Can I stack two mattresses on top of each other?
September 11, 2017 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Currently I have 1) a very annoying creaky ikea bed frame with slats and a mattress, and 2) an older mattress I was planning to get rid of. Could I just use the older mattress as a pseudo-box spring instead, and put it directly on the floor? The solution doesn't need to last for longer than say a year or so.

Every goddamn time I turn over, the bed frame screams and wobbles. I have disassembled it twice and I know exactly what the problem is (a couple bent sections of hollow tubing), and no fix has lasted longer than a couple months. I'd been planning to try yet another fix, but am currently leaning toward tossing it. I'd like to put off buying a new one until next year sometime, so that means either I put up with the current one until then, or I spend a while without a bed frame.

If I go for option b, I could just put the mattress on the floor. Or get one of those crappy folding wheeled frames for cheap on Craigslist. But I also have an older mattress propped against a wall which I've been meaning to throw out (local law requires I buy a specific cover beforehand, and I keep forgetting). It occurs to me that I could simply stack the mattresses on top of each other and then I wouldn't have to be so low to the ground if I ditch the bed frame. Any reason this is an awful idea?
posted by showbiz_liz to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Any reason this is an awful idea?
Other than your back beginning to protest for reasons yet unknown, no.
posted by Namlit at 11:15 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]

The mattress that's on the floor will not get any ventilation. Can you maybe find some wooden pallets and put those on the floor, and the mattresses on top of that?

The two mattresses together may or may not be be too soft for your liking. One way to find out...
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:21 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]

Try sleeping on it and see how it feels. I once slept on a bed in that setup and it felt oddly wobbly and unstable. It was perfectly safe to sleep on but it threw me awake whenever I rolled over.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:22 AM on September 11

I've heard it said that putting mattresses/box springs directly on the floor can lead to moisture and mold accumulating under it, but having done it myself for years in relatively humid areas have never experienced that.

I don't find regular mattresses as comfortable without a box spring though and having two together might exacerbate the squishy feeling. Unless you require the extra 8-10 inches of height, you can also just put the single mattress on the floor.
posted by Candleman at 11:22 AM on September 11

Putting a mattress directly on the floor can lead to horrible mildew and mold problems. If you're in Arizona, or a super dry climate you might be good, but if you've got reasonable humidity I wouldn't do it (again).

Someone I knew in Seattle also had this when putting a mattress on carpet. They diagnosed the issue by "the cat keeps peeing on one spot on the mattress and this never happened before." I suggested they check out the underside when I heard it was a futon directly on the carpet - vissible mold and cat pee problem answered.
posted by nobeagle at 11:26 AM on September 11

Should also add that I got both mattresses used, and budget permitting I plan to get a new one next year as well.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:27 AM on September 11

My wooden bed frame made noise for years. New box spring, still made noise. Eventually I got one of the folding metal frames with like 6-12 legs that you can buy on eBay for $40-80. It's a tank. No more noise.

I drilled holes in my old head/foot boards to stick them on either end.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 11:33 AM on September 11

I don't think the mattress-as-boxspring will do what you want it to do - it would be taller, yes, but you would have an excessively squishy mattress.

I'd put the mattress on the floor, and then keep an eye on the moisture issue.
posted by mskyle at 11:48 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]

Traditional Australian student share-house solution for this is an array of stolen milk crates lashed together with zip ties. Strong, durable lightweight, firm, well ventilated and quiet.
posted by flabdablet at 11:54 AM on September 11 [23 favorites]

I bought a new mattress when I moved back to NYC at the beginning of this year; I wasn't able to get my bed frame out of storage until mid-summer, so just had the mattress on the floor for ~6 months without issue. I didn't really worry about mold because my NYC apartments have always been extremely dry in the winter (e.g., a nighttime humidifier is essential) and this latest one is no different, and I use an A/C nightly in the summer. It's definitely not something I would have done when I was living in Hawaii, because it was way too humid and I didn't have A/C or heat to even attempt to dry out the place.

You could always prop it up against the wall one Saturday per month or something to allow the bottom of the mattress to air out. If you have asthma or allergies, your risk calculation may be different.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:54 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]

A box spring provides some structure, a mattress is smushy and will not provide much support on its own. When you put a mattress directly on the floor, the floor is providing the structure and support. If you put mattresses on top of each other (princess-and-the-pea-style), there are now two layers of smushiness before you get to any structure.

If you have a spine of steel, I don't see this being a problem. If you have a normal-to-finicky back, you might suffer from not having enough support.
posted by Elly Vortex at 12:22 PM on September 11

You might try a piece of plywood between the two mattresses. It would firm things up considerably.

I actually love flabdablet's milk crate solution, and think that putting the plywood on the crates, with the better of the two mattresses on top would give you a decent, well ventilated, quiet bed.
posted by LaBellaStella at 12:27 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]

Look on Craigslist and find one of these frames used or free. Set up an alert. You'll be glad you did!

Your plan is a bad idea, you'll ruin the better mattress.
posted by jbenben at 12:29 PM on September 11

Look on Craigslist and find one of these frames used or free.

Unfortunately, I just ditched one of those because it was ungodly noisy with any movement. I'm not sure one would help with her issues.
posted by Candleman at 12:35 PM on September 11

Back in the day we used to use a sheet of plywood with six legs screwed into the bottom, or milk crates under the plywood. Milk crates on their sides work fairly nicely for shoe storage compartments, or even for books, but you will need a vacuum cleaner to get the dust out. And of course it is illegal to steal milk crates and unkind to the store you steal them from, but buying crates will make it expensive, If you want to try the plywood with legs you get a set of leg sockets that you screw into the underside of the mattress with short screws so that the leg can be screwed into the socket with a longer screw that is part of the leg and comes out of the top centre.

