How To Choose A Mattress Topper

photo of a person's hand unzipping a mattress topper

Replacing your mattress can be quite expensive, so adding a mattress topper is an effective way to revitalize or change the style of your bed instead.

With some careful research, the right one can significantly improve the way your bed feels, including important areas such as the firmness, comfort, breathability, and motion isolation.

In this article, I’ll discuss the key factors that can help inform your decision making. I’ll also cover the pros and cons of the main materials used in mattress toppers.

By cross-referencing the two sections, you’ll hopefully have a clearer idea about which style will be right for you.

Do I need a mattress pad, topper, protector, cover or encasement?

First of all, it’s useful to understand the difference between the various categories of products available for your mattress.

Mattress covers, protectors, and encasements

graphic illustrating that a mattress protector stops spills and bed bugs

Mattress covers, protectors, and encasements are all about protecting your mattress from catastrophic spills and/or increasing the hypoallergenic protection from allergens such as dust mites.

Manufacturers don’t always use the same terminology, so it’s important to check what the product does exactly, and how many sides of your mattress it will cover. They sometimes also include a padded top to offer some extra comfort, but their main function is usually protection rather than adding significant padding.

Reducing the living space for bed bugs is a good reason to use a six-sided encasement if you live in an area where bed bugs are an issue. It will completely enclose your mattress rather than just covering the top and sides.

Mattress pads

Mattress pads may add some extra padding and comfort, but it’s unlikely to be as thick as a mattress topper. Much like covers or protectors, they are often designed to protect against fluids, oils, and spills, or help with allergies.

In addition to standard mattress pads, you can find heated mattress pads for use in the winter, and cooling mattress pads for those who tend to sleep hot at any time during the year.

Some mattress pads are designed to do more than one job, which might affect the overall feel, quality, and price.

In the photo below you can see three layers: pad on top, topper in the middle, and mattress on the bottom. As a rule of thumb, a mattress pad tends to be thinner than a topper.

photo of a mattress pad

Mattress toppers

Mattress toppers typically add a more substantial layer of material to your bed than the previous categories. They can significantly change the feel of the bed surface, but not all in the same way.

For example, they might change the softness, firmness, cushioning, warmth, breathability, motion isolation, springiness, or level of support you feel it gives your body.

You could also use a topper and a pad/protective layer together to further improve the surface of your mattress. By placing a mattress pad, cover, or encasement over the topper, you can help protect both the topper and the mattress.

Having said that, some companies use the terms interchangeably. They may call their product a topper or pad, but it’s actually much thicker or thinner than you would usually associate with that category. It’s always worth checking how much padding it actually provides, along with the features.


  • Encasement: Completely encloses your mattress on all six sides to protect it from damage or help with allergens like dust mites and bed bugs.
  • Cover/protector: Protects the mattress from damage, but often only on five sides like a fitted sheet. May provide some allergen reduction too.
  • Pad: Might add some comfort, protection, or help with temperature regulation.
  • Topper: A thicker layer that’s designed to add comfort or better body support.

Key points to consider when choosing a topper

With so many types of mattress topper, it might be helpful to first decide what you want or need from yours. Then you can work out which material will best meet your needs.

Personal preference (and even gut feeling) will probably play a role too, but if you’d like to weigh up the pros and cons, here are some of the key factors to take into account.

A) Price

A higher price doesn’t necessarily guarantee it would be better for you personally. It’s about meeting your needs, not simply buying the most expensive one you can afford.

  • Microfiber, polyester, and basic cotton toppers tend to be the most affordable.
  • Higher quality cotton, feather, and down are typically in the middle of the price range, but may be more expensive depending on the feathers or down used.
  • Memory foam ranges from inexpensive to relatively expensive. Wool and latex tend to be the most expensive.

B) Pain relief, firmness, and extra support

If it’s extra support for your back and other pressure points that you need, memory foam and latex might be worth considering. Some people find that they provide better cushioning because they mold well to your body. They tend to be more durable too and don’t flatten as quickly as other materials do.

C) Comfort and softness

With such a dizzying range of materials, brands, densities, and thicknesses, you should be able to find the ideal level of softness and comfort. Your definition of comfort may be different from the next person’s though.

Would you prefer a topper that conforms to the shape of your body, such as with latex or memory foam? Or would you prefer lying on a soft and fluffy surface, such as microfiber, cotton, feathers, or down?

In some ways, adding softness is easier than balancing firmness and comfort with a mattress topper. You could try a low-density memory foam topper, or one of the many relatively inexpensive fabric toppers which add a plush layer of soft padding.

D) Thickness and density options

Most mattress toppers fall in the range of one to four inches in thickness, either to start with or once they naturally flatten when you lie on them.

If you need to revitalize an aging mattress, sleep on your side, or if you (and perhaps a partner) carry significant weight, two, three or four inches should be sufficient. The materials with the best range of thickness are usually memory foam and latex.

In addition, the density of a topper is important in determining how much support it will provide you. Memory foam and latex toppers tend to have the most choice, allowing you to find just the right comfort level.

See the memory foam section below for more information about thickness and density. To give you a quick point of reference, I weigh 84 kilograms (185 pounds) and sleep best when using a two or three inch medium firmness latex or memory foam mattress topper.

photo of a mattress topper on a mattress in a bedroom

E) Motion isolation: reducing the noise of a partner moving

Memory foam and latex can help reduce how much you’re disturbed at night when your partner moves in bed. If you sleep with someone who keeps you awake with their tossing and turning, they are both good choices.

