Mattress Pad & Topper Buying Guide

So, it’s time to buy a mattress pad. Or is it a mattress topper? What about a mattress protector? These terms are often used interchangeably, but they are all different products each with their own purpose.

Our Mattress Pad & Topper Buying Guide will clear up the perplexing world of mattress pads and toppers and help you identify exactly what you need. Whether you’re focused on mattress protection, added comfort, or a combination of both, the right mattress accessory awaits. Keep reading to discover all there is to know about mattress pads and simplify your shopping. 

What is the difference between a mattress pad, a mattress topper, and a mattress protector?

Simply put, a mattress pad provides light comfort and protection, a mattress topper drastically changes the feel of the mattress with thick and plush support, and a mattress protector fully safeguards a mattress without the added comfort. Read on to learn the key differences and determine which mattress accessory will enhance your sleep experience.

Mattress pads

Mattress pads are designed to provide additional softness and protection to a mattress. A mattress pad is a quilted layer of material secured by tabs or elastic edging that sits on top of a mattress and underneath a fitted sheet. The thin top layer is typically 1/2–2 inches but comes in a range of plushness to cater to personal preferences. Mattress pads prolong the life of a mattress by protecting it from general wear and tear, light spills, sweat, dirt, and certain allergens. They are easy to remove and clean making it a low-maintenance way to upgrade any sleeping surface.

Mattress toppers

Mattress toppers are designed to deliver ultimate comfort, support, and body alignment. They sit directly on top of a mattress and provide 3–5 inches of added cushion to relieve pressure points. A mattress topper is a cost-effective way to revive an old sagging mattress or soften up a mattress that feels too firm. While a mattress topper is much more luxurious than a mattress pad, it does not offer any protection and may need to be paired with another product. Mattress toppers are an excellent choice for those with back pain, arthritis, or anyone who isn’t ready to invest in a new mattress just yet. 

Mattress protectors

Mattress protectors offer superior protection from liquids, stains, bacteria, and allergens. High-end mattress protectors may be 100% waterproof and protect against dust mites and bed bugs. They usually attach with elastic side panels or zip around the entire mattress. Unlike mattress pads and toppers, protectors do not provide any additional cushioning. However, they can easily pair with a mattress pad or mattress topper for added comfort. Mattress protectors are simple to clean and can prolong the life of a mattress, making them a great investment for kids, adults who like to keep drinks on the nightstand, or anyone who wants to keep their mattress as clean and fresh as possible. 

Mattress pad vs mattress topper vs mattress protector chart

To keep it simple, here is a chart showing the comfort and protection levels offered by mattress pads, toppers, and protectors.

Mattress Cover

Mattress Comfort

Mattress Protection

Mattress Pad

A little extra comfort

Moderate mattress protection

Mattress Topper

Luxurious comfort

No mattress protection

Mattress Protector

No added comfort

Ultimate mattress protection


Mattress pads and mattress toppers pair well with mattress protectors to provide superior protection alongside your desired level of comfort.

Cover Pairing

Mattress Comfort

Mattress Protection

Mattress Pad + Mattress Protector

A little extra comfort

Ultimate mattress protection

Mattress Topper + Mattress Protector

Luxurious comfort

Ultimate mattress protection

How thick should a mattress pad or topper be? 

The thickness of a mattress pad depends on personal preference and sleep experience. If you’re currently satisfied with the cushion and support of your bed, you may opt for a thin mattress pad to focus on protection. If you have a firm mattress or are constantly waking up in pain, you may benefit from a thick mattress pad or plush mattress topper.

Thin mattress pads

Thin mattress pads consist of a light top layer that offers minimal change to the feel of the mattress. They help extend the life of a mattress without adding extra support. 

Medium plush mattress pads

Medium plush mattress pads are filled with slightly more cushion and deliver the perfect balance of comfort and protection. They conform to the body and movement to support all sleep positions.

