Difference between mattress toppers and mattress pads

Written by Zulekha Nishad

Last Updated June 6, 2024

When it comes to mattresses, there are all sorts of accessories and add-ons that you can buy to make your sleeping experience better. Two of the most popular are mattress toppers and mattress pads. But what's the difference between them? And which one should you buy? Here's a breakdown of both so you can decide for yourself.

difference between mattress toppers and mattress pads

What is a mattress topper?

A mattress topper is a removable top layer that serves as an extension to a mattress. It helps noticeably change the firmness level of an existing mattress and provides great cushioning and support.

natural and organic latex mattress topper

Ranging from 1-inch to 4-inch thickness, mattress toppers are a great alternative to purchasing an all-new mattress.

Due to their thickness, toppers can also be used as mobile mattresses. So, the next time you want to lay down on the balcony or your yard enjoying the beautiful sunset, just roll out a mattress topper and lie down in comfort.

Mattress toppers are made from a variety of materials. And choosing the right material primarily depends on your personal sleep preferences.

The type of material you choose can affect the thickness, softness, as well as overall feel of the mattress topper.

Types of mattress toppers

Mattress toppers are usually made of latex, wool, memory foam, and feather.

Latex mattress toppers

Latex mattress toppers are a good option for sleepers who prefer extra contouring without too much sink. These toppers are responsive and have excellent pressure relieving properties. If you're someone dealing with back pain, this topper is for you!

Latex mattress topper

Natural latex is hypoallergenic and therefore considered the best for those with allergies. They are also naturally breathable and help you sleep cool at night.

If you're looking to increase the mattress' firmness level, you might want to go for a Dunlop latex topper, as this one's typically denser when compared to Talalay.

Wool mattress toppers

Even though wool toppers are not as common as other types, they are sought out for their innate softness and breathability. Wool mattress toppers are supportive and excel at temperature regulation. This means they can keep you warm in winter and cool in summer by wicking away moisture.

Wool topper

Memory foam mattress toppers

Memory foam topper is well known for its contouring and pressure relieving properties. If you are waking up with terrible body aches, a memory foam mattress topper might help you.

Since memory foam does not ventilate as much as other topper types, they sleep hot. They are also less breathable than latex toppers.

Memory foam mattress topper

Feather mattress toppers

Feather mattress toppers are usually made of feathers from waterfowl which makes them super soft and fluffy. However, they vary widely in terms of support.

In order to strike a balance between plushness and loft, some of these toppers layer more than one type of feather. Feather mattress toppers are seasonally versatile due to their temperature regulating properties.

Feather mattress topper

Benefits of mattress toppers

The best thing about using a mattress topper is that it improves the bed you already have. From adding comfort to improving the lifespan of your mattress, a topper can benefit you in so many ways.

These are the top benefits of mattress toppers:

  • Improve your sleep by making your mattress comfortable
  • Contours to the body
  • Pressure-relieving properties
  • Reduces back pain
  • Increase the overall height of a mattress
  • Slow down the typical wear and tear of an old mattress
  • Reduce motion transfer
  • Regulate temperature
  • Ease the break-in period of an all-new mattress

What is a mattress pad?

A mattress pad is a thin quilted layer placed on top of a mattress in order to alter its feel. It is also used as a protective layer to shield the mattress from liquids, accidents, and dirt.

latex mattress

Usually 1 to 2 inches thick, mattress protector pads don't drastically change the firmness level of a mattress. They aren't meant to offer significant pressure relief, but they can make a bed feel plusher.

Wool mattress protector pad

Mattress pads are attached to a fitted sheet, with zippers or straps in the corners to tuck underneath the mattress. This prevents them from moving when you change sleeping positions.

A mattress pad can be made using both synthetic and natural materials. However, the way a mattress pad alters the feel of your bed mainly depends on the material used in construction.

Types of mattress pads

Here are the common types of mattress pads:

Latex mattress pads

Made from natural or synthetic latex or a blend of both, these mattress pads provide better protection against spills.

Depending on the thickness, latex mattress pads contour to the shape of your body and offer bounce. These mattress pads are found most effective when paired with natural latex mattresses.

Wool mattress pads

Wool mattress pads are sourced mainly from the sheep. They are soft and breathable. Mattress pads made of wool naturally wick away moisture and keep heat from building up, thereby helping you sleep better at night.

These mattress pads can alter the feel of a stiff mattress, making it cozy and comfy without retaining too much heat.

Maintenance of wool mattress pads is a bit difficult because most of them can't be machine-washed. They are also unable to prevent spills from soaking through.

Fiber mattress pads

Fiber mattress pads consist of polyester fill and are often suitable for those sensitive to down feathers. They are typically lightweight, soft, and machine-washable.

Fiber mattress pads are a great option if you're someone who wants to add some extra cushioning without inhibiting movement.