Memory foam probably has slightly more effective motion isolation, but both are much better than sleeping directly on top of a sprung mattress, or a fabric or feather topper.

F) Body heat

Memory foam and microfiber mattress toppers tend to retain the most body heat and perhaps aren’t the best choice if you tend to overheat in bed. Some manufacturers try to mitigate this with techniques like adding gel beads or ventilation tubes in the memory foam, which sometimes helps.

Wool and latex toppers are good all year round as they don’t overheat so much, but still feel comfortable in cooler weather. The cover and/or bedsheet can also contribute to how cool the bed surface feels by wicking away sweat or feeling cooler against the skin.

If you’re a hot sleeper and this is your main concern, I recommend trying a latex topper.

G) Allergies

Some materials are better for certain allergies, so it’s worth checking the list below. Some are also less likely to result in serious problems with bed bugs, mites, mildew, and mold than others.

H) Ease of moving and cleaning

Remember that you need to remove your mattress topper from the packaging, get it onto the bed, and potentially remove it from time to time for cleaning.

If you’re on your own and not physically strong, the weight of a heavy memory foam or latex topper might be an issue if you don’t have anyone to help you get it set up.

Feather, down, microfiber, and cotton are the easiest to transport, move around the home, and adjust on the bed if needed.

Some toppers can be machine washed, but many can’t. It can be tricky and time consuming if it needs to be spot cleaned by hand. This is another good reason to get a mattress topper that comes with a cover and/or use a mattress protector that’s large enough to cover both the topper and mattress.

I) Warranty

The standard warranty time seems to be around two years for many mattress toppers. This can be as short as one year and as long as ten, depending on the company. You won’t get a replacement just because it’s compressed under your weight over time though.

The most durable materials are latex and memory foam. Cheaper microfiber toppers are the most likely to compress quickly and become less effective over time.

Which type of material to choose

Mattress toppers come in a range of different styles and materials. It’s therefore good to decide what you hope to gain from using a topper, and what the pros and cons are of each material.

Let’s take a look now at the different types to give you a better idea of what your options are.

1) Latex

latex mattress topper

Latex toppers can be relatively expensive, but like memory foam, can provide excellent support and comfort.

Natural latex comes from the sap of rubber trees and is produced by one of two processes: Dunlop or Talalay (hence the name some toppers have).

Some latex toppers have mostly natural ingredients. Synthetic latex is, you guessed it, mostly made from synthetic materials. Blended latex has a mix of natural and synthetic materials. Check before buying if this is an important consideration for you.


  • Usually the most breathable material, so a good choice for hot sleepers.
  • Excellent for comfort and cushioning your body.
  • Provides support for the hips, back, and shoulders in any sleeping position.
  • Often available in a range of densities from soft to extra firm.
  • Can feel even firmer than memory foam if you like a very firm surface.
  • Natural latex might have better resistance to microbes and dust mites.
  • The most durable mattress topper material, often lasting many years.
  • Good motion isolation.


  • Can be expensive.
  • May be heavy to move.
  • If you want a very soft surface, even the softest latex can still feel firmer than other materials.

2) Memory foam

hand pressing into a memory foam mattress topper

Memory foam is one of the most popular choices for both mattresses and mattress toppers nowadays.

Luxury memory foam mattresses can be expensive though, so a topper is a good way to have the benefits of memory foam without breaking the bank.


  • The memory foam will conform to your body in all sleeping positions, providing good support for the entire length of the body.
  • Some people find it helps with pressure points.
  • Good motion isolation.
  • Different density options means you can find just the right level of softness or firmness.
  • More durable than microfiber or feather toppers.


  • Memory foam sometimes has an initial odor that takes a few hours to dissipate.
  • You may find it holds body heat. If you tend to overheat, look for a breathable memory foam topper. Cheaper brands may not have the best breathability.
  • It can make it harder to change positions in bed, especially if it’s a thick and soft memory foam topper.

Understanding memory foam thickness and density

Whether you’re looking at memory foam mattresses or memory foam toppers, you’ll find a confusing range of thickness and density options.

It’s useful to understand that both elements affect the level of comfort and support. The spectrum of thickness and density keeps expanding, but let’s take a look at the difference between the most commonly found figures of each.


The choice of density of a mattress topper is very important. It’s measured in pounds per cubic feet, or kg/m3 in some countries.

Most toppers have a density ranging between two and six (or more) pounds per cubic feet. Higher density usually means higher cost too, but potentially better support for the body and longer-lasting conformity to your body shape.

3 pounds or under per cubic feet – will feel much softer and less supportive than higher densities. Your body will sink into it faster than higher densities. More lightweight and easily transported.

4 to 5 pounds per cubic feet – a good option for most people, providing a balance of medium firmness. Will mold to your body a little slower than lower densities.

6+ pounds per cubic feet – better for people who like to sleep on a firm surface. Will take longer to conform to your body shape and weight, and support you for much longer than lower densities.

If you’re a heavy person, a higher density might be a better choice so you can benefit from the extra support for longer during the night.

Many companies don’t list the exact density and use simple descriptions like soft, med-soft, med-firm, firm, and extra firm instead.


