Buying a Used Mattress: Yay or Nay?

Do people buy used mattresses? It’s one of those things that probably wouldn’t even cross most people’s minds, but when you think about it, there are conditions under which second hand beds can make sense. A used mattress doesn’t mean something out of a dumpster, but rather one that’s been removed from its packaging and never slept on. A mattress you sleep on in someone’s guest bedroom is technically one of them as well. A test mattress in a showroom is considered “used”, too.

The most significant advantage of buying a used mattress is its price. You could buy a mattress that would otherwise cost hundreds of pounds for a fraction of the cost. As long as it’s in good shape, nobody should be able to tell the difference.

Buying an old mattress can be a massive bargain for those on a shoestring budget, university students, individuals living alone, etc. However, keep in mind that a picture mightn’t always be worth a thousand words when it comes to a used bed for sale listed online. Let’s take a look at the positives and negatives of such a purchase.

Is it safe to buy a used mattress?

Before researching what happens to old mattresses, our answer would’ve been a resounding NO. However, there are things that can be done to make this a viable option and reasons why it can be a reasonable choice.

Caring for the planet

Since the mattress market is booming, manufacturers are trying to sell us new beds with 100- or even 200-day return policies. However, these trial mattress returns have contributed to the creation of unimaginable heaps of trash. Around 7.5 million mattresses end up in a landfill every year in the UK alone.

Your first impulse to save an old mattress from a death sentence mightn’t be such a bad idea after all. Let’s say you want to be eco-friendly. In that case, it’s better if you’re actually rescuing an organic mattress that can last you another 7-10 years. A synthetic one can also be worth saving—that way, you’d be sparing Mother Earth from pollution, too. Instead of buying a new mattress that might end up at a dump or in an incinerator, you can prevent one from going to waste.

Don’t be afraid to buy a second hand mattress. As environmentalists point out, anytime you stay in a hotel overnight, even if it’s a five-star one, you’re essentially sharing a second hand king size bed with hundreds of other people. That really puts things into perspective, right?

Budget-friendly

The decision of whether to get a second hand mattress comes down to how tight your budget is. The reality is that acquiring a used mattress online can cost you as little as £35. If you decide to go for it, make sure that the seller re-covers or re-conditions the bed beforehand. It’s the only safe and sanitary way to buy a second hand mattress.

Another option is to go for a store-opened one. We know that once a new bed’s seal is broken, its value starts going down. It’s considered pre-owned by someone else. That’s why a never-sold mattress costs much more than an unboxed one in a brick-and-mortar store. If you’re on a limited budget, start shopping around, it might be a cost-effective idea.

Refurbished 

Not everyone can spend a fortune on a brand-new mattress, so some will go looking for a more affordable option. That’s where a refurbished mattress comes in, and with a much lower price tag. An old mattress that’s been discarded and then renewed for second hand sale is a refurbished one. They can be found at mattress stores that carry new and used items and garage sales for families in need.

These days, the mattress refurbishing practice has expanded to mattress recycling. Regardless of the previous owner, there comes a time when you have to figure out what to do with an old mattress when it’s outlived its usefulness. According to the Environmental News Network, around 90% of the materials in a mattress’s construction can be recycled.

However, just because you aren’t buying a brand-new mattress doesn’t mean that a refurbished one isn’t going to do a great job for you.

Why should you never buy a used mattress?

Since buying a new mattress can drill a hole in your wallet, you may be tempted to go for a second hand one. However, used beds most of the time are worn out, damaged or unsanitary. Even if you find a quality used mattress, it still has its downsides. Let’s explore these.

Damage

When it comes to second hand mattresses listed online, images can obscure internal damage: the mattress might be crooked, some of the coil units might be broken, it might’ve been mishandled or transported improperly, and so on.

Be careful—sellers are usually biased toward the good and might cover up the bad and the ugly. Our point is that you might get what you pay for when you aren’t buying a new mattress. What makes a good mattress is the certainty that it’ll deliver comfort and optimal support. If hidden defects somehow compromise that, it can be a source of all kinds of troubles.

Lifespan

The majority of second hand mattresses are already worn out, so don’t expect them to last as long as new ones. A quality mattress’s usual lifespan is 7-10 years, so if you buy a 5-year-old used mattress, it’ll probably last for just another 2-5. Before buying, you’ll need to factor in its past tenure. If the previous owner is honest about it, you’ll probably only have a short time of decent sleep left on it. Usually, you can’t even be sure exactly how old a mattress is when you purchase it.

If you buy a used mattress, you’ll need to replace it faster. While you’ll spend less upfront, you’ll ultimately end up paying more, as you’ll need to get a new one in a few years. This wastes money and time, so it’s better to invest in something new. Buying something like a second hand cot bed, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter, since your little ones will only use it for so long before outgrowing it.

