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A mattress pad is a thin layer of material that is placed on top of a mattress to help protect the surface against dust, stains, and other types of contamination. Pads may also provide slight firmness adjustments. Mattress protectors, on the other hand, are solely used to keep mattress surfaces clean and contaminant-free. They are usually waterproof. Both products typically measure 1″ thick or less. These factors differentiate pads and protectors from mattress toppers, which tend to be thicker and are solely designed to adjust the firmness of the mattress with little to no protective qualities.
Most pads and protectors are made from polyester and/or cotton; some pads may also be made using down. They usually have elasticated edges that allow owners to secure the corners and stretch the pad/protector over the entire surface of the mattress. Pocket depth – which indicates the maximum mattress height the pad or protector can be used with – is an important consideration for shoppers. Size is another important factor; most pads and protectors are available in the six standard mattress sizes (Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, and California King), but the sizing options may be more limited for some models.
Read on to learn more about mattress pads and protectors, including material composition, expected prices, and performance ratings. Below you’ll find our picks for the best mattress pads and protectors sold today. Our choices are based on verified customer and owner reviews, as well as intensive product research and analysis.
Our Editor’s Pick for mattress pads is the Organic Mattress Pad from Saatva. This product is made of certified organic cotton, a breathable material that helps sleepers stay cool throughout the night and wicks away sweat from their bodies. The pad features a diamond-quilted surface and elasticated corners that allow it to be used on mattresses up to 16″ thick. The Organic Mattress Pad can be washed and dried in a machine, as well.
Saatva offers free shipping for the Organic Mattress Pad, and the product is backed by a 45-day trial and return policy; Saatva requests that customers wash their pad before returning it. The Organic Mattress Pad has an above-average price-point, making it a good pick for shoppers with bigger budgets.
Mattress pads with natural materials tend to provide better temperature neutrality than those made from synthetic fabrics, though the price-point for natural pads tends to be significantly higher. Our pick for the Best Natural Mattress Pad is the Wool Mattress Pad from OrganicTextiles, which is constructed with natural Australian wool encased in an organic-cotton cover. These materials are highly breathable, and will keep the mattress temperature cool and comfortable; they also help wick away moisture from the sleeper’s body. The wool provides extra cushioning, as well, which can make excessively firm mattresses feel softer.
The Wool Mattress Pad is available in all six standard mattress sizes; it has a pocket depth of about 17″. OrganicTextiles backs this product with a 30-night sleep trial. Free shipping is available too.
Mattress pads can be somewhat expensive, with select models costing more than $200. The Fitted, Quilted Mattress Pad from Utopia Bedding – our Best Value pick – is a notable exception. This diamond-quilted pad is widely available for less than $30 in all six sizes, and is also sold in packs of 10 that cost less than $170. The pad is filled with polyester fibers and encased in a microfiber cover, making it hypoallergenic and resistant to dust and other contaminants. Its edges are fully elastic, as well, making it easy to secure to any mattress that measures 16″ thick or less.
The Fitted, Quilted Mattress Pad is currently the top-selling product in the ‘Mattress Pads’ category on Amazon.com. It is backed by a 30-night trial.
Our Editor’s Pick in the mattress protector category is the Nest Bedding Cooling Mattress Protector, which is a standout for several reasons. One advantage – as the name implies – is temperature neutrality; the quilted protector is made from breathable polyester fabric that keeps the mattress feeling cool and comfortable for most. The Cooling Mattress Protector is also waterproof, allowing it to provide complete protection against stains as well as dust, and other contaminants. It can be machine-washed and dried on cool or no-heat settings.
Nest Bedding offers free shipping, as well as a 100-night sleep trial and a two-year warranty for the Cooling Mattress Protector. Its price-point is somewhat high, making it a good option for those with bigger shopping budgets.
The Brooklyn Bedding Mattress Encasement is unique, in that it is designed to encase the entire mattress (rather than fitting over the top surface). This allows owners to protect the bottom of their bed from stains and liquid damage, as well as dust and other contaminants. The zip closure is snug to prevent too much space from building up between the mattress and the protector. The encasement is made of waterproof polyester that can be washed and dried in a machine without risk of shrinkage.
Brooklyn Bedding backs the Mattress Encasement with a 120-night sleep trial, which is much longer than the average trial period for pads and protectors. The company also offers free shipping for customers in the contiguous U.S.
