What should I look for in a mattress on a low budget?
June 3, 2018 6:28 AM   Subscribe

I want to replace my ancient mattress but I have limited bucks and have never bought a mattress before.

I have the kind of solid platform bed that has drawers underneath and a headboard so no box-spring needed. The bed itself will not be replaced but the mattress is old, have hollows in the middle from age and is probably overrun with dust mites.

I need a new single mattress but I have never bought one before and have no idea about what they should be made of (foam versus latex etc.) and internal structure (I think my current one has springs inside?) I went to a department store and the salesman confused me by saying their mattresses are better because they are made of natural latex or something? (does this matter?) Are all foam mattresses memory foam? What is a pillow-top?

I cannot afford one of those fancy Posturepedic mattresses that cost thousands. I am a side-sleeper who prefers a softer and thick mattress who tends to run hot at night so I'd prefer something cooling. Given my limited budget, what kind of mattress will give me the most bang for my bucks?

Note: I live in Asia. There is Ikea here but I'm not sure if their mattresses will fit my Asian-made platform bed size-wise. Some brands may not be available but non-branded mattresses are probably cheaper here.
posted by whitelotus to Home & Garden (31 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Mattress shopping sucks. Don’t believe anything the salespeople tell you; they’re worse than used car salesmen. The companies sell the same mattresses at different places with slightly different names so you can’t compare/review online first. It’s a horrible scam.

I’ve heard good things about this line of matresses from Amazon, but I haven’t tried one and I’m not sure you can get them in Asia.

If you’re shopping in person, again, ignore the salesperson as much as you can. Lie on all the choices that you can conceivably afford. DON’T lie on a mattress you can’t afford. That way lies tragedy. I suggest bringing your own pillow, so you can get a better idea of how it will feel to sleep. It feels weird to lay on them, especially if the salesperson is hovering, but do it anyway. Take your time, toss an turn a bit if that’s what you really do when you sleep. It’s worth the awkwardness; you’ll be mad at yourself every night if you just buy the first one because the salesperson makes you feel weird (been there).

Good luck!
posted by Weeping_angel at 8:12 AM on June 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

As for latex/foam/inner spring/etc, one isn’t better than another, it just all comes down to personal preference. If you’re used to spring mattresses, foam might feel weird at first. Or maybe not. You just have to lay on some and figure out what you like.
posted by Weeping_angel at 8:15 AM on June 3, 2018

I don’t know if mattresss stores are as salesy and high-pressure where you are as they are in the US, but if they are, one nice thing about IKEA is that you can try out all different kinds of mattresses without any sales pressure at all. An afternoon at IKEA is how I learned I like medium-firm latex mattresses, which I wouldn’t have known otherwise since I’ve never had one either.
posted by lunasol at 8:22 AM on June 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

The mattresses on the Ikea Singapore website are different sizes from the ones on the Ikea US site. Measure your mattress and check the exact dimensions on your local Ikea site. If they are the right size, it's a perfectly fine place to start looking.
posted by yeahlikethat at 8:24 AM on June 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

When you check out mattresses before buying, make sure you test them either on another platform bed or on the floor. Every mattress feels much harder on a platform than on a box spring.
posted by DrGail at 8:32 AM on June 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: A pillow-top mattress has some extra soft padding sewn into the top, could be foam or some kind of stuffing. I personally dislike them because they inevitably get worn out and squashy and you can't flip the mattress over. Also if you do like pillow tops you can just buy a pillow top mattress cover that goes on over the mattress, and if it wears out you can just replace it instead of buying a whole new mattress.

Some people say foam is hotter to sleep on, though it seems like this is less of a problem with newer types of foam mattresses. I'd echo the advice of others: try a few and see how they feel. Ignore the sales hype.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:42 AM on June 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

I have one of the mattresses Weeping_angel linked to. It's comfy enough, but does tend to run a little warm so probably not what you want unless you get a cooling topper to go with.
posted by lovecrafty at 8:45 AM on June 3, 2018

