When making your bed, it’s common to question whether the mattress pad layers over or under the mattress protector. Or if you even need both bedding accessories. Below you’ll find a detailed guide explaining how to assemble the layers of a mattress properly to maximize comfort, protection and performance.
We’ll overview the purpose and placement of mattress pads, toppers, protectors and sheets so you can dress your bed optimally.
Mattress Pad vs. Mattress Topper vs. Mattress Protector
Before learning ideal mattress layering, it’s important to understand the differences between these terms:
A thin, quilted layer providing light padding and insulation between your body and the mattress. Helps protect mattress and provides minimal contouring. Usually less than 2 inches thick. Also called a mattress cover.
A thicker 2-6 inch pillowy layer placed atop a mattress to alter feel. Adds cushioning for softer sleep surface. Materials like memory foam improve contouring. Also referred to as mattress overlay.
A thin, waterproof layer that fully encases a mattress to protect it from spills, stains and damage. Keeps mattress warranty valid. Also called an encasement.
Now that the terminology is clear, on to ideal mattress configuration.
Do You Put a Mattress Pad Over or Under a Mattress Protector?
The correct order from bottom to top is:
- Mattress protector
- Mattress pad
- Fitted sheet
The mattress protector acts as an impenetrable barrier around the mattress while the pad adds cushy padding atop it.
If using a mattress topper for extra cushioning, layer it above the mattress protector and below the mattress pad.
Why Use Both a Mattress Pad and Mattress Protector?
Layering a pad over a protector combines the benefits of each:
Mattress Protector Benefits:
- Protects mattress from spills, stains and damage
- Blocks allergens, dust mites, and bacteria
- Keeps mattress warranty valid
- Waterproof surface for accidents
- Noiseless and doesn’t change mattress feel
Mattress Pad Benefits:
- Provides plush pillowy layer for comfort
- Absorbs sweat to keep sheets dry
- Insulates against cold from underneath
- Easily removed for washing to keep mattress fresh
- Can smooth mildly lumpy mattress surface
- Some offer light cushioning and contouring
Using both safeguards your mattress for the long haul while upping your sleep comfort.
When to Use Mattress Topper vs. Mattress Pad
Since both mattress toppers and pads add cushioning, when do you need each?
Use a Mattress Topper when:
- Your mattress feels too firm and rigid
- You want to soften a mattress without buying a new one
- Seeking more cradling contour for pressure relief
- Temperature regulation is a priority
- Need ample insulation and padding
Use a Mattress Pad when:
- You have a nice mattress but want light buffer layer
- Sheet gets dirty easily from sweat, oils or allergies
- Require minimal heating or cooling insulation
- Want subtle pillowy padding for added comfort
- Seeking budget-friendly mattress upgrade
- Existing mattress has light indentations or flaws
Assess your needs to choose the right accessory. Use both a topper and pad for maximum cushioning and protection.
Recommended Mattress Layer Order
Follow this ideal mattress layering order from bottom to top:
- Mattress protector
- Mattress topper (optional)
- Mattress pad
- Fitted sheet
- Flat sheet (optional)
- Duvet cover
- Blanket (optional)
- Throw blanket (optional)
This configuration allows tailoring comfort via interchangeable toppers and pads while fully protecting the mattress inside a sealed barrier.
Pros of Using a Mattress Pad and Mattress Protector
Key benefits of using both bedding accessories:
- Extend mattress lifespan by protecting from spills and wear
- Changing pads allows less frequent washing of toppers
- Enjoy plushier sleep surface tailored to your firmness preference
- Protect warranty with a waterproof encasement
- Addition insulation regulates temperature
- Easily launder pads to keep sheets cleaner between washes
- Prevent permanent mattress stains with a barrier
- Foam pads smooth small lumpiness if your mattress becomes uneven
- Customize feel by switching thickness and materials of toppers
When is a Mattress Protector Sufficient?
In some cases using just a mattress protector without an additional pad may suffice:
- If your mattress already has ample cushiness
- Concerned mainly with water and stain protection
- Use a thick mattress topper for comfort instead
- Trying to save money on bedding
- Have severe allergies needing a full encasement
- Heat easily and want less insulation
- Prefer your mattress with no padding on top
Assess your priorities to decide whether adding a pad atop the protector makes sense.
When to Wash Each Layer?
Follow these washing guidelines:
- Wash sheets, duvet covers, blankets every 1-2 weeks
- Clean mattress pads every 2-3 months
- Replace mattress protectors every 2-3 years
- Wash mattress toppers 1-2 times per year
- Professionally clean mattress as needed per manufacturer
Wash outer layers more frequently. Only launder inner layers like protectors and toppers occasionally to maximize longevity.
Signs You Need a Mattress Pad or Topper
Watch for these indicators it’s time to add extra cushioning:
- Waking up with aches in pressure points like hips or shoulders
- Noticing reduced mattress responsiveness and padding over time
- Frequently disturbed by partner’s movements
- Experiencing back soreness or less spinal support
- Wanting mattress slightly softer or firmer
- CURRENT sheets wearing out quickly from sweat or oils
- Hear or feel metal springs through thin mattress
- Existing foam, fiber or feathers compacting down
Extra insulation and plushness helps revitalize an aging mattress nearing replacement time.
Mattress Pad and Protector Placement FAQs
Below are answers to common questions about configuring mattress protectors, pads and toppers:
Should you use both a mattress protector and mattress pad?
Yes, using both is recommended. The protector shields the mattress itself while the pad makes the sleep surface more comfortable. The two serve different purposes.
Does a mattress pad go over or under the fitted sheet?
Mattress pads layer above the mattress (and mattress protector) but below the fitted sheet which goes directly on top of the pad.
Where does egg crate mattress topper go?
Egg crate foam toppers add cushy padding above the mattress and below the fitted sheet. Use either above or below a mattress pad depending on thickness desired.
Do I put the mattress protector over or under the topper?
Always put the mattress protector beneath to fully encase the mattress. Toppers layer above both the protector and mattress to customize the sleep surface feel.
Should you encase both mattress and topper?
It is not necessary. Encase only the mattress in a protector for efficiency. The mattress topper then fits atop the encased mattress before layering bedding.
How often should you replace a mattress protector?
Every 2-3 years is ideal for replacing mattress protectors to ensure protection remains intact without developing small leaks or tears over time with use.
Understanding the ideal order of layering a mattress protector, mattress topper and mattress pad allows you to configure your bedding correctly. Use both a protector and pad to reap the combined benefits of safeguarding your mattress while enhancing comfort. Follow the guidance provided here for optimal mattress protection, increased plushness, easier cleaning and better sleep!