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Mattress Pad vs Mattress Protector: What’s the Difference?

Mattress Resources
Read Time: 5 minutes

  • Purposeful Protection: Mattress protectors are designed as a robust barrier against spills, stains, dust, and bed bugs, safeguarding your mattress and contributing to its longevity.
  • Comfort Boost with Mattress Pads: Mattress pads, on the other hand, focus on enhancing comfort by adding a plush layer to your bed. They also provide protection against allergens and can extend the life of your mattress.
  • Material Matters: While mattress pads come in various materials like cotton, wool, feathers, and memory foam, mattress protectors predominantly use synthetic materials such as polyurethane, polyester, vinyl, and spandex to ensure waterproofing and bug resistance.

When investing in accessories for your mattress, two options often come to mind: mattress pads and mattress protectors. While these two top mattress accessories serve different purposes, many need to be made aware of their key differences. This article will compare mattress pads and mattress protectors, helping you decide based on your needs and preferences.

What is a Mattress Pad?

A mattress pad is a thin layer of quilted material between the mattress and the sheets. Its main function is to add an extra comfort layer and softness to your bed. Additionally, mattress pads help protect the mattress and bed sheets from stains, wear and tear, and allergens.

Materials Used for Mattress Pads

Mattress pads are available in various materials, each with natural materials offering unique benefits and characteristics:

  1. Cotton: Cotton mattress pads are made from natural fibers, making them breathable and hypoallergenic. They are easy to use, maintain, and adjust, making them suitable for sensitive sleepers.
  2. Wool: Woolen mattress pads are thinner than cotton pads but offer a softer feel and texture. They also help regulate body temperature and exhibit antimicrobial properties.
  3. Feathers: Mattress pads made from duck or goose under-feathers provide a luxurious feel. While they can be expensive, they offer warmth and some resistance to staining.
  4. Polyester or Rayon: Mattress pads made from synthetic fibers like polyester or rayon are highly durable and stain-resistant. They also help distribute body weight pressure efficiently and are resistant to allergens.
  5. Memory Foam: Memory foam mattress pads offer excellent physical support. They are made of polyurethane material that molds to the user’s body shape, providing pain relief.
  6. Latex: Latex mattress pads are known for their firmness, extra support, and structure. They are the most expensive option and have anti-allergic and antimicrobial properties.

What is a Mattress Protector?

A mattress protector is a strong fitted sheet that covers the mattress surface and the entire bed, safeguarding the mattress from spills, stains, dust, and general wear and tear. It acts as a protective barrier between your body and the mattress, ensuring its longevity and cleanliness.

Materials Used for Mattress Protectors

Mattress protectors are typically made from synthetic materials, although some options made from cotton are also available. Here are the common materials used by mattress manufacturers for making mattress protectors:

  1. Polyurethane: Polyurethane is often combined with natural fiber to create an effective mattress protector. It is porous, breathable, waterproof, and bug-proof.
  2. Polyester: Polyester is known for its waterproofing properties, making it an excellent choice for mattress protectors. It is often combined with synthetic materials like Tencel and spandex for enhanced durability, comfort, and protection.
  3. Cotton: Cotton mattress protectors are relatively affordable and offer comfort. However, they do not provide complete protection against staining and offer only moderate protection from wear and tear.
  4. Vinyl: Vinyl is a rubbery material used to make mattress protectors that safeguard against bugs. It also has antimicrobial properties, making it suitable for protection against dust mites and other unwanted creatures.
  5. Spandex: Spandex is desirable for mattress protectors due to its stretchability. It ensures a snug fit on the mattress, providing enhanced protection.

Mattress Pad vs Mattress Protector: What Do They Do?

Before choosing between a mattress pad and a mattress protector, it’s essential to know how each one is used and what benefits they offer. Let’s take a closer look at what each accessory offers:

Mattress Pad

A mattress pad’s primary role is to improve the comfort and support of your bed. Here are the key benefits of using a mattress pad:

  1. More Firmness and Comfort: Mattress pads add a plush cushioning layer to your bed, increasing comfort and firmness.
  2. Protection From Allergens: Mattress pads protect against hidden allergens in your bed, promoting a cleaner sleeping environment.
  3. Lesser Noise: Mattress pads are good at soaking up noise, ensuring there’s little disturbance for you and your partner at night.
  4. Extended Mattress Life: By bearing the brunt of everyday wear and tear, mattress pads help keep the mattress safe and extend its lifespan.

