Mattress Buying Guide (and 2019 Checklist)

Can’t stand your mattress?
Yup, it’s time to let it go.

Your worn-out mattress is no longer comfortable it forms a dip’ when you lie on it.

Tired of sleeping on a sagging mattress
CC image courtesy of B Rosen on Flickr

You have recurring back pain, and your partner isn’t happy with the sleep interruptions caused by your restlessness.

But don’t worry; read on, this mattress buying guide includes answers to some of the questions that may be bothering you. It also features a comprehensive checklist.

I’ll keep things simple so that you are well-informed before you commit to buying another one.

So, let’s start:

According to National Sleep Foundation, and other experts, most mattresses serve you well for around 8 years. The years decrease as you get older preferably over 40 years.


Will a mattress topper help a sagging mattress?

A mattress topper works well on a mattress that isn’t sagging. The main function of good mattress topper is to make a hard mattress comfortable to sleep on.  It may provide you with some short-lived comfort as you save for a new mattress but it isn’t the solution.

And that leaves you wondering:

Can mattresses be thrown away?

Yes, mattresses can be thrown away.Most states have guidelines for collection. You may be required to put your mattress in a disposal bag and place it near the garbage.

Mattress ready for collection
CC image courtesy of Alan Stanton on Flickr

Or alert the relevant authorities (recycling organizations) near you for the pickup, which may include a small fee.

It would be wise to check your state’s official website for more information because one false move could lead to an unnecessary fine.

Most sites have this information in the environment section.

You can also donate the mattress for reuse if it’s still in good condition and is without bugs. Or shift it to your guest room if the mattress isn’t old and hope that it won’t interfere with your guest’s comfort.

Did you know? The City of New York requires its residents to seal their mattresses in plastic bags for disposal. This move that aims to control the spread of bedbugs may lead to a $100 fine if not followed.

Are mattresses recyclable?

Yes, most mattresses are recyclable because of their compositions. Recycling organizations and state-run programs make this possible by providing disassembling services.

 sign used by mattress recycling organization

The separated parts that may include mattress foam, steel inner-springs, and fabrics are then used to manufacture other products.

For example:

Fabrics and steel inner-springs parts can be recycled into padding materials and new steel springs for use elsewhere.

Did you know? The Commonwealth of Massachusetts receives more than 500,000 mattresses for disposal annually. Disposing of these mattresses can be a costly affair. And that is why recycling works well for this state and the environment.

So, you have disposed of the mattress and are shopping for another one.

And you’ve opted for online buying this time around because you’ve realized:

  • Most online retailers provide a variety of options. You can find major brands here.
  • Some stores include good return and refund policies that make the whole online experience worthwhile. Some also include a trial period for testing the mattress at the comfort of your home.
  • The online stores offer fair prices compared to their offline counterparts. Some also offer free shipping on different products.
  • You can shop at your convenience without the interference of salespeople. And get the best mattress reviews too at your fingertips.

What should you consider?

Mattress Buying Checklist: Factors to consider before buying a mattress

You should consider:

1. Price of the mattress

Well, this is a no-brainer. The good thing is the prices of mattresses vary from the budget-friendly to the luxury brands. You can get one for less than a $100 to over $2000.

money to buy a mattress

Just remember, you get what you pay for.

A mattress should be an investment in your health because you spend a third of your life on it. So, if you can afford, get a good one regardless of the price.

You don’t want to end up complaining of body aches three months after your purchase. And then waste time and money shopping for another one.

2. Lifestyle, body weight, and height 

Body weight

This essential point shouldn’t be ignored. Your body weight should matter when it comes to choosing a mattress especially if you are heavy.

 You don’t think so?……

Yes, you do. You tend to sink-in in some mattresses because of the weight. You may have to look for mattresses with solid support bases that can accommodate you comfortably.

Most mattress companies will include the sustainable weights that their mattresses can support in their descriptions.

Find out from the retailers in case you aren’t sure or the information isn’t visible before you commit.

Height- Your legs should also find comfort in your bed just like the rest of your body. Remember, the lowest parts of the legs support the most body weight.

feet on a mattress

So your height shouldn’t hinder you from getting a mattress that can support you well. Most companies have mattresses that accommodate tall individuals.


Do you share the bed with someone? Are you allergic to something? What are you and your partner’s (if any) preferences when it comes to mattresses? Do you have health issues? Are you young, old or middle-aged?

These are some of the questions that you should answer before you commit to buy a mattress. It would be wise to consult your doctor first if you have health issues.

Your answers should also factor in both body weight and height so that you make the right choice.

And this leads to the next important point:

3. The different types of mattresses

We cannot ignore how the sleep product industry has evolved over the years. Not to mention the one-stop stores that most manufacturers have created to suit the needs of different buyers.

You may have realized that some of these companies make mattresses or get some parts from countries outside the USA.

Should you be worried? Well, as per these manufacturers their branches/ factories follow the standards set by the relevant authorities in the USA.

