Mattress Pad vs Topper – Pros, Cons and the Main Differences

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As you shop for new materials to improve your bed space, it’s understandable to get mattress toppers and pads mixed up.

While they may appear to be the same device with different names,  there are significant contrasts between them you should consider when deciding whether to buy a mattress pad or mattress topper.

This consumer’s guide will show you everything you need to know about each product, including materials, pros and cons, and what sets them apart from one another.

With the helpful information provided here, you’ll have a better understanding of which item best suits your needs.

Health vs Comfort

Both products provide a way to customize and update a bed without paying hundreds of dollars for a new one altogether. While some consumers choose to purchase one of these products to add extra comfort, others may need to invest in one for health reasons. For example, if you have frequent back pain, the added support could help minimize the pain.

We know that a good night’s rest is also part of living a healthy life, and if the added layer helps you sleep better, that is also a health-related reason to buy one.

Illustration of a Man Waking up With a Back Pain

What Are Mattress Pads?

These pads are thinner pieces of cushioning between the bed and sheets that help protect your bed from wear and tear. They tend to be cheaper and thinner than a topper, and they usually do not provide as much comfort. Despite that, they have features, including heating and cooling, that many toppers don’t have.

View Our Guide: Top Rated Mattress Pads

Types of Mattress Pads

Types of Mattress Pads

These products come in a wide variety of materials for consumers to choose from according to their individual preferences.

Memory Foam

Consumers who love the contouring capabilities of memory foam should be pleased to know there are pads available in this material.

Latex

A latex product should provide your sleep space with a little more buoyancy and is known to be a very hypoallergenic material.

Cotton

For hot sleepers, cotton can be an excellent choice since the material is also very breathable. These are usually made with a quilted surface.

hot sleepers use breathable cotton sheets to keep them cool at night

Wool

Wool is famously known for its warming capabilities but is also a popular pad material due to its softness. It’s also good for detracting dust mites and mold.

Feather

For those who want a luxuriously soft feel, feather pads are the way to go. Plus, the down material can sleep both cool and warm depending on the weather.

Fiber

These items are made from natural or synthetic substances and usually involve a combination of materials like polyester, rayon, and down alternatives, known as fiberfill. Synthetic pads may provide good stain-resistance but might be noisy.

Pros and Cons of Mattress Pads

Pros

  • Less Expensive – One of the advantages pads have is that they’re less expensive.

  • Cooling and Heating Feature – Another perk to these products is that some are designed with cooling or heating capabilities.

  • Easy Maintenance – Pads are generally easy to remove and machine washable, which should make cleaning them a breeze.

  • Protect Against Dust and Damage – They help fend off dirt and dust, and they are usually waterproof in order to protect your bed from spills or accidents.
Illustration of a Man Putting Stuff in the Washing Machine

Cons

  • Minimal Cushioning – You won’t significantly modify the feel of the bed.

  • More Prone to Damage – These products are thinner and lightweight, which means they are more susceptible to damage.

What Are Mattress Toppers?

Both products provide a way to customize and update a bed without paying hundreds of dollars for a new one altogether. While some consumers choose to purchase one of these products to add extra comfort, others may need to invest in one for health reasons. For example, if you have frequent back pain, the added support could help minimize the pain.

We know that a good night’s rest is also part of living a healthy life, and if the added layer helps you sleep better, that is also a health-related reason to buy one.

Check Out Our Guide: Best Mattress Topper

Types of Toppers

Similar to pads, these items are available in several different materials to meet your needs and preferences.

Memory Foam

memory foam topper matched with mattress

A memory foam mattress topper is an excellent choice if you prefer your bed to contour to your body to relieve pressure during the night.

Latex

Latex is a very responsive material but also hypoallergenic, making it ideal for those with allergies.

Wool

Wool is a very soft material, and it’s also great for those who live in climates with multiple seasons since it tends to do well at regulating temperature whether it’s hot or cold out.

Featherbed

A featherbed is designed to provide a cloud-like feel similar to pillow-top bedding. They can also be regularly shaken up so that they stay fluffy for long-term use.

Pros and Cons of Mattress Toppers

Pros

  • Alters Your Bed’s Feel – These items are thicker, which means they’ll significantly alter your bed’s feel.

  • Prolong Mattress Life – Toppers are an excellent way to get more years out of an older bed and protect it from stains or sagging.

  • Different Sizes – They are available in different thickness sizes to suit your needs.
Illustration of a Woman Sleeping on an Old Bad Mattress

Cons

  • More Expensive – Though not as pricey as a new mattress, they can still get pretty expensive.

  • Harder to Clean and Move – Toppers are bulky, which makes cleaning and moving them more of a challenge.

  • May Get Hot – Memory foam toppers could get hot. To avoid this, look for gel memory foam topper, which is better for cooling.
Illustration of a Woman Counting Her Savings While Thinking about New Bed

Difference Between Mattress Pad and Mattress Topper

Sometimes these products are listed interchangeably, so it’s important to know how to tell them apart and pick the right one for you.

Thickness

While pads run under 1-inch thick, toppers are usually between 1-3 inches. That difference in thickness is important to consider if you want to see a noticeable change in how your bed feels. For those who need more comfort and support, a topper would be the better investment.

Want to know more? Read our guide for mattress topper thickness.

Purpose

Illustration of a Lady Trying Mattress Toppers in a Mattress Store

A topper’s purpose is to modify the feel of your bed. It’s useful for bringing some new life to a fading bed that may not provide the same comfort that it used to. A pad, however, is designed to make your bed slightly softer and protect your mattress.

Maintenance

Most pads are machine washable, making them easy to clean and maintain. Toppers, though, are heavier and more difficult to clean. You usually have to clean them with either vacuums or sprays, which can be a more time-consuming process than machine washing.

Get More Info: Clean Your Foam Mattress Topper in 3 Easy Steps

Protection from Stains

Toppers are less resistant to stains from spills or accidents than pads are. Certain pad materials, however, are waterproof and should help prevent spills from soaking through. When it comes to your mattress, though, toppers provide better protection against damage compared to pads.

illustration of a woman having hot flashes and night sweats

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use a mattress pad and mattress topper together?

While there’s no direct rule that states you aren’t allowed to pair these two products together, they are designed to be used on their own. Plus, with the money you would spend on purchasing both of them, it might be better to invest in a new bed altogether.

In the event you decide to layer both items, you should place the topper directly above the mattress, and then put the pad on top. By layering them this way, the pad will be able to protect both the topper and the mattress.

Conclusion

Although they are often thought of interchangeably, pads and toppers have specific features that set them apart. Those differences include thickness, purpose, maintenance, and stain protection.

When selecting which one to buy, it’s also important to weigh the pros and cons of each one. For instance, pads may be easier to move and clean, but they will not provide a noticeable amount of added comfort the way a topper would.

By understanding these detailed differences, though, you will be better equipped to make a smart investment in improving your bed space.

Sources and References:

Sleep Advisor