A mattress topper is for adding an extra layer of cushioning and support to the surface of your mattress. Mattress toppers are a bit like mini mattresses and measure between 2-4 inches thick. They are used to adjust the feel and protect your existing mattress. Let’s take a closer look at what is a mattress topper.
WHAT IS A MATTRESS TOPPER?
A mattress topper is like a mini mattress. They are popular mattress accessories used to protect and change the feel of an existing mattress. They are often used to make a mattress feel either softer or more firm. Placing a mattress topper on a mattress is a quick, affordable, and easy way to change the feel of a mattress.
However, mattress toppers fulfill a variety of roles. They are also commonly used to experience the feel of a different mattress material, to deliver a cooling effect, and to rejuvenate a tired and sagging mattress. Below we cover everything you need to know about – what is a mattress topper for?
JUMP TO CONTENT
• Benefits of a Mattress Topper
• Difference Between Topper, Pads & Protectors
BENEFITS OF MATTRESS TOPPER
What are the benefits of a mattress topper? Mattress toppers have many benefits and are an affordable way of adjusting the firmness and feel of your existing mattress. They can be used to add some soft cushioning, provide more support, and regulate temperature. Let’s take a closer look at mattress topper benefits.
PROVIDE EXTRA COMFORT
The greatest benefit of a mattress topper is the added comfort they bring to your mattress. If your mattress is beginning to feel worn out and doesn’t feel as good as it used to – adding a mattress topper can restore that feeling of soft cradling comfort. They are an affordable way of restoring the comfort levels of an old tired mattress.
ADJUST MATTRESS FIRMNESS
You can adjust the firmness level of your mattress by adding a mattress topper. If your bed feels too firm and you want softer cushioning – just place a plush soft-feeling mattress topper on your mattress. And, if your mattress is too soft add a firmer feeling topper.
DIFFERENT TYPES TO CHOOSE FROM
Another key benefit of a mattress topper is you can choose to sleep on a different type of mattress topper material without having to change your mattress. For example, if you have a traditional spring mattress but want to sleep on memory foam – all you have to do is add a memory foam mattress topper for that unique feel. It’s a much cheaper option than purchasing a new mattress.
PROTECTS YOUR MATTRESS
Another great pro of a mattress topper is that it protects your mattress. Mattress toppers create a large physical barrier between you and your mattress. This means your mattress will be protected from spills, accidents, and general wear and tear. They will help keep your mattress clean even better than a mattress protector or mattress pad.
REGULATE MATTRESS TEMPERATURE
You can use a topper to regulate the temperature of your mattress. If your mattress sleeps too hot and is making you feel uncomfortable – you can choose a cooling that will help draw heat away from your body. For example, memory foam toppers with cooling gels and open cell technology will help keep you cool.
And, conversely, the opposite is true. If you find your mattress sleeps cold, (for example many traditional innersprings), you can add a memory topper that insulates your body and helps retain heat while you sleep. Traditional foam toppers will work well here.
IMPROVE A SAGGING MATTRESS
If you notice your mattress is beginning to sag in the middle you can extend its life by adding a mattress topper. Sagging occurs when a mattress begins to struggle to support body weight.
When this happens you will notice a depression in the mattress surface. If you catch it early you can try adding a mattress topper instead of having to replace your mattress. However, a badly sagging mattress may just need to be replaced.
EXTEND YOUR MATTRESS LIFE
Using a mattress topper will extend the natural lifespan of your mattress. In fact, it might even save you money in the long run. A mattress protector will help keep your mattress clean, help prevent sagging, and protect against general wear and tear. All this means you will be adding years to the life cycle of your existing mattress.
IT MAY HELP RELIEVE PAIN
Adding a mattress topper may help relieve chronic shoulder, hip, or back pain. If you suffer regular joint pain and struggle to find a comfortable sleeping position on your existing mattress – you can try adjusting your mattress feel by adding a topper. Firmness and support level can be easily adjusted by carefully choosing the right mattress topper for your needs.
