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How to buy a mattress in 2021




There are several types of mattresses. There’s no evidence that anyone type is better than another, and one person’s comfort level is another’s recipe for a nightmare, so you need to find one that works for you.

Inner-spring mattresses

Spring Mattresses

With inner-spring mattresses, springs support your body, and layers of padding provide comfort.

The number, shape, and distribution of the springs, the number of turns, and the strength of wire in the springs all influence how much support the mattress gives and how long it will last.

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You can expect to replace an inner-spring mattress every 10-15 years.


Mattresses may have individual springs housed in fabric pockets, a system of springs joined with crosswires, or a continuous coil woven out of a single length of wire.

A layer of natural or synthetic fiber lies over the springs. It prevents you from feeling them and protects the comfort layers.

If you and your partner are very different weights or disturb each other while sleeping, look for a mattress with individual springs to reduce the ripple effect or any roll together.

Another option is a mattress with two continuous coil units side by side, separated by a foam divider.

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Some mattresses provide extra support along the sides of the bed, which may help them last longer. Some provide more support in “zones” where there’s likely to be more pressure, such as around your hips.

Padding/comfort layers

This is the layer between you and the springs. It determines how hard or firm the mattress feels against your body.

The padding might be made up of polyester fiber, wool, polyurethane foam, viscoelastic, or latex. Lower grades of foam break apart more easily and may lose their ability to spring back.

Pillow top

An extra layer of cushioning that molds to the shape of your body.

Outer mattress cover

Cheaper, less durable mattresses will probably have a flat cotton cover. More expensive mattresses tend to have a quilted damask cover. 

The quilting determines the feel of the surface. If the design is small and closes, the bed will feel firmer, while a larger pattern will feel more cushioned.

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Covers on foam mattresses are often removable for washing. Some manufacturers claim its outer fabrics have properties that help disperse heat and moisture.

Looking after your inner-spring mattress 

Manufacturers recommend flipping and turning it regularly to prolong its life and flatten out indentations. However, many people will find it too much of a hassle or too heavy to lift.

Single-sided mattresses don’t need flipping but should be turned head to foot several times a year. At the least, you should regularly air the mattress (at least weekly) and vacuum it from time to time.

Use a mattress protector to keep it clean.


When flipping your mattress, don’t use the handles at the side to support its full weight – they may pull out. They’re intended for repositioning the mattress.



Futons are versatile. Some can be folded up for use as seating, then unfolded for a bed. The cheapest futons are filled with layers of cotton wadding and provide a relatively hard sleeping surface. Futons with alternating layers of wool and possibly latex provide more comfort.

You’ll need to keep the fillings well ventilated and fluffed up, and futons should be aired and turned weekly to avoid mildew.

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Futons should only be used on a flat slat base of unvarnished wood (varnished slats don’t allow moisture to escape). You can expect to replace a futon every 5-8 years.

Memory foam mattresses

Memory foam mattresses

These mattresses are topped with a layer of temperature-sensitive viscoelastic material or memory foam. The most well-known is Tempur, a material originally developed by NASA.

As it’s a type of foam, you should sink into it and feel your weight absorbed. This takes the pressure off your joints and increases circulation.

It’s sensitive to heat and, because it molds to your body, memory foam helps you “sleep warm”.

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The greater the foam density, the greater the durability. You can expect a good-quality memory foam mattress to last at least 15 years.

Latex foam mattresses

Latex foam mattresses

Natural latex mattresses use rubber, a renewable resource from plantations.

Some brands also claim to be good for allergy sufferers as they harbor less dust than other mattress types and have been treated to inhibit the growth of bacteria, mold, and dust mites.

Latex mattresses are heavy, but you don’t need to turn them. You can expect a latex foam mattress to last at least 15 years. Another option is a latex overlay, which can be used with a firm innerspring mattress.

Bed-in-a-box foam mattresses

Online shopping, free delivery, competitive pricing, and a generous trial period (at least 100 days) make bed-in-a-box mattresses a convenient way to buy a mattress.

These mattresses are made up of 2 or 3 different foam layers (usually a high-density polyurethane foam core with outer layers of gel-infused foam, latex foam, or memory foam). Packaged vacuum-sealed, they can be transported straight from the warehouse to your door.

Bed-in-a-box mattresses generally only offer one comfort level (there’s no choice between soft or firm).

When we tested bed-in-a-box mattresses compared with an inner-spring mattress, we found the main difference was how firmness changed over time.

The inner-spring mattress became firmer, while foam mattresses became softer.

This was down to the different materials  – foam softens, while metal springs get stiffer. A bed-in-a-box mattress should last at least 10 years before needing to be replaced.

If you’re not happy with your bed-in-a-box during the trial period, the retailer will collect it for free.

Terms and conditions vary between companies, and you’ll usually need to own the mattress for a set period of time before returning it.

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Last update on 2021-03-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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