May 2013

Mattress protection with a bed topper

Mattress protection is something that every mattress and bed should have. It not only can help extend the life of your mattress but can also provide a much-enhanced sleep experience. This article should be read in conjunction with mattress construction in order to expand on the value of the comfort or primary Layer within the mattress but read on to find out about mattress protection.

Mattress toppers can help tweak and perfect your mattress along with offering them protection. Before you rush out to buy a topper for your new mattress it is helpful to understand why you need one and what type of topper will help you achieve your comfort requirements. This article spills the beans on all you need to know about mattress toppers.

Latex 100% Natural Topper
Mattress toppers not only protect your bed but can increase the comfort layers

What are toppers?

Mattress toppers are separate items of bedding that you add yourself to the mattress in order to increase the level of longevity to the built-in primary layer and also to add a separate layer of primary comfort layer to suit you.

On our site, we received many comments from readers who questioned that if the mattress was expensive and had adequate comfort layers already, why was it deemed necessary to add further by way of a topper?

Now these were quite good and valid questions and it was only when we questioned a bedding expert that a full, precise and logical explanation could be given. In order to explain this fully, we will first look at a real life example in the way of Savoir beds and Vi-Spring.

Savoir beds produce the world’s most expensive bed at over £115,000 known as the Royal State. On this particular bed set, they include a mattress with the most exquisite layers of upholstery known to man. However, to complete the mattress set, they add not one, but two individual and separate toppers to make up the mattress ‘set’.

Again, using Savoir as an example, On their premium core range of mattresses (Savoir number 1, number 2, number 3 and number 4) they give you the option of either buying the mattress separately or can provide you with the appropriate additional topper.

Toppers will only ever soften a mattress. They will never firm it up.
Toppers will only ever soften a mattress. They will never firm it up.
Natural toppers are always preferable as they are more breathable and dont retain as much heat as synthetic toppers
Natural toppers are always preferable as they are more breathable and dont retain as much heat as synthetic toppers

Is there a construction method for mattress toppers?

Yes. The general rule of thumb is that the upholstery used to make the topper should be ‘in keeping’ with what is used as the primary layer within the mattress. This means that if the mattress has a wool or wool and cotton primary layer, the topper should also be built with the same or similar upholstery components. On the other side of the scale, a latex mattress should have an additional topper consisting of latex, a memory foam mattress should have a topper consisting of memory foam.

If you have read the techniques of mattress construction in another post you will know that as you get higher up the mattress to the actual sleeper, the material has to get softer. This thesis stops when the mattress is fully constructed and you start again using the mattress as the support element and begin again to add further bridging and comfort layers in the form of toppers.

If we look again at the Savoir Royal State, we see that the primary comfort layer in the mattress is carded cashmere wool, one of the softest and most luxurious primary layers in any mattress. But if we look at what toppers are placed on top of this, we see that the first one is a horsetail foundation with carded cashmere as the primary. The second topper is loose horsetail completely encased in lambswool. The toppers they utilised on this mattress set are not softer than the carded cashmere within the mattress, but they start using what can be deemed as relatively firmer components and going softer as you get closer to the users body.

Note: We must admit  in feeling a bit disingenuous to Savoir for detailing this particular model in such crude terms. This particular set is a true work of art and although well outside my financial limitations, no-one can disagree that this is nothing short of the finest example of the bedmakers craft.

Why are mattress toppers useful?

Now that you know what is deemed to be the right way and also what the best in the industry do, we have to look at why the utilisation of toppers with your mattress is so important. As I said in the introduction they are useful for two main reasons:

1. Adding additional Comfort layers to your mattress
2. Aiding in the longevity of your mattress

1.Additional Comfort Layers:

If we follow on from the mattress construction article, we built our virtual mattress with a final layer of Blended Wool and Cotton. This is a very soft component that has virtually no support properties whatsoever. The main function of this layer is to provide the sleeper with an initial cushioning effect before your entire bodyweight utilises the main support elements. If we also go back to how the mattress was constructed from the springs upwards we can see that to reach a mattress depth of around 25cm there is only so much a (good) manufacturer can include incorporating all the elements required; Insulate / Support / Comfort. You can look at this completed mattress as a minimum standard no matter how much money you have paid for it!

