. Not only can these products add an extra layer of cushion to your mattress, but they can also protect it against spills and stains.

So what’s the difference between a mattress pad vs. mattress topper? While there are several similarities between the two, each one serves a specific purpose. In this guide, we’ll discuss the differences between mattress pads and toppers and help you figure out which one is right for you.

What Is A Mattress Topper?

First up — what is a mattress topper? As its name implies, a mattress topper goes on top of your mattress for additional comfort and usually serves as an additional layer. Mattress toppers can range in thickness, with most measuring around 2” to 4” or more. They can provide more support, or more pressure relief, depending on the current mattress you have and the firmness of your new topper.

Mattress Topper Materials

Mattress toppers come in a wide variety of different materials. These include cotton, polyfoam, memory foam, gel foam, latex foam, and fiberfill. If you want a more luxurious feel, then down material offers the softness you’ll crave, whereas memory foam toppers (like the TempurPedic Mattress Topper) delivers more relief to pressure points and reduces tossing and turning.  

Benefits Of A Mattress Topper

So why would someone purchase a topper? The main benefits of a mattress topper are: 

  • Improve comfort, either by making your bed firmer or softer
  • Add several extra inches of thickness to your mattress
  • Increase mattress longevity and durability
  • Provide additional support 

Over time and with regular use, a mattress might become lumpy and unsupportive. A topper provides a short-term solution to help bring life back to your mattress (and some spare time to save up for a new bed).  

Moreover, If you have a soft mattress and buy a medium topper, you’ll add more support to your bed. If you have a firmer mattress and purchase a soft topper, on the other hand, it’ll make your mattress feel plusher and pressure relieving.

Caring For Your Mattress Topper

Because toppers come in a wide variety of materials, it’s important to follow the cleaning instructions outlined by your manufacturer. Some thinner toppers made of cotton you can be machine washed, while you’ll want to spot clean foam ones, using a mix of mild detergent and water in a spray bottle. 

You can also use a handheld vacuum to gently remove any dust or debris that accumulates on your topper.

Types Of Mattress Toppers 

Since mattress toppers are designed to make you more comfortable, you can find them in a variety of materials to suit your preferences. Some of the most popular include: 

  • Memory foam is known for its pressure-relieving and contouring properties. It’s one of the most popular types of mattress toppers and is worth considering if you want to add a soft, cushiony layer to your bed.
  • Latex mattress toppers are typically firmer than memory foam and offer a good layer of support. Plus, natural latex is hypoallergenic, which is good if you suffer from household allergies.
  • Wool is a solid temperature-regulating material, keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter. However, they aren’t as thick as memory foam or latex and aren’t the best option if you want a lot of pressure relief or extra comfort.
  • Down mattress toppers are similar to down duvets, giving you a fluffy and soft feeling. Just be aware that they don’t offer the same support as memory foam or latex.

What Is A Mattress Pad?

So, then what is a mattress pad? A mattress pad provides another layer of comfort to your current mattress. In general, mattress pads provide 1-2” of extra thickness and go over the top of your bed like a topper does. You can affix the mattress pad to the bed using straps or buy one to slide inside a fitted sheet.

Mattress Pad Materials

Similar to toppers, mattress pads come in a wide variety of materials. Some are made entirely of cotton, while others are constructed with cotton, down, memory foam, gel foam, and more. The material you choose depends on how firm or soft you want your bed to be. 

Benefits Of A Mattress Pad

Mattress pads provide plenty of benefits including: 

  • If your mattress is too firm, a mattress pad can help make your bed a little plusher
  • Sometimes, you can also use a mattress pad in lieu of a mattress protector
  • Prevents allergens from trapping into your bed
  • Keeps sheets in place

Caring For Your Mattress Pad

You’ll want to follow the instructions outlined by the pad’s manufacturer. With some pads, you’ll be able to machine wash them. However, in other cases, you’ll want to spot clean them using a combination of mild detergent and warm water. 

Types Of Mattress Pads

Many of the same materials are used in mattress pads and mattress toppers. Here are a few types of mattress pads that you’ll see as you shop around: 

  • Cotton mattress pads are very popular — and for a good reason. They’re durable, affordable, easy to find in stores, and easy to wash.
  • Down mattress pads are plush and fluffy, and they’ll keep you warm during winter. However, cleaning them can be tricky because they often aren’t machine washable.
  • Latex is another common type of mattress pad because it provides a bit of bounce and support while also cradling your body.
  • Memory foam mattress pads don’t offer as much pressure relief as memory foam mattress toppers, but they’ll still give you that contour-like feel. 
  • Fiber mattress pads (usually polyester or rayon) are a more affordable option. Most are spill-resistant, but interestingly enough, they can be hard to clean once they do get dirty.