With this in mind, buy a mattress from a reputable company. Well-known companies provide detailed explanations of their manufacturing activities on their sites.

One more thing…….

Consider your foundation too (if any). Not all mattresses work well on adjustable beds.

So what are the popular types of mattresses?

Innerspring mattresses 

As the name suggests, these types of mattresses feature springs (mostly steel coils). The mattresses have been around for a while, and most people still consider them to be amongst the most comfortable.

innerspring mattress
CC image courtesy of PhyIG on Flickr

And great for edge support because of their steel encasement frames.

Innerspring designs have evolved over the years to include different levels of comfort and support.

You can find pocketed springs mattresses here, which feature individual springs encased in fabrics.

These springs work alone. And react fast to movement thus contouring effectively, which makes them ideal for back sleepers.

A good innerspring mattress can last up to 8 years.

Memory foam mattresses

According to NASA, at the beginning memory foam were made to cushion astronauts in space. They constituted of chemicals and NASA researched materials.

The foam became popular later on after they were used in making beds, mattresses, sofas, and even shoes.

A memory foam mattress contours to your body giving you relief from pressure point aches. A good one helps in keeping your spine aligned. And because it has hypoallergenic properties, this mattress is great for people with allergies.

The downside of these types of mattresses is, they can give off odor at the beginning. The odor dissipates after a while. And they tend to retain the temperature of their environment. What this means is the mattress can heat up while you are sleeping and cool when not in use.

It may get uncomfortable for those who sweat at night because the heat may transfer to the mattresses.

On the other hand, their cousins the Gel memory foam mattresses keep the surface cool and comfortable because they include layers of gel.

If you are transitioning to these types of mattresses, then give them time (two weeks) before you write them off. In most cases, they will feel different from your previous one.

The mattresses should be placed in their intended spaces when unpacked because they get heavy and difficult to move without handles.

memory foam mattress
CC image courtesy of gm.esthermax on Flickr

Are memory mattresses safe? Are they toxic?

Now, there has been a concern on the level of toxic gases that these types of mattresses emit because of their composition. Some toxicologists believe that the levels are not dangerous for humans but environmental watchdogs think otherwise.

This concern led to the creation of a certification program that involved relevant stakeholders. It included the environmentalists and scientists.

The program’s name is CertiPUR-US. It features a process that tests foam products for emissions, performance, and durability.

So a memory foam mattress that features the CertiPUR-US seal doesn’t contain ozone depleters and flame retardants. The foam has low volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions for indoor use.

In other words, the mattress is ok.

For these reasons, buy a certified foam mattress that also meets the requirements of federal flammability tests.

Remember, most mattress companies include other ingredients too. Try to research their foam make-up.

A good memory foam or gel foam mattress should last up to 10 years.

Hybrid mattresses

 These popular mattresses feature a variety of materials with a combination of foam and innerspring being the most liked.

Hybrid mattress
CC image courtesy of Daniel Max on Flickr. Hybrid

The advantages of good hybrid mattresses are:

  • You can use them for most sleeping positions because they offer comfort and support.
  • They are great for pressure point relief.
  • They cause little disturbances when there is movement.
  • Gel foam hybrid mattresses also stay cool.

Natural Latex Mattresses 

Now the price of these mattresses falls on the higher side. If you can’t handle the smell of foam mattresses and you aren’t convinced of the toxicity levels, then try these mattresses.

Latex mattresses are breathable, and resistant to bugs because of their makeup. They feature natural, eco-friendly substances from rubber trees.

Good latex mattresses provide you with better comfort and support than other foam mattresses. The mattresses also reduce the transfer of motion, which results in fewer sleep disturbances.

You can choose either a Dunlop latex or Talalay latex foam mattress for your needs. Dunlop tends to be denser than Talalay because in most cases it constitutes of 100% rubber.

latex mattress
CC image courtesy of Chadmagiera on Flickr

Talalay often includes a mixture of synthetic foam, which makes it lighter than Dunlop but not as durable.

And because of its composition and aeration properties, a Talalay mattress is usually expensive than a Dunlop. You can find a queen Talalay retailing at even more than a $1000.

Look for a Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) certified mattress if you’re skeptical about the manufacturing process and its effect on the environment.

A well-maintained latex mattress can last you 12 years.

Air beds/ Air mattresses

In case you have guests, and you’re tight on space, then get air beds. These are mattresses made of mostly PVC and other foam materials for comfort. Some mattresses may include air pocket systems and coils for extra support.

So how do air beds work? Their structures are either inflated or deflated using air pumps. Some air beds feature built-in pumps together with the power cables while others use detached pumps.

Air mattresses with built-in pumps usually include control buttons that make inflating and deflating easy. Detached hand and electric pumps don’t take long either.


The air beds come in standard sizes just like other mattresses, and they work well with bedding. You can use well-made cotton polyester covers and microfiber sheets on these mattresses.