I would definitely try it and see.

And you know about flipping mattresses, right? You're supposed to flip them every month to ensure even wear and better ventilation and to clean the dust that gets underneath. Of course pillow top mattress can only be rotated, not flipped so if you have a pillow top you're stuck with the ventilation problem.

(I have heard that pillow tops came in because the manufacturers were saving money by not making both sides fire resistant. The bottom side was no longer fire resistant, so the manufacturers passed them off as a benefit to consumers, but it just makes it harder to clean the mattress and less safe and you can't flip them so easily. However, the regulations changed so a modern pillow top mattress is now fire resistant on both sides. It's the older pillow tops that are not.)
posted by Jane the Brown at 12:44 PM on September 11

I did the plywood/milk crate thing in one of my apartments, but since milk crates were either scarce or expensive, I set it up on a bunch of overturned 5-gallon buckets. (I think I had 9 of them for a queen-size mattress with much larger plywood since it's what I could get.) It worked quite well. I even bought the buckets - they were pretty cheap - and I still have some of them in use for other things in my house over a decade later.
posted by dust.wind.dude at 1:26 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

2 mattresses will not actually be comfortable. 1 mattress on the floor is better. Voice of experience. I like the bucket idea. Cat litter comes in square buckets that would work. May try that.
posted by theora55 at 1:46 PM on September 11

putting the plywood on the crates

completely ruins the ventilation, and leaves you with a damp mildewy patch in the middle of the plywood.

Milk crates have quite acceptably rigid bases. Underneath an innerspring, you don't feel them at all.
posted by flabdablet at 1:49 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

This is all great info! I think I'm going to first try making a sandwich of mattress/ikea bed slats/other mattress, and see if that makes it feel more firm and stable. Otherwise I'll go for the single floor mattress.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:32 PM on September 11

UPDATE: yep screw this it's way too squishy
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:09 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]

Former owner of a creaky Ikea platform bed here:

I replaced it last month with this $90 Zinus brand platform bed which I honestly thought would be a piece of junk, and this new bed is rock solid. No creaking or noise. It took a little more work to assemble than something from Ikea would, but presumably that's what makes it sturdy.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:54 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

Two mattresses on top of one another feels like sleeping on a marshmallow. Not in a good way. You end up rolling together with any partner you may have in the trough that forms in the center of this arrangement. Also: expect mysterious lumpiness that foils your attempts to stay out of the trough and makes your neck hurt.

The mattress on the floor idea works better on hard surface floors, but hard or not, being that low down makes it easier for bugs to get in your trailing sheets/covers and join you. Spiders, in particular.

Anything you put on the floor like that is at risk for water damage. I had an apartment flood once and I was lucky that my bed was on a frame. Another time, someone spilled beer on the floor of my bedroom (college) and the box spring I had on the floor at the time soaked it right up. It looked disgusting and I replaced it (on a cheap $60.00 stand) as soon as I could. The cheapo stands, though a bit of a pain to assemble, do creak less than Ikea beds, IME.

I like the crate idea; I have a bunch from an ex who had no compunctions about stealing them, so if I needed a box spring suddenly I would try that.
posted by Crystal Fox at 8:09 PM on September 11

The problem with a mattress on the floor is that your bed will collect dust and debris - basically anything that gets tracked in by shoes or feet. You'll also be sleeping with your face that much closer to the floor - horrible for allergies. I'd recommend the milkcrate solution or something similar to at least raise you a couple feet.
posted by bendy at 9:40 PM on September 11

I tried two mattresses (both were pretty terrible) and combined they were super terrible. Sorry not to have better news.
posted by kitten magic at 11:06 PM on September 11

Speaking from a related experience: there's a point where it's cheaper (and better) to buy one of those sub $200 Zinus mattresses than to pile a succession of mattress toppers on top of an old "Scandinavian Rock" IKEA mattress.

That being said, my Zinus mattress is currently stacked on top of said IKEA mattress, since I can't get rid of the IKEA one. (This in turn is stacked on a permanently indented box spring + bunkie board). The other issue of a "bed sandwich" is that it tends to fall apart. I haven't had any issues with mold so far.

I think your cheapest option is the better mattress + IKEA bed slats on the floor. Cinder blocks (plus IKEA bed slats) might be cheaper than legally procured milk crates (depending on transportation costs).
posted by oceano at 6:28 AM on September 12

Former owner of a creaky Ikea platform bed here:

I replaced it last month with this $90 Zinus brand platform bed which I honestly thought would be a piece of junk, and this new bed is rock solid. No creaking or noise. It took a little more work to assemble than something from Ikea would, but presumably that's what makes it sturdy.

posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:54 PM

Thank you for this recommendation! After doing some more poking around on Amazon and other sites, I decided to go ahead and order one of these guys today. I'll report back!
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:02 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]

If it does end up squeaking, you should be able to shut it up by assembling it with pieces of felt wedged in between the ends of the slats and the frame, and under the slats where they cross that central strut. Stick a bit under the bottom of every vertical member as well if you have the kind of polished floor shown in the Amazon preview.
posted by flabdablet at 11:12 AM on September 27

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