What is a Mattress Topper?

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Have you been tossing and turning at night recently, struggling to find comfort? Adding a mattress topper is one way to change up the feeling of your mattress. It can add more pressure relief or even help cool down your bed for those who run hot while they sleep. Keep on reading to learn more about mattress toppers and if you should buy one!

What is a Mattress Topper?

A mattress topper is a sleep accessory that lays on top of your mattress to make it more comfortable with an extra layer of padding. Many mattress brands sell toppers, from Saatva to Tempur-Pedic! These top brands use the same materials that go into the mattresses they sell, so you can rest assured you’re getting a high-quality product.

Benefits of Using a Mattress Topper

Mattress toppers can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. Some toppers provide softness, while others provide cooling for hot sleepers. Certain mattress toppers  add pressure relief for those who have aches and pains. And believe it or not, there are toppers that can firm up a mattress that’s too soft.

But one of the biggest draws to mattress toppers is affordability. Many people turn to mattress toppers because buying a new mattress is just too expensive. Toppers are a good way to save some cash while adding new life to an older mattress.

Who Should Use a Mattress Topper

Aren’t sure if you would benefit from a mattress topper? Here are our recommendations for sleepers who should use a mattress topper:

  • Sleepers who aren’t ready to spend big on a new mattress
  • Those who want to try a different material on their bedding
  • People who want to feel a complete change in their mattress

Mattress Topper vs Mattress Pad

You may have heard of a mattress pad, but these are different from mattress toppers and shouldn’t be used interchangeably. A mattress pad is similar to a mattress topper in the way that they are both intended to add an extra layer of comfort to your bed.

However, the two  differ in how much they  alter the feel of your mattress. In short, the biggest difference is mattress pads are much thinner. Learn more about mattress pad vs mattress topper in our full breakdown.

Types of Mattress Toppers

Mattress toppers are supposed to add a new layer to your mattress, and the material it’s made from is key, as they will differ in feel and performance. You can find mattress toppers made of memory foam, down, cotton, gel memory foam, fiberfill, latex, and there are even pillow top options!

If you aren’t sure which material you prefer yet, check out our all-encompassing list of the Best Mattress Toppers of 2024! We dive into all of our favorites from the best for back sleepers to the best cooling mattress topper.

How to Use a Mattress Topper

Mattress toppers are very user friendly! Because they sit on top of the mattress, all you need to do is unwrap it and place it on your mattress. Read the instructions for your particular mattress topper, as some may come with specific directions.

For example, a memory foam mattress topper may need to air out and expand for a few hours before you sleep on it. After reading and following the instructions, you can put your sheets on and you’re ready to rest on a more comfortable mattress!

How to Keep a Mattress Topper from Sliding

When you add a mattress topper, you run the risk of having it slide around after tossing and turning throughout the night. The first line of defense in this battle is going to be a fitted sheet. Make sure you have the correct size fitted sheet, preferably with deep pockets, for your mattress, and this should keep the topper in place.

RELATED: Best Deep Pocket Sheets

If the fitted sheet isn’t working, another option is to use sheet straps to hold the mattress topper in place. But companies are getting smarter, and some will now include toppers with straps to secure it to your mattress.

How to Clean a Mattress Topper

Every area of your bedding should be cleaned, so how should you clean a mattress topper? As always, we recommend that you read the care instructions for your particular mattress topper before taking any action.

In general, mattress toppers shouldn’t go in a washing machine because that may do more harm than good to the overall construction of the topper. If you have a spill or stain, spot treat it rather than tossing it into the washer and dryer. Sheets are a barrier to some of the environment, but they aren’t a catch-all so you should plan on vacuuming your topper regularly.

Some toppers will come with outer, removable covers that are often machine-washable. But, as mentioned, be sure to check out the specific care instructions.


Mattress toppers are a big topic so we understand if you have questions. That’s why we have FAQs below!

What is a mattress topper used for? 

A mattress topper is used to change the feel of your mattress. Depending on which topper you need, it can add more pressure relief, increase cooling, or add softness to your mattress.

Do mattress toppers work? 

Yes, the layer that mattress toppers add to a mattress change the complete feel of a bed.

Are mattress toppers worth it? 

Mattress toppers are worth it for people who have a mattress in good condition that they aren’t ready to let go of, or those who aren’t ready to purchase a brand new mattress. They are also worth it for sleepers who want to try a new material for their mattress but don’t want to commit to purchasing an entirely new bed yet.

How long does a mattress topper last?

A mattress topper’s lifespan is around 3-5 years, with memory foam being on the lower end, and latex foam being on the higher end. Be sure to check the warranty for the mattress toppers you browse, as these policies can be anywhere from 1 to 10 years!

Can you wash a mattress topper? 

We suggest that you read the care instructions for the specific mattress topper you have. Generally, we don’t recommend throwing your mattress topper in the washer and dryer and instead spot treat any stains or spills.

Samantha Nuno

Samantha Nuno is a writer on the Mattress Clarity editorial staff. She is a combination sleeper and sleeps on a Nectar mattress. When she's not immersed in all things sleep, she enjoys walking, paddle boarding, and making lattes.