Cutting open a pillowtop spring mattress and removing the padding

Is this feasible? I’ve seen some instructions for doing it online, but that doesn’t mean they’ll actually work right.

Assuming I have a topper, what would be the minimal amount of effort required to “put things back together again”? If I cut the top of the mattress case, could I simply remove the degraded pillowtop padding and place the topper above it, then simply wrap it up in sheets again? Will the springs of the mattress become unaligned or anything? Or do I need to sew something back on top of the mattress before placing a topper on it?

The mattress isn’t very old, so I’m guessing that only the padding on top is worn down and the springs are fine.


Before you consider mattress surgery it may be worth reading post #4 here which may be helpful just in case there are other ways that may solve any issues you may be having with your mattress.

As an alternative to disposing of a mattress that is no longer working for you it’s certainly feasible … and can also be very educational and fun, but of course it would be a last resort if there are no other alternatives that would work for you.

It would be helpful to first decide on the overall “surgery” approach or plan (which parts of the pillowtop mattress you want to open up) depending on whether you know what materials or layers that are inside each part of the mattress (the foam above the innersprings or the foam or fibers in the pillowtop itself). Do you have any information about what is inside the pillowtop and what type of padding is used between the springs and the pillowtop?

You can see a little more about a typical pillowtop construction in this video and in this video and this video but there are different ways a pillowtop can be attached to the mattress (staples into foam, hog rings on the springs, or sometimes no internal attachment at all) depending on the construction so it can vary with each mattress. You will find out the specifics as you start “exploring” inside the mattress.

Once you have your “plan” then the first step would be taking apart the parts of the mattress you want to “rebuild” and looking inside to assess which layers may be softening or failing. A pillowtop will generally have a separate “compartment” with foam or fibers in the pillowtop itself and additional foam layers (which may also be lower quality or failing) underneath the pillowtop itself. The layers closest to the top of the mattress (which would be the pillowtop) or any layers that are lower quality in any of the layers above the springs could be the cause of any issues on the mattress.

If you are looking to remove the entire pillowtop then you could use a seam ripper to remove the tape edging between the bottom of the pillowtop and the side panels. You may also need to cut the flange that attaches the pillowtop to the mattress (or remove the staples or hog rings). This would give you access to the layers under the pillowtop.

If you want to only remove the foam layers in the pillowtop itself then you could use the seam ripper to remove the tape edging on the top of the pillowtop itself which would give you access to the materials inside the pillowtop itself and remove the top quilting panel. You may or may not want to re-use the quilting panel on top of any foam you replace inside the pillowtop or the mattress (depending on the thickness of the quilting panel or the materials inside it).

When you have opened up the sections of the mattress you want to explore and assessed and replaced the layers and components that you want to replace, then it’s time to decide on how to finish your rebuilt mattress. If you replaced the foam or fiber inside the pillowtop itself you could use velcro strips to attach the quilting panel on top to give it better shape and attach the side of the pillowtop to the top of the mattress or you could hand sew it back on top. I would make sure that the new design is working well before you do any hand sewing in case you want to experiment with different layers. If you don’t want to reuse the quilting panel (because it’s part of the problem with the mattress) then you could just use your mattress protector and sheets to re-cover the top of the mattress although it won’t have a finished “shape” that looks professional or keeps the pillowtop foam layer inside the pillowtop compartment as well. You could also hand sew a good quality fabric over the new foam to attach it to the sides of the pillowtop to help the pillowtop keep its shape. If you are removing the pillowtop completely and turning it into a “smooth top” mattress you could use the same methods or buy a new zip cover that was the right size and thickness and the type you preferred to recover the mattress.

There are several threads on the forum that discuss mattress surgery including some with pictures posted by westcoaster (here) and by Annmarie (here and here and here in the order of “progression”) and by Nat (here) and by brittany741 here (who did surgery on a Tempurpedic Celebrity) and by litsleeper here (with no pictures but a good outcome).

There are some great instructions for cutting or gluing foam layers in post #3 here and some additional posts with more comments and pictures about cutting foam in post #19 here and post #1 here.

Post #2 here also has some information about removing glued layers.

Some of the better online sources for mattress materials and components I’m aware of are also listed in the component post here.

There are also some mattress surgery threads in another forum here that may also be helpful.

It may also be worth considering having your mattress professionally rebuilt if there is a local manufacturer near you that will do this. This would allow you to finish the mattress more professionally with new tape edging rather than velcro or hand sewing or using a protector or sheets to cover the new layers which won’t fit as tightly around your new mattress and keep it’s shape as well as either a new cover or a professionally rebuilt mattress.