Thick mattress pads

Thick mattress pads are constructed with extra plush padding that may help relieve pressure points, increase comfort, and improve sleep quality. They are a great choice for softening up a firm mattress.

Ultra-plush mattress toppers

Ultra-plush mattress toppers deliver the highest level of added comfort and are designed to completely alter the feel of a mattress. Mattress toppers do not offer protection and may be paired with a mattress pad or mattress protector. Downlite’s Pillow Top Feather Bed is constructed with five inches of luxurious softness and support to cradle the body and make you feel as if you’re sleeping on a cloud.

What to consider when buying a mattress pad

Do you dream of staying cooler at night or reducing allergy symptoms that keep you up? 

Perhaps you want to fully waterproof your bed. Modern mattress pads are designed with all kinds of features to cater to specific needs. Decide what is most important to you and shop for a mattress pad that includes everything on your checklist.

Cooling mattress pads 

Cooling mattress pads absorb excess body heat to improve sleep quality and comfort. Using temperature-regulating materials to draw heat away from the body, these mattress pads are designed to keep you cool all night.

Moisture-wicking mattress pads

Moisture-wicking mattress pads pull sweat away from the skin to keep the body dry, cool, and comfortable. Moisture-wicking technology absorbs perspiration and dries quickly to maintain ideal sleeping conditions.

Waterproof mattress pads

Waterproof mattress pads prevent liquids from penetrating the mattress and causing damage. Shielding the bed from accidental spills, urine, sweat, and body oils will elongate the health and life of your mattress. Downlite’s Clean Sleep Mattress Protector with WaterLock™ technology provides best-in-class protection.

Antimicrobial mattress pads

Antimicrobial mattress pads are specially treated to inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungus, and mold. They may also block odors and reduce symptoms of allergies, asthma, and other potential breathing issues.

Hypoallergenic mattress pads

Hypoallergenic mattress pads naturally keep away allergens such as pollen, dust, and dander. Made with allergen-resistant materials, these mattress pads may reduce congestion and sneezing and lead to a more peaceful night’s sleep. All of our mattress pads are hypoallergenic.

Find your fill, fabric, and thread count

Thread count is calculated by the number of threads woven together in a square inch. Traditionally, a higher thread count provides optimal comfort, durability, and quiet bedding which can lead to tranquil sleep. A mattress pad thread count of 200–400 is ideal in terms of quality and softness. 

Fill and fabric is another consideration. Most mattress pads are constructed with a blend of materials that make up the top layer and fill. Some feature performance-based fabrics and treatments that offer added benefits, such as moisture-wicking, stain resistance, anti-microbial protection, and thermoregulation comfort.


Downlite’s Intelli-Pedic ClimaSmart™ fabric is a soft breathable cotton that delivers advanced temperature regulation, moisture-wicking, and anti-microbial technology. 


PrimaLoft® is a silky-smooth microfiber blend that mimics white goose down for plush, supportive comfort. This fill is hydrophobic and features a permanent antimicrobial treatment.


TENCEL blended with polyester is amazingly soft, durable, and wrinkle resistant. This blend also offers advanced thermoregulation benefits.


100% cotton is a breathable material perfect for year-round comfort. Cotton is also soft, naturally hypoallergenic, and easy to clean.


Bamboo blended with polyester is popular in cooling mattress pads since it naturally wicks away moisture and heat. Bamboo is antibacterial, hypoallergenic, and more wrinkle-resistant than cotton. 


Polyester is a synthetic fiber known for its softness and durability, making it ideal for mattress pads with just the right amount of plushness and support.


Mattress pad size chart

Mattress Pad Sizes

Mattress Pad Dimensions

Mattress Pad Depth


38 x 75 inches

8–18 inches

Twin XL

38 x 80 inches

8–18 inches


54 x 75 inches

8–18 inches


60 x 80 inches

8–18 inches


76 x 80 inches

8–18 inches

California King

72 x 84 inches

8–18 inches

Mattress pads come in a range of sizes to perfectly fit a twin bed up to a California King. The first step is to determine your bed size and select a mattress pad that fits the traditional length and width.