Do you sleep cold during the winter? Or, maybe hot in the summer? Adding a mattress topper to your bed may help you find the right sleeping temperature all year round. A warm mattress topper may be what you need for the winter months.
Others might need a cooling topper during the summer. Either way, adding a mattress topper can help you find the sleeping temperature you need. Then, when the seasons change and you no longer need it – just pack it away for the following year.
TYPES OF MATTRESS TOPPER
Mattress toppers come in all shapes, sizes, and material types. Just like choosing a mattress, there are many types of toppers to choose from. Each type of mattress topper has a distinct feel and characteristic pros and cons. To help you choose the right one for you, we’ll run through each type below.
MEMORY FOAM MATTRESS TOPPERS
Memory foam is one of the most popular types of mattress topper on the market. They deliver a soft response feel that cradles your body weight and relieves stress on key pressure points. If want to experience the feel of sleeping on memory foam but don’t want to invest in a new mattress – a memory foam mattress topper is a great option.
CONTOURS YOUR BODY – Memory foam provides a unique, gentle body-contouring feel.
PRESSURE RELIEF – It’s a great material for cradling body weight and relieving pressure points.
DURABILITY – Memory foam is a durable material and will last many years.
MOTION ISOLATION – They isolate motion so it doesn’t travel across the mattress topper.
EXPENSIVE – Memory foam toppers can be expensive.
SLEEP HOT – Standard memory foam can trap heat and sleep hot.
RESPONSIVE MOVEMENT – Memory foam doesn’t have a bounce and it can be difficult to change positions.
GEL MEMORY FOAM MATTRESS TOPPERS
Gel memory foam mattress toppers are very like regular memory foam toppers – but have been specially designed to sleep cool. These mattress toppers have been infused with a heat conducting gel that allows heat to move away from your body while you sleep. If you tend to sleep hot – look out for a gel-infused memory foam mattress topper
COOLING ABILITY – Gel memory foam mattress toppers draw heat away from the surface of the mattress.
CONTOURS YOUR BODY – Gel memory foam contours your body and provides the same feel as regular memory foam.
PRESSURE RELIEF – Just like regular memory foam they cradle your body weight and relieve stress on pressure points.
DURABILITY – Gel memory foam is also highly durable.
MOTION ISOLATION – Motion is largely isolated to the area it originated in.
EXPENSIVE – Gel memory foam toppers can be expensive just like regular memory foam.
RESPONSIVE MOVEMENT – Just like regular memory foam, gel-infused memory foam doesn’t have a bouncy feel and it can be difficult to change positions.
LATEX MATTRESS TOPPERS
Latex mattress toppers can be made from natural latex, synthetic latex, or a blend of the two. In general, natural latex is better but it comes with the highest price tag. Natural latex is hypoallergenic, highly durable, and delivers excellent pressure-relieving comfort.
CRADLING COMFORT – Latex is one of the best materials for soft cushioning comfort.
PRESSURE RELIEF – Latex mattress toppers relieve pressure on stress areas such as the hips, knees, and shoulders.
HIGHLY DURABLE – Latex mattress toppers are highly durable and will last many years.
TEMPERATURE CONTROL – Latex does not trap heat and does not sleep hot.
HYPOALLERGENIC – Natural latex is hypoallergenic and is less likely to trigger an allergic reaction.
RESPONSIVE MOVEMENT – Latex mattress toppers have a bouncy feel and are easy to move on.
PRICE – Latex toppers are expensive, especially natural latex toppers.
MOTION ISOLATION – Latex has a springy feel and they do not isolate motion very well.
HEAVY – Latex mattress toppers can be heavy.
COTTON & POLYESTER BLEND MATTRESS TOPPERS
Cotton and polyester blend mattress toppers tend to be one of the cheapest toppers available. The ratio of cotton to polyester affects their breathability – with cotton being a naturally breathable material. These mattress toppers mimic the feel of feather and down mattress toppers. They are lightweight and often wear out easily.
LOW PRICE – One of the most affordable types of topper.