If you choose to sleep on this particular mattress without adding an additional topper, it will not be too long before the wool / cotton component compresses completely under your bodyweight and the mattress will become discoloured through perspiration. It has to be said, that even with a topper the wool element will eventually compress – it’s the nature of the material – but compressing slowly and evenly over time beneath a topper will certainly not be as harsh and punishing.

Understanding this, we can go on to say that the topper will in effect be an additional substantial comfort layer that there was no room on the mattress to include. The topper will be making what is essentially a fabulous mattress even more fabulous. If you add two well, you will certainly be in heaven!

2.The longevity of the mattress:

Taking all the above on board, we can now understand the basic principles. It now stands to reason that if you were to sleep directly on the mattress there is nothing there to combat the three main enemies to your mattress:

1. Body Perspiration
2. Dead skin cells and bacteria
3. Undue Settlement and Indentations

Even by themselves should give cause for concern, but when all three are considered and this is a fact of life, not pseudo scare tactics of which we are vehemently opposed to, should impress upon you the absolute validity of utilising toppers with your mattress. Going back to the questions we received over the years, we have concluded that the more you have paid for your mattress the more essential the topper element is.

The additional benefits you get from utilising toppers will, in the long run, pay dividends, so you should not be looking at this purchase as an expense, but an insurance that your mattress will be lasting – and staying as new as possible for a greater period of time. When the topper has taken all it can after the brunt of nightly activities, it is a small expenditure to replace as necessary rather than reaching the stage where the complete mattress requires replacement.

What kind of toppers does John Ryan use?

We have matched our toppers to the mattress bases to provide the best progressive comfort as we have tried and tested the combinations that work well together.

Many of the high street retailers don’t recommend toppers or if they do they permanently stitch the topper to the mattress completely removing the longevity benefit. Retailers that do sell them often are selling products without explaining the benefits, drawbacks or product details leaving you once again confused and scratching your head.

When buying your own topper, you need to work out what will work best for you given your existing mattress. If it is too firm then maybe a softer topper will help, if it is too soft then maybe a firmer topper will help remove some of the issues. Mattress toppers used in this fashion can only tweak a bed and not completely restore it. Our guidance is to make sure you buy a topper alongside your mattress to enable the two to fully work together.

I did say at the beginning of this article that the right topper was to replicate the primary layer within the mattress. This is not a hard and fast rule and the topper you choose to use should be based on your personal preferences.

In my case, for instance, I have the Artisan Luxury mattress which is now nearly two years old. The primary layer of this particular mattress is Wool, but my first topper (I have two) is a goose feather and down which does have an element of firmness about it. On top of this, I have a simple but well constructed Microfibre topper. This combination on top of my mattress is perfect for me, but will not be perfect for everyone. The overall tension of this combination is Soft and it is like going to bed on a cloud – even though the underlying mattress (medium tension spring) is more than supportive enough for my sylph-like body of 12 stone.

Marie our office manager, on the other hand, prefers a firmer level of tension (she has a bad back) and overlaid her wool topper with a further wool topper. She has The Artisan Bespoke Mattress  004 which is finished with a Wool / Cotton blend primary layer – so again the support is suitable for her, but she has tweaked the cushioning elements to suit her actual requirements.


Over the years we have all purchased, tried, sampled and discussed the merits of all toppers in general. Our conclusions are that you do not have to go to enormous expense although we say to steer away from ultra-cheap versions around the £25 mark particularly if they are the feathered variety. In our experience, there is far too little material in them to be of any use or benefit.

Obviously, if you can afford better quality such as Dauny, then that’s even better and I would be completely green with envy.

We have our own range of contemporary single and double mattress toppers, in particular, we specialise in high-quality latex mattress toppers, perfect to provide that initial sink to a bed without losing the support or getting too hot, unlike memory foam counterparts. We would love to hear your views on toppers so ask a question or get in touch for further help. Alternatively, for more information on bed toppers, read our article on bed toppers.

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