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What is a mattress topper?

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A mattress topper is a removable item of bedding that can help improve the comfort of your mattress. It sits on top of your mattress, beneath your sheets and can make your mattress feel softer or firmer.

A mattress topper is a removable item of bedding placed on top of a mattress to provide an extra cushioning layer. It is designed to improve comfort and can make a mattress feel softer or firmer.

Mattress toppers come in various sizes, thicknesses, firmness levels, and materials. They are typically held in place with elasticated corner straps or an elasticated skirt that stretch over the corners of the mattress.

A mattress topper is a cost-effective solution to improve the comfort of your bed without having to replace the mattress. It can revive a relatively new and uncomfortable mattress. But, it is unlikely to improve an old, unsupportive mattress that is past its best.

Mattress toppers should be at least 5 cm in depth; anything less is unlikely to make much difference. Generally, the thicker the topper, the more comfortable and luxurious it should feel. A good-quality mattress topper can last up to 5 years, depending on how it is used and maintained. 

Lady placing mattress topper on bed

What are the benefits of using a mattress topper?

A mattress topper offers several benefits when used correctly. It can help you sleep more comfortably while keeping the surface of your mattress clean, hygienic and in good condition.

A mattress topper provides an additional comfort layer

The primary purpose of a mattress topper is to make your mattress feel more comfortable. In most cases, you would buy a topper to soften the initial feel of your mattress if you’re finding it too firm to sleep on. However, it’s important to note that new mattresses may feel firmer than initially expected but generally soften with use.

Conversely, you can also purchase a mattress topper to make a mattress firmer for sleeping. However, it’s important to understand that a mattress topper will not improve an old worn-out mattress; it will simply conform to its shape.

A mattress topper provides an extra layer of protection

Each night we shed dead skin cells and lose around half a pint of moisture, most of which ends up in the bed. A mattress topper provides an extra layer of protection for your mattress by helping to keep its surface clean.

Some mattress toppers are machine washable, while others require spot cleaning or professional cleaning. It’s important to follow the cleaning instructions provided by the manufacturer to ensure that the topper remains in good condition and retains its comfort.

A mattress topper can help extend the life of your mattress

Sleeping in the same position can cause sagging and unwanted body impressions on your mattress. Using a mattress topper can help alleviate some of the strain placed on the mattress from the sleeper’s body weight. It can reduce everyday mattress wear and tear and help extend the mattress’s life.

Some toppers may help you feel cooler at night

A breathable mattress topper may help you feel cooler at night. Natural materials such as wool and down are highly breathable and effectively wick away moisture, promoting a cooler sleeping surface.

Additionally, foam-type toppers often include temperature-regulating features, which can also help you feel cooler at night. 

Mattress topper types

Mattress toppers come in various materials, such as memory foam, latex, goose down and wool. Each type of mattress topper will have unique properties and feel different to sleep on.

Memory foam

Memory foam, or viscoelastic, moulds and adapts to body shape, relieving pressure and reducing aches and pains, especially in the back, shoulders, hips, and knees. Thicker memory foam toppers may conform more effectively to the body, providing a comfortable cradling sensation.


Latex is a durable material that offers excellent support and pressure relief. Natural latex toppers are breathable, providing a cooler sleep environment compared to memory foam. Additionally, latex is hypoallergenic, benefiting those with allergies.

Like memory foam, latex conforms to body shape but recovers its shape quicker when pressure is removed. It also has a bouncier feel, making it easier to change positions in bed.


Feather mattress toppers typically contain feathers, down or a mixture of both to provide a soft, luxurious, and cosy feel. Feather toppers are light and breathable, but the fillings may flatten down quickly, so they may need regular fluffing or shaking to help retain their shape.


Wool mattress toppers are naturally breathable and hypoallergenic. The material is soft and springy and retains its shape well.

Synthetic materials

Synthetic materials like polyester, microfibre, and hollowfibre are frequently used in basic mattress toppers. However, they are less breathable compared to other materials and may flatten and lose their shape more quickly over time. Some synthetic toppers are non-allergenic, reducing the likelihood of allergic reactions.

How to stop a mattress topper from sliding?

Some mattress toppers tend to slip or slide during use. When choosing a mattress topper, it helps to look for one with elasticated corner straps that stretch over the corners of the mattress or have an anti-slip material underneath.

Is a mattress topper the same as a mattress protector?

Mattress toppers and mattress protectors are often confused, but serve different purposes. While a topper adds cushioning to an uncomfortable mattress, it is not a substitute for a protector. Ideally, both should be used together.

Toppers enhance comfort, while protectors safeguard against stains, spillages, and allergies. Utilising both improves comfort, preserves the mattress, and extends its lifespan.

Final thoughts

A mattress topper offers a temporary solution for an uncomfortable mattress. However, if you have an old, worn-out mattress, a topper is not a cost-effective alternative to purchasing a new one and is unlikely to make much difference.

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About the author

Tony Brown is the founder and creator of The Bed Consultant. His career in the bed industry began in 2002. After graduating from university with a degree in Business Administration, Tony joined one of the largest independent furniture retailers in the UK as a bed consultant. Tony has helped thousands of customers find the perfect mattress.

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