The temperature neutrality of fiber mattress pads can vary based on construction, but most of them are fairly breathable. They are also comparatively more economical than other types of mattress pads.

Memory foam mattress pads

Compared to other mattress pads, the ones made with memory foam aren't common. Even though they conform to the shape of your body, memory foam mattress pads aren't thick enough for pressure relief.

Memory foam mattress pads cannot be washed easily. They are also ineffective in blocking stains. Since memory foam retains more heat than other materials, these mattress pads can make you sleep hot.

Feather mattress pads

A feather mattress pad is made of duck or goose feathers. Soft, cozy, and warm, these mattress pads offer a plush feel and are suitable for people looking to soften a very firm bed.

Feather mattress pads are fairly breathable and don't cause heat buildup. Many of them feature a baffle box construction in order to maintain the even distribution of the fill. But, the feathers may still clump. This makes the sleeping surface uneven unless the mattress pad is regularly fluffed.

Mattress pads made of feathers are quite pricey.

Benefits of mattress pads

From protecting your mattress from spills and moisture to improving sleep quality, a mattress pad offers a variety of benefits. Here are the top benefits of this protective layer:

  • Adds extra cushioning and support to your mattress
  • Protect mattresses against moisture and stains
  • Lightweight
  • Reduce unwanted noise of a mattress

What is the difference between mattress toppers and mattress pads?

Yeah, mattress toppers and pads indeed have similar functions, but they serve two different functions. That is, protecting your mattress or significantly changing its feel.

Mattress toppers are a better option if you want to substantially adjust the feel of your existing mattress. Because they are thicker than mattress pads, toppers are better equipped to make a mattress firmer or softer. When made from 100% organic and breathable materials like latex and wool, mattress toppers can also facilitate a cooler sleep.

Toppers made of organic materials are highly durable and can extend the lifespan of your mattress. They can also reduce terrible body aches and pains by cushioning your major pressure points. However, mattress toppers can be expensive and cumbersome. Since they aren't machine washable, it's not always easy to clean them.

Mattress pads are great for sleepers looking to add extra support and comfort to their mattress while keeping it clean and dry. Unlike a mattress topper, it won't significantly change the firmness level.

Mattress pads are designed to protect your bed from moisture, dust and dirt. Mattress pads are also very easy to attach, clean and move.

A mattress pad is ideal for you if you're on a budget. But, since mattress pads are thinner than toppers, they may not provide as much softness as desired. Also, they do not offer as much support as a mattress topper does.


  Thickness   1” to 2”   1” to 4”(Thicker)
  Feel   Slight plushness   Significant cushion and comfort
  Support   Light support   Highly supportive
  Protection   Minimal protection   Extra protection due to thickness
  Maintenance   Usually machine washable   Not machine washable


So, what's the difference between a mattress pad and a topper? A topper is usually thicker and more expensive than a pad. It also changes the feel of your sleep surface more than a pad. A pad, on the other hand, is thinner and less expensive. It will add some cushioning and protection to your mattress but won't change how it feels as much as a topper would.

Mattress pad vs mattress topper - How to decide between the two?

Still confused between a mattress topper and a mattress pad? Worry not; we will make it easy for you!

  • If your mattress is too soft

Yes, you heard it right; there is actually such a thing as a too-soft mattress. If you're waking up with persistent backaches, unceasing neck and shoulder pain, or experience difficulty in getting in and out of your bed, your mattress may be too soft.

A mattress pad can worsen these problems by adding a plush layer on an already too-soft mattress. In such a situation, go for a firmer mattress topper as it can give you extra support.

  • If your mattress is too firm

Are you waking up with back or neck pain? Do you often wake up feeling tired? Doesn't your mattress contour to your body when you get into bed? Do hotel beds or guest beds make you sleep better? If your answer is 'yes' to all these questions, then you might be sleeping on a 'too firm' mattress.

In this case, either a mattress pad or mattress topper could work well based on your sleep preference.

A mattress pad can provide you with that light, pillowy feel. Meanwhile, a mattress topper can offer an extra level of comfort by creating a soft, buoyant feel on top of your old mattress.

natural and organic pillows

In short, mattress pads can provide modest protection, while toppers offer a more remarkable transformation in comfort, durability, and support.

Now that you know the difference between the two, which is it going to be for you? A mattress pad or a mattress topper? Whichever you choose, we hope you found this post informative and that it helps you get the best night's sleep possible. Sweet dreams!

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3. Why Do You Need A Mattress Protector For Your latex Mattress

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4. How To Find The Perfect Comforter For Your Sleep needs?

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Disclaimer: What is said in this article has been referenced from multiple sources and is intended only for educational and informational purposes. Please note that no content in this article is a substitute for professional advice from a qualified doctor or healthcare provider. Always consult an experienced doctor with any concerns you may have regarding a health condition or treatment, and never disregard any medical suggestions or delay in seeking treatment because of something you read here.