Nthing go via Ikea if the sizes are appropriate. Mattress shopping is the worst, and at least at Ikea it's very clear to see what the options are and exactly what they cost. We like our Ikea mattresses, and we live in a warm climate.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:19 AM on June 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had an Ikea mattress, which I think was latex, and I found that it made me sweat, a lot. I hated it. I ended up going with a mattress with a wool layer (from Amazon), and that I find that I do not sweat as much with this on.
posted by momochan at 9:23 AM on June 3, 2018

posted by aramaic at 9:32 AM on June 3, 2018

We love this Zinus 12" green tea mattress. We've only had it for six months, though, so can't speak to longevity or how it will feel in hot weather. We also have the very comfortable Spa Sensations mattress from Walmart in our guest room, which everyone raves about and so do we when we've slept on it. We got tired of buying expensive uncomfortable mattresses and feel lucky to have found these two brands at affordable prices. Keep in mind that mattress comfort is so subjective so YMMV.
posted by Elsie at 10:16 AM on June 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

The nice thing about a platform bed is it's a platform, so the mattress doesn't need to precisely fit, just use a tape measure to determine the size of the existing mattress and the size of the platform and work from there.

If you can go to IKEA to try some out, don't skip trying their spring mattresses if you have a serious budget and prefer a cool sleep. I have the cheapest (no longer available, the HUSVIKET is the closest version) version on two guest beds, with a cheap foam topper on them for insulation because their spring format means the mattress is largely empty on the inside and it's unpleasantly cold to sleep on most of the year. The cheapest one is a little jiggly; when you get in and out of it there's a wobble almost like an air mattress, but it's quite pleasant to sleep on. I don't know how it would hold up for years, though, at least on the cheapest ones.

These are harder to find in person to try out but you might prefer a "hybrid" memory foam and innerspring mattress, like this (low end) or this (higher). ZINUS along with LUCID and Linenspa and probably ClassicBrands and Spa Sensations are (I believe Chinese-manufactured and shipped, which may affect your availability elsewhere) brands that have dominated Amazon/Walmart/other online outlets in the US because their prices are a quarter of department stores and they ship the mattress vacuum compression-sealed and rolled up so it doesn't actually turn into a mattress-sized thing until you unpack it and it swells back up to its full size. (I think many but not all of the IKEA mattresses are packaged the same. Mine were.)

I have a LUCID thin (5") memory foam mattress, it's unpleasantly firm, but that's probably largely a function of thickness; for a daily-use bed you would want a 10" or 12" thick. Both my lodgers preferred the jiggly IKEA mattresses to this one, and even the dogs don't love it.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:44 AM on June 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I got a latex Ikea mattress, and after waking up a bit creaky too many times I threw this foam topper on it and created the perfect bed.

I like the super-supportiveness of Ikea latex, and with the couple inches of memory foam on top, it's fantastic. Supportive enough from the latex, with some comfort for pressure points.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 12:25 PM on June 3, 2018

I got a memory foam mattress on amazon and it is the most comfortable thing i’ve ever slept on. I’ve had it for almost 3 years and it still feels like the day i bought it.

Also at $350 with a 20 year warranty it’s great value for the money. It’s firm but not too hard, and doesn’t get super hot like a lot of foam mattresses do.
posted by ananci at 12:42 PM on June 3, 2018

+1 for Zinus on Amazon.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 1:42 PM on June 3, 2018

Foam (especially polyurethane foam) collapses, which is why solid (non-spring) mattresses either have a latex core or end up going crappy after a few years. Best to either go cheap from Ikea/Amazon/Walmart or to get a full latex mattress with whatever topper provides the firmness and airflow you desire.

Most expensive mattresses are shit, just like the cheap ones, so unless you are willing to research materials and also take a nap in the store, buy the cheap ones. At least then you aren't wasting a bunch of money. A top quality expensive mattress will last a decade or two, though. It's just that expensive mattresses are not necessarily top quality mattresses, so it takes a lot of effort to get the savings you are hoping for by spending a thousand bucks or more on bedding.

That said, if you like a firm mattress and/or can make it work with a topper, there do exist $300ish pocket spring mattresses that are built durably enough to last and won't collapse since they have basically no foam in them. Until the recent appearance of the vacuum packed foam mattresses, that was the only way to get a cheap mattress that would last more than a couple of years.
posted by wierdo at 3:35 PM on June 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Can highly recommend IKEA. Have two, one high end and another mid-tier. They are both really great and best mattresses we've ever bought and best we've used. Great quality vs value, and we've used plenty as we moved around the world living in sublets much of the time.

Btw, memory foam can really trap body heat, so keep that in mind if you already find some mattresses too insulating. Also can be too squishy and not provide enough support. I know people love them, but I've never experienced a good one.
posted by qwip at 3:38 PM on June 3, 2018

Not sure where in Asia you are, but IKEA in Asia often has locally appropriate sized mattresses.
posted by frumiousb at 3:44 PM on June 3, 2018

Best answer: A foam mattress on the type of non-ventilated platform base you're describing is an invitation to mold, especially in a humid climate. I think you want another innerspring coil mattress. These mattresses also tend to be cooler and more comfortable for warm sleepers.

