Are You Sure Your Mattress is New?

Buying a mattress can be quite an experience. There are so many factors to consider - soft or firm, queen or king, pillow top or plain, new or used? Used? Most people assume that when they purchase a mattress it's always new. According to the Federal Trade Commission, in most parts of the country, used mattresses can be resold, as long as they meet certain labeling and processing requirements.

The best way to tell if you are buying new or used is to look at the label attached to the mattress. New mattresses usually will have a white tag attached to it that indicates that the mattress contains all "new materials." Depending on the state, used mattresses may contain a tag, sometimes red or yellow in color that warns that the mattress contains used materials. Federal law requires that any mattress that contains used stuffing bear a tag or label with that information. If you do not see any tag, consider doing business with another retailer. 

Not all states have labeling requirements for the sale of used mattresses, and for those that do, the requirements can vary. For example, in many places, old mattresses that have been recovered with new ticking (strong, tightly woven cotton or linen fabric) can be sold as long as they are sanitized or disinfected in some way before sale. In other states, only certain parts of mattresses, such as the springs, can be reused. These rules apply to traditional retailers as well as to thrift, secondhand and consignment shops.

To be sure you are satisfied with your mattress purchase, the Better Business Bureau, along with the Federal Trade Commission offer the following tips when shopping:

  • Shop around. Mattress prices and quality can vary greatly.
  • Ask if the retailer sells used bedding. If so, and you want a new mattress, make sure your mattress has a "new" mattress tag.
  • Make sure you look at the tag on the actual mattress you're buying, either before you leave the store or before the delivery person leaves your house. Don't let the heavy plastic wrapping stop you from looking for and at the tag.
  • Ask the retailer to write "new" on your sales receipt if you have been told you are buying a new mattress. If it turns out that the mattress is used, you will have stronger recourse.
  • Avoid retailers with mattresses that do not carry tags. There is no way for you to tell what you are getting, regardless of what the sales person claims.
  • Ask about the retailer's return and refund policies, and get copies in writing.

The agency that regulates mattress labeling varies by state. To find out what the bedding laws are in your state, contact the State Department of Health.