Most memory foam toppers tend to be sold in one, two, three or four inch thickness. Some companies have just a couple of thicknesses available, while others have a wider range.

1 inch – usually provides a little extra comfort, but can be quite firm if the density is also high. Good for those with a firm mattress who just need a little extra comfort and support for the body.

2-3 inches – a popular choice if you’re not sure which thickness to choose. Provides a good balance of comfort and support.

4 inches – provides even more support for the body parts that most need it.

Some density + thickness combination examples

Now we have a rough idea of how density and thickness affect the comfort and support, how do you choose the best combination?

A rule of thumb is that higher density means you can get more support with less thickness. However, a one inch topper with a low density won’t provide as much support and could be too soft.

Likewise, a very thick topper with a very high density might prove unnecessarily firm, not to mention heavy to move.

Here are three examples to consider:

You like a firm surface to sleep on

Try a 2 or 3 inch topper with a high density of 4+ pounds (med-firm or firm). That will provide a firm density and you shouldn’t sink into the topper in an uncomfortable way.

You prefer a medium firmness

Try a thickness of 2 or 3 inches with 4-5 pounds density (soft-med or medium firmness).

You want a softer surface

Try 2 inches or more in thickness, with a density of 3 pounds or less (soft).

In reality, considering the wide range of material types, additional layers, and variation in manufacturing between countries and companies, it’s hard to predict exactly how a mattress topper will feel.

It’s worth asking in advance if the company can offer advice based on your size and needs. Also ask if you can try one in a store and if they have a reasonable returns policy.

3) Wool

wool mattress topper

At the opposite end of the material spectrum is the natural material of wool. It can be fairly expensive too, depending on the animals used, the manufacturing process, and cover materials.


  • A naturally soft and comfortable material.
  • Durable, often lasting for many years.
  • Ideal for allergy sufferers who may have problems with synthetic materials.
  • Bed bugs and mites generally stay away from wool.
  • Good for keeping cool in summer and warm in winter.


  • Can be expensive.
  • Doesn’t mold to the body as well as memory foam or latex.
  • Not ideal if you want a very firm surface.

4) Feather and down

feather mattress topper

Bedding made from goose or duck feathers, or softer and more luxurious down, is known for its softness and comforting feel. If you’re an allergy sufferer or need a firmer topper though, it may not be right for you.


  • Soft, luxurious feel that’s similar to fluffy duvets and pillows.
  • Nice level of warmth for the winter, but not as hot as memory foam in warmer weather.
  • Less expensive than memory foam or latex.
  • Doesn’t hinder movement in bed.


  • Can flatten over time and need regular fluffing or shaking.
  • Feathers might poke through the cover over time.
  • Not hypoallergenic.
  • May not be responsibly farmed (check the company’s process if possible).

5) Microfiber and cotton

microfiber mattress topper

There’s a vast range of mattress toppers and pads made from microfiber and cotton, sometimes with a mixture of cotton, polyester, and other materials. The price can also vary greatly with this style of topper.


  • Good for adding softness or a plush feel to the bed.
  • Range of options from synthetic to organic.
  • Usually less expensive than other materials.
  • Some are machine washable.
  • No initial odour out of the packaging.


  • Unlikely to make an existing mattress feel firmer, if that’s your goal.
  • Can flatten over time and need fluffing/shaking.
  • Not as durable as other materials like latex, wool, and memory foam.
  • High-quality cotton can be quite expensive.
  • Can feel warm.

Trial period and returns policy when buying online

When people ask me about choosing a topper, both here on my website and in person, I usually suggest buying one from a company that has a trial period or a returns policy that isn’t too strict.

If you can try one first in a physical store, that’s ideal. However, many companies don’t have a physical store or you might live far from the one you like the look of.

So, if you buy a mattress topper online after reading reviews or talking to others, I think it’s important that you feel safe in the knowledge that you can exchange or return it if it’s just not right for you.

I decided to check the trial period of a selection of companies and list them so you can see the range of trial periods they offer. They might change their policy, so please note that the information below is accurate as of the time of my last update to this article – January 12, 2024.

This is a very basic summary, so please check what the exact fine print details are if you decide to get one, especially taking into account where you live.

Please note that most of these companies operate inside the United States, which is where I was living when I did this research.

Companies that do offer a trial period

Avocado: 100 nights trial period. Must use for 30 days minimum to have a free return.

Saatva: 180 days. They pick up, but charge $99 for processing.

Layla: 120 night trial, with no processing fee.

Tuft & Needle: 100 night trial. They would donate it to charity, with no fee.

Molecule: 30 day returns period. It’s picked up and donated to charity.

Linenspa: 30 day trial period (Amazon standard).

Sleep on Latex: 30 day trial period.

ViscoSoft: 30 day trial period (Amazon standard).

Lucid: 30 day trial period (Amazon standard).

Parachute: Free returns within 60 days.

Sleep & Beyond: 30 day trial period if you buy through Amazon.

Amazon: Many of their other toppers have a standard 30 day returns policy, but it might depend on the third party seller, so check if they have a return option. Sometimes the 30 day window is extended.

Companies that don’t offer a trial period

Note that some companies offer a return period for mattresses, but not for mattress toppers. So if they sell both, make sure you read the returns policy carefully.

Mattress Firm: 120 night trial for mattresses, but none for toppers.

Tempur-Pedic: 90 day trial for mattresses, but none for toppers.