BREATHABLE – Cotton is a naturally breathable material.
MIMIC FEATHER & DOWN – They tend to mimic the feel of more expensive feather and down toppers.
CLUMPING – The filling material tends to move and gather in clumps.
SHORT LIFE SPAN – Lightweight and short lifespan.
WOOL MATTRESS TOPPERS
Wool mattress toppers are becoming increasingly popular. While not the first material type that springs to mind when shopping for mattress toppers – they do come with some unique features. Wool is a 100% natural material, so they are an eco-friendly choice. And, they are a great choice if you are looking for soft plush cushioning.
GENTLE CUSHIONING – Wool mattress toppers have a naturally soft cushioning feel.
BREATHABLE – Wool is a naturally breathable material. So while it will help keep you warm, it allows excess heat to escape.
NATURAL MATERIAL – Wool is a natural material and an eco-friendly choice.
HIGHLY DURABLE – Wool is highly durable. Treated well a wool mattress topper should last many years.
ANTI-MICROBIAL – Wool is naturally anti-microbial.
FLAME RETARDANT – Wool is naturally flame retardant.
EXPENSIVE – Wool toppers are expensive.
LACK SUPPORT – A wool mattress topper feels soft and doesn’t have the same level of support as memory foam or latex.
WOOL SCENT – Wool has a distinctive scent that some people do not like.
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FEATHER & DOWN MATTRESS TOPPERS
Feather and down mattress toppers deliver a luxurious plush feel with lots of soft cushioning and pressure relief. On the flip side, they don’t provide much support and can trigger allergies in some people. Down refers to the soft quill-less feathers taken from the bellies of ducks and geese. While feather refers to the quilled feathers pulled from the wings and back.
SOFT CUSHIONING – They provide excellent soft cushioning and comforting pressure relief.
LESS EXPENSIVE – Feather and down mattress toppers tend to be less expensive than the more high-end materials.
BREATHABLE MATERIAL – Feather and down mattress toppers are naturally breathable and facilitate airflow.
LITTLE SUPPORT – Feather and down toppers have a soft feel and provide little support.
ALLERGIES – Some people have an allergy to feather and down.
FEATHERS CAN STICK OUT – Feather quills have a tendency to stick through the surface of the mattress topper.
CLUMPING – Feather and down can gather in lumps and lead to material clumping.
HOLLOW FIBER & MICROFIBER MATTRESS TOPPERS
Hollow fiber and microfiber mattress toppers are made from synthetic materials. This means they are more affordable – so they are a good fit for those on a budget. Hollow fiber mattress toppers are made using fine hollow strands of polyester. The hollow fiber traps air and provides a light and soft feel. Although they provide excellent insulation and tend to sleep warm. Microfiber is a similar material but uses a blend of polyester and nylon called polyamide.
VERY SOFT – Hollow fiber and microfiber mattress toppers deliver a very soft cushioning feel.
PRICE – These fiber toppers come with many of the attractions of feather and down but at a fraction of the price.
LIGHTWEIGHT – These mattress toppers are lightweight and easy to handle and pack away when not in use.
EXCELLENT INSULATION – Hollow fiber and microfiber mattress toppers are excellent insulators. If you need a mattress topper to warm up your bed – these are a great choice.
SLEEP HOT – Hollow fiber and microfiber mattress toppers trap heat – this is not a good feature for hot sleepers.
CLUMPING – Just like feather and down they can clump over years of regular use.
HOW TO USE A MATTRESS TOPPER
Now that we know all about the different types and benefits, it’s time to take a look at how to use a mattress topper. Don’t worry, it’s very straightforward.
1: GET THE CORRECT SIZE
The first step is to make sure you get the correct size of topper for your bed. Mattresses come in a wide range of sizes. Make sure you get a mattress topper that matches your mattress size. For some help, take a look at our bed sizes comparison chart.
2: ROLL IT INTO POSITION
Once you have chosen the correct size mattress topper for your bed – the next step is to roll it into place. First up remove all your bed clothes, sheets, and pillows from your mattress.
