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Mattress Topper vs. Mattress Cover, What do you need? – Tips and Tricks to Help You Save Money

Mattress toppers and mattress covers are both mattress accessories, which serve the dual purpose of comfort and protection. However, the difference between the two can be quite confusing as both can be used interchangeably. Mattress toppers and covers aim to change the feel of a mattress to ensure better sleep quality, and to protect the mattress from wear to prolong its lifespan. When considering mattress toppers vs. mattress covers it’s important to pay attention to their thickness, materials, and construction so that you buy the correct one for your specific needs. 

When comparing a mattress topper vs. a mattress cover, buy a mattress topper to change the firmness or softness of the mattress because a mattress topper is thicker and is able to enhance the mattress.  Buy a mattress cover to protect the mattress against stains, spills, and moisture because a mattress cover is a thinner version that also adds a bit of comfort to the mattress.  

Mattress toppers work as an extension to the mattress. They are used mostly to increase or renew the performance of your mattress. It is similar to buying a new mattress but at a much lower price. A mattress topper offers proper support and even weight distribution and helps relieve the body’s pressure points as you sleep. Read our article about how to use a mattress topper for hip pain to find out more about the pressure-relieving properties of mattress toppers. 

Mattress covers (also known as mattress protectors or encasements), on the other hand, are a thin layer of fabric, which covers the mattress to protect it. They work as a barrier between the mattress and accidents that could damage the mattress such as stains, spills, dirt, sweat, and allergens. Some models are breathable and come with extra padding to provide softness to the mattress. Other models serve like a fitted sheet that covers the top and sides of the mattress, while there are other mattress covers that come with zippers to cover the whole mattress and are known as mattress encasements, like this Plush Deluxe mattress cover from Amazon. 

If your mattress is not firm enough and doesn’t give you the restful night’s sleep that you need, then purchase a mattress topper to alter the feel of the mattress and prevent body aches. But if you care more about the durability of your mattress, then choose a mattress cover to protect the mattress from dirt and spills. 

What is a Mattress Topper?

Mattress topper vs. mattress covers are designed for increasing comfort, not protection.A mattress topper is easily unrolled and laid flat on top of a mattress to add an extra layer of comfort and support to your sleeping surface. A mattress topper vs. a mattress cover will provide much more padding but isn’t designed to protect against spills.  Image from Amazon.

Mattress toppers are available in different thicknesses, all of which can greatly alter the feel of the mattress by adding plushness or firmness to your bed. They can also extend the durability of the mattress by protecting it from sagging, and they offer extra support to alleviate body aches – especially to those with neck and back pain problems. 

A mattress topper is an extra cushioning layer, which provides comfort and support to the mattress when laid flat on top of it. A mattress topper enhances comfort and prolongs the lifespan of the mattress.

If you already have a mattress topper that seems a bit lumpy, make sure to also check out our article on how to fix a lumpy mattress topper for some tips and tricks before replacing it. Also, be sure to take a look at can you buy a pillow top for your mattress for more suggestions.

What is a Mattress Cover?

Mattress covers, also called mattress protectors are designed for protection against liquids.This mattress cover is water and stain-resistant, which keeps the mattress clean from dirt, moisture, and mildews. Image from Amazon.

Mattress covers are available in a wide variety of types for different needs. You can find heated or cooling covers, fitted covers, or anchor covers. Their primary function is to protect a mattress from moisture, stains, and dust mites with a very small amount of added comfort and support to the mattress. Read our article about when to change a mattress protector and ensure that your mattress remains stain-free. 

A mattress cover is a thin layer of polyester, cotton or other fabric, which covers the mattress to offer more protection against stains and liquids and provide a minimal change in the feel and comfort of the mattress. 

Mattress covers are practical protective barriers for a mattress especially for people who struggle with house dust mite allergies. To learn about the effectiveness of hypoallergenic mattress covers on protecting a mattress against allergens, read this article from Thorax, entitled “Clinical evaluation of the effect of anti-allergic mattress covers in patients with moderate to severe asthma and house dust mite allergy: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study.”

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A Comparison of Mattress Toppers vs. Mattress Covers 

Mattress toppers and mattress covers are used to fulfill different needs. A mattress cover’s main function is to protect the mattress and a mattress topper’s main function is to alter the comfort of the mattress—this is evident in the different materials and construction used in each. 

When comparing mattress toppers versus mattress covers, use a mattress topper for improving the firmness or softness of a mattress, as well as prolonging the lifespan of the mattress. Use a mattress cover to protect the mattress and slightly improve its cushioning. Mattress toppers come in thickness of 1.5 inches up to 6 inches which makes them durable and comfortable. Mattress covers are usually less than an inch thick. 

Mattress toppers are made of memory foam, latex, wool, and feathers in thicknesses of 1.5 inches and upwards, whereas mattress covers are made of thinner layers of cotton, wool, feather, fiber, memory foam, and latex. 

The thickness of a mattress topper varies between 2 and 6 inches to soften a firm mattress or enhance the firmness of a soft mattress. They typically last up to 10 years depending on the quality of the fabric and can be quite expensive too. However, they extend the durability of a mattress by covering its lumps or preventing it from sagging. This extra-thick mattress topper from Amazon is also stain and water-resistant.   

A mattress cover is a thin layer that is easy to transport, clean, and attach to a mattress or even to a mattress topper. It is generally inexpensive and offers protection against damage and wear. Read our article on how to protect a mattress topper and mattress pad to ensure that they last longer.   

