Mattress Topper vs. Mattress Pad: What is the Difference?

December 21, 2021

Mattress Topper vs. Mattress Pad: What is the Difference?

If you’re looking to get a better, deeper sleep every night, and think that your current mattress is responsible, you may want to consider buying a mattress pad or mattress topper instead of getting a whole new mattress. Maybe your mattress is just a little bit too firm or too soft, or perhaps you don’t want to replace your whole mattress, and go through the pain and expenses of buying a new one. Whatever your reason, a mattress topper or pad will allow you to customize your mattress to better suit your needs.

While mattress pads and mattress toppers have their differences, both fit on top of your mattress to give you an extra layer of comfort during sleep, and extend the life of your mattress as a whole.

Both mattress pads and toppers add a plush layer to your mattress, and while both protect your mattress and provide some degree of comfort, mattress toppers are thicker than mattress pads, changing how your bed feels more than just a pad does. Comfort is the main thing to consider when deciding between a pad and a topper, because both pads and toppers protect your mattress against stains and wear, but both do not create equal levels of comfort.

In general, if all you want from your mattress accessory is an extra layer of protection, along with a plush layer for a little bit of extra comfort, a mattress pad is best for you. However, if you want the protection a pad provides, but also want to completely change the feel of your bed, either make it feel more soft or firm, a mattress topper is right for you.

This may seem easy enough for you to make a decision, but there are many more details that are important to your overall satisfaction with either product that should be considered before purchase.

Below, we will go over in detail what a mattress pad and mattress topper are, and the advantages and disadvantages of both, so that you can better decide for yourself which one you should buy to improve the comfort of your mattress, and inevitably, your sleep. So, let’s get to it: mattress topper vs pad.

What is a Mattress Pad?

A mattress pad is a mattress accessory that adds to the comfort of your mattress, and provides it with an extra layer of comfort. Mattress pads lie directly on the top surface of your mattress, underneath your fitted sheet.

Like a fitted sheet, mattress pads usually come with fitted corners and sides to prevent them from getting bunched up during the night. Also, some mattress pads can be attached with zippers or straps to your fitted sheet to prevent movement.

Mattress pads are generally thin, about less than an inch in thickness, similar to a blanket or mattress protector. While they may improve the comfort of your bed, they are too thin to drastically change it for the better.

Mattress pads offer some protection for your mattress from wear and tear, along with stains and spills, like a mattress protector. They are commonly made of feather, wool, cotton, down, latex, memory foam, or synthetic fibers.

What are the Types of Mattress Pads?


Cotton mattress pads are the most common type of mattress pads. Cotton mattress pads are usually more affordable and more durable than other types of mattress pads, meaning that you may not have to replace a cotton mattress pad for years.

They are also touted for their plushness and overall comfort; however, they are not as effective as protecting your mattress from spills and stains as other mattress pads. Cotton is very absorbent, meaning that spills may seep right through a cotton mattress pad onto the mattress underneath. Organic cotton mattress pads are also available, but they are more expensive.

Feather and Down

Feather mattress pads are made from the feathers of ducks and geese. Feather mattress pads are popular for those looking for a cozy, soft mattress pad, and aren’t looking for much mattress protection from their mattress pad. Down feather mattress pads can also be purchased; these are usually even softer and more expensive than regular feathered mattress pads.


Wool mattress pads are known for their breathable quality, which means that they will prevent you from overheating if you are a hot sleeper. They are also effective at wicking away moisture from sweat, but usually aren’t effective at stopping spills from soaking through onto your mattress. Wool mattress pads are usually inexpensive, but many cannot be machine-washed.

Memory Foam

While memory foam mattress toppers are quite common, memory foam mattress pads are rare. Memory foam mattress pads aren’t thick enough to provide you with pressure relief, but they do conform to your body and provide you with extra comfort and plushness. A memory foam mattress pad is difficult to wash, and not very good at protecting your mattress from spills.


Latex mattress pads are made from natural, or synthetic latex, or a hybrid of both. They are best when used on top of a latex mattress. Latex mattress pads can vary in thickness and comfort, but usually contour to your body and offer some bounce. Latex mattress pads are a more expensive option, and more difficult to maintain than other options; however, they are also more effective at protecting your mattress from stains and spills than the mattress pads previously mentioned.


