What’s The Difference Between Mattress Pad Vs. Mattress Protector? (Comprehensive 2022 Guide & Our Top Picks)


Mattress Pad Vs. Mattress Protector

A mattress protector and a mattress pad are often used interchangeably but did you know that these two sleep accessories serve different functions? A mattress topper can be confusing to some, as well. To help you understand these mattress accessories, we’ve gathered some helpful, need-to-know information in this buyer’s guide. As a bonus, we’ve added in reviews of our top mattress protector and mattress pad picks. Which one should you get? Read the full article below to find out.

Research and technology have made it possible for people to sleep more soundly at night. Not only that, but you can also avail of sleep accessories to add more comfort and support to your body while you lay on your bed.

Mattress pads and mattress protectors are some of the options that can give you a more transcendental sleeping experience. Although they may sound similar, mattress protectors and pads are distinct from each other. 

If you are one who initially thought that they are the same or that the terms are interchangeable, you are not alone. But no need to worry as we will explain the differences between the two, as well as their pros and cons. With this knowledge, you can decide which is best for you to help you sleep better and elevate your sleeping experience.

What's the Difference Between A Mattress Protector & Mattress Pad?

Mattress Pad

Mattress Protector

organic mattress protector

Both the mattress protector and the mattress pad are items you place on top of a mattress. The difference lies in the function.

As the name implies, mattress protectors protect the mattress. They are placed on the surface to prevent elements from permeating and getting to the layers underneath. This could be in the form of liquids, bugs, or even allergens.

On the other hand, a mattress pad is designed to add more comfort. Pads are placed underneath cooling bed sheets, like the electric cooling pads, creating a layer of separation between the sleeper and the mattress. By doing so, it makes the bed feel softer.

What is a Mattress Protector?

Mattress protectors are designed to make your mattress last longer. When used, the protector prevents stains from forming or allergens and bugs from reaching the mattress. Compared to a mattress pad, it does not feature any filling and resembles a thin sheet. Some resemble a fitted sheet, while some can fully encase a mattress.

Many mattress experts recommend purchasing a mattress protector as soon as you buy a new mattress to further extend its life span. Some mattress brands even offer a mattress protector as a freebie or at a discounted cost. It might seem like a sales gimmick to the ordinary person, but, as sleep advocates ourselves, we can confirm that this isn’t just a gimmick at all. If you start using a mattress protector on your brand new mattress, it will help prevent wear and tear. 

Still, the best advice we can give is to first learn how to pick the right mattress. If you know what to look for in a mattress, you will most likely choose one that’s durable and will last long.

A mattress protector provides many benefits. We list the most common ones below:

What is a Mattress Pad?

Mattress pads are easily identified by a thin layer of padding with quilting on the top. They are typically placed to make the bed softer. Most new mattresses are medium-firm and often do not need any additional padding. But with time, mattresses may lose their firmness and springiness. With extended use, they may feel softer and even lumpier in some cases. This is especially true if the mattress is slept on by heavier individuals, persons who require complete bed rest, or parents who frequently co-sleep with kids or pets.

By adding some padding, you can make your bed feel as firm as the day you bought it. But there are other reasons why people get a pad, which include the following:

So, what is a Mattress Topper?

Another accessory that often confuses people is the mattress topper. Compared to a pad or protector, the mattress topper is a layer of pure padding placed under the sheet.

Much like a pad, a mattress topper is designed to add comfort and support. What makes it different is its construction. 

A mattress pad is made from light padding and made to fit specific bed sizes. It can make your bed feel softer but not as much as a layer of foam would. A mattress topper, on the other hand, is typically a layer of memory foam. As such, it will contour around your body and provide targeted support.

Given the material, a topper can provide some protection against light spills and stains. However, it cannot be used to replace a protector. The best mattress toppers can be made from goose down or memory foam. If you’re looking to make a firm mattress feel softer, you can also find plush mattress toppers. Depending on your preference, you can always find a mattress topper that suits your needs. You can even buy a mattress topper that is best for back pain.

Do I need a mattress protector?

You will rarely need both a protector and a pad at the same time. Before purchasing a pad or protector, consider your objective. Here are some guide questions that can help you decide if you need a mattress protector or not:

At first glance, a mattress protector may seem like a thin sheet, but it is effective in keeping pests, allergens, bloodstains on the bedsheets, and fluids away from your mattress. It’s also easily washable and almost undetectable underneath the sheets.

Do I need a mattress pad?

If you are looking for added support and comfort, choose a mattress pad. Mattress pads are a great way to make your bed comfier. Using a pad is especially useful if your mattress is on the older end, but you don’t have plans to replace it anytime soon.

To sum it up:

A savvy mattress owner would recognize the need for a mattress protector to help a new mattress last in a “like-new” condition as long as possible. On the other hand, while a mattress protector is something that your mattress needs, a mattress pad is primarily based on preference. 

Note that while both mattress protectors and mattress pads can improve your mattress’s quality and feel, they cannot fix a sagging mattress. If your mattress is sagging, you can inspect the box springs to see if that’s what’s causing it to sag, but, most likely, it will need replacement. If you don’t want to spend a fortune, you can always find mattress sales and discounts for good brands.