Plush Beds: 100 day trial for mattresses. They say toppers are not returnable due to “safety and sanitary regulations”.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, the ideal mattress topper for you will be the one that makes you feel comfortable and supported, whether it’s a luxury brand or a budget option. If it works, it works!

I hope this article helps you narrow down your choices, and gives you some ideas of where to start. If you’d like more specific suggestions, take a look at my ongoing comparison of comfortable mattress toppers.

Your questions and experience

If you have any questions, feel free to ask below. I’m also interested in hearing your experience of mattress toppers. What style and dimensions have worked well for you in the past? Do you have any useful tips of your own to share?


  1. I’m so grateful for this article.
    I’ve had Tempur-Pedic -far too firm- for 5years. It wasn’t good from the start but I was convinced by sales team I needed firm and I’d get used to it.
    I’m a side sleeper but wake up every day on my back bc cannot stand the pain of sleepIng on my side. I’ve developed horrible hip tension recently and now throb every night going to sleep no matter how much I work out/stretch.
    I also just found out I’m expecting a baby nexy year so looking for a solution NOW. As much as I wish I could get a new mattress it’s just not in the budget.
    Before reading this we purchased a Layla memory foam Topper 2in thick & 3.5 density. I hate It and it hardly helps at all! But it was expensive so figured this must be as good as it gets.
    Because of your writing I know there are way better options out there for me and I don’t have to settle. Thanks so much

    • Hi there
      Thanks for your comment, and it’s great to hear the article was useful. Even though you hate the Layla topper, one thing I will say about Layla is that they have a really good returns policy in comparison to many companies. So if it’s within the period, you should be good to exchange it or get your money back and try a different company.
      Sometimes expensive doesn’t mean the best, whether it’s a mattress or mattress topper. I’ve tried many over the years and often ask people visiting me to tell me what they think. And just like doing a blind test of different wines, it’s not always the expensive ones that win!

  2. I have a six inch latex mattress with no padding. It’s just a piece of medium (but to me pretty firm) foam. It’s too hard. I wake up in pain. I have fibromyalgia. I got latex to avoid the chemicals in memory foam. I’m considering getting a foam topper anyway out of desperation after a few years of pain. I can’t afford more latex. I’d prefer to get a down or down alternative or something similar because I tend to pile quilts and comforters on the leather couch. How do the thickness and comfort tend to compare between comforters/duvets/quilts and toppers? In other words, would it work as well to buy a comforter/cotton blankets and lay on it? I’ve also thought about getting two toppers, one memory foam and one fluffy. Would they work together or against each other? Thank you.

    • Hi Melissa
      Have you looked into getting an egg crate topper instead of memory foam? Perhaps that would add some extra comfort without the chemicals of memory foam. I’d say that a decent down or down alternative topper will generally feel softer and better padded than a normal duvet or comforter. It depends how much fill they use, but usually it’s considerably more than bedding meant to go on top of you.

  3. Hi Ethan. I want to submit to you what I have decided to get in regards to mattress and topper combo, and I would like to get your opinion on it. I’m a side sleeper who has hip pain, back pain and overheat issues. From now on I have decided to stop buying mattresses with an integrated topper, or hybrid mattress. Instead I chose a good quality coiled mattress with almost no topper on it (because the store where I buy it from doesn’t have any with NO integrated topper whatsoever), bought what I think is the best topper for my needs and will replace the topper every time it gets worn out. The mattress is a Simmons Beautyrest one so I sticked to a renowned brand to ensure quality. I combined that with the Lucid 4 Inch Bamboo Charcoal Memory Foam Mattress Topper that’s ventilated and low density. Having coils in the mattress as well as bamboo charcoal + ventilation in the topper I think will maximize air flow therefore minimize overheating. A coiled mattress will maximize support therefore prevent back pain, and finally a low density 4” topper will eliminate hip pain + give me the plushiness that I love to have for a bed. So again, what Is your opinion on all this? Have I done my homework correctly?

    • Hi Stephane
      It’s hard to give an opinion without trying the combo myself personally. I know from the past that sometimes the feel of a mattress or topper is different to what you expect from reading about it, or even giving it a quick test.
      In theory, I think this could help with the pain issues as 4 inches is a good thickness and memory foam is often great for pressure point relief. My worry would be about the overheating. No matter what they say about ‘cooling’ or ‘ventilation’, I always find memory foam builds heat as the night progresses if the weather is hot and there’s no air conditioning. But if you can combat the room temp at least a little, then hopefully the warmth of the memory foam can be offset.
      Let me know how it turns out if you have time to pop back though, as I’m always interested to hear how people’s experiments went!

  4. I am trying to figure out what size memory foam mattress topper to buy for sleeping in my car. It is between the Lucid Gel 4 inch or Dreamfoam Gel Swirl 3 inch since they don’t have a 4 inch. I am planning on just using the topper as a mattress on top of my seat and plywood. Please let me know what you suggest!

    • Hi Alison
      I would be tempted to get 3 inches just so you can roll it up easier, depending on the density. Tricky to predict though, as I don’t have any experience of using them in a car.

  5. Hello,

    My daughter is going to college this fall and currently sleeps on a firm mattress. What type of mattress topper do you recommend?


    • Hi
      There are many options, so it’s kind of hard for me to pinpoint one precisely for you. It depends on your budget, the material she’d like, what kind of support is needed etc. Are you looking for a topper to make her mattress softer, or a topper to make whatever mattress she will have in college as firm as her current mattress?