Fiber mattress pads are usually composed of rayon, polyester, or synthetic down, like fiberfill. Fiber mattress pads are sometimes noisy and respond to movement. They also cannot be machine-washed. However, they are very effective at protecting your mattress from spills and stains.

What is a Mattress Topper?

You can think of a mattress topper like a more heavy-duty version of a mattress pad. Like most mattress pads, mattress toppers fit on top of your mattress, underneath a fitted sheet, providing you with extra comfort and mattress protection.

Unlike a mattress pad, mattress toppers are much thicker and can more noticeably alter the comfort of your mattress. Also, because of their thickness, they are much more effective at preventing stains, and protecting your mattress overall. Depending on the type of mattress topper you purchase, they can either make your mattress feel softer or firmer. They are usually made of memory foam, latex, wool, or feather.

What are the Types of Mattress Toppers?

Memory Foam

Memory foam mattress toppers are a popular option for many people looking for extra comfort and pressure relief. Memory foam allows the topper to contour to your body, giving you a sounder sleep. You can also purchase a gel memory foam mattress topper. A memory foam mattress topper of this type provides a more cooling bed feel to keep you from overheating at night.


Latex mattress toppers provide an additional layer of support to your mattress, just like a memory foam mattress topper. Latex toppers are a great option for those with allergies, as they are hypoallergenic, and resistant to bed bugs, dust mites, mildew, and mold.


Wool mattress toppers are a good option for people looking for the extra comfort and protection that toppers provide, along with temperature regulation. Unlike a typical memory foam mattress topper, wool toppers will keep you warm in the winter while keeping you cool in the summer by wicking moisture away.


Feather bed mattress toppers, just like a feather bed mattress pad, are great for those looking for a fluffy, plushy feel in their bed. A feather bed mattress topper provides a similar bed feel to pillow top mattresses, but they can be fluffed and shaken out to remove any mats or bunches.

What are the Differences Between Mattress Pads and Mattress Toppers?

In the mattress pad vs mattress topper comparison, mattress pads are thinner, and more expensive than mattress toppers. This means that they alter the comfort of your mattress less than a topper, and also don’t provide as much protection as a topper does. Below, the differences in mattress pads vs mattress toppers will be more thoroughly explained in 5 categories.

Mattress Topper vs. Mattress Pad: What is the Difference?


Mattress pads are less than one inch thick. Mattress toppers are always much thicker, and therefore provide more protection and relief from an uncomfortable mattress.


As mentioned, most mattress toppers generally provide more mattress protection than a mattress pad, due to their thickness. Therefore, they should protect your mattress from spills and wear and tear more than a pad. However, mattress pads made from synthetic fibers are the exception, as they are also effective at protecting your mattress from spills.


Maintenance may be a key part of your decision to buy a pad or topper. Mattress toppers are much harder to maintain, while mattress pads are much easier because most of them can be machine washed.


While mattress pads may provide you with a little extra comfort, and possibly temperature regulation, mattress toppers’ main purpose is to alter the feel of your bed. Mattress toppers are much thicker, and can make your bed feel softer or firmer. Also, gel memory foam and wool toppers are great at temperature regulation, providing the user with a cooling mattress effect, so that you never overheat.


The material of your mattress pad or topper is completely dependent on your budget and price range. Both share the same materials, although cotton and fiber mattress pads can also be purchased. The material of the mattress pad or topper changes the bed feel, the cooling effect, and the ease of maintenance for each.

Should You Get a Mattress Topper or Mattress Pad?

Deciding to get a mattress pad or mattress topper, instead of replacing your old mattress, may be an easy fix, but deciding to get a mattress pad vs topper can be more difficult. Below, are a list of the pros and cons of each.

Pros and Cons of Mattress Pads

Any comparison of a mattress pad vs mattress topper needs to take into account the pros and cons.


  • Inexpensive - Mattress pads are wallet-friendly
  • Maintenance - Easy to clean, and most are machine-washable
  • Protection - Mattress pads provide some protection against spills, stains, and wear.


  • Protection - While mattress pads do provide some protection to your mattress, they don’t provide much, and many mattress pads aren’t effective at protecting your mattress from spills
  • Comfort - Mattress pads are too thin to provide your bed with any significant change in comfort

Pros and Cons of Mattress Toppers


  • Comfort - Perhaps the most important advantage to a mattress topper is the level of comfort they provide, especially for those who have an uncomfortable or stiff mattress. Toppers effectively change the feel of your bed, and can help you better customize your bed to your desire.
  • Protection - Toppers are effective at protecting your mattress from wear along with spills and stains
  • Pain relief - Some toppers, like both a natural latex topper and memory foam topper, may help alleviate pain and aches in your body


  • Maintenance - Mattress toppers are bulky, and are difficult to clean. They are not machine-washable. That’s why it is a good idea to purchase mattress accessories, like a topper cover.
  • Movement - Most toppers, unlike mattress pads, don’t come with elastic straps or fitted corners, so some toppers may move around during the night while you toss and turn

What are the Benefits of a Mattress Topper?

  • Comfort - perhaps the most important advantage to a mattress topper is the level of comfort they provide. Toppers effectively change the feel of your bed, and can help you better customize your bed to your desire, giving you a better night’s sleep. For example, if your mattress feels too soft, you can use a topper that adds firmness, if your bed is too firm, you can get a topper that makes your bed feel softer.
  • Temperature regulation - Plus, mattress toppers may help you better regulate your sleep. Wool and gel memory foam cooling mattress toppers prevent you from overheating when it’s hot, and keep you warm when it’s cool.
  • Protection - Like mattress protectors, toppers are effective at protecting your mattress from wear, along with spills and stains
  • Pain relief - Some toppers, like memory foam toppers, may help alleviate pain and aches in your body

FAQs about Mattress Toppers and Mattress Pads

What’s better, a mattress pad or mattress topper? On the mattress pad vs topper comparison, it generally depends on every individual and their preferences. For someone looking for extra comfort and protection, a mattress topper is a great option. However, if you’re satisfied with your mattress, and only want a bit of extra protection, a pad might be best for you, especially if you want it to be machine washable..

Are mattress toppers a good option for side sleepers? Yes! If you sleep on your side, and find that your side gets sore or uncomfortable at night, a soft mattress topper for side sleepers will help you get a better night’s sleep.

Do mattress pads and toppers provide spinal support? Mattress toppers provide better spinal support than pads because they are thicker. Firm mattress toppers made from latex, memory foam, or poly-foam are best for individuals looking for extra spinal support.

What should I get if I’m too cold at night? Mattress pads and toppers made from wool or down can provide you with extra warmth at night because they effectively insulate your mattress, and prevent your body heat from escaping.

What if I’m too hot at night? For hot sleepers, natural latex toppers allow for good air flow to help you keep cool at night. Going a step further, cooling mattress toppers are an excellent option, too. Also, wool toppers and pads are breathable, and wick away moisture, keeping you from overheating.

About Eco Terra’s Mattress Toppers

Eco Terra mattress toppers are made of 100% natural latex of the highest quality. There are no added synthetics, fillers, or chemicals, so you can rest easy knowing that your mattress topper is made of 100% pure, single-source natural latex.

Eco Terra latex mattress toppers provide you with the luxury and support you need to fall asleep easily, and wake up well-rested in the morning. Plus, the best natural latex mattress topper will protect your mattress from stains, spills, and wear, all the while giving you the comfort you want from your mattress.

Eco Terra latex mattress toppers are Oeko-Tex Standard 100 and Eco-Institut certified. Add a soft, GOTS-certified organic cotton cover for a luxurious, comforting feel. Simply place the topper on your mattress for deep, rejuvenating sleep.

The mattress topper comes in all sizes: twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, and cal king. You can also choose how soft or firm you want your topper to be, and the thickness of it! All of Eco Terra’s mattress toppers come with a five-year warranty, and free shipping! Get yours today, and have the sleep you’ve always dreamed of!

Patrick Gunther

Patrick is an accomplished writer. He has been in the retail mattress space for the past 13 years, and more specifically in the natural mattress niche. He blogs on the subjects of natural mattresses, sleep, health, fitness, and green living.