woman putting mattress topper on mattress

What is a Mattress Topper Used For?

Author: James Higgins

If you’re looking for new bedding, it’s likely that you’ve come across a product called a mattress topper. This is used as an additional layer to sleep on that sits on and tucks into your current mattress. But what are mattress toppers used for and why might you need one?

In this article, we’ve explained what a mattress topper is, the difference between a topper and a mattress pad, the types of mattress toppers available and how to choose between them, and the benefits of sleeping with a mattress topper. 


What is a mattress topper and what does a mattress topper do?


woman putting mattress topper on bed


A mattress topper is a removable layer that you place atop your existing mattress for improved comfort at night, and can be used to improve sleep if you struggle with restlessness. It can also be used to protect your mattress against dirt, dust, and grime

A mattress topper looks a little like a thin mattress, available in a variety of sizes and suitable for all sleepers. You’ll find mattress toppers in all the major mattress sizes; so, whether you’re looking for a single mattress topper, double mattress topper, or even king size mattress topper, you’ll find just what you need. 

What is a mattress pad?


mattress pad close up


A mattress pad is often confused for a mattress topper, and the two terms are sometimes even seen to be used interchangeably, but they’re actually two different products. 

While also used to soften your mattress and make it more comfortable, mattress pads are generally thinner than toppers so don’t offer quite as effective protection against wear, nor do they substantially change the way your mattress feels to sleep on. 

Mattress pad vs. mattress topper 

Mattress toppers and pads can both be used to enhance your sleeping arrangement, but it’s important to recognise that they each offer varying functions. 

The most significant is that, while pads help to protect your mattress and improve comfort slightly, toppers can noticeably improve and change the feel of your mattress. You’ll also find that toppers are used to extend a mattress’ lifespan, by minimising typical wear and tear over the years. 


To make comparing both items straightforward, we’ve put the two side-by-side in a handy table:

Why use a mattress topper?

Why use a mattress pad?


Mattress toppers significantly change the way a mattress feels and offer improved comfort at night. 

This is especially useful if you're a restless sleeper or require pressure support. Toppers are also often used to extend the life of your current mattress, rather than having to buy a new one immediately.

Mattress pads increase the comfort of your mattress, which helps to improve sleep. However, they don't significantly change the way your mattress feels to lay on. Pads are also used to protect your mattress from spills and stains. 


Mattress toppers are designed to improve the way your bedding feels, whether that's making your sleeping set up firmer or softer depending on your preference. 

Mattress pads will provide a more comfortable feeling as you sleep, especially if your mattress is starting to show signs of deterioration. But they won't actually have an impact on its firmness or softness level


Mattress toppers can be a cost-effective way of revitalising your bedding without having to cover the expense of a completely new mattress. You can buy a quality, long-lasting, and environmentally sustainable mattress topper for less than £100.

Mattress pads a priced a little cheaper than toppers, but don't offer quite the same sleeping experience. It's important to weigh up more than just cost when choosing between the two, and take overall comfort into account


Mattress toppers require a little care and attention, and sometimes require hand washing to treat stains and smudges. However, many will have removable covers that can be machine washed with the rest of your bedding. 

Conveniently, most mattress pads can be machine washed and dried with the rest of your bedding. 


Mattress toppers are made to last for a reasonable amount of time, to help extend your mattress’ lifespan and help you enjoy comfortable sleep even as your mattress begins to deteriorate. You can expect your mattress topper to last five years or more - especially when you buy quality materials. 

Mattress pads aren't quite as long-lasting or durable as toppers, so expect to have to replace yours every year or two. If you leave it longer between purchasing free pads, you'll begin to notice holes and reduced effectiveness. 

Types of mattress topper fillings

Choosing a comfy mattress topper means picking a material and filling that suits your needs, whether you’re looking for firmer or softer bedding; while some materials are designed to aid support, others help to keep you cooler at night. 



Eucalyptus is a soft and breathable material that keeps you cool and comfortable at night, while moisture management ensures your bedding remains fresher for longer. Eucalyptus also has various environmental benefits, including being entirely sustainable, carbon negative, and using 95% less water in production than cotton equivalents. 


mattress topper product in detail

Shop Ethical Bedding's super-soft eucalyptus mattress topper with extra-soft, organic bamboo filling


Memory foam

Memory foam topper for mattresses not only improve comfort as you sleep, but also provide an increased level of luxurious support and relief. Moulding to the shape of your body, memory foam cradles your body so you can enjoy a completely relaxing night time experience free of motion disturbances. 