  6. Hi, i have a firm mattress and I would like to know if a bamboo charcoal topper is a good option for me???

    • Hi Sofia
      If it’s designed by the manufacturer to add comfort and/or support, then yes it could be a good option. I’d make sure you have a trial period to be on the safe side.

      • Hi,
        I have several problems, my right hip has had 5 surgeries, left hip (1). I also have fibromyalgia and arthritis through my body.
        Also I am healing from a broken ankle.
        My right arm/ wrist had to have 3 surgeries . I want something very soft and comfortable. What type would you recommend? I’m also 70 yrs old.
        Thank you!

        • Hi Karen
          It’s really hard for me to recommend a topper for you because I don’t really feel qualified to make a recommendation based on specific medical needs. So I wouldn’t feel right in telling you exactly what to buy. My initial thoughts would be that you might benefit from a medium or medium-soft memory foam. But it’s so hard to predict what might feel comfortable for you or not.
          So my best advice, as always, is to be totally sure you can return whichever one (or more!) you feel like trying. If you can’t test one in store, and want to buy online, it’s essential they have a good returns policy that doesn’t make life difficult for you if it turns out not to be right for you.

  7. We have a great memory foam mattress that is firm. However, I am experiencing shoulder pain and hip discomfort. I am a stomach sleeper and feel more comfort when my arm is able to drop a little lower. Everything I am reading makes me think that a softer topper might help me. What would be recommended to soften the firm mattress and seek more comfort on shoulders especially and hips?

    • Hi Mike
      If you don’t have a problem with overheating and are on a budget, you could try an egg-crate topper to add some softness. Another option is a thick down-alternative topper with plenty of fill to add softness. There are so many different ones of those to buy, I’d look for one with a no questions asked trial period to see if it works for you.

  8. We have a 3” memory foam pad topper, what can we put over it to reduce it from holding body heat? We live in Florida, need I say more :(
    Thanks for the informative article and also the one on snoring.

    • Hi Dee
      I’m glad you liked the articles. That’s a tricky one – memory foam is famous for heat retention, as it seems you know already…
      Have you looked into slumbercloud products? Perhaps they might help a little. I think they have a trial period, so you could find out.

  9. Hi,
    I bought an expensive mattress from dreams bed shop, its too firm for my back. I sleep on my side, wake up with sore back each morning.
    Thinking of a 3″ memory foam topper after what ive read on this page.
    Would this be good?

    • Hi Gaz
      Sorry to hear that! Do they not have a returns or exchange policy? A memory foam topper might help, but I would definitely get one with a returns policy so you can test it first before committing even more money to a bedding surface that might not suit you.

    • Hi there
      That’s great to hear! Good luck in your search – I know it can be confusing, so take your time and hopefully you’ll get the right one.

  10. I am sleeping on a hide a bed sf. I feel the bars and have tried to add thickness with a pad. Not working. Can you use a topper on a hide a bed and what type? I’m elderly. Any help would be apprecited. Thanks

    • Hi Joyce
      Can you describe your bed with more detail please so I can get a better picture of what it is?

  11. Hi Ethan,

    Thank you so much for this article. It’s very informative! I have a bit of a strange question. I sleep in a queen-sized bed with my partner and would like to get a mattress topper but my finances are very tight. Do you think it would work if I put a twin-sized topper on my side of the bed? My partner has no problem sleeping but I have bad hip pain that wakes me up at night (I sleep on my side).

    • Hi Angie
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you liked the article. I guess it depends in part on the weight and the effect it has on the overall bed. Perhaps get one that has a free trial period and test it out!

  12. Thank you so much for the useful information. We have a very firm mattress and I would like that soft luxury hotel feel so most probably I would go with a down topper. Does this sound like a good description? Top panel: 100% cotton, 300 TC with a sateen outer and 70% white duck and 30% feather filling
    Bottom panel: 100% cotton, 220 TC with a 95% feather and 5% down white duck filling. Thank you!

    • Hi Kateryna

      You are very welcome! How thick is that topper you’re thinking of? Which one is it exactly?

  13. This article was very informative, thank you! I have a full size futon with a good quality mattress for occasional use. However we will be hosting a long term guest (several months) and would like to make this more comfortable (sometimes you can feel the slats through the mattress. I was thinking a high density thick (4”) memory foam topper might do the trick. Is there a better option you might suggest? Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Debbie
      You’re welcome! That would probably cover the slats very well, though just 3 inches would probably do the trick as well. One thing to think about is storage during the day, or after they leave, as toppers that thick can sometimes take up a fair bit of space, even when rolled up again.

      • Hi Ethan,
        This is really helpful information and thanks so much for that. If I may take a little of your time just want to clear my mind, if the mattress is made of high-quality foam like firm, about 4 inches (the seller got 6 inches too) do I need to put a topper, and is polyester type fine just to make it soft? Like, I saw one online and it’s saying polyester as in no other mentioned like combined with anything.

        • Hi Leizel
          Thanks for your comment – I’m happy to hear the article was useful. Only you can decide if you need to put a topper on the mattress. But if you feel you need to make the surface softer, then yes, a topper can help and polyester is fine for that.

  14. HI Ethan,

    We would like to get a natural latex topper to reduce partner disturbance but are worried about the heat factor – what do you think of placing a cooling mattress pad over the latex topper?

