Mattress Pads, Protectors, and Toppers: Which Do You Need?

/ November 27, 2018

The world of mattress accessories is a confusing one. To protect your new sleep surface from stains, for example, you need a mattress pad. Wait—or is it a mattress protector? What about an old mattress that feels too firm? Well, that calls for a mattress topper—but what kind?

Have no fear: We're here to help you navigate the land of bedding and its baffling accoutrements. Here's what you need to know about mattress pads, protectors, and toppers.

What is a mattress pad?

A mattress pad is a thin piece of quilted material that covers the surface of your mattress, usually under a fitted sheet. Mattress pads are secured with elastic corner straps or a skirt of fabric, also lined with elastic.

What mattress pads do

Mattress pads serve a range of functions, but they're designed primarily to protect the surface of a mattress from stains and general wear and tear. They're usually quite thin, but they can sometimes add a slight layer of cushioning to an otherwise firm mattress.

How much is a mattress pad

Mattress pads costs anywhere from $15 to $200, depending on the material (a high-quality material like organic cotton will cost you more).

Do I need a mattress pad?

Not everyone needs a mattress pad, but if you're wondering if a mattress pad is right for you, here are some reason why you may consider buying one:

  • You sweat a lot during the night and want to prevent mattress stains;
  • You don't need a thick topper but still want to add a layer of softness;
  • You want something light to protect your mattress that can be easily removed, machine washed, and packed for storage.

See How Saatva's Organic Cotton Mattress Pad Can Benefit Your Sleep

Organic Mattress Pad

Luxurious diamond-patterned mattress pad made with 100% organic cotton for optimal breathability and comfort. Side panels finished with extra-wide elastic band to keep mattress pad in place.


What is a mattress protector?

A mattress protector is a thin sheet made of cotton or polyester, designed to cover most (if not all) of the mattress. Some mattress protectors are secured with elastic, like a fitted sheet, whereas others are zipped over the mattress like cushion covers. They come in a variety of materials; the one you choose depends on the specific purpose.

What mattress protectors do

As the name implies, mattress protectors are designed to safeguard your mattress from a range of threats: stains, bacteria, fungi, and other unwanted contaminants. So-called "full encasement" protectors (the zip-around kind) are particularly important if you have concerns about bed bugs.

Mattress protector fabric can be waterproof, quilted, natural, or synthetic. They are designed to be washable and (with the exception of waterproof vinyl) breathable.

How much is a mattress protector?

Mattress protectors are relatively affordable, and can range anywhere from $15 to $60.

Do I need a mattress protector?

Mattress protectors are a great addition to any bed, and while it's not a requirement, there are some good reasons to consider getting one. You may want to get a mattress protector if:

  • You need to prevent bed bugs;
  • You have pets or children that are likely to cause a mess;
  • You live in a humid region and you want to keep your mattress from soaking up moisture that could lead to mold.

Learn More About Saatva Mattress Toppers

Graphite Memory Foam Topper

The latest in high-tech cooling. The contouring support of memory foam, plus the advanced heat-dissipating properties of graphite.


What is a mattress topper?

A mattress topper is a layer of memory foam, latex, or quilted material, usually 1-3 inches thick, that sits on top of your mattress. Mattress toppers sometimes have removable covers, but are otherwise rarely designed to be washed.

What mattress toppers do

Mattress toppers are built for comfort. The topper's extra layer of foam or quilting relieves pressure points, while the underlying mattress provides structure and support. Toppers are a cost-effective way to make an old mattress feel new again—at least for a while.

How much is a mattress topper?

Mattress toppers can range anywhere from $70 to $400, depending on the material (down alternative and memory foam are cheaper, while latex is more expensive)

Do I need a mattress topper for my bed?

If you have a good quality mattress, possibly not. However, you may want to consider getting a mattress topper if:

  • Your old mattress is too firm or uneven, but you can't or don't want to buy a new one just yet;
  • You have a temporary need for a softer sleep surface, for example due to an injury.

Mattress toppers come in three main varieties: memory foam, latex foam, and down/down alternative.

Choose a memory foam mattress topper if:

Choose a latex mattress topper if:

  • You want more support than memory foam offers;
  • You like a sleep surface that feels “springier;"
  • You prefer natural components;
  • You tend to sleep hot on memory foam.

Choose a down or down alternative mattress topper if:

  • You prefer an extremely soft, cloud-like sleep surface (like a plush pillow top);
  • You don't require extra support;
  • You tend to sleep hot on all kinds of foam (down is by far the most breathable option).

Whether you're trying to manage pain, prevent future stains, or squeeze new life out of an old mattress, accessories like pads, protectors, and toppers can be just the ticket.

To learn more about bedding accessories like mattress pads, protectors, and toppers, head over to our mattress guide.

Take our mattress quiz to find out which Saatva mattress is right for you. 

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