Here is a summary of mattress toppers vs mattress covers: 

Features Mattress toppers Mattress covers
Primary purpose Alter the firmness of a mattress while providing adequate comfort and support  Protect the mattress from damage and wear
Materials they’re made of Memory foam, latex, cotton, wool, feather Cotton, polyester, down
Thickness 2-5 inches  Thin as fitted sheets
Durability 3-10 years—depending on the quality  6 months – 1 year
Location on bed On top of the mattress On top of the mattress / mattress topper
Price range Up to $500 Up to $100
Example from Amazon Sleep Innovations Twisty Mattress Top, White Hypoallergenic SafeRest Premium waterproof mattress protector. 

You may also be interested in our article on how to choose a mattress topper vs. mattress pad for college or our article on how to choose a mattress topper for camping for more portable solutions too.

Examples Uses of Mattress Toppers vs. Mattress Covers for Different Needs

Both mattress accessories—toppers and covers—are put on top of a mattress to satisfy specific needs. Mattress toppers are able to significantly change the feel of a mattress. Read our guide to mattress topper types, density, and thickness to discover the various mattress toppers that are available and how they can improve your mattress. 

You need a mattress topper if you want to adjust the level of comfort and support of your mattress without having to buy a whole new mattress. You need a mattress cover if you want to combine mattress protection with a slight change in comfort.  

Here is a summary of common situations where you would need a mattress topper or a mattress cover: 

Situations & needs Do you need a mattress topper or a mattress cover? Example of product from Amazon Benefits of Product Price of product
Moisture and Spill protection for your mattress Mattress Cover Linenspa Premium Quality Soft Fabric Mattress Protector, 100% Waterproof,   This product is waterproof and hypoallergenic, repels liquids, spills, urine, dust, and allergens.  ~$15
You are sleeping too warm or too cold – Heat regulation Mattress topper  Genniyz Memory Foam Mattress Topper This mattress topper is breathable and ensures you stay cool all night ~$100
You are having allergies when sleeping Mattress Cover PlushDeluxe Premium Bamboo Mattress Protector – Waterproof, Hypoallergenic  This product is hypoallergenic, which is ideal for people with asthma, eczema, or other allergies ~$40
You need extra padding or want to adjust the firmness/softness of your mattress Mattress Topper Lucid 2 inch zoned gel memory foam mattress topper.  This product is 2 inch thick and adds an extra layer of cushioning to ensure comfort and an even weight distribution  ~$50
Bed bug protection Mattress Cover Abit Comfort mattress cover, removable top liner, waterproof, hypoallergenic,  This product prevents insects from reaching the mattress as it fully covers all sides of the mattress ~$30

Do You Put a Mattress Cover Over a Mattress Topper And Over a Mattress?

Correctly installing a mattress topper will ensure that you get a good night’s sleep without any disturbances due to shifting or noisy bedding layers. We cover the proper way to install a mattress topper in our article which will help you layer and secure the mattress topper. 

Put a mattress cover over a mattress topper, which sits on top of a mattress, so that the mattress cover protects both the mattress topper and the mattress. 

To put on the mattress cover, first, you should position the mattress topper on the mattress, then spread the cover on the mattress topper, then you should tuck the corners underneath the existing mattress to cover the whole set, and finally place a fitted sheet with deep pockets over the mattress cover. Make sure you get a mattress cover that is large enough to properly fit, protect and prolong the lifespan of both your mattress and your mattress topper, like this one from Amazon. 

What’s the Difference Between a Mattress Cover and a Fitted Sheet?

A mattress cover and a fitted sheet can look pretty similar. They both have elastic edges to cling firmly to the mattress and are both essential to preserve the life of your mattress. 

The difference between a mattress cover and a fitted sheet is that the cover can have a fitted elasticated edge or a zippered style, both of which secure the cover and protect your mattress against bed bugs. A fitted sheet fits over your mattress and provides a clean and smooth surface to lie on, but doesn’t offer any protection against allergens, or spills and liquid seepage.  

Mattress covers have a protective barrier that protects against dust mites and allergens and are easily cleaned to ensure a healthy sleep surface. Read our article on how to make a bed smell good where we cover good sleep hygiene practices to ensure your bed is always fresh and welcoming. 

Do Waterproof Mattress Covers Work?

Keeping your mattress dry and clean is essential since mold, bacteria, and mildew can grow in wet mattresses. You should purchase a waterproof mattress cover like this one, to ensure that your mattress remains in top condition for a longer time.

Waterproof mattress covers work to protect the mattress because they repel liquids, spills, urine, dust, and allergens, and prevent them from being trapped within the mattress. 

Waterproof mattress covers can be removed and washed separately while keeping the mattress clean and dry. Furthermore, 100% waterproof mattresses incorporate plastic lining in the material such as vinyl and polyurethane, which provide maximum protection. Read this article entitled “ Reduction of colonization of new mattresses with bacteria, molds and house dust mites by complete mattress covers”, to learn more about how synthetic mattress covers can eliminate dust mites and allergens. 

In a Nutshell

Mattress toppers and mattress covers can alter the feel of the mattress and ensure a better sleeping experience. Mattress toppers are generally thicker and make a more noticeable change in the way the mattress feels—they offer more support and come in different thicknesses and densities. Mattress covers tend to be thinner and make slight improvements to the sleep surface, whilst also providing protection to the mattress. Read our article called, do you need a mattress topper to help decide whether a mattress topper is the right solution for you.