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Mattress Pad Vs. Mattress Protector

By: Christina Davies
Updated on: April 05, 2024

  • Mattress pads focus on enhancing comfort by adding extra cushioning and support, while mattress protectors prioritize safeguarding the mattress from spills, stains, allergens, and bed bugs.

  • Mattress pads come in various materials (cotton, wool, memory foam) to offer comfort and may have cooling or allergen-resistant properties. Mattress protectors are often made of synthetic materials for waterproofing and protection against pests.

  • Mattress pads vary in thickness, offering quilted, waterproof, cooling, and natural options, while mattress protectors come in encasement, fitted, or top styles, each catering to specific protection needs.

  • Choosing between a mattress pad and a mattress protector depends on individual needs: a mattress pad for added comfort and slight protection, while a mattress protector prioritizes safeguarding against spills, stains, allergens, and pests for mattress longevity.

When it comes to enhancing the comfort and longevity of your mattress, understanding the disparity between a mattress pad and a mattress protector is crucial. These two bedding essentials serve distinct purposes, often causing confusion among buyers. A mattress pad primarily focuses on augmenting comfort, acting as an extra layer atop your mattress to provide softness or additional support.

On the other hand, a mattress protector aims at safeguarding your mattress from spills, stains, allergens, and bed bugs, offering a protective covering that can extend its lifespan. While both items contribute to a better sleeping experience, their functions vary significantly. Delving into the disparities between a mattress pad and a mattress protector assists in making informed decisions about the specific needs of your mattress and sleeping preferences.

What Is A Mattress Pad?

A mattress pad is a bedding accessory designed to add an extra comfort layer and protection to a mattress. It typically sits on top of the mattress and comes in various materials and thicknesses to provide additional cushioning and support. Mattress pads can be made of materials like cotton, polyester, memory foam, or alternative fibers.

These pads serve multiple purposes, including improving the overall comfort of the sleep surface by adding a soft layer, enhancing the mattress’s firmness or softness, and offering extra padding to relieve pressure points. Additionally, they act as a protective barrier against spills, stains, and minor wear and tear, helping extend the mattress’s lifespan.

Mattress pads are available in different sizes to fit various mattress dimensions and often feature elastic straps or skirted edges to secure them onto the mattress.

Here are various types of mattress pad materials and what they offer:

  • Cotton: Natural, washable, hypoallergenic, and breathable. Great for a softer feel and sensitive sleepers. However, it offers less protection for the mattress.
  • Wool: A pricier natural option, thinner and softer. It has antimicrobial properties and helps regulate body temperature.
  • Down: It is made from goose or duck feathers. It is expensive and prone to stains but provides excellent warmth.
  • Polyester or rayon: Synthetic fiber pads that are durable, resisting stains, pressure, and allergens. Some can be machine-washed, while others require dry cleaning.
  • Memory foam: Offers strong physical support by molding to your body, reducing joint pain during sleep.
  • Latex: Firm and antimicrobial, providing extra support. However, it may have a rubber smell and retain heat, which might not suit everyone.

What is a Mattress Protector?

A mattress protector is a removable bedding item designed to safeguard a mattress from stains, spills, dust mites, bed bugs, and other potential damage. It acts as a barrier between the sleeper and the mattress, providing an extra layer of protection. Typically made from materials like polyester, cotton, or waterproof fabrics, mattress protectors are available in various sizes to fit different mattress dimensions.

These protectors encase the mattress entirely or have fitted-sheet-like designs that cover the top surface, offering protection while also being breathable to maintain comfort for the sleeper. Certain mattress protectors include extra features like waterproofing, hypoallergenic properties, or cooling technologies aimed at improving the overall sleeping experience. Mattress protectors are commonly made from various materials:

  • Polyurethane: This material, when combined with natural fibers, creates an effective mattress protector. It’s not natural but is porous, breathable, waterproof, and resistant to bugs.
  • Polyester: It is known for its waterproof properties; polyester is often used in mattress protectors. It combines with synthetics like Tencel and spandex for added durability and comfort.
  • Cotton: Cotton mattress protectors are relatively affordable and comfortable but may not shield mattresses well from stains and wear and tear.
  • Vinyl: A rubbery material used in protectors that guards against bugs and has antimicrobial properties, making it effective against dust mites.
  • Spandex: Its stretchiness is valuable in mattress protectors, ensuring a snug fit according to the bed’s size and shape.

Types of Mattress Pads

Different types of mattress pads offer various benefits based on their materials and features:

Quilted Mattress Pads

These pads boast a plush softness due to their thicker material that adds loft and softness. Uniform stitching across the pad keeps the material in place.

Waterproof Mattress Pads

Unlike quilted pads that focus on softness, waterproof pads primarily aim for protection. They prevent liquids from seeping through and damaging the mattress, serving a dual purpose as a pad and a protector.

Cooling Mattress Pads

It is equipped with cooling gel, fibers, or infused copper. These pads draw heat away during sleep, regulating body temperature. Some use innovative technologies like active cooling systems involving water or fans to dissipate heat actively. Notable products include Eight Sleep’s Pod 3 and ChiliSleep.

Natural Mattress Pads

It uses organic materials such as cotton, latex, or wool. These pads are predominantly composed of natural elements. Depending on the material used, they may also possess cooling properties and can be quilted.

See Also: Mattress Pad vs. Mattress Topper

Types of Mattress Protectors

There are various types of mattress protectors designed to safeguard your mattress from stains, allergens, spills, and general wear and tear. Some common types include:

Encasement (6-sided)

An encasement mattress protector is secured onto the mattress using a zipper, preventing any shifting. This type is ideal for protection against bed bugs and suits individuals who don’t intend to wash it frequently.

Fitted Protector (5-sided)

The fitted mattress protector snugly fits over the mattress, similar to a fitted sheet. Elastic corners ensure a tight fit, making it a popular and versatile choice for most sleepers.

Top Protector (1-sided)

A top mattress protector solely covers the upper surface of the mattress without extending to the sides. While it doesn’t cover all sides, this type is cost-effective. It’s particularly beneficial for parents during potty training as removing and washing when needed is easy.

See Also: Mattress Topper or New Mattress

Mattress Pad vs. Mattress Protector: What are the differences?

FactorMattress PadMattress Protector
Thickness1-2″ thickUltra-thin
PurposeProtection + ComfortProtection Only
SupportNo supportUltra-thin
FirmnessAdds softnessDoes Not Affect Firmness

Mattress Pad Vs. Mattress Protector

Prior to choosing between a mattress pad or a mattress protector, purchasers should understand their uses and advantages, including the following points.

Mattress Pad

A mattress pad elevates your bed’s comfort by offering an extra layer of coziness and luxury. Its primary benefits are:

  1. Enhanced Comfort: By adding a soft cushioning layer, mattress pads increase the comfort and firmness of your bed, offering a more relaxing sleep experience.
  2. Allergen Protection: These pads act as a barrier, shielding your mattress from hidden allergens and contributing to a cleaner and healthier sleep environment.
  3. Reduced Noise: They effectively absorb sound, minimizing disturbances and ensuring a quieter resting space for a more peaceful night’s sleep.
  4. Extended Mattress Lifespan: Mattress pads take on the daily wear and tear, safeguarding the mattress and prolonging its life, saving you from early replacements.

In essence, a mattress pad doesn’t just add comfort but also provides protection and durability, enhancing your overall sleeping experience.

Mattress Protectors 

Mattress protectors serve as a robust shield for beds, shielding them from accidental harm. They act as a barrier against liquids, bed bugs, dust mites, and allergens, safeguarding the mattress from potential damage. Their primary benefits include:

  • Bed Bug Defense: These protectors act as a preventive measure against bed bugs, averting potential health issues for users.
  • Liquid Resistance: High-quality protectors, typically crafted from synthetic materials, effectively repel liquid spills, preventing mattress damage.
  • Temperature Control: They contribute to regulating body temperature, ensuring a more comfortable sleep experience for individuals.
  • Preserve Warranty: By preventing damage and stains, mattress protectors play a vital role in safeguarding the mattress’s warranty.

