A mattress pad is a must-have in the bedroom. It helps extend the life of your current mattress by protecting it, and it provides extra comfort for sleepers.
At BestReviews, we understand the value of a good night’s rest, and we want you to spend your forty winks on the best mattress pad you can find. That’s why we combine independent lab testing, expert consultations, and consumer feedback to form our unbiased product recommendations. Please see the above matrix for the market’s top five mattress pads.
In this shopping guide, we will discuss the important facts you need to know about choosing a mattress pad and answer some common questions about this product.
Although your skin likely won’t come into contact with your mattress pad very often, it’s still nice to know what the pad is made of.
Most consumer-level pads consist of common materials such cotton, synthetics, wool, and latex foam. High-viscosity foam, also known as memory foam, is essentially a more advanced form of latex. Some of these materials are better suited for mattress protection; others excel at promoting user comfort. Rarely does a mattress pad serve both purposes equally.
You’ll find natural cotton in plenty of entry-level and moderately expensive mattress pads. Because it’s so absorbent, people use it to protect their mattresses from urine, sweat, beverage spills, and pet damage.
However, most cotton pads don’t provide much cushioning for sleepers. Yes, a cotton mattress pad will smooth out the high and low spots of a typical mattress; this is especially true of mattress pads with full quilting. But a cotton mattress pad is not a great choice for those who need extra physical support in bed.
Cotton mattress pads are machine washable. With normal wear and tear, however, their durability degrades over time.
Man-made fabrics such as rayon and nylon offer specific qualities that appeal to consumers. For example, some tightly woven synthetics repel fluids more effectively than cotton. Others trap allergens, bed bugs, and other harmful detritus.
Synthetic fabrics may be more durable than wool, cotton, and down, but they also tend to be less comfortable and breathable. Some synthetic pads provide decent comfort for sleepers, but in general, synthetic mattress pads are designed more for mattress protection than sleeper comfort.
It may sound counterintuitive, but mattress pads made from wool can actually feel cooler than those made of cotton or latex foam. In fact, many people with dust allergies and other respiratory issues find that wool effectively keeps these irritants at bay.
Some wool mattress pads require dry cleaning or vacuuming, but others are machine washable. Convenient as they are, however, we suggest you choose a different material if you suffer from a wool sensitivity.
Perhaps the most familiar latex-based mattress pad sold today is the low- to medium-density foam egg crate pad. An inexpensive latex foam pad like this restores some of the support and comfort lost by an old or damaged mattress.
Latex pads aren’t particularly durable, and they’re tough to clean. For this reason, consumers with incontinence issues may wish to look elsewhere. That said, the market does carry some latex-based pads that score well in terms of both comfort and mattress protection.
Dense, low-viscosity “memory foam” mattress pads provide superior support and comfort, but they hover on the pricey side. Consumers who opt for memory foam can choose their thickness. A two-inch thick foam pad should suffice for most people, but you’ll also see three- and four-inch memory foam pads in stores and online.
Aside from the higher price, the main drawback of memory foam is excessive body heat retention. The biggest advantage of this material is the additional support and comfort it provides.
To be successful, a mattress pad must adhere to the mattress. Most pads are either anchored, fitted, or wrapped in place. Which attachment method do you prefer?
You’ll find anchor straps on plenty of entry-level mattress pads. Elastic straps at each corner of the pad “anchor” it in place. Alas, slippage is always a possibility. Anchor straps tend to work best on thinner mattress pads.
A band of elastic runs around the perimeter of the fitted elastic pad; the owner stretches the pad over the entire mattress. While this attachment method offers advantages over simple anchor straps, the possibility of slippage still exists. The trick is to find an elastic mattress pad that fits your bed’s stated dimensions as closely as possible.
A wrapped elastic pad completely encapsulates the mattress. This type of deluxe pad is typically associated with high-end mattress toppers rather than protective mattress pads. Quite often, the top and sides of a wrapped pad are heavily quilted for comfort. But be forewarned: the installation and removal of a wrapped mattress pad can be challenging.
Mattress pads can cost as little as $30 or as much as $2,000. A thin cotton pad meant only to protect your mattress from moisture costs very little, but a high-end memory foam model that cushions and supports your body requires a significant investment.
The key is to find a mattress pad that fulfills your own specific needs. Are you looking to improve the comfort of an aging mattress? Do you want something that’s breathable and cools your body at night? Or do you simply want a light shield that protects your mattress from moisture?
It’s all a question of which elements are most important to you.
Q: What is the difference between a mattress pad and a mattress topper?
A: Many mattress pads are also marketed as mattress toppers, so the confusion is understandable. A mattress pad protects the mattress; a mattress topper cushions the sleeper. Pads tend to be thinner than toppers and are generally made from an absorbent material like cotton or a water-repellent material like latex. Toppers tend to be thicker and are often made of plush foam. High-end toppers offer many of the same protections as a basic pad, but they cost significantly more.
Q: Are mattress pads difficult to clean?
A: A mattress pad’s calling in life is to absorb or repel things like body fluids, bed bugs, sweat, spilled beverages, and allergens. As such, it requires frequent laundering. Fortunately, many mattress pads are made of natural materials that can be laundered in a washing machine.
Some synthetic fibers and foams must be dry-cleaned or air-dried, but in general, a mattress pad is just as easy to clean as any other piece of bedding.
Q: Will a mattress pad increase the temperature of the bed?
A: Generally speaking, a quilted mattress pad made of wool, down, or cotton should not make the bed feel noticeably warmer. In fact, some mattress pads actually improve the bed’s ventilation and breathability.
However, owners of thick foam pads say that this type of material tends to retain a lot of body heat. Some manufacturers have addressed this issue by incorporating ventilation channels and/or layers of cooling gel into the foam.
Q: Instead of buying a pricey memory foam mattress, can I just buy a memory foam mattress pad?
A. Because memory foam mattresses cost a lot, some consumers invest in the next best thing: a memory foam mattress pad. This is where the line between a protective mattress pad and a supportive mattress topper gets fuzzy.
The idea is to add a few inches of thick memory foam between the mattress and the bottom sheet, thus “converting” an innerspring coil mattress to a memory foam bed. In most cases, this approach is effective, but consumers should note the following: