It is, unfortunately, all too common for the terms "mattress pad" and "mattress topper" to be used interchangeably in advertising. On the surface, this tactic appears to make sense. After all, they're both made of fabric and stuffed with a fluffy filling and are placed on top of a mattress, right? However, the truth is, there is a lot more to this situation than most uninformed customers will ever know.

In fact, mattress pads and mattress toppers are NOT at all the same. In fact, being "an item that sits on top of a mattress" is one of if not the only similarity between them! These two items actually perform two quite different functions in the bedroom, and should not be used interchangeably. While both can benefit your mattress and improve your overall sleeping environment, they do so in significantly different ways.

Luckily for you, this article explains in detail the exact differences between a mattress pad and a mattress topper. In addition, we will outline what sort of situations would benefit best from a mattress pad and when a topper should be used instead. With this guide in hand, you can identify the cause of any sleep problem you are having and determine whether a mattress pad or topper would be the best solution!

​What is a Mattress Pad?

A mattress pad is a thin piece of removable bedding which serves as the very outer layer of a mattress setup, being placed above even the fitted sheet. It typically features elastic straps with which it attaches to your bed at the corners, although some models use string or Velcro instead. In general, a mattress pad will not significantly improve the comfort of your mattress, due to being too thin to have much of a noticeable effect. They typically resemble a slightly thicker fitted sheet or a slightly thinner blanket or quilt.

Like most other bedroom goods, mattress protectors can be made from any number of fabrics and materials. The three most commonly used materials today are the natural fabrics cotton and wool and the synthetic fabric polyester. However, it is also possible to purchase a mattress pad made from a blend of two of the ingredients listed above, such as a 60-40 or 70-30 blend of polyester and cotton. Some mattress pads are made from only fabric, while others contain a very thin layer of filling which can be made from cotton, natural latex, or any number of synthetic foams.

The primary purpose of a mattress pad is to protect your mattress from stains or dust. While pads are usually thin, they are still thick enough to prevent liquid stains from seeping through and reaching the mattress below. They are typically capable of protecting your mattress against dust, dead skin flakes, and all human bodily fluids including but not limited to sweat, urine and menstrual blood. They can also protect against other accidental spills - for example, should you spill liquid or food while eating, drinking or feeding a baby in bed. They can also make your mattress slightly more resistant to natural wear and tear and less likely to develop tears, rips, or snags on their outer layers or lumps in their interiors.

A common use of mattress pads is to provide additional protection and cleanliness if you have a guest staying in your home. Alternately, you might take a mattress pad with you if you are traveling and are going to be sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, such as a hotel or relative's house, for an extended period of time. This can allow you to keep the bed clean, and can be considered a respectful gesture towards your host or the hotel in which you are staying. Some mattress pads which are made from particularly strong materials - usually highly durable and waterproof natural latex or synthetic foam - can even be used while camping, where they are placed below a sleeping bag to make spending a night on the ground more comfortable than ever before.

​What is a Mattress Topper?

Unlike a mattress pad, a mattress topper is in fact designed to improve your comfort while sleeping. They accomplish this via a thick, cushioned design which targets the parts of the body that most need support during the night. Where a mattress pad might resemble a slightly thicker fitted sheet, a mattress topper is more similar in appearance to a thick quilt or duvet or even a thinner mattress. Typically, mattress toppers are placed above the mattress itself but below the fitted sheet, as they usually do not have any method of attaching or affixing themselves to the mattress below.

Like pads, mattress toppers can be made out of a variety of materials. However, because mattress toppers are typically much thicker than pads and are made from a fabric exterior with an interior layer of stuffing, the range of available material options is far greater. The most commonly used organic, naturally occurring topper materials include cotton, wool, down or larger feathers, and natural latex. Synthetic options include "egg crate" foam, memory foam and synthetic latex. Of course, as with mattress pads, it is possible to purchase a topper made from a blend of natural and synthetic materials, such as cotton and polyester or a mix of naturally harvested and synthetically manufactured latex. In general, natural latex is considered to be the highest quality material available for purchase; however, synthetic memory foam does have its devoted fans.

It is not only the materials available which make mattress toppers more flexible and versatile than mattress pads. Because they are generally thicker, mattress toppers can also come in a wide variety of densities and relative softness or firmness levels (referred to as indentation load deflection or ILD and measured by the amount of force needed to compress a mattress topper by 25% of its original size - learn more here!) Therefore, shopping for a mattress topper can be a significantly more involved process as there are such a large number of factors which need to be kept under consideration.