Overall, mattress protectors offer an essential layer of defense for mattresses, ensuring longevity and a clean, comfortable sleeping surface for users.

Key Difference Between Mattress Pad And Mattress Cover

Understanding the contrast between mattress pads and mattress protectors is crucial for making the right bedding choice. Here’s a breakdown of their key differences:

Materials Used

Mattress pads offer a cozy, cushioned feel made from materials like cotton, wool, latex, or memory foam. They’re designed for comfort and breathability. On the other hand, mattress protectors are typically crafted from synthetic materials, although some options made of cotton are available.


Compared to mattress protectors, mattress pads tend to have a higher price range. The cost depends on factors like materials used, features provided, style, and size. On average, mattress pads can range from $50 to $100, while mattress protectors are priced between $15 and $70.


Mattress pads are ideal for those seeking extra comfort and support, especially for older mattresses lacking proper cushioning. Meanwhile, mattress protectors play a crucial role in safeguarding the mattress, prolonging its lifespan, and maintaining the bed’s appearance.


Mattress pads lay atop the mattress and are usually the same size. Conversely, protectors are secured onto the mattress through fitted sheets, straps, or lying directly on top. Protectors are slightly larger to encompass the entire mattress, ensuring comprehensive coverage for enhanced protection.


While some mattress pads don’t provide additional support or protect against staining, they require careful maintenance to prevent quick deterioration. Many are made from synthetic materials that can trap heat, potentially causing discomfort. Meanwhile, mattress protectors might produce crinkling noises and can feel too slick and shiny, affecting user comfort.

Is a mattress pad or mattress protector right for you?

Choosing between a mattress protector and a mattress pad depends on your specific needs. If you’re looking to enhance the comfort of your mattress with a touch of softness or a plusher feel, a mattress pad is a great choice. It can also offer optional cooling features for a more comfortable sleep experience.

On the other hand, if your priority is safeguarding your mattress from various elements, then a mattress protector is the way to go. It provides maximum protection against spills, stains, and allergens. Additionally, some mattress protectors offer comprehensive 6-sided protection, guarding against bedbugs and other pests. They can also serve as a solution for incontinence or offer extra protection for households with kids or pets.

Ultimately, your decision should align with your primary needs—whether it’s enhancing comfort or ensuring maximum protection for your mattress and addressing specific concerns like spills, allergens, or pests.


Are mattress pads and mattress protectors the same?

No, they are not the same. A mattress pad typically adds comfort and additional cushioning to a mattress, while a mattress protector serves as a barrier against spills, stains, allergens, and bed bugs.

Can I use a mattress pad and a mattress protector together?

Yes, you can use them together. In fact, combining a mattress pad for added comfort with a mattress protector for protection against spills and stains is a common practice.

What’s the primary purpose of a mattress pad?

The main aim of a mattress pad is to provide an additional layer of comfort to your mattress. It can provide cushioning, regulate temperature, and protect against normal wear and tear.

Will a mattress protector completely safeguard against spills and stains?

A good-quality mattress protector is designed to provide a high level of protection against spills, stains, bedwetting, and other accidents. However, while they offer significant protection, some spills may penetrate if not cleaned promptly.

Do mattress pads and protectors affect mattress firmness?

Mattress pads can slightly alter the feel and firmness of a mattress by adding an extra layer of padding. On the other hand, mattress protectors typically don’t significantly impact firmness as they are thinner and designed primarily for protection.

How often should I replace a mattress pad or Protector?

Generally, you should consider replacing a mattress pad or Protector every 1-2 years or sooner if it shows signs of wear, tear, or damage.


Understanding the distinction between a mattress pad and a mattress protector is crucial for preserving mattress quality and ensuring a hygienic sleep environment. Evaluate your needs, preferences, and desired protection level to make an informed choice for a restful and well-maintained sleep experience.


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