Mattress Protector

Mattress protectors provide a mattress pad that adds a robust exterior layer that safeguards your bed from accidental damage. Here are the key benefits of using a mattress protector:

  1. Protection From Bed Bugs: Mattress protectors help prevent bed bugs from infesting your bed, protecting you from potential health issues.
  2. Liquid Proofing: High-quality protectors of synthetic materials prevent liquid spills from penetrating the mattress and causing damage.
  3. Temperature Regulation: Mattress protectors help regulate body temperature, ensuring greater sleep comfort.
  4. Protects Warranty: By preventing damage and staining, mattress protectors help maintain your mattress’s warranty.

See Also: Mattress Topper or New Mattress

Key Differences Between Mattress Pads and Mattress Protectors

It’s vital to understand their key differences to make the right choice between a mattress pad and a mattress protector. Here are the factors that set them apart:

  1. Materials Used: Mattress pads are typically made of cotton, wool, latex, memory foam, feathers, or synthetic fibers. Mattress protectors, on the other hand, are mostly made from synthetic materials, although cotton options are available.
  2. Pricing: Mattress pads are generally more expensive than mattress protectors. Prices may differ depending on the accessories’ materials, benefits, style, and size. Typically, mattress pads can range from $50 to $100, and mattress protectors can cost anywhere from $15 to $70 on average.
  3. Necessity: Mattress pads are essential for individuals seeking greater comfort and support. They are handy for older mattresses that lack proper cushioning and support. Mattress protectors are necessary to keep the bed free from damage and enhance the mattress’s lifespan. They also contribute to the overall aesthetics of the bed.
  4. Size: Mattress pads are placed on top of the mattress and are typically the same size as the mattress. Mattress protectors are attached to the mattress using fitted sheets or straps or can be laid on top of the mattress. They need to cover the entire mattress, including its sides, making them slightly larger than the mattress itself.
  5. Drawbacks: While mattress pads add comfort, not all provide additional support or protect the mattress from staining and damage. They also require proper care to prevent deterioration. Some mattress pads made from synthetic materials can trap heat, potentially causing discomfort. Mattress protectors may produce crinkling noises and can feel shiny and slippery.


What is the distinction between a mattress pad and a mattress protector?

A mattress pad typically refers to most mattress toppers as a quilted mattress topper designed for added comfort. In contrast, a mattress protector, such as a waterproof mattress protector or mattress encasement, focuses on safeguarding the mattress against spills, stains, and allergens. The former enhances sleep quality by providing an extra layer of softness, while the latter preserves the integrity of your mattress.

How do mattress protectors contribute to the longevity of my current mattress?

Waterproof mattress protectors and encasements are a barrier against liquids, allergens, and dust mites, preventing them from reaching your mattress. By keeping your current mattress free from potential damage, these waterproof protectors can significantly extend its lifespan, maintaining its structural integrity for years.

Are all mattress pads suitable for enhancing sleep quality?

Not all mattress pads are created equal for improving sleep quality. Quilted mattress pads, or mattress toppers, are designed to add a layer of plushness for enhanced comfort. However, a waterproof mattress pad or protector is essential for those seeking additional protection against spills and other allergens, ensuring both comfort and mattress preservation.

Do I need a waterproof mattress pad if I already have a mattress protector?

While a mattress protector offers a layer of defense against spills and stains, adding a waterproof mattress pad can provide extra comfort. The combination of a mattress protector and waterproof pads with a quilted mattress pad ensures both protection and enhanced sleep quality, offering a comprehensive solution for maintaining the longevity of your mattress while optimizing your overall sleep experience.


In conclusion, understanding the difference between a mattress pad and a mattress protector is crucial for making an informed decision. While mattress pads focus on comfort and support, mattress protectors prioritize safeguarding your mattress from spills, stains, and other damage. Consider your particular needs and preferences when deciding between these accessories to enhance your sleep experience.

Christine Lapp is a full-time graduate student and part-time freelancer for Sleep Junkie. Since she was a little girl on the soccer field, Christine has had a love for sports, and she believes everybody should get up and get moving once a day. Now, she incorporates her love for exercise into her studies, pursuing a degree in exercise physiology. Christine understands that what you do during your waking hours has a direct impact on your night’s sleep. In our better sleep guides, she offers advice for developing healthy daytime habits to nurture a more peaceful slumber.

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