How to pick a mattress?
December 19, 2012 1:52 PM   Subscribe

So...How do you test and select a mattress?

Dotsmom and I are finally going to bite the bullet and replace our old-n-busted mattress. However, I'm not looking for recommendations. I'm asking how you go about determining which mattress is "the one"?

Unless there are some highly obvious flaws (hard as a brick, so soft you roll off the edge, etc.) every mattress we lay down on feels great. Of course, that's because it feels great simply to lay down. And, the "ahhhh" effect gets even more pronounced after an afternoon of hopping from store-to-store. It all gets very confusing and frustrating.

So, how do you determine the right mattress? What are your testing tricks?
posted by Thorzdad to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Things we looked for: not too soft that we never wanted to leave; not too hard. Ours barely moves when one person gets in or out of bed, which is nice. (It was a pillowtop, and it's slightly-too-large for queen sheets to fit comfortably with the extra mattress pad, so if you like really well-made beds or have favorite sheets, you might consider that...) There's nothing in it likely to become unsprung or uncomfortable. We did a lot of bouncing and shifting around to see how it reacted to multiple movements. Lots of replicating different (rated G) activities, like sitting on it to tie shoes, and getting dressed.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:05 PM on December 19, 2012

Finding a hotel with that mattress and going there and sleeping on it.

Did this with a Tempurpedic and discovered that the world may be raving, but it wasn't for me.

Here's a site that tells you who uses what.

Do some research (could be fun!) and sleep around.

I just asked the guy in the mattress store for the hardest mattress he had. He showed me a few, and I did the Goldilocks thing, but wasn't happy until he said, "Well we have this one, but it's like poured concrete." Husbunny and I agree it's the best mattress EVAH!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:08 PM on December 19, 2012 [7 favorites]

This is a different way of approaching the hunt, but for us it boils down to the fact that we can't bear the predatory sales tactics that make it impossible to compare a mattress at several different mattress shops. So we go to Ikea where the prices are set and clear, and then, yeah, do a lot of lying down.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:18 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

People are often giving away mattresses on craigslist that are neither too used nor too gross. If you want to save money (because holy cow, mattresses are expensive!), it's not a bad idea to start by getting whatever free or very cheap mattress you can find. Just filter for "on the firmer side" or "on the softer side" (depending on what you like) and see how it goes. Worst comes to worst, you get rid of the mattress you got for free, and if you're lucky, you get a great mattress for cheap.
posted by Presidente de China at 2:24 PM on December 19, 2012

Ever since reading Going to the Mattresses a number of years ago, I have pretty much zero tolerance for the traditional mattress shopping game. When we bought a mattress for our guest bed, we first went to a couple of chain mattress stores and got the greasy salesman treatment (meanwhile seeing basically *nothing* in the store marked less than $600).

Then we went to a local furniture chain, found a sales guy in the bed department and said, "We're looking for a mattress for no more than $x." and he asked what kind of use it was going to be getting. We told him "Guest bed", and he showed us a mattress with a price tag of $x. We tried it, liked it, and bought it. It was great; no attempts to upsell, no nonsense. Same exact experience when we went back later on to buy a foundation for it.

It's possible that we're just lucky to have a decent local furniture store, but I suspect that it's better in general to shop at a place that isn't desperately trying to sell you nothing but mattresses.
posted by usonian at 2:24 PM on December 19, 2012

Here's a really simple mattress guide I found helpful when choosing our mattresses. Then I went to an independent store, gave the woman our price range, and lay down on the mattresses she suggested. One was a clear winner and I bought that.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:38 PM on December 19, 2012

I'm with BlahLaLa. Go to Ikea, read the guide to firmness, materials etc, lie on a few of the not-super-cheap ones, pick one, done. We're on our third super comfortable Ikea mattress (size changes and long-distance moves).

I firmly believe that the vast choice and hype leads people to over think this.
posted by crabintheocean at 2:50 PM on December 19, 2012

I went round the mattress shop, laid down on lots of very comfy mattresses, tried to relax, then got up again. On one or two mattresses in particular I noticed that I kept making excuses to stay lying down a bit longer while I thought about how they felt. I bought one of those ones, and didn't regret it.
posted by doop at 2:51 PM on December 19, 2012

I second the trying-it-out via hotel method. My husband and I picked out a mattress at a mattress place using the "lay on it for 15 minutes in your various sleeping positions", and chose one we thought we really liked. But, after a few months we decided that what feels good to us when we are laying down thinking about how the bed feels (in our case, pretty soft pillow-top-y), does not feel so good on our backs after a whole nights' sleep. Whereas, often I will get into a hotel bed and think "hmm, this is pretty firm, not as nice as what we have at home", and then in the morning I'll think, "hmm, I'm not stiff the way I am when I wake up at home." Time for us to get a new mattress, I think...
posted by msbubbaclees at 2:53 PM on December 19, 2012

Just want to point out that Tempurpedic beds (and their memory foam ilk) require a fairly warm room for the mattress to be soft & comfortable; otherwise, cold ambient temperatures makes it rock hard. When shopping for a bed with my sister, I noticed that all the mattress stores, even in November, were upwards of 75 degrees. If you don't want to have a lifestyle that requires your bed to be preheated before going to bed in it in winter, avoid memory foam.