    • Hi Rachel
      Thanks for your question. You could certainly give it a go, as long as they are well made, so will both hold well to the mattress and each other. My advice would be to try and find companies that offer a free trial, combine the two and see if it works for you. If bot, send one or both back.

    • Hi Billie
      It depends – they can do if they are relatively soft and the mattress they cover is sagging. And if they are quite thick and soft, then you could either call it ‘conforming’ to your body or sagging depending on the way you see it I guess. But you can get firmer density toppers if you want as little sag as possible.
      A protector usually goes over the mattress, but I don’t see any reason you can’t put it over the topper as well if it stretches over both.

  15. Hi! This is incredibly helpful, thank you so much!
    I am looking to get a memory foam topper and I’m not able to test them. When deciding height and density, should I just go with what sounds best for my body, or should I factor in compensation for the mattress being incredibly firm and wanting some extra softness? In other words, is a mattress topper at a certain specific height and density going to feel different on different mattresses depending on the mattress firmness?

    • Hi Kelly

      Thanks for your comment and I’m glad the article was helpful for you. This isn’t an easy question to answer, but I’d say if softness is your goal, it doesn’t make sense to get a dense memory foam topper to put on a firm mattress. I would go with a softer feeling topper if you have the option. Are you really not able to find any to test? Some can be sent back if you’re not happy. I’d check carefully what returns or trial periods are offered where you are to see if you can give yourself some room for experimentation.


    • Hi June
      It depends – in theory, wool toppers can be soft. But manufacturers also make firmer ones. So you’d need to check what they say about it. The thickness will also depend on the manufacturer – 3 inches is probably a good minimum to aim for.

  16. This article has really given me some knowledge! My fiance and I just purchased a new mattress. He likes firm and I like soft. We ended up getting a medium mattress. He likes it, but I have had trouble sleeping because it is too firm. He says we can exchange for softer but I was thinking a solution could be a topper. It will give me soft yet have the firm support from the mattress he needs. I wanted to get a 4″ gel memory foam and fiber one. It looks like it is memory foam inside of down feather. I would love a recommendation. Its not easy buying what we need when we dont even know what will work! Thank you!

    • Hi Dani
      Thanks for your comment. Are you think about getting a single topper to sit on one side of the bed? That could work, but would obviously create a ridge in the middle. But if you don’t mind that, then yes, a topper to soften one side should work.

  17. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. My daughter has a firm Therapedic mattress. She has lower back pain due to an earlier ski accident. She complains of the mattress being too hard and having too much discomfort to sleep. I want to get her a topper and am hoping memory foam will be softer. I was considering 3 or 4 inch. Do you think this would help? Unfortunately it is an Australian Summer, so I guess it would heat her up a bit. Would it give her the sensation of softness? Thanks

    • Hi Jul
      You’re welcome. I’d say it depends on the density of the memory foam you choose. You can get softer memory foam. But you’re right in that its not great for hot weather. Have you thought about trying a fabric instead? Sometimes just a couple of inches of a softer fabric can help soften the mattress considerably. See if any shops where you are will give her a no questions asked trial period. Many companies do these days.

  18. Hi the article was very helpful, thank you. Can I ask, would it be a problem if the mattress topper was lets say 10cm longer than the mattress?

    • Hi Phil
      I think it depends on the overall size, and the type of topper and mattress. I think the main issue will be an aesthetic one, and getting a sheet to fit nicely over the top of both topper and mattress. Then perhaps the risk of sitting on a surface you think will support your weight, only to dump yourself on the floor!

  19. I’m 6 months pregnant and in the hospital (possibly long term), the bed is very soft and makes my hips hurt, I want a mattress topper to try to help. How do all these factors change with an extra soft mattress?

    • Hi Tenley
      Sorry to hear you’re facing a long time in the hospital. Are you talking about bringing a topper into the hospital, or for home when you are out?

      • For use in the hospital. The nurses said a lot of women use egg crate toppers. I got a 2″ one from target and it helped but only a little. Of course most sites don’t seem to list the density so that doesn’t help

  20. Hi there,

    I have recently moved to a fully furnished flat. The bed i now sleep on has been causing me so much pain. I sleep completely comfortably, right through, however when i wake up my back is so stiff and sore i can hardly move. I have found a duck feather topper that i can afford, am I wasting my time?

    • Hi Cass
      It’s impossible to say! The thing is, for some people too soft causes pain, and for others too firm. I guess it depends what you’re trying to achieve whether the topper you bought is the right choice or not. Does it have a returns policy?

  21. We have had a Tempurpedic mattress with a built in 2″ topper for many years. It has always seemed a bit too firm for me but my husband likes it. I sleep on my side and have scolosis of my spine. My back hurts so much when I get up in the morning that it’s terribly painful. What kind of a mattress topper might help?

    • Hi there
      I can understand the frustration if you wake up in pain every day. What material is the topper section?

  22. Hi Ethan, I just got a (used) futon and it is so hard and uncomfortable I’m beginning to think I’d sleep better on the floor. I can’t really afford to replace it and so I was wondering what topper would be best to remedy this.

    • Hi Denise
      Oh, sorry to hear that! I’m not a fan of futons for that reason – they are always too hard for me. If you’re on a budget, you could try an egg-crate topper as they tend to be quite low price.