A feather-filled mattress topper can help to provide a natural warmth to your bedding, especially increasing comfort in the colder months. You’ll also find the feather filling to be extremely soft and long-lasting, and able to hold its shape well despite heavy wear. 

What is the best mattress topper thickness?

Mattress toppers can significantly improve the feel of your mattress and bedding, providing additional comfort and softer or firmer support as you sleep. So it’s important to choose the right thickness when comparing mattress toppers, to ensure you enjoy the best night’s sleep possible. 

Generally, you’ll find mattress toppers available with depths of between two to four inches:

  • Two inches: if you enjoy the feel of your existing mattress but want to alter the feel slightly, it can be useful to opt for a comfy mattress topper that’s at the thinner end of the scale. 
  • Three inches: mattress toppers that are three inches in depth are among the most popular, because they offer a comfortable middle ground between being able to enjoy the feel of your mattress and having additional support as your sleep.
  • Four inches: a four inch mattress topper is ideal if you’re struggling to sleep with your existing mattress and require extra support. You’ll enjoy complete comfort, with the feel significantly different to your current bedding. 

All soft and indulgent mattress toppers available from Ethical Bedding also come with a deep skirt (35cm in depth), to wrap around your mattress no matter the size, with strong elasticated sides to ensure a smooth sleeping surface.


What to consider when choosing topper thickness

When comparing mattress topper depths and sizes, it’s important to consider a couple of key factors: the condition of your current mattress and the density of the topper. 

If your mattress is relatively new and in good condition, a thinner, two inch topper may well be enough to provide that additional level of comfort you crave. In contrast, if your mattress is old and showing signs of wear, you should look for toppers with a little extra depth to provide extra sponginess and cushioning. 

Onto the next consideration, it’s crucial to take topper density into account. If you choose a particularly dense product, you may not require such depth. 

How to fit a mattress topper

Fitting a mattress topper couldn’t be easier, no matter the material or thickness you choose. 

Once you’ve carefully unpacked your topper, you should let it naturally unroll and flatten out to mirror the shape of your mattress. It’s important not to force it flat, or you risk damaging the product. Be aware that a memory foam topper might take a little longer to properly expand than other materials. 

When ready, you’ll need to securely fit the elasticated corners over your mattress. This will ensure a tight fit and guarantee your topper doesn’t bunch up as you sleep.

Mattress topper benefits

If you’re still not sure whether a mattress topper is right for you, we’ve outlined five key benefits to consider:

  1. Increases mattress lifespan: having a mattress topper can extend your mattress’ lifespan, because you’re protecting it from dust and dirt as well as general wear and tear. By sleeping on a mattress topper, you’ll also notice monetary savings in the long run, as you’ll find you need to replace your mattress much less frequently. 
  2. Provides more comfort: mattress toppers are a great addition if discomfort is preventing you from sleeping. Your mattress might not quite be right, so rather than buying a new one, you can invest in a soft and comfy mattress topper that alters the feel and offers the support required to help you drift off into a cosy slumber. 
  3. Keeps your mattress clean and fresh: sleeping with a mattress topper can help to keep your mattress clean and fresh, by protecting it from dust, dirt, and grime. Simply machine wash your mattress topper with the rest of your bedding and replace when clean.
  4. Mattress toppers are versatile: unlike a mattress, which is impractical to change regularly, a mattress topper can be effortlessly swapped for a different size or depth, depending on your needs. This can refer to the level of support you require, or switching to a cooler material to suit the warm temperature in summer months.  
  5. Enjoy health benefits: sleeping with an effective mattress topper can help to alleviate aches and pains, helping you to enjoy a long and relaxing sleep at night when you might otherwise be up in distress. Choosing a topper with enhanced support can also improve your sleeping position, which benefits your physical health. 


ethical bedding ultimate bed set

Looking for a bed sheet makeover? Shop Ethical Bedding's super soft Ultimate Eucalyptus Bed Sheet Bundle with mattress topper included

Should you buy a topper for your mattress? 

There are numerous benefits to sleeping with a mattress topper, not least that it helps to extend your mattress’ lifespan and provide improved sleeping comfort. 

At Ethical Bedding, we offer a selection of eucalyptus and bamboo mattress protectors and toppers to suit all bed sizes. You’ll enjoy complete comfort as you drift off to sleep, with the ultra-smooth fibres guaranteeing a cool and gentle night time experience. And for even more expert insight, check out the latest from the team over on our blog.