A dedicated mattress store is overwhelming for even seasoned buyers. Measure your bed frame, and try out the innerspring mattresses in your price range at IKEA.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:18 PM on June 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

Not a mattress, but I'm also in Asia and getting "cooling technology" mattress pads and sheets, etc., has been invaluable for me during the summer. I have no idea what kind of fabric it is specifically, (sorry!) but I use products like this. Searching for "cooling bed pads" and the like also brings up similar.

If you find a mattress you like, but it's not specifically listed as cooling, I'd give this kind of bedding a go.
posted by lesser weasel at 6:39 PM on June 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have literally zero concept of what the typical mattress-buying experience in your part of the world looks like, but the last two times I needed a mattress I just ordered the cheapest one on Amazon that had decent reviews, and both times it worked out great. It's hard to go wrong with a foam mattress—just make some foam of whatever density and cut it to size, everything else is marketing. If this is an option for you, I highly recommend it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:01 PM on June 3, 2018

Something like HyperVent might be useful against mold/mildew in a humid climate.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 7:59 PM on June 3, 2018

I find the Zinus green tea mattress uncomfortable--it causes and exacerbates some serious joint pain that's difficult to alleviate throughout the day, and my attempts to alter my sleeping positions have yet to bring relief. I don't have a lot of definite knowledge on my preferences though; I mainly sleep on my side but switch around a lot, I sleep a bit hot and don't like it, and find some memory foam to be hot. I suspect I like a somewhat firm mattress but don't know enough to be sure. So if there's a chance you might be similar to me, there's a critical review of Zinus for you.
posted by Carouselle at 8:42 PM on June 3, 2018

I don't like foam mattresses at all. It feels like I'm trapped and can't move around or escape.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 8:50 PM on June 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Props to Amazon, though. I'm a prime member and when I didn't like the foam mattress, they refunded my money and told me to just give the mattress away.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 8:51 PM on June 3, 2018

I'm about to buy 4 new mattresses in Singapore. Ikea all the way. It's a better quality for that price point than similar, you can test them out at the store at length and they have a reasonable return policy. They should fit the usual storage beds. I've bought local online cheaper and more expensive ones, so not worth it.

Do you sleep mostly in aircon or fans? Different material pillowtops can make a firm mattress into a pillowy warm nest or into a cooled down padding. I would put money into a good mattress topper.

Don't go to Courts or Robinsons etc, you'll walk out with a $2-4k thing with features you don't need. Only if you have your heart set on like all latex or you must have one side adjustable pocket springs etc. Ikea will save you so much money and you can spend that on an awesome topper from Amazon that fits your sleep temperature/style.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 11:14 PM on June 3, 2018

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your suggestions. After considering the wise points made here, I have decided to go with another innerspring coil again because a)it's cooling b)I'm used to them c)mold seems to be less of an issue. I have never had any problems with mold but I have always been using innerspring coil mattresses which I flip every week. I think I have laid down on expensive memory foam ones in stores before, it feels a bit strange, like my whole body is sinking into quicksand.

I note that IKEA has a return policy but does anyone know what they do with the returned mattresses because of bedbugs and other issues? I'll like to be sure I'm getting a new one when I'm paying full price for one.
posted by whitelotus at 7:03 AM on June 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Without knowing exactly where you are and what the local trade laws are, it is generally illegal to sell a thing as "new" when it is not, especially soft goods and especially especially mattresses, in most markets. That said, in some places used mattresses are sterilized and sold as used, sterilized and donated (shelters, assistance programs), or broken down to individual components and recycled. It is unlikely that IKEA is recompressing and selling opened mattresses as new, but I am sure you can contact them and find out exactly what your region's stores do.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:19 PM on June 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

...I have always been using innerspring coil mattresses which I flip every week.

Data point: Here in the U.S., "flippable" innerspring mattresses have become quite rare over the last decade or so. Now they're constructed with a definite 'top' sleep side. (Yes, this means the mattresses don't last as long as they used to; it's scamtastic.) No idea what the standard construction is by you, but it may be something to check since once-a-week flipping is your habit.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:15 PM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

You should rotate one-sided mattresses, though, head to foot. Keeps you from digging an upper body trough in one end of the bed.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:34 AM on June 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

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