  23. What happens to egg crate toppers over time? Do they breakdown? Do they retain pieces of sloughed-off skins, etc.? I start mouth-breathing and get a dry cough and other signs of allergic reaction during a guest night at relative’s home. The egg crate foam topper is thin about 2 inches thick and probably 10 years old. Could it be time to get a new topper? What is the usually life time of a thin, inexpensive egg crate mattress topper?

    • Hi Pat
      Thanks for your comment. I think up to 3 years maximum on average. So your relative’s 10 year old topper is probably long overdue replacement.

  24. Hi. We are both in our 60’s and subsequently experience our share of aches and pains. I also have back and neck issues and fibromyalgia. After a lot of research, we recently invested in a 100% latex mattress and two pillows from a reputable Australian company-quite an expense! Initially, we both found it uncomfortable, but my husband has quite quickly settled in and finds it quite comfortable. I am a light sleeper and find the partner disturbance no less than our old bed, but my biggest concern is that I am having difficulty adjusting to the new bed and pillow. How long should it take to ‘break in’ the new latex mattress and pillow? I slept on a holiday mattress recently with a very soft padded top and it was so comfortable. I was wondering if I should I be considering a soft mattress topper? Any advice would be appreciated. We really can’t afford to replace the mattress and I would be very nervous about what to buy.

    • Hi Sandie
      Thanks for your comment. It might take up to a month to break in, so I would push it to the return date and see if it gets better. You could consider putting a softer mattress topper over it to soften it if there’s still no improvement for you.

    • Hi Ethan! I enjoyed reading your article, and like others, I’m hoping you can give me a suggestion. I have a pull-out sofa bed that my son uses on occasion ; he is 25, not overweight, but can feel the bar when he sleeps. He mostly sleeps on his back. I was hoping to leave the topper on the sofa mattress when I convert it back to a sofa. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks in advance!

      • Hi Lynn
        Glad you liked it! Are you sure the topper will fit on the sofa when it’s in the sofa position? They can be quite large, and sofa beds are often made to precise dimensions.

        • Hi Ethan,

          Thanks for the article! It’s very informative.
          I have a similar question regarding a sofa bed. I do not have to keep the topper on the sofa bed when it is being used as a sofa, but I am unsure about one that will store away easily. We were leaning towards memory foam and what thickness would you recommend to remove that ‘bar in the sofa bed’ feeling?

          Also, how often should you replace a topper? I am referring to one that is in use everyday as my daughter now has one on her bed but I have no previous experience with toppers.
          Many thanks!

          • Hi Dianne
            You’re welcome, I’m glad to hear the article was useful for you.
            It’s hard to answer both of your questions to be honest as both really make me think ‘it depends…’ which isnt very helpful.
            I think the bar problem depends on the weight of the person using the bed, and not just the thickness but the quality and material of the topper. I would imagine a dense and thick memory topper would be better than thick and soft memory foam for example, and definitely better than most other soft materials. But whether you need 2, 3 or 4 inches or more is impossible to guess. So, I always say, make sure to buy one with a trial period.
            As for replacing it, again quality and materials will play a role, as will your willingness to put up with different levels of degradation over time. But I think if you can’t get at the very least a couple of years out of a topper, there’s a problem.

    • Hi Woody
      I would look at getting a memory foam or latex topper and choosing a firmer option. See if you can get one with a trial period to give it a go and see if the firmness works for you.

  25. Hi , are the gel infused memory foam toppers actually cooler as they claim or is it a sales pitch? I am considering buying one as I have a very firm bed for some of my guests who love firm but too hard for others. Dont want to overheat my guests. Thanks Joanne

    • Hi Joanne
      Thanks for your comment. That’s a very difficult question to answer! I think there’s a bit of both involved. The main complaint is that they can be cooler for a while, but certainly not miraculously cool all night long. My advice would be to read customer reviews on sites like amazon to check what others have said about the one you’re thinking of buying, assuming it appears there. You can’t beat the views of people who have no reason to hype a product they’ve bought!

  26. Hi there!
    Thanks for the article! A new mattress is not in our budget but ours is the worst! I wake up every morning with back pain and I am a stomach sleeper! Looking to spend some money on a decent topper, our current mattress is very soft. Having trouble deciding if we should go firm topper and what thickness… thoughts?

    • Hi Allison
      You’re welcome, and thanks for your comment. If your current mattress is really soft and sagging, perhaps it might be worth saving for a new mattress rather than risking a topper just not being able to firm it up properly. Alternatively, you could try one that has a returns policy, so you don’t risk splashing out on one only to find it doesn’t cover the softness properly. Part of the problem is that although some toppers can be quite inexpensive, the ones that tend to be firm also tend to more expensive. It’s cheaper to soften than it is to firm, so the expenditure might still be a lot.

  27. Hello Ethan – I’m hoping you can advise me somewhat …
    We used to have a memory foam mattress which made me super hot and hindered, rather than helped, my husband’s back issues.
    We decided to try and deal with both problems and got ourselves a wool futon. We’re not new to futons and know they can be hard, but in the past, I never ended up suffering from shoulder pain like I am now.
    Since our futon was rather expensive, we’re thinking about adding a topper rather than thinking about replacing it.
    I am leaning toward a latex (even though I know they *can* sometimes run hot) because it’s natural and durable. I’m not sure which one to get though … I’m assuming a 3″, to help cushion my shoulders, but should I choose “soft” or “medium” …? Because “latex runs on the firmer side” generally, I’m thinking soft even though I am naturally inclined to choose medium. Thanks so much for any help/ideas you can provide. I want to get it right so we can both start sleeping well again.

