Mattress Protector VS Mattress Pad – What Is the Difference?

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Mattress pads and protectors are often confused or even assumed to be the same product. However, they both serve different purposes, we explain why either could make your life easier or more comfortable with their various functions.

Generally, a protector is for protecting the quality of your bed, providing a shield between spills, dampness, and other accidents. A pad can offer an excellent solution to an uncomfortable bed, providing pressure relief or mere comfort.

Many sleepers could benefit from both, but buying two products may not be necessary. Below we'll help you discern between a mattress pad versus a protector, and help you decide which is best for your needs.

What is a Mattress Protector?

These products are great accessories to help get the most out of your mattress and provide a tough exterior. With many of them being waterproof, they should help shield your sleep haven from unexpected spills, accidents, and anything else that could potentially damage your product.

These covers can also help minimize bed bugs, keep allergens out, and some are created with specialized fabric for temperature control.

View Our Guide: Top Rated Mattress Protectors

Bed Bugs Treatment and Protection

Bed bugs don't always elicit serious concern, but they can cause terrible rashes, serious allergic reactions, and more. Secondary infections as a result of bite reactions include ecthyma, impetigo, and lymphangitis.

These pests can even cause mental health issues in severely infested homes, with inhabitants reporting insomnia, anxiety, and systemic reactions— but a protector could help.

Illustration of Bed Bugs

Waterproofing

Quality protectors made with specialized fabric can help shield against liquids and harmful spills. These types are excellent if you have kids working on potty-training who are not yet reliable to sleep through the night. These protectors are also great for maintaining the integrity of the mattress, saving you from expensive replacements.

Cooling Effect

Some types of these products can improve your existing sleep nook by infusing a much-needed dose of temperature maintenance. Individuals who sleep warm often complain of discomfort due to overheating at night, but a cover made with a cooling fabric could help you doze comfortably.

illustration of couple sleeping on cooling bed topper

Additional Comfort

While pads are the products that primarily supply further comfort to a bed, a protector could do so as well. If you're not looking for a substantial adjustment, some covers have additional quilting built into them, providing an added layer of plush comfort to help you settle into a restful night.

Shield Against Allergens and Bed Bugs

Bed bugs love hiding in places that are warm and cozy, and your bed is a perfect spot for them to thrive, but a protector could help. These products are often waterproof and help minimize any damage from spills or harmful accidents.

Additionally, allergy sufferers could benefit from using these as they might help reduce the number of allergens sneaking inside your mattress. The more pollen, dust mites, mold, mildew, or dander you have, the more severe your allergies could grow, and a protector or a pad could provide your nasal cavities some much-needed relief.

illlustration of a woman strugling with allergy symptoms

What's a Mattress Pad's Purpose?

A pad could be a fantastic addition if you're looking to infuse some extra comfort into your mattress or adjust the feel. Depending on the pad, you can significantly change the sensation of your sleep haven with a product that costs much less than a new bed.

While pads can add additional plush comfort, they don't always increase the softness; they can provide a firmer, more supportive feel as well.

Check Out Our Guide: Best Mattress Pad

Adjust Firmness and Feel

Pads can help adjust the firmness level of a mattress by adding an extra layer of plush cushioning to your bed, building more pressure relief and comfort. Alternatively, if your product is old and has grown too soft, a firmer mattress pad could add more robust support.

sleeper checking the firmness of a mattress

Hypoallergenic Sleep

If you struggle with sleep due to hiding allergens or dust mites, placing a pad between your cushion and sheets could help mitigate these issues. The pad could act as a shield, and while it may not eliminate your allergies, it could provide noticeable help.

Reduce Noise

Some products emit subtle sounds or noise as we lay down on them and are condensed under pressure. If you find yourself hearing a bit more from your bed than you'd like, a pad could be a surprising solution. The thickness of the material could be just what you need to drown out those irritating noises.

Keeping Liquids Away

Besides adding extra comfort with an additional layer, a pad can also help serve to protect. Crib mattress pads in particular can be big a help.While its primary job is to provide extra cushioning, it is still an extra barrier that any spilled liquids or accidents will have to penetrate before ruining your product.

Illustration of a Parent Removing Wet Mattress Pad from Their Baby's Mattress

What’s the Difference Between a Mattress Pad and a Protector? Do You Need Both?

Using both a pad and a protector isn't a bad idea, as both can serve different and complementary purposes, aiding in comfort and function together. However, you may not need both.

A protector is great if you've got kids, pets, love to eat in bed, or are just plain clumsy. Additionally, if you're suffering from allergies, these products could be useful in creating a barrier between allergens hiding in your mattress and yourself.

If you're only looking for additional plushness, firmness, or spruce up an old product, a mattress pad is a great bet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you put a sheet over a mattress protector?

As a pad and protector are mere accessories, not substitutes for bedding, you'll likely still prefer to sleep on your soft sheets rather than a waterproof lining or foam pad. You'll want to treat your bed the same by putting a fitted bed sheet over either product, just as you would otherwise.

Person changing their sheets

Mattress encasement vs. protector

A mattress protector often acts like a fitted sheet, providing a barrier between the mattress and the sheets and yourself, leaving the bottom of the mattress exposed. An mattress encasement typically is a zippered product that encases the entire bed, which is excellent if you suffer from dust, pollen, or fabric allergies.

Conclusion

Pads and protectors are easily confused products, and while they both can protect or improve your sleep experience, they are certainly different and serve unique purposes. While your product can likely benefit from either, you probably don't need both. When thinking about your needs, keep in mind that a pad is primarily for comfort, and a protector is to protect.

You can have a cozy bed without forking over the cost of a new one by infusing new life into a dull cushion with a supplemental product. When paired with a suitable mattress, a protector or pad could help you create the sleep haven you're craving.

Sources and References:

Sleep Advisor