Now that you have a better understanding of what mattress pads, protectors, and toppers are, below are the best options in their respective categories.

4 Best Mattress Protectors of 2021

Best Overall Mattress Protector - Puffy Mattress Protector

Much like the company’s line of luxury mattresses, the Puffy Mattress Protector is a comfy waterproof sleep accessory constructed out of exceptional materials. The bamboo rayon fabric, in particular, is a breathable yet naturally hypoallergenic material, ensuring a peaceful slumber every night. 

Sizes and Specifications
39″ x 75″ (Twin)
39″ x 80″ (Twin XL)
54″ x 75″ (Full)
60″ x 80″ (Queen)
76″ x 80″ (King)
72″ x 84″ (California King)



Most Eco-friendly - The Futon Shop Waterproof Organic Cotton Mattress Protector

Made with cotton that has been grown and harvested using sustainable methods, the Futon Shop’s Waterproof Organic Cotton Mattress Protector is free of harmful chemicals such as PVC or VOC. This makes it an ideal protector for use on mattresses where your child or baby sleeps.

Sizes and Specifications
39″ x 75″ (Twin)
39″ x 79″ (Twin XL)
54″ x 75″ (Full)
54″ x 79″ (Full XL)
60″ x 80″ (Queen)
76″ x 80″ (Eastern King)
72″ x 84″ (California King)



Coolest Protector - Nest Bedding Cooling Mattress Protector

The Nest Bedding Cooling Mattress Protector ticks off all the features in a great protector: waterproof, hypoallergenic, and dust mite resistant. What makes it unique is the Phase Change Material in the fabric, which absorbs body heat, and keeps the protector cool.

Sizes and Specifications
46 x 42 x 79 (Twin)
46 x 42 x 84 (Twin XL)
46 x 57 x 79 (Full)
46 x 63 x 84 (Queen)
46 x 81 x 84 (King)
46 x 75 x 88 (California King)



Best Value - Brentwood Home Organic Waterproof Mattress Protector

It is cool, waterproof, and durable. For almost $70 for a Twin, the Brentwood Home’s Organic Waterproof Mattress Protector keeps your bed dry and free of allergens without breaking the bank.

Sizes and Specifications
38″ x 75″ x 16” (Twin)
38″ x 80″ x 16” (Twin XL)
54″ x 75″ x 16” (Full)
60″ x 80″ x 16” (Queen)
76″ x 80″ x 16” (King)
72″ x 84″ x 16” (California King)



4 Best Mattress Pads of 2021

Best Overall Mattress Pad - Saatva Organic Pad

Made from GOTS-certified organic cotton, the Saatva Organic Pad is guaranteed to be free of chemicals. With its 300-thread count, it is one of the softest pads out there in the market.

Sizes and Specifications
38″ x 75″ (Twin)
38″ x 80″ (Twin XL)
54″ x 75″ (Full)
60″ x 80″ (Queen)
76″ x 80″ (King)
72″ x 84″ (California King)



Best Temperature Regulation - SlumberCloud Core Mattress Pad

The SlumberCloud Core Mattress Pad features an incredibly adaptive cooling technology unlike no other. Using NASA-approved temperature-regulating technology, this mattress pad can absorb your body heat if you start to feel too hot and release it back to you once you begin to feel cold.

Sizes and Specifications
39″ x 75″ (Twin)
39″ x 80″ (Twin XL)
54″ x 75″ (Full)
60″ x 80″ (Queen)
78″ x 80″ (King)
72″ x 84″ (California King)
2 x 39” x 80” (Split King)



Best Mattress Pad For Kids - Naturepedic Organic Protector Pad For Kids

A good night’s rest isn’t just for the adults. The Organic Waterproof Protector Pads for Kids by Naturepedic features two layers of organic cotton plus a waterproof barrier, which keeps the pad soft and cool throughout the night.

Sizes and Specifications
38″ x 75″ (Twin Fitted)
38″ x 80″ (Twin XL FItted)
54″ x 75″ (Full Fitted)
60″ x 80″ (Queen Fitted)



Softest Luxury Mattress Pad - Sweet Zzz Mattress Pad

With a thickness of 2 inches, the Sweet Zzz Mattress Pad is the thickest on this list. Although denser, it is constructed out of fine Down Alternative and pure cotton, guaranteed to keep the pad plush for years.

Sizes and Specifications
38″ x 75″ x 2” (Twin)
38″ x 80″ x 2” (Twin XL)
54″ x 75″ x 2” (Full)
60″ x 80″ x 2” (Queen)
76″ x 80″ x 2” (King)
72″ x 84″ x 2” (California King)




Mattress protectors, pads and toppers are a few accessories that can improve your sleeping experience. Each type is built for a specific purpose and has its own set of pros and cons. However, it is not uncommon to find pads that include a waterproof layer or mattress protectors on the plushier end.

Read this guide before purchasing a mattress protector, pad, or topper. Each type is designed for a specific purpose, and it’s best to always know what’s suited for you.

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