Another important consideration that is often overlooked is depth. If your mattress pad isn’t deep enough, making the bed will be a constant battle and the corners will continue to slip off. Always measure the height of your mattress before investing in a mattress pad. If you plan to sleep with a mattress topper, be sure to include the thickness in your calculation to avoid shifting.

The average mattress is 8-12" thick. Pillow top and extra tall mattresses traditionally range from 12-18". Downlite mattress pads are constructed with deep pockets to accommodate beds up to 18" thick.

How much do mattress pads cost?

The price of a mattress pad varies based on materials, size, and features. A quality mattress pad or mattress protector ranges anywhere from $50–125. A thick mattress topper may run $200–$300. 

A thin, no-frills mattress pad may be on the less expensive side. An ultra-plush mattress pad with cooling and antimicrobial properties will cost more. The greater the thickness and features, the more you’ll be investing in comfort, quality sleep, and extending the life of your mattress. 

While there are many “deals” out there, you may want to consider the old adage that “quality is long remembered after cost is soon forgotten.” In other words, you get what you pay for. There are bargain mattress pads on the market, often constructed with cheap materials and poor sewing. They wear quickly, don’t often offer the level of protection they claim, and may not live up to the features promised. While the price tag may seem appealing, these defects outweigh the perks.

Hotel mattress pads and protectors deliver premium quality, durability, and easy care. No matter what type of mattress pad you are shopping for, one of the most important considerations is the manufacturer. Purchasing from a trusted company with bedding expertise is a surefire way to guarantee value at any price.

Conscious shopping

Being a conscientious consumer helps preserve the environment, ensure humane working conditions, and impact the world for the better. Making thoughtful and responsible shopping decisions may help you sleep better at night, knowing that your behavior has positive effects on sustainability and the future.

Assembled in the USA

Most DOWNLITE products are assembled in the USA using imported and domestic materials. Shopping for products assembled in the USA supports American jobs and workers, ensures better labor and environmental standards, and typically results in high-quality goods built to last.

Family-owned and operated

DOWNLITE has been a family-owned and operated business for three generations. The strong family ties, passion for bedding, product knowledge, and experience are felt in every product and unparalleled customer service. 

OEKO-TEX® certified

Oeko-Tex® certifies the safety of textile products throughout all stages of production (from raw materials and fabrics to finished goods). Oeko-Tex® is on a mission to make sustainability easy and inform consumers of products free from harmful substances. DOWNLITE is proud to offer Oeko-Tex® certified mattress pads to ensure high product safety and promote a sustainable future.

Eco-friendly bedding

With a commitment toward sustainability and the environment, DOWNLITE donates 1% of all e-commerce sales to One Percent for the Planet. This global organization pairs members with environmental non-profits looking to make an impact and tackle the most pressing issues facing our planet. To date, these 1% contributions have raised $250 million to go toward environmental issues. You can be philanthropic by purchasing goods from a company that gives back.

Find your new mattress pad or mattress topper today

Discover hotel quality bedding at manufacturer-direct prices from DOWNLITE. All of our mattress pads and toppers are assembled in the USA at our headquarters in Mason, Ohio. Shop mattress pads from Downlite Bedding.

We understand that shopping online eliminates the touch and feel of mattress pads that may sway your purchase decisions. That’s why our seasoned customer service representatives are ready to give you personal recommendations based on your unique preferences. Contact customer service to have all your questions answered and get matched with your new favorite mattress pad or topper.

If your new mattress pad isn’t everything you were hoping for, we offer a simple 30-day return window.


Looking for fresh bedding to go with your new mattress pad? Check out our other buying guides:

Pillow Buying Guide  |  Comforter Buying Guide  |  Bedding Fill Guide