In addition to providing comfort, mattress toppers focus heavily on the support that they can provide for key areas of your body. Depending on their relative thickness as well as how soft or firm they are, a mattress topper might target the neck, shoulders, hips, or spine. Mattress toppers can even serve as a form of pain relief for these areas of the body if you are suffering from short term afflictions such as cramps or stiff joints/muscles or long term damage including spinal misalignment and health conditions like scoliosis and arthritis.

Mattress toppers also focus on offering long term benefits which can significantly add to the health and lifespan of your favorite mattress. That extra layer of softness and support can cause the problems of an aging mattress to disappear. Lumps will no longer be felt. Thin or worn out mattress will once again feel just as comfortable as they day when you first bought them - and will continue to do so night after night without further decline.

Of course, mattress toppers offer the same protection against stains, rips and tears as mattress pads do. The thicker design will definitely prevent any liquid, dead skin or shed hairs, or food stains from seeping into the mattress below. Satisfied customers all around the world have reported that their mattresses last up to several years longer without needing to be replaced thanks to the addition of a durable, high quality mattress topper!

To read about the different types and functions of mattress topper in greater detail, check out our handy guide located here!

​So, What's the Difference?

Even with all that being said, it can sometimes be difficult to pin down the exact differences between mattress pads and mattress toppers. Luckily for you, we've broken down the most important differences into a simple, visually engaging, easy to read form below. We'll take a look at all the different functions which these handy bedroom accessories can serve and identify which fulfills it better - a pad, a topper, or perhaps even both!

  • Stain Prevention  - BOTH. Mattress pads and mattress toppers are both specifically designed to protect ​your mattress from stains caused by sweat, blood, urine, food, drink and more.
  • Protection Against Natural Nasties - POTENTIALLY BOTH - IT DEPENDS. Both mattress pads and mattress toppers can be treated with special compounds and ingredients which allow them to resist dust mites, bacteria, insects, mold, and mildew. Alternately, certain materials, in particular natural latex, offer inherent resistances against these dangers. However, not ever pad/topper will serve as effective protection, so do your research if this property is important to you!
  • Extends the Lifespan of Your Mattress - POTENTIALLY BOTH - IT DEPENDS. Mattress pads can help your mattress last longer by protecting against dust, mold, and stains. Mattress toppers also perform this function, but can additionally help a mattress last longer by mitigating some of the ravages of time including lumps, rips, and general wear and tear. Which bedroom accessory is best for helping your mattress survive a few more months or years will depend entirely on which problems you are more likely to encounter - stains, bacterial growth, insect infestations, degradation or decline in quality.
  • Comfort - TOPPER. Mattress pads are extremely thin and will not add to your mattress's comfort in any significant way. Meanwhile, added comfort is one of the primary functions of a mattress topper.
  • Support & Pain Relief  - TOPPER. Again, mattress pads are too thin to provide effective support or pain relief to affected parts of your body. On the other hand, mattress toppers are capable of supporting the back, hips, shoulders, neck and spine throughout the night.
  • Travel-Friendly - PAD. Mattress pads are small, thin and compact and can easily be wrapped or rolled up and taken with you on your travel adventures. Mattress pads can help you keep a guest or hotel bed clean or even provide a better night's sleep while camping. Meanwhile, the majority of mattress toppes are far too thick and bulky to be transported effectively.
  • Price - PAD. Mattress pads are generally much more inexpensive when compared to thicker, larger and more durable mattress topper. If you're simply looking for a quick fix on a tight budget, a mattress pad will be the way to go. A mattress topper will usually represent a larger financial investment over a mattress pad.

As you can clearly tell from this list, there is no easy way to say that mattress pads or mattress toppers are better than one another - because neither IS truly better, they're just different! You might need a pad, you might need a topper, but this will vary depending on the situation in which you happen to find yourself. As much as our staff here at Brand Name love helping you stock your bedroom with high quality goods designed to provide you with the perfect night's sleep this is one decision you've got to make on your own!

​Why Not Both?

The above list probably left you asking yourself one major question - wait, why can't I just use both a mattress pad AND a mattress topper? After all, they perform different functions, offer different benefits, and even make their home in totally different layers of your bed setup, with a mattress topper sandwiching itself between the mattress and the fitted sheet while the pad sits snugly on top of everything. So...can you use both a mattress pad and a mattress topper at once?

The answer is YES! Yes, you absolutely can! The mattress pad on top will primarily provide stain protection while the mattress topper will remain slightly lower down and provide comfort, support and pain relief. Because the pad will prevent the topper from absorbing any stains, this setup is actually a great way to significantly extend the life of BOTH your mattress and your topper, saving you more time, money and hassle than ever before! In addition, because mattress pads are significantly easier and less time-consuming to clean than the thicker, bulkier toppers, you will also save yourself several hours at least whenever it comes time to clean up your bedroom.