    • Hi Janet
      Thanks for your comment. I can understand why you’d be thinking soft over medium, and I don’t think that’s bad idea considering how hard your current setup is.
      Considering how you must already be disappointed, my feeling would be to try to avoid further problems. I’d be very careful to check that there’s a returns policy. That way you can always try a soft one, and if it’s no good after a week, send it back. It can take a while for pains to resolve if it’s the bed that’s causing it, so if you can trial one for a week or two, that would be ideal!

  28. Hi there,

    I’m wondering if mattress toppers (specifically wool toppers) can be washed and if yes then what the best method of washing is. I’m potentially interested in getting a wool mattress topper but I have cats and just in case I need to know what I’m getting into re: washing/drying needs of a wool topper!

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Sarah
      Thanks for your comment. Mattress toppers can’t usually be washed because of their size, and wool toppers definitely can’t as it will ruin them. The secret is to get a protective cover to make sure it doesn’t get dirty in the first place.

  29. Hi, I had some back issues and thought firm mattress would help and got an extra firm mattress. It is too firm for me and I wake up stiff every morning. We then got a 3 inch memory foam topper but that feels like I sink in it and it is hard to change position at night. I have always dislike memory foam but I did not realize that only 3 inch will give me similar feel. I am not sure what to do now as I have spent so much on all this and I need some expert advise? Just want some decent cushioning on the bed. Thanks

    • Hi Harleen
      Thanks for your comment. How long did you try the mattress on its own for, and then with the mattress topper? Sometimes it takes a while to get used to a new firmness. And can you take either back for a refund or replacement?

    • We also have an extra firm mattress and dislike memory foam. We still wake up stiff and sore after a year and a half. Did you ever find some decent cushioning? We’re considering 4 inch basic foam.

  30. Hi there,

    I run a B & B and two of my guests commented that the mattress is hard I mean firm. I actually chose the firm mattress and its good for our back but I’d like to consider buying a mattress topper to add a bit of softness. I don’t know anything about mattress topper , I only use mattress protector. Do you have any suggestion what type I should buy for our B & B guests? Many thanks.

    • Hi Lourdes
      Thanks for your comment. Well, it depends which country you’re in, as you can’t buy the same mattress toppers all over the world. I’d say that temperature also plays a role, as you don’t want to add too much heat if it’s in a warm region. And of course cost – how much you’re willing to pay. In my experience of staying in hotels, they tend to go with cheaper cotton or polyester toppers – presumably to save money and add some softness without going too overboard.

  31. Hi. I want to buy a mattress topper to use on my bed. I have an electric heating mattress pad that is on my bed all the time, but only used in the winter. Suggestions for a topper. Thanks.

    • Hi Justine
      Thanks for your comment. Do you mean one that you can use for the other 3 seasons in place of your electric topper? How comfortable do you find that topper? Do you feel you need firmer, softer?

  32. Hi Ethan, thanks for your very informative article, I found it very helpful. I especially appreciate the comparison. Question for ya, if thickness doesn’t really correlate to firmness than what does thickness provide? The thicker the better it masks a lumpy mattress? Also, if you were heading to college and had to make a choice which topper would you buy? My parents are paying so money is not a factor…to me at least! Thanks in advance Ethan…much appreciated.

    • Hi Zachary
      Thanks for your comment, and it’s nice to know the article was useful. Thickness and firmness can be confusing. One rule of thumb is that generally a thicker mattress topper can end up feeling softer. And if you’re a heavier than average person, you might find it’s a good idea to choose a thicker topper of your chosen firmness to help offset the effect that your weight will have. But if you choose the thickest, it also then runs the risk of extra sagging. So if you need a firm support for your body, thicker doesn’t necessarily mean better.
      There’s also a sad fact in that some companies make very thick toppers and mattresses because they appear more luxurious, and therefore more expensive! So some experts say there’s no real need to splash out on extra inches of topper or mattress.
      Having said that, you might be right in that if the base mattress is in really bad shape, a thicker topper will do a better job of masking it.
      As for going to college, well that’s a tricky question! It’s a personal choice really, but I’d also think about how long you’ll have that size bed for, how easy it is to transport, and what type will suit your needs best. If you can, go and try some out in a store, then make your choice. Or even ask family or friends if they have toppers and see if you can try them out for a minute!

  33. I want to buy a memory foam firm mattress topper. The firmer the better. Should I choose 2′, 3 or 4 inch to ensure that it is really firm?

    • Hi Onzj
      Thanks for your comment. The firmness is a separate point to the thickness to a certain extent. Are you able to go to a local mattress shop and ask to test out some toppers? That’s a good way to find out what might suit you best.

    • Hi Sherry
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, if you have bed bugs, there’s not a lot that will prevent them from hiding in spaces around the bed, despite what some manufacturer’s might say. So even if they don’t nest inside the topper itself, they might end up in the space between the topper and the mattress. If you have a problem with bed bugs, they need to be dealt with properly, no matter what topper you have.

  34. Be sure to buy deep pocket sheets that will not only cover the entire mattress, but cover the mattress topper as well.

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