Anyway, to get to your question: when Mr Honey Badger and I were shopping, we knew the general amount of support that we wanted, which was to duplicate the previous mattress, which was a high quality futon (non-folder, and they do come in california king!). We literally did the walk from mattress to mattress in the shop & could definitely tell the difference between mattresses, how much support or not there was, as well as how bouncy it was when the other person got up & pushed off from the mattress, and even how difficult it was to get off the mattress (the softer it is, usually the more difficult it is to extricate).

Also, don't look at the prices & go by feel & comfort. All that marketing nonsense: individually-wrapped coils, a coil bed, coils that read your mind, even what color or pattern the mattress comes in is irrelevant (you'll always have sheets on it, unless you live in a fraternity house!)

And for whatever reason, futon mattresses are cheaper than conventional ones (none of that fancy Gaijin mattress technology, I suppose) and we have been very happy with ours.
posted by honey badger at 3:14 PM on December 19, 2012

I just bought a new mattress. I did some research ahead of time so I knew I wanted a very firm, Queen size, inner coil mattress. And I had a budget. I went to a local shop and asked the salesman to show me their firmest coil mattresses (I'm a stomach sleeper) and then while my boyfriend distracted him talking about music for an hour, just went around and laid on them. When I narrowed it down to the two I liked best I had the boyfriend join me so he could see if the 6 inches he regularly gets allotted on the very edge of the bed was to his liking. One did feel better than the other to both of us and was less than I had planned to spend. Then my boyfriend spotted a remote control, "What's that for?". "Oh, that's for the adjustable, vibrating base you could also get for any of this line."

My friends, shit had just gotten real.

The base was optional and doubled the price of the bed, but once I had my feet up in one direction and my head up in another it was an automatic sale. The vibrating thing is sort of "meh, okay" but being able to adjust the ends up and down is pretty great. But if you don't want to be tempted, just don't ask about the remote control.
posted by marylynn at 3:15 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I recently bought a mattress. I took a nap on it in the store (at the owner's suggestion) before I bought it. It's the only way.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:20 PM on December 19, 2012

I read a heaps of reviews online of different manufacturers, which was fascinating, because apparently a lot of people have crazy expectations of what their mattress will and won't do. Once we had a feeling for what we might like, we went and tried different types of mattress to see what we liked, for eg, we both hated the memory foam ("It's like wet sand!" "I hate it!"), but loved the springy ones with squashy tops.

We walked around lying on all the beds, and I said saucy things until the sales guy went away so we could lie there in peace, more or less how we lie in our own bed to see how we fit, and whether we liked it. I think we went back again a few days later for another round of lying on beds. We ended up spending a lot of money, to be honest, but we love our bed. It's been lovely ever since we got it home.
posted by thylacinthine at 4:43 PM on December 19, 2012

No matter what you do, get a good frame or platform. We had a crappy frame for years that slowly and surely sagged in the middle. Even with the best mattress and box-springs everything turned to crap in no time. Got a platform and have had my mattress for 12 years now and haven't had to worry at all.
posted by PJMoore at 5:58 PM on December 19, 2012

My wife and I just bought a memory foam mattress at a traditional mattress store. The salesperson was very sweet and knowledgeable and didn't try to upsell us, pressure us, nothing. She told us a little bit about each mattress but mostly left us alone to try them, then would suggest further mattresses to try based on our feedback. I think we were lucky in that, though.

We did not do the whole "lay down for 15 minutes" thing, but we did take off our shoes and spend a couple of minutes on each one. One thing I did: I made my wife cuddle with me in the middle of each bed to make sure it wasn't too squishy in the middle!

Also, a note re memory foam (which I am now absolutely in love with): Not all memory foams are alike. It's true that Tempur-Pedic can be fairly temperature-sensitive, but other brands are less or, or even purport to be not at all. We went with a Simmons ComforPedic (it just happened to be the most comfortable), and the salesperson at least told us it's not (as) reactive to temperature. Our bedroom can be fairly cold and yet we've been very comfortable.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:24 PM on December 19, 2012

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