Our eco-friendly mattress protector pick is the Organic Cotton Mattress Protector from PlushBeds, which is made entirely of certified organic cotton jersey. This soft, breathable material provides complete stain and contaminant protection without retaining body heat from sleepers and feeling excessively warm (a common complaint about protectors made from synthetic fibers). The PlushBeds Organic Cotton Mattress Protector is also laminated on the bottom side with a thin layer of polyurethane for added absorption. In addition to the six standard mattress sizes, this protector is available for Split King and Split California King mattresses. It can be washed and dried in a machine.
PlushBeds ships the Organic Cotton Mattress Protector in eco-friendly packaging made from hemp and corn film. The protector is backed by a five-year warranty; comparatively, most other protectors do not come with any sort of warranty coverage.
The average mattress protector costs between $50 and $60. Our Best Value Protector, the SafeRest Premium Mattress Protector, is widely available for less than $35 in all six standard mattress sizes. However, it offers the same levels of stain and contaminant protection as many of its more expensive competitors. The Premium Mattress Protector is made of soft, breathable cotton terry and has a PVC-free vinyl liner for added absorption. It is also exceptionally thin and will not affect how the mattress feels. Its pocket depth of 18″ is also deeper than average.
SafeRest backs this protector with a 10-year warranty, which is much longer than average. It is also registered with the FDA as a Class 1 Medical Device, making it a great option for medical and home-based care settings.
Mattress pads and protectors are highly useful when it comes to preserving a mattress and protecting sleep surfaces from contaminants, stains, and physical damage. Although the terms ‘mattress pad’ and ‘mattress protector’ are often (and erroneously) used interchangeably, these two products perform slightly different bedding functions. This page will discuss the similarities and differences between mattress pads and protectors, offer some buying tips, and share our top picks as voted by pad and protector owners.
A mattress pad acts as a barrier between the sleeper and his/her mattress cover. Many are quilted to provide an additional layer of cushioning to the sleep surface, but their primary purpose is to shield the bed from dust mites and other allergens, as well as bacteria. Some pads are also hypoallergenic. Most pads measure no more than one inch thick, and fit over the edges of the mattress much like a fitted sheet — although some rest freely on the top mattress surface.
Mattress protectors, like pads, keep contaminants like dust mites, allergens, and bacteria off the sleep surface. Additionally, most protectors are waterproof in order to shield mattresses from sweat, urine, and other stains. Many protectors are hypoallergenic, as well. Although some pads may be waterproof, for the purposes of this page: ‘mattress pad’ refers to non-waterproof layers, while ‘mattress protector’ refers to waterproof layers. Protectors are rarely quilted, and most will not alter the feel of a mattress to any noticeable extent. Protectors usually measure no more than one inch thick.
It’s important to note that the term ‘mattress topper’ is also used interchangeably with ‘pads’ and ‘protectors’; this is also inaccurate. Toppers are specifically designed to provide extra cushioning to mattresses, and most provide little to no protection against contaminants or stains. Most toppers are one to three inches thick, and some weigh as much as 30 to 40 pounds.
The table below illustrates the key differences and similarities between mattress pads, protectors, and toppers.
|Product||Mattress Pad||Mattress||Mattress Topper|
|Primary Function||To act as a mattress barrier and protect the bed from contaminants, as well as minor comfort adjustment||Cotton Polyester Rayon||Convoluted Polyfoam Memory Foam Latex Fibers Feathers/Down Wool|
|Common Materials||Cotton Down Polyester Rayon||1" or less||1" or less|
|Average Thickness||1" or less||1" or less||1" to 3?|
|Average Weight||4 lbs or less||4 lbs or less||5 to 40 lbs (varies by material)|
|Mattress Protection Level||Moderate to High||High||Low to Moderate|
|Comfort Adjustment Level||Low to Moderate||Low||Moderate to High|
|Average Cost||$60 to $100||$50 to $60||$150 to $300|
Some notable benefits of using a mattress pad include the following:
Drawbacks of mattress pads include the following:
Next, let’s look at some benefits of using a mattress protector:
Some drawbacks of using a mattress protector include the following:
This next FAQ section will look at some common questions and concerns about pads and protectors
Next let’s look at some important factors to consider when shopping for a new mattress pad or protector, or when comparing both products to decide which one will work best.
If you are looking for a layer that will adjust the feel and comfort level of a mattress, then a mattress topper may be more suitable. For more information about different topper types, please visit our Best Mattress Toppers page, as well as our pages for convoluted polyfoam, feather, fiber, memory foam, latex, and wool mattress toppers.