A mattress pad is a thin layer, usually about 1 inch thick, that you place on the top of the mattress. You can attach the pad to your mattress in a variety of ways. Some have elastic straps that go around the corners of your bed, while others come built into your fitted sheet.
The purpose of a mattress pad is to provide protection and a layer of comfort to your bed. In addition, having a mattress pad prolongs the life of your bed, saving you from needing a new mattress as often. In this article, we look at the different aspects you should consider when shopping for a mattress pad.
Different Materials for Mattress Pads
You can get a mattress pad for pretty much any bed size, and it can be up to one inch thick. However, apart from its thickness and size, there’s one more decision you have to make when deciding which mattress pad to get: what material is best for you?
Below are some of the most common mattress pad fabric options:
Cotton is a natural material that is cooling and moisture-wicking—good news for those who sweat while they sleep. Those who tend to sleep hot appreciate the breathability of this material. The softness of this product provides plenty of comfort and is durable enough to last for a long time.
Wool is a natural thermoregulator, meaning it helps keep the sleeper’s body at a comfortable temperature no matter the season. Woolen fibers wick away moisture and soften the feel of your mattress without compromising how supportive it is. Wool is an expensive product, so keep this in mind as you shop for the right mattress pad.
Mattress pads full of down create a luxurious top layer. Down are the smaller feathers found beneath the top feathers of ducks and geese. They offer a cozy comfort layer, perfect for those who get cold at night.
Down pads are higher maintenance because they have to be dry-cleaned. Some sleepers may find that down irritates their allergies. This is because dust mites and even mold can grow in down if it isn’t cared for properly.
Mattress pads made from synthetic fibers (like polyester or rayon) last a long time and are very comfortable and cozy. In addition, these pads are cost-efficient, making them accessible to many shoppers. However, you cannot put most synthetic fiber pads in the washer or dryer.
Latex toppers are a springy comfort layer that protects your mattress from spills and leaks. Organic and natural latex pads provide sleepers with an eco-friendly option. You can also find synthetic latex pads, which are typically less expensive. However, pads made of this material don’t have very good airflow, so this may not be the best choice for you if you sleep hot.
What’s the Difference Between a Mattress Pad and a Mattress Topper?
Mattress pads and toppers are often confused and used interchangeably. But these two products are different from each other. The two main differences are:
- Thickness: Mattress pads are usually at most 1 inch thick, while mattress toppers are usually anywhere from 3 to 5 inches thick.
- Purpose: Mattress pads provide comfort for the sleeper and protection for the mattress. Mattress toppers offer these while also altering the firmness of the mattress.
While a pad is thick enough to provide additional comfort, it isn’t thick enough to alter the firmness level of your mattress. If you need something to give you some extra support, a mattress topper is a good choice because of the extra cushion.
Toppers are also sometimes confused with pillow tops. The difference is a pillow top is part of the actual mattress, while toppers are something you add to the top of your bed.
Popular Mattress Topper Materials
Mattress topper materials are very similar to mattress pad materials. Three popular mattress toppers are:
- Memory foam toppers: memory foam provides healthy support and relieves your pressure points.
- Gel memory foam toppers: these toppers do the same thing as those made of memory foam, but the gel helps keep the sleeper cool.
- Down or Feather topper: This topper is a cozy comfort layer for your bed and adds luxury to your slumber.
A topper is a good choice if you have an older mattress that has lost some of its original support.
What Kind of Mattress Pad is Best For You?
Finding the best mattress pad for you depends on your unique sleep needs and what kind of mattress you have. For instance, if you tend to sleep hot, you should look for a mattress pad made of a naturally thermoregulating material, like wool or cotton. Here are a few qualities to consider while shopping for a mattress pad:
The thickness of your mattress topper depends on whether you want your mattress to offer more comfort while you sleep or whether your main concern is protecting your mattress.
For example, if you need a mattress pad to protect your mattress from spills, a thin layer of padding is enough. However, a thicker pad is optimal for those who want to add extra cushioning to their mattress.
The breathability of the mattress pad depends mainly on the material it is made from. If breathability isn’t necessary for you, synthetic fibers or latex pads are good options. However, if you are looking for breathability, cotton or wool are the best choices.
Ethically Sourced Materials
The convictions and practices of the manufacturer are what determines whether a mattress pad is ethically sourced and eco-friendly. If you are looking for an organic or vegan mattress pad, read the product description for whatever pad you are considering and see what certifications they have.
All of the following certifications tell you what steps the manufacturer took to provide their customers with ethically sourced and/or organic products:
GREENGUARD or GREENGUARD Gold:
These certifications from GREENGUARD measure how many volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released while a product is being made.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) tells consumers that the textiles used in a product are organic and have passed inspection.
Oeko-Tex® Standard 100:
This certification, one of many that Oeko-Tex® offers, indicates that all the elements inside a product passed tests designed to measure harmful substances.
Fair Labor Practices and Community Benefits:
This label is awarded to environmentally conscious companies, promoting education, creating safe work environments, and contributing to local communities.
Benefits of Mattress Pads
Mattress pads provide comfort for you and protection for your mattress—they can even add new life to an old mattress when it’s getting worn out. They are also typically less expensive than a mattress topper. Investing in a mattress pad takes your sleep quality to the next level and helps extend the life of your mattress.
Frequently Asked Questions
A mattress pad and a mattress protector are not the same. A protector is typically a thin, single layer that is only there to protect your mattress from spills. This product is often made of rubbery or synthetic materials.
Using both a pad and a topper is not necessary. But if you want to use both and maximize your bed’s comfort, we recommend placing the topper on your mattress first, then placing the pad on top of that. This provides the best protection for both your mattress and the thicker topper, which tends to be more expensive than the pad.
If you don’t want to use a mattress pad, we recommend investing in a mattress protector. This thinner layer protects your mattress from spills and leaks, prolonging its life. These are usually less expensive than mattress pads.
While you can sleep directly on your mattress without a pad or topper, we recommend at least placing a mattress protector between your mattress and the fitted sheet. This layer protects your bed and helps it last longer.
The best way to wash a mattress pad depends on its material. If the pad is wool or cotton, you can usually machine wash it on specific settings. But if it’s down or certain synthetic materials, you should have it dry-cleaned. It’s essential to read the care instructions on your mattress pad before you wash it.