Buying Guide to Mattress Pads & Toppers

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Think mattress pads are just a required cover for your bed? Well, you’re partly right—every mattress does need a cover to protect from typical wear and tear. But the right mattress topper can do more: Some protect mattresses from dust, dander, and spills, some help the bed stay at a comfortable sleeping temperature, some reduce how much the bed moves when a sleeper tosses and turns, and some can even make a so-so feeling mattress a fabulous place to sleep.

If you want to find the right mattress topper for you, this guide can help.

Mattress Pads

Why do you need a mattress pad?

Most people buy a new mattress pad because they either have a new mattress that they want to protect or because they're looking to make their bed more comfortable.

What are you protecting your mattress from?

To protect against... Consider...
Everyday wear and tear A basic cotton mattress pad
Liquids and spills A waterproof mattress pad
Allergens like dust, dust mites and pet dander A mattress pad enhanced with anti-allergen properties
Bed bugs A mattress protector with bedbug barriers

What would make your mattress more comfortable?

If you want... Consider...
Temperature control: A mattress pad that stays comfortable relative to how hot or cold I am in the night. Mattress pads filled with natural fibers like cotton, wool, or down.
A bed that adjusts to my body: I'd like a mattress pad that makes my bed feel more custom-fit to me. A down-filled mattress pad, which is fluffy and comfortable-and will help keep the temperature even while you sleep. (If you're concerned about allergies, you can also opt for a down-alternative mattress pad.)
A Visco Elastic mattress pad (aka, Memory Foam) can also conform better to your body-these synthetic pads respond to body heat, getting softer in the spots you press the mattress most, and staying firm elsewhere-so they feel like they're supporting you where you need it.
And if you opt for a cotton mattress pad, look for one with a higher fill count, which will feel softer.
More firmness: I'd like my mattress to feel a little firmer than it currently does. A latex mattress pad or a Visco elastic pad can add more firmness to the mattress for a more supported feeling.
Reducing motion: I need a way to make my partner's tossing and turning less jarring to me when I sleep. A mattress pad made with Memory Foam or latex will reduce the transfer of motion, meaning one side won't move as much when the other one does.

Mattress pads and mattress toppers are often confused. Here are the most common types of bed toppers.

Type of mattress toppers

Mattress Topper Type What it's for
Mattress Protector (a non-padded mattress covers) Non-padded mattress covers (sometimes called encasements) are designed to help protect a mattress from exposure to things that might damage it-like water, dust and dust mites, mold, pet dander, and other allergens. Non-padded mattress covers can be made of cotton, vinyl or super-tightly woven polyester fabric, and they usually zip up to totally surround the mattress. (You can get these encasements for box springs, too.)
Fitted Mattress Pads A fitted mattress pad works like a fitted sheet-a ring of elastic around its bottom edge helps secure it to the bed. Unlike a sheet, however, a fitted mattress pad is quilted on top to provide a comfortable sleeping surface-and to circulate air to help sleepers' body temperatures stay more even during the night. Fitted mattress pads are a good match for most standard-size mattresses.
Guaranteed-to-Fit Mattress Pads Because it has a quilted top, a guaranteed-to-fit mattress pad helps make a bed feel more comfortable. It also offers better temperature regulation. The side panels of a guaranteed-to-fit mattress pad are made with an elasticized fabric that helps it attach securely to deeper mattresses, usually up to depth of 24". (These mattress pads are sometimes referred to as Tailor Fit or Expand-a-Grip.)
Visco Elastic Mattress Toppers These mattress toppers, sometimes called memory foam, are designed to provide additional support to sleepers. They conform to the body because they're made with a temperature-sensitive material that contracts more where the body is warmer, but stays firmer where the body is cooler. Another benefit? These mattress toppers can also dampen motion when a sleeper moves. Visco elastic mattress pads are placed on the bed underneath the fitted sheet.
Fiberbeds and Featherbeds These mattress toppers are essentially mattress-sized pillows designed to create a more comfortable sleeping surface. Fiberbeds and featherbeds cradle body areas that don't come into contact with the mattress. These stuffed pads are made with natural materials like down and cotton or with man-made materials, and can be placed underneath or on top of a fitted sheet.
Convoluted Mattress Pads Also referred to as egg crates, these dimpled foam pads are designed to improve body weight distribution. They add support, help reduce tossing and turning, and add a layer of cushioning to the bed.
Heated Mattress Pads These mattress pads are electric and come with warming controls. Some come with dual controls that let you have different warmth settings for each side of the bed.

Features to consider

The cover's fabric content:
100% cotton covers will provide superior comfort and durability over cotton/polyester blends; many are treated with fabric protection that makes them stain- and water-repellant as well as anti-microbial.
The cover's thread count:
This number stands for the number of threads per square inch of fabric. A higher thread count of a better quality yarn will provide a mattress pad with greater resistance to wear and tear (it will feel softer, too).
The mattress pad's fill:
Most mattress pads have a polyester fill. As you'd expect, thicker fill provides more cushioning. Down-alternative fills, which are made of super-fine gel fibers, provide extra support and comfort.

All mattress pads are machine washable. The general rule is to launder them less frequently than you wash your sheets, but more frequently than your comforter.