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11 Reasons to avoid used mattresses

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Buying a used mattress could save you money compared to a brand-new one, but risks are involved. It could be unsafe, unhygienic, or illegally sold. Without testing it beforehand, you won’t know if it is suitable. Used mattresses also don’t typically come with warranties, so you won’t be protected if there is an issue.

You can acquire a used mattress from friends, family, online platforms like Facebook, newspaper ads, or even from the back of a van. While it might seem cost-effective, you should know the risks when using a second-hand mattress.

Dirty used mattress on bedroom floor

Why you shouldn’t buy a used mattress

You should avoid sleeping on a used mattress for several reasons.

A used mattress may be unsafe

One of the main reasons why you shouldn’t buy a used mattress is that it may be unsafe. Mattresses must be flame-resistant to prevent fires, safeguard lives, and protect property. It’s often unclear if a used mattress meets these safety standards.

A mattress can easily catch fire from leaving a candle burning overnight or smoking in bed, if it is not flame resistant, it will quickly go up in flames, putting lives at risk.

Every mattress should have a label indicating that it meets fire safety standards. However, be mindful that some private sellers may use fake flammability labels.

Therefore, it’s advisable to consider purchasing a new mattress that complies with current fire safety standards.

General wear and tear can compromise the mattress’s structure, affecting comfort and safety. Over time, the components inside the mattress will deteriorate. Springs may shift or break, protruding through the mattress and causing discomfort. The mattress might also develop an uneven surface and weakened edges, increasing the risk of falling out of bed.

Health and hygiene

Not only could used mattresses be unsafe, but they are also unhygienic. Each night, a used mattress absorbs sweat, saliva, dead skin, bodily fluids and even food and drink. A used mattress can quickly become a breeding ground for unwanted guests like dust mites. A study from Ohio State University estimates around 100,000 to 10 million mites could live inside a used mattress.

A used mattress could also be infested with bed bugs. These tiny insects feed on human blood, typically while people are asleep. They can find their way into homes via furniture, household items, or luggage and can be difficult to eradicate. Not everyone reacts the same way to bed bug bites. Some may not even realise they have been bitten. Others might develop bite marks that itch and irritate and, in rare cases, cause a severe allergic reaction.

Many of us share our beds with our pets, and animal hair, fleas, or ticks can also find their way into a used mattress.  

An unprotected mattress is also vulnerable to spillages or accidents, which can permanently stain or discolour the mattress and leave an unpleasant smell. An unsanitary mattress can also provide the ideal conditions for bacteria and mould.

No manufacturer guarantee or warranty

Used mattresses from private sellers don’t typically come with warranties. Only the original purchaser can claim under the manufacturer’s warranty, which is not generally transferrable. Without knowing the mattress’s history, like its age, usage, and whether it has been well-maintained, there’s the risk it might not perform or last as long as expected.

Used mattresses are typically ‘sold as seen’, and the sellers aren’t responsible for post-purchase issues. Therefore, asking questions and thoroughly inspecting the mattress before purchasing Is crucial.

However, most new mattresses have a guarantee or warranty covering faulty materials or workmanship. 

It might be illegally sold

The used mattress you’re considering might be sold illegally. It could be stolen or reclaimed and reupholstered with a cheap covering to make it look new.

Lack of support

A used mattress is unlikely to provide the support you need. Correct support depends on your weight, build, height, and preferred sleeping position. This is why it is important to compare different mattresses to find one that meets your needs rather than just considering its price.

Over time, the components inside the mattress deteriorate, affecting comfort and support. A used mattress may develop an uneven sleeping surface due to wear and tear, affecting its ability to support the body properly. It may feel uncomfortable, and you may wake up with aches and pains. The components may also squeak or creak at night.

An uneven surface may also make you feel like you’re falling out of bed or moving into the middle of the bed with your partner. You may also disturb each other when you turn over in bed.

Limited options

One of the main drawbacks when choosing a used mattress is the limited options available compared to buying a new mattress. When buying new, you have the luxury of comparing different brands and mattress types, allowing you to choose a mattress that aligns with your needs and preferences. However, used mattresses are often one-offs, so you will be limited to what the seller offers, which might not match your specific requirements.

Inability to test mattresses

Unlike buying a new mattress, where you can test different models in-store to determine which ones are comfortable, buying a used mattress doesn’t give you the option to try before you buy. You have to rely on the information provided by the seller, which may not accurately reflect the mattress’s specification or condition.

