Educated consumers

About Consumer Education

Consumers are of course the final piece of the puzzle and an important part of “The Mattress Underground”. They are different from the other two parts however in that they are buying a mattress rather than selling it and that they can become a member by simply making a post in our forum. Consumers are the “target” of the sales practices that surround the purchase of a mattress with deceptive tactics, poor quality information, and “great sounding” stories. Unfortunately, the lack of good information about the different materials used and the differences in construction too often leads to the purchase of an inappropriate mattress or one that only lasts a few months or a very few years and which is sold at an inflated price. Brand recognition and the stories attached to it have in most cases become the dominant part of a mattress purchase rather than consumer knowledge.

Frequent comments made to customers during the mattress shopping process.

We have often seen comments during mattress shopping similar to those that follow and if you haven’t come across them in your mattress search, you soon will. They include …

“We are selling sleep” in the hopes that this will translate to buying what is “comfortable” in a store without regard to durability or long term suitability.

"This layer (usually buried deep inside your mattress) makes it so much more (fill in the blank such as “breathable” or “durable” or “comfortable”).

“This half-price sale ends tomorrow and because we have only “two more left”, or “one more floor model” I can get you an even better price”.

“This mattress has a 25-year guarantee and you are fully protected if anything goes wrong”

"Buy this now while we still have it and if you don’t like it after a month we will gladly exchange it for another.

“This mattress is endorsed by … (fill in the blank with your favorite expert, celebrity, or organization)” and if it wasn’t any good they wouldn’t be endorsing it.

All of these and dozens more can only be countered with two things … knowledge, and knowing who makes better mattresses and where to find them. In other words, connecting with the other two parts of The Mattress Underground who make “off brands” of much higher quality and value and those who sell them.

Consumers deserve better information, better service, and better value.

This section of our website (The Industry) is about the manufacturers and retailers who make and sell these mattresses and give you the consumer better information, better service, and better value. Knowing who they are and where to find them is just as important as knowing what should be inside your perfect mattress. As a consumer, you also have your very own “mattresses” section of this website which covers everything you may wish to know about choosing your mattress, in any level of depth you may wish to know it. It has “overviews” or buying guides about every area of mattress materials and construction, guidelines for field testing that can produce meaningful information no matter where you choose to buy a mattress, and more detailed pages for those who wish to take their research to greater levels.

Every consumer who looks for greater knowledge, service, and value is already part of The Mattress Underground. Connecting with the retailers and manufacturers who share these values can make your mattress search much simpler and more enjoyable and perhaps even more importantly, one of the most successful major purchases you have ever made.

Is there an industry standard that shows life expectancy of a mattress? Car tires have extensive information stamped on them - even though not many people probably know what it means.
Thanks for your site. It has great “stuff”.

Hi DavidZ,

I wish there was but unfortunately the “major influences” in the industry do not really want that information to be known and do their best to avoid publishing it. The testing processes as well for different mattress materials, especially many polyfoams, often does not reflect real life use.

Part of the reason for this as well is that each type of material comes in a wide variety of different qualities and “formulations” (much like tires) and the industry is far more focused on comfort in the store and lower cost materials and profit margins than they are on durability. The manufacturing methods and ingredients used in foams can also vary a lot and even with the same formulations the foaming process itself can present difficulties and variances in quality on a day to day basis. Most major brands hope that the different warranty lengths will give the impression that certain mattresses will last longer than others however warranties themselves have so many restrictions including what they call “normal” wear and softening that they are mostly meaningless and used as a selling technique more than as a real indication of durability. At least tire warranties give a somewhat relative indication of how long a tire should last but mattress warranties are mostly designed only to impress and “upsell” a consumer.

The most reliable way to tell how long a mattress will last is to know the materials inside it, which layers they are used in, and the mattress construction itself. Even this information is sometimes like pulling teeth when it comes to major manufacturers who will do anything they can to prevent meaningful comparison shopping.

In general terms though … latex is the longest lasting of the foams, followed by memory foam followed by polyfoam (at least in the densities that are normally used). Of course there is a lot of overlap and lower quality memory foam (less than 4 lbs density) or some of the low density polyfoam used by major manufacturers on the top of their mattresses also don’t last long at all … sometimes only months. How a mattress is used and the sleeping (and waking habits) and the weight of the people on them will also make a big difference in their durability (more so than tires). The heavier a person is the more a foam will get stressed.

In addition to this, materials used on the top of a mattress will not generally last as long as materials lower in the mattress.

Assuming that you are talking about high quality materials though … Latex will last the longest of the foams and its not unusual for it to last 15 - 20 years (and in some cases 40 year old single layer latex mattresses are still being used) although the softer layers on top of a mattress or mattress toppers will likely be less than this. Innersprings that are good quality will also be very durable (often 15 + years) and can last longer than the foams above them. Memory foam that is good quality (5 lbs or higher) will often last about 10 - 12 years. The highest quality/density polyfoam (more than about 2.4 lb density) will be about the same or sometimes better . Lower quality polyfoam and memory foam will generally last significantly less. Buckling column gels and other pure gel products should also last a very long time (15+ years). Natural fibers are also very durable and if they are built correctly they can also have a lifespan which is very long and are in the same range as the best materials even though they may compact rather than soften and degrade like foams and so may change their feel and become firmer (or too firm) over time. All of this though is relative to each individual and the numbers may be significantly less in some cases (and sometimes more as well).

The upper layers of a mattress will almost always be the weak link in a mattress and this is the place where it is most important to use the highest quality and most durable materials.

So overall … because there is a wide range of different combinations of materials used in mattresses and how long they last as a “complete mattress” has many variables (see more about the factors involved in durability in this article) … it becomes very frustrating for consumers to get meaningful durability information. Perhaps the best source of information is local manufacturers who actually want people to know this type of information and are more than willing to share it.

I spoke today with several manufacturers for example and one of them has built polyfoam mattresses over innersprings for decades. He does no advertising and because he is almost retired is not so focused on growing and almost all of his business comes from referrals. He will often have someone who asks him to build a mattress “just like his parents got” 15 years ago and is still going strong … and yet he builds his mattresses only using higher quality polyfoam and knows how to build it right. He rarely gets anything returned and if he does he actually honors his warranty rather than finds reasons to avoid it. These are the kind of manufacturers who really know how long certain mattress materials last in real life. Interestingly enough … they will all tell you “horror” stories about what they find when they cut apart the mattresses made by major manufacturers (and many manufacturers do this on a regular basis to see what is inside them). While they may not know every “technical” specification about every foam, their knowledge and experience is probably more accurate than most of the foam testing in the industry.

Thanks for a great question … even if the answer is a little convoluted … much like the mattress industry in general :slight_smile: