Different coverings can do different things, so find out which one your bed needs.

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Credit: Getty / miodrag ignjatovic

The term "mattress cover" encompasses a variety of different toppers you can add to your bed. The two main types are pads and protectors. Each of them offers your bed a different layer of protection (and in the case of a mattress pad, a little extra comfort, as well) to help make sure your sleep experience is as seamless as possible. Here, we ask a home essentials expert to break down the difference between the two—and explain why you'll want to add both of them to your mattress.

Find the right mattress protector type for you.

There are multiple layers that can go on top of a mattress, and each one is designed to cover a variety of needs, explains Ariel Kaye, the founder and CEO of Parachute Home. "For example, a mattress topper feels like you're laying on top of a fluffy marshmallow each night," she says. "A topper adds several inches of plushness and creates a very soft sleep experience." A mattress protector, on the other hand, usually adds a layer of protection between your mattress. It can also safeguard your bed from allergens, spills, and other damage that may occur. 

Almost everyone can benefit from using a protector.

A protector is an easy and affordable way to ensure your bed remains clean and hypoallergenic by preventing dust and skin cells from taking residence in the mattress' fibers—this is something that anyone could benefit from. Plus, "a protector won't change the feeling of the mattress," Kaye continues, it will only provide a safety barrier. And there's another reason to add one to your bed as soon as possible: Most mattress warranties are void if you choose not to use one, she notes.

You can combine a protector with a topper or pad.

A pad or topper will add varying degrees of softness and height to a bed, and should be placed under the protector, as well. "They are perfect for making a firm mattress softer or adding new life to an aging mattress," Kaye says. You can find mattress pads at virtually any price point, and they can offer everything from better airflow to cooling gel inserts. Figuring out which one is right for you will depend on what you hope to accomplish by introducing one to your bed.

Keep mattress pads' thickness in mind.

Because there are so many different types and styles of mattress pads, you need to be especially mindful about how thick the one you purchase is. A one-inch topper may not make much of a difference when it comes to how your sheets fit (or your mattress protector, if you choose to use one), but when you get into the thicker varieties, you may find that you need to purchase sheets with deeper pockets in order to get the same snug fit you're used to.

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