Mattress Pad vs. Mattress Topper

While both improve the comfort of your bed, there is a difference between them. For one, mattress toppers are normally thicker than mattress pads. Therefore, while a mattress pad provides added comfort, a mattress topper is more of an upgrade since it supplies more material and comfort. 

To help you decide which one is right for you, here are the pros and cons of each:

Pros Of A Mattress Topper

  • Thicker than a mattress pad
  • More firmness varieties 
  • Easily fits on top of your current bed
  • Can extend the lifespan of your mattress

Cons Of A Mattress Topper

  • They can be expensive
  • Not easy to clean 

Meanwhile, if you’re considering a mattress pad, here are the pros and cons: 

Pros Of A Mattress Pad

  • Easy to set up using fitted sheet or straps
  • They’re less expensive than a topper
  • Can provide a more comfortable, plusher feel for beds
  • Prevents your mattress from accumulating allergens

Cons Of A Mattress Pad

  • Usually not as thick
  • If your mattress is really old and lumpy, it might not provide the full support you need like a topper would

Benefits of Adding Toppers And Pads

Both a mattress topper and a mattress pad can add durability to your bed by improving its comfort. A mattress pad is best if you’re searching for a softer layer to add to a firm bed or are on a tighter budget. A topper, on the other hand, is more beneficial when you want to make your mattress thicker, firmer or softer, and or more durable. 

A mattress topper is thicker and supplies more support, making it perfect for older, lumpier beds that need more TLC. When choosing between a mattress pad or topper, it’ll depend on a wide variety of factors, including the age of your mattress, your comfort preferences, and how much you want to spend on one.

How Do I Decide Between A Mattress Topper & A Mattress Pad? 

Not sure if you need a mattress pad vs. topper? We’ll help you figure it out. 

If you’re looking for a thick layer of padding to change the feel or firmness of your bed, you’ll want to get a mattress topper. They’re more expensive, but they’ll help extend the life of your mattress. On the other hand, a mattress pad would be a better choice if you’re just looking for a bit of extra plushness to your bed. It’s the more cost-effective option because it often isn’t as thick as a mattress topper.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking for a thick layer of cushion or a simple addition of padding, one of these two products should get the job done. Both types have their merits, but deciding between mattress pad vs. topper comes down to the problem you’re trying to solve. Are you looking for extra thickness and support? Or, do you want a slightly softer and plusher feel? The right pick should help you get one step closer to a quality night’s rest. 

FAQs

Is there a difference between a mattress topper and mattress pad?

A mattress topper tends to be thicker than a mattress pad. While a pad provides a layer of comfort, a mattress topper can provide more support, especially if you have an older bed but are not ready to replace it yet.

Are toppers or pads more expensive?

Toppers can be more expensive in general because they are thicker, while pads offer comfort at a more affordable price. However, the type of material you choose will also play a huge role in how much you pay. Toppers and pads made with down or memory foam can be much more expensive than ones made of cotton.

Can I wash my mattress topper?

Sometimes — you’ll want to follow the instructions as outlined by the topper’s manufacturer. In most instances, especially if the topper is thicker or made of memory foam, you can spot clean it using mild detergent and warm water.

Can I wash my mattress pad?

Yes, you can typically wash your mattress pad. Similar to a topper, you’ll want to follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely. In some cases, you’ll be able to machine wash the pad, whereas, in others, you’ll want to spot clean it only.

Can you use a mattress topper as a mattress?

We really wouldn’t recommend it. Some mattress toppers are only a few inches thick, which would make for a very uncomfortable night’s sleep. They’re really designed to sit on top of a regular mattress to add more thickness and comfort.

Can you sleep on just a mattress pad?

Again, we would advise against using a mattress pad as a mattress. Mattress pads are even thinner than mattress toppers and are intended to be used as a bonus layer on your bed.

Are you supposed to put sheets on the mattress pad?

Yes. Your mattress pad (or topper) is supposed to sit on top of your mattress, and then you should put your sheets over both parts. If your fitted sheet doesn’t cover both your pad/topper and mattress, you might need to buy a deeper one.