Many mattress toppers come with a non-slip side to prevent the topper from moving once it has been positioned. If your mattress topper has a non-slip side – place this side against the surface of your mattress.
When you have exposed the bare surface of your existing mattress, carefully roll the mattress topper into position directly on your mattress surface. Align the four corners of the topper with the mattress.
3: DRESS YOUR BED
Once you have your topper in position it’s time to dress your bed. If you are going to use a mattress protector or mattress pad place these between the mattress topper and bed sheet. Then, add your bed sheet to the surface of the mattress topper, (or pad/protector), as if it was your old mattress surface, and continue to dress the bed as normal.
HOW TO CLEAN A MATTRESS TOPPER
Regularly cleaning your mattress topper will prevent a build-up of grime, and odor, and extend its life. However, the precise cleaning steps you need to follow vary greatly depending on the type of mattress topper you purchase.
The best advice is to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. In general foam mattresses should be spot cleaned as they tend to retain water and can be very difficult to dry out. Also, wool can be a delicate material and needs to be treated with care.
If your topper cannot be machine washed you can always try spot cleaning to remove spills and stains as they appear. If you want to avoid using water you clean your mattress using baking soda. And if your mattress topper picks up a blood stain you can follow the steps in our guide to removing blood stains from a mattress.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TOPPERS, PADS & PROTECTORS
What’s the difference between a mattress topper, mattress protector, and mattress pad? Although these three mattress accessories share some common features – they serve very different purposes. Let’s take a look below.
A mattress protector is a very lightweight padded sheet that helps soak up minor spills and accidents. A mattress protector sits between your mattress surface and bed sheet.
It provides little to no additional cushioning and serves only as a small protective layer to keep your mattress clean. Mattress protectors can be easily removed and put through the laundry – unlike a mattress. For more check out What Is a Mattress Protector?
A mattress pad is a step up from a mattress protector. It provides some additional cushioning and better protection than a mattress protector. A mattress pad is thicker and will measure between 1-2 inches thick. They are available in multiple material types, such as memory foam, latex, and cotton-polyester blends.
You can think of a mattress pad as serving a purpose somewhere between a mattress protector and a mattress topper. However, if it’s an additional layer of cushioning and support you are looking for – get a mattress topper. For more see What Is a Mattress Pad?
WHEN DO YOU NEED A MATTRESS TOPPER?
When should you buy a mattress topper? People buy toppers for a variety of reasons. Some buy a mattress topper to change the feel of their existing mattress. Others buy a topper to rejuvenate an old and sagging mattress. Below we look at the main reasons for buying a mattress topper.
SOFTER & FIRMER
Most people buy a mattress topper to adjust the firmness level of their existing mattress. If you have a mattress that feels too firm you can give it a softer feel by placing a soft cushioning mattress on top. And, if you have a mattress that feels too soft you can use a firm mattress topper for a firmer and more supportive feel.
EXPERIENCE NEW FEEL
Many people invest in a mattress topper to experience the feel of a different mattress type. For example, if you have an innerspring traditional mattress but want to try sleeping on memory foam – you can buy a memory foam topper to see how it feels. It’s a lot cheaper than buying a new memory foam mattress.
Another good reason for getting a mattress topper is to remedy a mattress that is beginning to sag. By placing a mattress topper on a worn and well-aged mattress you can add years to its life. However, if the mattress is experiencing heavy sagging you may be better off investing in a new mattress. When it comes to sagging, the trick is to catch it early.
You can buy a mattress topper to adjust the temperature of your existing mattress. If you live in a warm climate and you feel your mattress sleeps hot – you can add a mattress topper with good cooling ability, for example, a gel-infused memory foam topper. This will allow heat to escape the surface of the mattress during the night. And, if your mattress feels too cold you can add an insulating mattress topper for some added warmth.