Hygiene risks

Let’s be honest—unless you’re entirely certain that the previous owner was an OCD-level clean freak, chances are that the used mattress you want to buy has an icky history. The mattress is probably the dirtiest item in a bedroom. A used mattress could harbour bacteria you’re unaware of, dead skin, dirt, dust, pet hair, sweat, bodily fluids, lint… The previous owner may have spilt food or drinks onto it, there may be mould you’re unaware of, or a foul odour may be emanating from it. Furthermore, a used mattress could host bedbugs that you mightn’t detect right away.

Going down this road simply isn’t the most sanitary thing. Unlike sheets and blankets, you can’t put an entire mattress into the washing machine.

Ageing material and technology

Obsolete materials and technology aren’t always a problem with a second hand mattress since you can find 2-5-year-old ones. However, some beds can be more than a decade old and put together with outdated tech, such as traditional foam or coil springs. Newer mattresses employ all sorts of high-quality materials to offer optimal support and long-time comfort.

Damaged coil spring mattresses can be noisy and prone to breakage. The current alternative is hybrid mattresses, which are quiet and provide excellent pressure relief. Traditional foam mattresses wear out very quickly, so most companies use gel-infused memory foam to enhance their durability.

No warranty or return policy

Most mattress companies offer warranties that can’t be transferred to future owners. A used mattress probably won’t come with a warranty at all. If the bed fails quickly or has severe hidden defects, you’d have wasted your money. One more risk you take with a second hand mattress is that you can’t return it when you detect an unappealing aspect—you’re stuck with the item until you discard it.

Then again, your only other option is buying a new mattress. Even if it feels like Hobson’s choice, almost all brands accept returns within a trial period if you end up thinking that you shouldn’t have sprung for one.

How to Buy a Used Mattress

If you nevertheless decide to purchase a second-hand mattress, there are some steps you can follow to make sure you don’t get the short end of the stick.

Buy a slightly or never-used bed

It’s always best to start with an online mattress sale search for opened but never-used or slightly used ones. Check out the details available in the listing. Some people put a mattress up for sale because they’re moving or simply buying a new one. Others, for whatever reason, didn’t return it to the manufacturer in time even though it didn’t suit them, so they kept it in storage, etc. If the details aren’t listed, inquire with the seller directly.

What’s a slightly used bed? A mattress that’s been used for 1-2 years will do nicely. Always ask to see the receipt from when the owner first bought the item for verification. Another option is a mattress used in a guest room, which might be even better.

Buy from a reputable source

Searching for a reputable retailer that sells refurbished and sanitized mattresses is one of the buying a used mattress tips you should always follow. They usually describe the condition of the used mattress in reasonable detail. Dig a little deeper into their restoration procedure. That way, you’ll gather all the information you can about the vendor before deciding to make a purchase.

It’ll help if you also look around for local furniture stores that sell mattresses. Sometimes they put returned beds on sale at a discounted price. You might even be able to test it out on the spot.

Talk to the previous owner

Some online used mattress sellers make contacting the mattress’s previous owner possible. In situations like this, you’re relying on the owner’s goodwill to answer all your questions about things that mightn’t be truthfully covered in the listing.

If they live nearby, you can always ask to check the mattress out yourself or request additional photos if that’s not the case.

Check for damage

If you’re buying a mattress at a second hand furniture store, it’s easier to inspect it. For example, you can check if some coils are broken or if the mattress is lopsided. However, when online shopping, this may be hard to nigh-on impossible. You’re always limited to the photos included in the listing, and when it comes to a used mattress, they rarely or never paint the whole picture. As we’ve already said, communication with the other party is vital, and you’ll be the one bearing the consequences if you don’t ask the right questions. 

Sanitize it

Sanitizing should be the first thing you do after buying anything from a second hand market, especially a used mattress. Use an antibacterial household cleaner to wipe down the surface, thus killing any germs. Then, leave the mattress out in the sun to dry for at least a full day. This disinfects the mattress, destroys any remaining germs and prevents mould. After this, there should be no surviving nasties, not even microscopic ones. That way you’ll be 100% certain to avoid sickness.

How much is a mattress that’s been used worth?

According to surveys, mattresses are the fourth most-listed item on the second hand furniture market, right behind chairs, tables and used beds for sale

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact value of a used mattress for sale without knowing all the details. In general, used mattress prices will hover around 20% of the original price. The most typical cost of a used mattress will be £200, and that’s for the high-end brands whose initial price was over £1,000. However, there are low-cost options if you don’t care much about brands.

Don’t be afraid to bid low when bargaining with a vendor. Expect the owner to give in to your demands—chances are they don’t get many offers. Once you agree on the price, ask if they’ll handle the delivery.

