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mattress pads and toppers

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

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 protector? What about an old mattress that feels too firm? Well, that calls for a 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.

Mattress Pad

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

What it does: 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.

What it costs: $15-150, depending on the material (a high-quality material like organic cotton will cost you more)

You should consider a mattress pad if:

  • 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.

Mattress Protector

What it is: 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 it does: 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.

What it costs: $15-60

You should consider 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.


SHOP >



Talalay Latex Topper


This breathable, comfortable, and durable topper instantly adds a layer of responsive softness and unmatched pressure-point relief.


SHOP >



High-Density Foam Topper


High-density foam evenly distributes body weight for instant pressure relief. Ideal for adding comfort to any new or existing mattress.


SHOP >


Mattress Topper

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

What it does: 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.

What it costs: $70-400, depending on the material (down alternative and memory foam are cheaper, while latex is more expensive)

You should consider 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 topper if:

Choose a latex 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/down alternative 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.