Many people buy a mattress topper for financial reasons. If your mattress is beginning to sag in the middle and show signs of wear and tear – it’s much cheaper to add a new mattress topper than to buy a new mattress. Also, you can protect your existing mattress and add years to its lifespan by placing a mattress topper on it.
DO MATTRESS TOPPERS WORK?
Yes, mattress toppers do work. They are a very popular mattress accessory and are used to rejuvenate tired old mattresses and change the comfort and firmness feel of an existing mattress. A good topper will add additional cushioning and support to your existing mattress. They also help protect your mattress and used correctly will extend your mattress’s lifespan.
MATTRESS TOPPERS FOR BACK PAIN
Can a mattress topper be used to relieve back pain? Yes, a mattress topper can be a good option for some people suffering from back pain. When discussing ‘what is a mattress topper’ we need to talk about back pain.
Back pain can be caused by sleeping on a mattress that is either too soft or too firm. Adjusting the firmness level of a mattress using a topper can correct the support level needed to encourage good lumbar support.
For example, if someone sleeps on a mattress that is too soft they can experience back pain – especially around the lumber region. This is because the mattress is not providing enough firm support to align their body while they sleep. This individual could benefit by placing a firm mattress topper on their mattress that helps deliver the firm support they need.
WHAT IS A MATTRESS TOPPER FAQ
Here we address the questions that pop up when discussing what is a mattress topper.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A MATTRESS TOPPER?
The purpose of a mattress topper is to add an extra layer of cushioning and support to our existing mattress. You can also adjust the firmness level by choosing a topper that is softer or firmer than your mattress. Toppers also protect your mattress from spills and bumps and will add years to its life.
DOES A MATTRESS TOPPER GO UNDER A MATTRESS PAD?
Yes, a mattress protector goes under a mattress pad. If you are using a mattress topper and a mattress pad – place the mattress topper directly on your mattress and then place the mattress pad on the surface of the topper.
DO MATTRESS TOPPERS MAKE YOU HOT?
No, mattress toppers will not make you hot. You can choose from a wide range of mattress toppers. Some have a cooling effect and others have a warming effect. If you tend to sleep hot you can choose a topper that helps relieve heat from the mattress while you sleep, for example, a gel-infused memory foam mattress topper.
WILL A MATTRESS TOPPER HELP A SAGGING BED?
Yes, a mattress topper will help a sagging bed. If your mattress is beginning to show signs of sagging you can add a mattress topper to extend its life.
DOES A MATTRESS TOPPER GO UNDER A SHEET?
Yes, a mattress topper goes under a sheet. Place your mattress topper directly on the surface of your mattress and then place your sheet on the mattress topper.
WHEN SHOULD YOU PUT A MATTRESS TOPPER ON?
You should put a mattress topper on if you want to adjust the firmness level of your mattress. If your mattress is too firm you can add a soft-feeling mattress topper. And, if your mattress is too soft you can add a mattress topper with a firm feel for more support.
DO YOU SLEEP BETTER WITH A MATTRESS TOPPER?
Yes, you will sleep better with a mattress topper if it provides the additional comfort, support, and soft cushioning you are looking for. Providing you choose a mattress topper that delivers the feel you need to get comfortable – you should sleep better.
DO YOU PUT A FITTED SHEET OVER A MATTRESS TOPPER?
Yes, you can put a fitted sheet over a mattress topper. Place the mattress topper directly on your mattress and then put a fitted sheet over the mattress topper.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JOSH HARDY – Senior Editor
Josh is senior editor at Mattress Comfort Guide. He is an industry expert with over 30 years of experience in the bed and mattress industry. Josh is a native of Albuquerque and is a graduate of the University of New Mexico. He holds an M.S. in Project Management and a B.S. in Earth & Planetary Sciences.
He has worked in both the retail and manufacturing industries where he has held consultancy roles on mattress design and technologies. Josh has a particular interest in how different mattress types complement body size and sleeping position, and deliver optimal lumbar support. Josh is a keen sports fan and when he’s away from the office he likes to play basketball and catch the New Mexico Lobos games with his two sons at the Pit.