8 Reasons You Shouldn’t Buy a Used Mattress

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risks of buying used mattress

Buying a used mattress may seem tempting. After all, it’s not uncommon to find second-hand mattresses at a fraction of what you could pay for a new one, on Facebook marketplace or Gumtree. But…when you buy a used mattress, you risk inheriting bed bugs, mold, dust mites, bodily fluids, and other allergens.

Going frugal on something that you’re going to sleep on for 8 hours a night for the foreseeable future might not be the smartest decision. That said, if you know the previous owner, or it’s coming from a family or friend, going the second-hand route may not be a bad idea (more on that later).

Here are 8 reasons why you should think twice before buying a second-hand mattress:

Risks With Buying Used Mattresses

1) Sanitation & Health Risks

Mattresses are notorious for being a smorgasbord of sweat, dead skin cells, and other bodily fluids, making ideal bacterial, fungal or mold growth conditions. With an average adult shedding close to 4 kg of dead skin cells a year, a mattress absorbs much of that – not to mention intimate fluids. Mattresses are hardly known for being an easily and regularly cleaned item, which opens you up to sleeping on unknown gunk.

All the accumulated allergens or mites lurking in a used mattress may cause skin irritation, respiratory problems and other health issues. The worst part is that it’s very difficult to tell if a mattress is clean just by looking at it.

2) Bed Bugs & Dust Mites

One of the most common creepy-crawlies that may come along with a used mattress are bed bugs. And once they’re in your home, they can quickly spread to other furniture and surfaces. Bed bugs are small, reddish-brown insects that feed on human blood – and they’re not exactly easy to get rid of. If you see small brown spots on the mattress cover, it might be a sign that it’s infested with bed bugs.

Dust mites are also common findings in used mattresses, especially those in storage for a long time. Unlike bed bugs, dust mites don’t bite, but may cause respiratory problems for people with asthma or allergies.

3) Shorter life span.

The lifespan of an average mattress is eight years, provided it’s well-maintained. If the mattress is already 4 to 5 years old, you won’t get much longer out of it.

4) Associated costs.

Once you’re done using the mattress, or if it’s past its prime, you’ll have to get rid of it. However, disposing of a mattress isn’t easy and may come at an additional cost. You may have to pay for professional mattress removal, potentially setting you back a few hundred dollars.

5) Compromised comfort.

Mattresses are a matter of personal preference, and there is no single type that is perfect for everyone. When you buy a used mattress, you don’t know if you will like the feel, firmness, or if it would be supportive enough for your needs.

6) Warranty is void.

Mattress warranties are mostly not transferable to a new owner, so the warranty becomes void. If there is a manufacturing defect, you’re in tough luck and will have to deal with the repairs or replacement out of pocket.

7) You can’t return it.

Unlike new mattresses, which come with sleep trial periods, once you buy a used mattress, it’s final. You can’t return it if you don’t like it, or if there are any issues.

8) Arrange your delivery or pick it yourself.

Mattresses are heavy items and can be difficult to transport, especially if you don’t have a truck. While it’s possible to transport the mattress in a car (read our guide), it certainly adds to the hassle.

On the other hand, most online mattress companies ship the mattress for free nationwide. So do add the transportation cost to the final price when considering a used mattress, to see if you’re getting a deal or not.

Buying a used mattress infographics

Consider investing in a budget mattress.

You can get a decent budget mattress in the $300 to $600 range delivered for free right to your doorstep with a full warranty and, in many cases, with a sleep trial. You can check our guide to the best budget mattresses in Australia for more options. Most online mattress brands also offer interest-free payment plans, which make the purchase more affordable.

Is it illegal to sell used mattresses in Australia?

The answer is NO. It’s legal to buy or sell second hand mattresses in Australia. However, the general laws for selling used goods require proper cleaning and sanitising of the mattress and disclosing any faults, damage or defects.

When is it ok to buy a used mattress?

As mentioned before, the cons of buying a second-hand mattress outweigh the pros. However, if you still want to go ahead with it, here are a few safer options.

1) Buy from family, friends or colleagues: Try to buy from someone you know. This is the best way to ensure that the mattress is clean, hygienic and you know its history.

2) Rejuvenated or refurbished mattresses: Some bed-in-box brands resell mattresses that customers returned within the sleep trial period at a steep discount. Usually, the returned mattresses are donated to charities or sent directly to landfills, which is quite a loss for the mattress brands. By selling almost brand new beds at a discounted rate, they can give the mattress a second life while also recouping some cost, and customers get a great deal.

In Australia, Ecosa, Emma, and Koala are a few brands that indirectly sell rejuvenated mattresses.

Avoid second-hand marketplaces: As mentioned before, many risks are associated with buying a used mattress from an unknown source. So it’s best to avoid marketplaces like eBay, Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree.

Tips to remember when buying a pre-owned mattress

If purchasing a used mattress, there are a handful of things to consider. The simplest approach is to treat the purchase like you’re buying new; ensure you’re looking at mattresses that are the correct size and made of the material that will work for your needs. Consider our recommended guide to help you determine the mattress that’s right for you. You’ll also want to check for overall condition and cleanliness.

1) First Look

Inspect the mattress to check for any obvious surface stains or damages beyond repair. Remember that any tears or holes leave an easy entry for any critters or pests that can call the mattress home. If you notice any large stains, pay attention, as this indicates the mattress was not well maintained, and may have bigger interior damage such as mold. Similarly, if you see small rusty or browning spots on the mattress, it may indicate bedbugs.

2) Sniff Test

It may not seem like a pleasant option, but you intend to bring this mattress home and sleep on it, so get close and take a strong whiff. You’re checking for any stale or pungent odours that might be difficult to remove, like mildew, smoke, or pet dander. If you notice any of these smells, it’s best to pass on the mattress and keep looking.

Mildew or mold indicates the mattress was exposed to excessive moisture, and likely not stored correctly. While the surface stains can be cleaned, the smell will linger if it’s made its way into the foam layers.

3) Listen

If the mattress you’re looking to purchase is an innerspring mattress, listen to the springs as pressure is applied and released. If the mattress seems extra noisy or you hear any grating or snapping, it’s an indicator that the coils are broken or damaged by rust. A rusty innerspring is unhygienic, and may not offer the proper support.

4) Price

The cost of a used mattress depends on its age, material, and overall condition, but paying anything more than 20% to 30% of the original price isn’t worth it.

Tips to remember when buying a pre-owned mattress

Once the sale is complete and you’re ready to bring your new (used) mattress home, there are a few steps you want to take before dozing off.

1) Disinfect and clean the mattress: Even if the seller indicated the mattress was clean before the sale, ensure peace of mind by following a mattress cleaning guide.

2) Get a mattress protector: As an extra precaution, purchase a mattress protector, which will put an additional barrier between you and your used mattress.

3) Add a mattress topper: For extra comfort, consider adding a mattress topper to supplement any lack of cushion based on the age of the mattress.

Wrapping Up

All in all, buying a used mattress isn’t worth the risk unless you’re buying from a known person or a refurbished one from a known brand. There are just too many potential variables – from bedbugs and dust mites to a shorter lifespan. If you’re on a tight budget, consider investing in a budget mattress instead.

James Lee

James Lee

James is the content director at WhatASleep, a certified sleep science coach from Spencer Institute and our in-house sleep product expert. Over three years, he's personally tested hundreds of mattresses. He likes to keep his reviews simple, objective, and straightforward so that the readers don't have to go through decision fatigue which is often the case while shopping for sleep products.

He hails from Sydney and has a journalism degree from the University of Queensland and an MBA from Melbourne Business School.

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