So if you truly can't decide between a mattress pad and a mattress topper, the ideal answer may just in fact be "why not both"!

​Cleaning Tips: Mattress Pads

Now, there's one more important topic that we need to cover before we bring this comparison article to a close. If you caught our hint in the section above, you might have already guessed what it is...that's right, CLEANING! We're going to go over some tips regarding how to keep your mattress pad and mattress topper as clean as possible.

First things first, we recommend cleaning your pad and/or topper frequently - at least once every two weeks, more often if you live in a hot, humid, insect- and mold-friendly climate or if the pads/toppers are being used by infants or young children. If you're not sure how often is often enough, always err on the side of more frequent cleaning sessions rather than less.

Mattress pads can be cleaned in your washer and dryer similar to towels, sheets and standard articles of clothing. However, they should ALWAYS be washed and dried on the lowest, most gentle cycle available on your machine. Ideally, you should wash mattress pads individually. They should be placed in the washer and dryer alongside other mattress pads ONLY, to avoid picking up dyes or chemicals as a result of coming into contact with clothes or other bedroom items.

When drying your mattress pad, it is recommended that you also add a few dryer balls or common tennis balls. This is a simple, handy-dandy, easy to replicate trick which will help keep your mattress pad light and fluffy and prevent it from losing its soft texture even after several washes!

Keep in mind that, although the majority of mattress pads can be safely washed and dried by machine, as always, there are a few exceptions. Don't just take our word for it - do your research and read the care instructions attached to your mattress pad before just tossing it into the washing machine! If your mattress pad is NOT washer safe, we recommend cleaning it by hand. If it can be washed mechanically but not dried, you can hang it on a line in a warm, dry, well-lit location for a few hours.

​Cleaning Tips: Mattress Toppers

Because of their thicker and bulkier design, most mattress toppers are slightly more difficult to clean than their pad equivalents. The majority of mattress toppers are NOT considered to be washer or dryer safe and must be laundered via other methods instead.

We recommend hand-washing your mattress topper and/or spraying it with a gentle cleaning solution. One of our favorite, easy to replicate at home recipes can be made by mixing one part tap water, one part lemon juice and one part white vinegar. (Both of these are common items which can be found at your local grocery store!) Alternately, you can mix one part gentle detergent with two parts water. However, if you will be using this method, make EXTRA sure that you are using the gentlest detergent possible. Any unscented type which is marked as safe for use by infants and/or young children should be sufficient.

Place the solution inside a spray bottle and thoroughly spray all sides of the mattress topper, paying extra attention to any areas which might have picked up a stain. Let the solution sit for 20-30 minutes while leaving the mattress topper in a warm, dry area with plenty of light - natural sunlight is preferred if at all possible! Then, rinse the mattress topper with plain water.

Make sure that the topper is thoroughly dry before returning it to your bed. Natural drying in a warm, well-lit area is best, but may take several hours or even multiple days depending on the weather. If you're using natural drying methods, don't forget to turn it over a few times to make sure both sides get a chance to dry out evenly. For thinner, less bulky models, you may be able to gently squeeze out excess water. However, make sure to use soft compressions only - DO NOT under any circumstances wring out your mattress topper!  Alternately, you can use a wet/dry vacuum on a low setting to help speed up the drying process.

Thoroughly and completely cleaning your mattress topper can be a lengthy process which can take up to several days to complete depending on several factors including the time of year and the climate in which you live.  Therefore, you should also feel free to spot-clean your topper. Spot-cleaning involves treating specific areas which have picked up stains with the same sort of cleaning solution as described in the preceding paragraphs. As always, make sure to thoroughly dry these spots before going to sleep on your mattress topper, as leftover moist spots can serve as a fertile breeding ground for mold, mildew, and various types of unpleasant bacteria.

If you're still undecided regarding whether a mattress pad or topper would be better for you, you can head over here to learn more about the different types of mattress topper or here to learn about how to best choose one that meets your specific needs. Alternately, learn about a third option entirely by checking out mattress protectors right over here.  You can also contact us here at Brand Name if you are still having trouble making up your mind and think one of our well informed, expert opinions might be just the bit of assistance you need!

Of course, you should also take some time to check out our extensive catalog filled with durable, high quality, long lasting Brand Name bedroom accessories made from one hundred percent chemical free, organically harvested natural latex. We have tons of products for all scenarios and situation. Not just you, but every member of your family will be easily able to obtain the perfect night's sleep with the help of our large inventory of latex goods!

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