No trial periods or returns policies

Many online mattress brands offer sleep trials, allowing you to test a mattress at home with the option to return it within the specified trial period if you don’t like it.

However, these trials don’t apply to used mattresses. You might end up with an uncomfortable mattress without a trial or the opportunity to test it before buying.

Shorter lifespan

A mattress typically lasts seven to ten years, but a used one often has a shorter lifespan due to prior use. Whilst purchasing a used mattress may seem like a cost-effective solution, you may have to replace it sooner than expected, ultimately costing more than buying a new one.

No delivery or collection of old bed service

Buying a used mattress can present some logistical challenges. Often private sellers don’t provide a delivery service, so you may have to arrange your own transport. You’ll need a large vehicle to accommodate the mattress without bending or folding it. This may mean renting a truck or finding someone with a suitable vehicle.

Mattresses are bulky and can be heavy. They often require at least two people to move safely, and the seller might be unable to assist with the lifting. You must also ensure it is well-wrapped to prevent it from getting soiled or damaged during transportation.

Then there’s the problem of what to do with your old mattress if you have one. Donating to charities is a good option, providing the mattress is in good condition. However, coordinating a suitable time for picking up or dropping off your old mattress around the same time as receiving your new one can be tricky. 

Many local councils provide a mattress disposal service for a small charge. However, you may have similar issues scheduling a convenient collection date.

Given these challenges, consider the additional time, effort and potential costs of arranging transportation and disposal. In most cases, buying from a reputable store that can remove the old mattress while delivering the new one outweighs the hassle of purchasing a used mattress privately.

A used mattress may not be compatible with your bed base

When pairing any mattress with a bed base, ensuring the two are compatible is crucial, especially if you’re buying both separately.

Memory foam mattresses, in particular, require a well-ventilated base, allowing air circulation underneath. Also, consider the spacing between the slats if you place your mattress on a bed frame. The mattress might shift between gaps if the slats are too far apart.

What are the alternatives to buying a used mattress?

If you’re looking for a mattress on a budget, there are several alternatives to consider without compromising safety, hygiene or quality.

New mattress

Since we spend around a third of our lives sleeping, investing in a good quality mattress should be a priority. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an expensive mattress, providing it is comfortable and supports your body correctly.

Purchasing a new mattress is always better than sleeping on a used one. After all, do you want to sleep on a mattress that has accumulated sweat, saliva, dirt and dead skin over several years?

Open coil mattresses are fairly basic but are more affordable than other mattresses. In contrast, pocket springs offer superior support but are more expensive. Memory foam and latex mattresses are popular options. Both conform well to body shape, offering excellent pressure relief, but they can be pricey.

Sales and promotions for mattresses happen year-round, but the best times to buy are often during summer and winter sales. There are also significant discounts on new mattresses during Black Friday and Cyber Monday events.

Ex-display mattress

Stores often sell display models at discounted prices to make room for new stock. Although they have been tested by customers in-store and may not be in pristine condition, they are typically considered new. Ex-display mattresses are typically cheaper than buying a brand-new model and are often heavily discounted to clear quickly. Another benefit of buying an ex-display mattress is that they are usually available for immediate delivery.

Refurbished mattress

A refurbished mattress is a previously used mattress that has been repaired or rebuilt to improve its condition. These mattresses are usually sold at lower prices, making them appealing to shoppers. They also help the environment by diverting waste from landfills.

Before resale, refurbished mattresses undergo thorough cleaning and inspection to ensure compliance with quality, safety, and hygiene standards. They should be clearly labelled or described as ‘refurbished’ or ‘reconditioned’ to indicate that they have gone through a restoration process.

Mattress topper

You could use a mattress topper to make your mattress feel more comfortable. It rests on top of your mattress, making it feel softer or firmer. Mattress toppers are typically between one and four inches deep and come in various materials like polyester, wool, memory foam, and latex.

While a mattress topper can revive a relatively new and uncomfortable mattress, it is unlikely to improve an old, worn-out mattress.

Final thoughts

Avoid buying used mattresses whenever possible. However, if you are considering one, choose a reputable seller and find out why they are selling it. Inspect the model carefully, ensuring it is safe, in good condition, and of satisfactory quality.


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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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