Mattress Pad Vs Topper

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Mattress Pad Vs Topper: Which One Do YOU Need?

Mattress Pad Vs Topper - Cover Image

Mattress pad vs topper: these are two terms that people get mixed up quite a lot, but they are completely different items. What’s a mattress pad? What’s a mattress topper? How are they different, and which one do you need?! I’ll answer everything in this mattress pad vs topper explainer.

What Is A Mattress Pad?

Mattress pads are thin and designed to add a layer of softness to the top of your mattress without completely changing its feel. They often attach to your mattress like a fitted sheet does, or have thick elastic straps to hold them on.

As well as adding some softness, you can also find waterproof mattress pads, which you can use in place of a mattress protector.

Mattress pads are commonly made of cotton, wool, or feathers. If they are waterproof, they will have a thin polyurethane layer on their base. Sometimes they contain foams, but this is more common in mattress toppers.

I use a wool mattress pad on my own mattress. I have an Ecosa mattress, which is very firm. The wool mattress pad adds just a touch of softness to make the firm mattress feel a bit better, and the wool is great for temperature control. However, I’d really like to get more contouring from my mattress so I really need a topper instead.

What Is A Mattress Topper?

A mattress topper is thicker than a mattress pad, and does more to change the feel of your mattress. If your mattress is too firm (like mine), adding a softer topper will give you more pressure relief. If your mattress is too soft, adding a firm topper can create a flatter sleeping surface for you (as long as the mattress isn’t soft because it’s sagged from old age).

You’ll often find mattress toppers contain materials such as memory foams or latex, which allow them to not only soften the feel of your mattress, but add extra benefits such as more pressure relief.

If you’re looking to make a firm mattress softer, or a soft mattress firmer, then a topper is the best choice.

Toppers sit on top of your mattress: you won’t really find them attaching like a fitted sheet although many come with thick elastic straps.

How They’re Similar

There are several similarities between mattress pads and mattress toppers:

  • Both add a layer between the mattress and yourself
  • Both can help protect your mattress from stains and spills (a mattress pad that fits like a fitted sheet will do the best job of this)
  • Both can soften the touch through the top of the mattress
  • Both can contain materials such as memory foam, latex, and wool

How They’re Different

Mattress pad vs mattress topper: there are a lot more differences than there are similarities. Some of these will have become clear as you read the descriptions above, but here’s the definitive list:

  • While it’s true they both soften the top of the mattress, a topper will actually change how the mattress feels all together. A mattress pad won’t. For example, if you have a mattress that you are finding too firm, you will want to add a topper to make the mattress feel firmer, NOT a pad
  • Likewise, if you have a mattress that is too soft, you can add a topper to make it feel more firm (latex toppers are a great option here)
  • Mattress pads are thinner than mattress toppers. Generally speaking, a mattress pad is 1 inch or less. A mattress topper is thicker than 1 inch
  • Mattress pads are easier to clean than toppers. Mattress pads are often machine washable where many toppers are not (always check the instructions for your specific topper or pad)
  • Even though both can contain foams, you’re more likely to find mattress pads that contain feathers, wool, and cotton etc. These materials are used to soften the pad without giving it the properties that will alter the feel of the mattress (like a topper will). For example, if you buy a memory foam mattress pad, it won’t be thick enough to provide pressure relief.
  • Pads are generally cheaper than toppers
  • Mattress toppers are heavier than mattress pads (this won’t be surprising, since they’re thicker and often contain more dense materials)

Mattress Pad Vs Topper: Which One Do I Need?

So, which one do you need?

If you’re generally happy with your mattress and you just want a touch of softness then a mattress pad will be sufficient.

If you want to change the feel of your mattress, for example if you want more contouring and softness or you want to make it firmer, then a topper will be your best choice.

No matter which way you go, make sure you’re choosing a high quality, breathable pad or topper to help you keep cool through the night.

Mattress Pad And Mattress Topper Recommendations

Mattress pad vs topper - topper on bed

So what are the best ones to buy? Here are some I have reviewed and am therefore happy to recommend to you.

I’ve only reviewed one mattress pad so far and it’s a good one:

  • Puffy Mattress Pad: This mattress pad is a generous 2 inches thick and comes with a lifetime warranty.

Here are some of my favorite mattress toppers:

  • Top 5 Mattress Toppers On Amazon: 5 great mattress toppers, covering a range of materials and price points.
  • Top 3 Latex Mattress Toppers: Latex is regarded as a premium material. Known for its breathabilty, durability, and natural sourcing, it’s an all-round great material. Its resilience works well for making both soft and firm toppers, so if you’re after a firm topper (which can be harder to find), I suggest you check one of them out.
  • My all-time favorite topper: This latex topper by Avocado Green is amazing. Available in soft or firm, it comes with a whole year sleep trial for you to test it out in your own home. I can’t recommend it enough.

Do you use a mattress pad or mattress topper? Tell me about your experiences in the comments! 


Emily Johnstone

Emily is the creator and owner of Emily's scientific background gives her an analytical, critical, and discerning eye to bring unbiased, thorough, and helpful content to the site. Your good sleep is her top priority. Find out more about Emily and here.