One notable selling point that most retailers use is the height. The most popular are:

  • Standard air beds- which are around 8 inches high and above. They are lightweight, portable and foldable when not in use. These air beds are great for small spaces.
  • Mid-rise air beds- These mattresses have a height of 9 inches to around 13 inches. They provide comfort because they consist of strong structures that work on different surfaces.
  • Elevated air beds- These mattresses that have heights of above 15 inches provide you with luxurious comfort. Their prices tend to be higher than the standard and mid-rise air beds.

When shopping for air-bed, read reviews on the seams just to be sure. An air-bed with bursting seams will leak air and create discomfort.

A durable air-bed that has well-made seams has a life-span of close to a year.


In case you prefer extra comfort, then buy a pillow top or plush mattress. Pillow top mattresses feature top layers of paddings while plush mattresses include soft layers in their construction for cloud-like comfort.

4. Size of the mattress

All the mentioned mattresses come in different sizes.
So what size should you get?
You have to be sure about the dimensions and room space especially if you want to change the size from your previous one.

Some retailers/ companies offer customization services, find out in case the size you want isn’t featured on their sites.

Let’s look at the standard sizes that you can find on the market:

Twin size– This is a good mattress for individuals with small spaces and also for toddlers transitioning from crib mattresses. Most single mattresses measure around 39 inches by 75 inches. Their counterparts the Twin XL mattresses are longer and can fit most adults (individuals) comfortably.

Twin mattress
CC image courtesy of SupportPDX on Flickr. Twin mattress

Full size (double mattress) – These mattresses are longer and wider than the twin mattresses. They provide comfort and support for individual adults who move around in their sleep.

The mattresses measure around 54 inches by 80 inches long.

Queen size– These are amongst the best mattresses for couples. They measure around 60 inches by 80 inches long. This means they are large enough and are a good fit for most bedrooms.                         

King size– These mattresses are the most comfortable for couples. They measure around 76 inches wide by 80 inches long making them larger than other sizes. And expensive too.

California King size- These mattresses that measure around 72 inches wide by 84 inches long are great for tall adults. Your toes won’t feel left out on these mattresses.

Queen mattress
CC image courtesy of Pnoerick on Flickr. Queen mattress

So, you now know the size and type you want. But what about thickness, does it matter?

Yup, it does……….

5. Mattress thickness and sleeping position

Your sleeping position and thickness (feel) should go hand in hand. Most retailers (especially memory foam) include the thickness in inches for their descriptions.

thickness mattress inches

A soft mattress will have a thickness close to 10 inches while a firm one will be probably closer to 5 inches.

If you happen to sleep on your side or stomach, invest in a soft to a medium-firm mattress that will contour to your body. And keep your spine comfortable. The best choice for a back sleeper would be a firm one that moves the pressure away from the spine and reduces back pains.

Now, how will a mattress be stable without a good foundation?

Don’t forget to get a foundation too if you don’t have one.

6. Mattress Accessories (Frames, Foundations, Adjustable bases)

Would you need a box spring?

Well, if you enjoy extra support then get a box spring. Remember bases including foundations, box springs and bed frames help in maintenance. If you expect your mattress to last you a while give it the support that will keep it intact throughout.

adjustable base for a mattress
CC image courtesy of Daniel Max on Flickr. Adjustable base

So, should you look for a compatible mattress for your adjustable base?


You have to look for an adjustable one. Ideally, foam mattresses tend to be great for these types of bases. Most retailers include the adjustable feature in their foldable mattress descriptions.

You should also consider the following accessories in case you don’t have them already.

They include:

The type of sheets  and bedding that can keep you comfortable.

Pillows- There are a variety of pillows on the market. You can opt for the standard pillows or get good body pillows that can give you extra comfort.

Mattress Pads, Mattress Toppers These can help you cushion hard mattresses for comfort. And also create a cool surface on a mattress that heats up when you sleep.

Mattress protector
CC image courtesy of Thesleepjudge on Flickr. Mattress protector

Mattress Protectors- These protect your mattress from spills, bed bugs, urine, dust mites, and other allergens.

Last but not least:

Look for fair return policies and warranties before making the final decision. Try to understand the shipping process that the retailer uses.

Remember, most of them send their products during business working days.

So you may have to wait longer to receive the mattress if you live in another state.

The good thing is, most mattresses require less maintenance because of their weights and the manufacturing process used. You may have to rotate the mattress after some months if you believe this will keep it fresh.

Please read the CARE instructions before cleaning or ask the retailers for more information.

Otherwise, you can just let it be while you enjoy its benefits.


A comfortable sleep environment should be your focus because it affects your health. Get the right mattress that fits your preferences and suits your lifestyle. But before you do that, consider all the factors mentioned in the checklist.

Remember a good one should maintain the right temperature. And enable you to move and relieve pressure point aches.

You should also consider getting comfortable bedclothes, sleepwear, and bedroom furniture to complement your room and lifestyle.

Don’t you think so?

Featured image by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Author: Brenda

Brenda Nadi is a proud mama, entrepreneur, and sleep blogger. She creates guides, tips, and reviews of sleep products that make comfortable environments for new buyers.

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