Of course, buying a new mattress is always the better option, even when you’re on a tight budget. You can find an inexpensive mattress for under £400 if you aren’t particular about name brands.

Best Rejuvenated Mattresses

A lot of unwanted mattresses end up getting incinerated rather than in bed recycling. It’s great to hear that some environmentally conscious companies reuse their returned mattresses. The benefit of buying a rejuvenated mattress is that it’ll come relatively cheaper.

Emma rejuvenated mattress

The Emma mattress company renews undamaged mattresses from their 100-night trial periods.  They ensure that the inside layers of the used mattress are intact and replace the inner and outer covers. Then, they take the inflated mattress, wrap it in plastic packaging, and put it on sale as the best mattress to buy at a bargain price. You can get an Emma Original Renewed Mattress from just £119.

Eve refurbished mattress

The Eve Sleep company offers certified renewed mattresses that undergo a stringent refurbishment process before being offered up to customers. They have an evaluation process for every returned used mattress to ensure that it complies with Eve’s quality standard. Those that pass the test go for an outer cover replacement and are rolled into Eve’s signature box in tip-top shape. The company offers a 5-year warranty on their refurbished mattresses.

Nectar rejuvenated mattress

Professionally refurbished returned mattresses are also sold by the Nectar company. They’re made sanitary by being sterilized with a biocide and going through a UV light inspection. Mattresses that pass this examination with flying colours get a brand-new Nectar cover and are made available for purchase. Nectar rejuvenated mattresses are delivered opened, not rolled.

Best New Mattresses

It’s a general misconception that buying a new bed will set you back thousands of pounds. This may be true of certain extravagant models, but there are incredibly comfortable options across the price spectrum. Therefore, choosing the right mattress shouldn’t be an issue, even if you’re on a tight budget. Despite their accessible price points, these beds offer quality-material construction and robust performance.

Below are our picks for the title of best kind of mattress that’s both comfortable and affordable. This “best mattress to buy for under £250” list includes:

  • Emma Essential Foam Mattress—a low-cost version of the award-winning Emma Original. The Emma Essential is an all-foam one, featuring breathable and supportive layers. This medium-firm mattress will cost you just £159.
  • Eve Lighter Mattress—a cheaper alternative to the Eve mattress. Aiming for simplicity and comfort, the Eve Sleep company makes this affordable model from quality two-layer foam. You can acquire an Eve Lighter Mattress for £194.
  • Dormeo Memory Classic—a 14cm deep mattress with a 12cm ecocell foam layer, a 2cm memory foam layer and a carbon fibre-enriched cover. This budget-friendly mattress will set you back just £149.99.

Putting the Matter to Bed

As you can see, buying a used mattress has its pros and cons. However, if this is your only option at the moment, choose wisely and remember that in the right circumstances, it can save you money and be an excellent short-term solution.

Buying a second hand mattress is a good option for a guest bedroom, too. However, before you opt for a pre-owned bed, make sure that it’s been lightly used and doesn’t have any holes for creepy-crawlies to hide in.

Frequently Asked Questions And Their Answers

How do you clean a used mattress?

Use a sanitary antibacterial household cleaner to wipe the surface, as this will kill any germs. Then leave the mattress out in the sun to dry for at least a full day. This disinfects the mattress, destroys the rest of the bacteria and prevents mould from developing. After this, there shouldn’t be anything left alive in it, not even microscopic.

What do you do with a used mattress?

  • When buying a new mattress, choose a seller that will take your old one.
  • If it’s in good shape, donate your mattress.
  • Recycle it.
  • Sell it online.
  • Reuse/repurpose it.

Is it weird to buy a used mattress?

No, there are situations where it can be a good decision:

  • You’re buying it from someone you know.
  • You’re on a tight budget.
  • It’s for a guest bedroom.

How can you make a used mattress safe?

If it’s in good condition, you can take certain measures to make it safe. First, vacuum and wipe off all the dirt so that you can make sure it doesn’t trigger any dust allergies you might have, for example. Cleaning it with white vinegar is advised for removing any mould. And finally—expose it to sunlight, since the UV rays will kill any bacteria.

How long are mattresses good for?

Depending on the construction materials, a mattress can last for 5-7 years if it’s a coil spring or 10-20 years in the case of a memory foam one.

ABOUT AUTHOR

I'm an interior architect by education with a tendency for content writing and research. Whenever I’m waiting for the engine to finish rendering my model, I love reading and researching on a wide variety of topics. I especially love writing content that is backed up by thorough research and relevant data. Given my engineering background, I'm more for the empirical data, not the "I couldn’t help but wonder..." vibe. When I'm not busy writing or drawing, you can find me hiking with my beagle or binge-watching in my bed. There is no in-between.

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