It may take some trial and error to find the layering which works best for you but it can certainly be a worthwhile project for those who are inclined towards DIY projects :slight_smile:


Thanks, that was more information than I expected. And I’m honestly surprised that it sounds so doable. Still figuring out what I’ll attempt, but if I do mattress surgery I’ll post about my experiences and the result.


If you approach mattress surgery with a “spirit of adventure” and are OK with some trial and error in terms of which materials and layers will be a good “match” for you in terms of PPP it can be a great project and of course if the core of your mattress or any of the layers are still in good condition it can save you a considerable amount over a new mattress.

I for one would love to see some pictures and add your “mattress surgery” experiences to the forum if you decide to take it on :slight_smile:


Ok, the prospect of another 5-6 hours of bad sleep made me want to mangle my mattress. So I did! It worked out well, and it only took about an hour to do.

I wasn’t intending to take pictures at first (just wanted to get it done), so I didn’t take any of the start. I had read westcoaster’s post beforehand, and things were roughly similar. I used some small scissors to cut into a corner to investigate the comfort layer configuration. There were 3 layers of padding, and two could be simply lifted up (the 2nd was trivially stapled to the 3rd only on the corners). Once I figured out where to cut, I grabbed a knife and sawed the top off.

The third layer of foam was glued onto a foam boundary that surrounded the springs (so it ran along the outside edge of the mattress). I didn’t expect that, but looking more closely at westcoaster’s pictures, he may have had a similar situation. I cut a slit into the foam along where it was glued together to investigate. That’s where my first picture starts.

I felt that foam and it was obviously degrading in the center of the mattress, so I cut around where it was glued (careful not to puncture the “sack” the springs were in) to remove it as well. So that left the spring sack, or whatever it is called, fully exposed. After that, I had to remove a ton of staples on the side foam to prevent any accidental stabbings of my sheets/topper, then I tossed my 3" 19 ILD dreamfoam bedding latex topper on it. Feels comfy when I tested it, but I won’t know for sure until I sleep on it tonight.

Is it safe to put the topper directly on the springs? It has a fairly thick fabric on the bottom, but would the spring pressure degrade the topper at all (like punch rings into it) over time?

Also sorry for blurriness on the first couple pictures, camera was too close.


Thanks for the pictures … I appreciate it :slight_smile:

The foam around the springs has several different names but it’s usually called a foam encasement or a foam surround.

Your pocket coils appear to have a high enough coil count and they are also nested (vs parallel) so there are only small “gaps” between them which along with the fabric pockets means you should be fine.

With smaller coil counts and bigger gaps or spaces a manufacturer will often use a layer of firmer polyfoam to protect the foam above the coils (or sometimes to firm up the coils) but it doesn’t look necessary for your mattress to me.


Please post a review…very interesting.

It’s working fine so far, although it looks a bit… rough… without a sheet on. If you want to do this the easy way, definitely have some kind of topper ready to toss on it the day you do it. One thing to watch out for are any little pieces of foam getting on the bed, cause those really itch if they get pressed against skin. Not very hard to avoid that.

The bed is somewhat firm but waaaay better than before with those dents in the cheap foam. I’m a fan of the latex topper, since I like to lay “on” the mattress (so mostly sinking at pressure points but not much elsewhere) rather than cradled in it. It doesn’t feel jiggly, despite soft talalay being described as that. But the 19 ILD “soft” talalay latex still isn’t what I would call particularly soft (at 140 pounds I doubt even the lowest part of me would bottom out if I laid on only the 3" topper), not necessarily a bad thing but worth noting.

Haven’t had to do anything besides that one hour of cutting my mattress apart (probably half the time cutting, half the time stepping back and wondering if this was really a good idea). Don’t think anything needs to be sewed up or reattached in any way, so much less of a time sink than I anticipated. Overall quite pleased, I’m sleeping a lot better.

This will only help if the springs are still in good condition and the issue is entirely with the cheap foam padding on top, though. If the springs are uneven too then you’re doomed, but I guess this is the only way to find out for sure.


Thanks for the feedback :slight_smile:

It’s great to hear you are sleeping better after your “surgery”

In many cases a “jiggly” feel comes from the deeper layers and firmer latex or innersprings wouldn’t normally have this. As you’ve also experienced even “soft” latex has an unusual combination of softness and firmness that is quite different from other foams.

I’m thrilled that your experiment has been so successful and I hope that you have the chance to share any further “refinements” you decide on.

Out of curiosity … what was the brand and model of your “original” mattress?


It’s a “Canterbury Plush” mattress, which was the cheapest mattress they had at the first local mattress shop I visited (oh my ignorance at the time). It may be this, but the picture isn’t good enough for me to tell if it is.


Thanks :slight_smile: