Is It Safe To Use A Hand Me Down Mattress?

Are you worried about the safety of a hand me down mattress?

When thinking about second hand mattresses you really may want to think again before accepting one. Look back to the day parents and grandparents often would hand down their old mattress to their children or grandchildren and ask yourself is this really a good idea?

Today there are even more resources to locate used mattresses through community type websites like Craigs List, Backpage and Freecycle. Landfills don’t want them, buyers of new mattresses don’t want them, and most people in general don’t want them yet people knowingly or unknowingly are taking the risk.

eco1-memory-foam-mattress_1-300x185One reason may be our checking account which can benefit the most from sleeping on a used mattress not to mention landfills won’t complain considering today’s environmental concerns of composting issues, and lack of space. One big advantage for persons buying a used mattress is that they should have weathered the storm from potentially harmful VOC’s often found in new mattresses because they have had years to off gas. This seems to make a pretty solid case for why a person might want to buy a used mattress but as we look deeper into this subject we find another side to this story.

Used mattresses dangers and concerns

Concerns of dust mites for mattresses are a potential danger just like the well publicized old stuffed animals for kids.  Mattresses are different from a child’s stuffed animal which can be tossed in a dryer or place in a freezer for a couple days to kill dust mites. In addition to dustmites old mattresses can and usually are full of mold or mildew an obvious health hazard. After looking at a mattress under the microscope we think you would gracefully say no thank you to the free or cheap mattresses which can be so easily obtained.

Other more obvious signs are worn and stained surface materials which also can severely affect allergies and breathing. Mattress odor is another more obvious sign that can be a combination of many things. Perspiration, body oils, blood, urine, saliva can be absorbed in to what is essentially a giant sponge making old mattress a haven for germs and bacteria. In addition in mere 10 yrs. it can have absorbed 3000 liters of perspiration which is saturated salts.

Used mattresses have been responsible for allergies, sickness, and even deaths and should not be considered safe. Used mattresses are not allowed to be sold in most states without properly sanitized and the required law tagging. Mattress sagging is a dead giveaway of a mattress lacking proper support while less obvious wear stems from fatigued steel, foams, and padding which are underneath of what otherwise looks to be a very clean, unstained unworn mattress.

A healthy recommendation is a new mattress or one that has been properly sanitized and marked as such with a required law label. Please only accept a hand-me-down mattress from someone you know or trust and even then we are not recommending accepting such a mattress. Don’t ever buy a mattress from online sources mentioned above including yard sales and thrift stores.

Mattresses built before July 1 2007 do not meet the new standards put in place by the Consumer Products Safety Commission possible putting you or your child at risk in the case of fire.


Doug Belleville and his father Dave own and run STLBeds - a specialty sleep store located in Arnold, MO. The staff at STLBeds is highly educated about sleep, comfort and their special sleep products. STLBeds only carries high quality mattresses and bed-related products. You won't find the brand names here - just call and ask us why!

8 Comments Leave your comment »

What a load of nonsense. Used mattress deaths, indeed. Under the microscope! Be afraid, be very afraid. What’s more dangerous to your health is the absurd price being charged for mattresses. If you can get a clean mattress from a clean environment at a cheap price, go for it. You carry around your own germ detectors, called your eyes and nose.

Comment by Tom — June 14, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

Thank you Tom very much for your post and we always encourage people with apposing opinions to share them.

However the focus on this blog was not about used mattress deaths and I apologize if my blog came across that way. It was only mentioned 1 time as an extreme result in the entire 550 + word blog and again was not my intent. The spotlight was the dangers of used mattresses as the titled stated, “Is It Safe To Use A Hand Me Down Mattress?” I was attempting to focus on used mattresses and whether or not they are safe to sleep in.

Tom a clean mattress is not the same thing as a sanitary mattress. I realize the mattresses we buy are not as sanitary as a hospital nor is that a requirement for selling one in a retail store such as my self. Only that they were not used and if so that they be properly sanitized. However people are very much at risk when they sleep on other peoples used mattresses especially for people with the health issues I raised in my blog.
A couple quick points
You can’t legally purchase used mattresses from retail stores in most of the 50 states due to health risk unless they have been properly sanitized.

Your germ detectors as you called them (AKA eyes and nose) can’t see or always smell the microscopic things that can cause the severe complications I spoke of.
Mattress odor, stained surface materials, and signs of wear are very obvious and in that case let the buyer beware. I believe we would agree on this one.

Tom I encourage you to take a few moments and do a little research. People that are passionate and want to have their opinions heard usually like to be correct when stating those opinions. I encourage you to learn what the facts are and what are the health risks involved in a used mattresses. You will learn about severe reactions with breathing, respiratory issues severe allergy or asthma. That is only the tip of the iceberg.

Tom I’d like too, but don’t expect too change your opinion and alternative opinions are always welcome here. I hope you will research an old Dateline NBC expose’ on mattress recovering or (reupholstering old used mattresses and what happened to people that purchased them). It is a real eye opener and what got me interested in the topic.

Comment by Doug Belleville — June 15, 2010 @ 10:06 am

Can you get your mattress sanitized locally?

Comment by Shandi — August 16, 2012 @ 9:50 pm

Information on this topic is very limited on the net. I’m not sure where you are located. I am not familiar with any companies in St. Louis, however in your search I would look for a service that provides a dry heat sanitizing or heat sanitization method which in my opinion the most affective and safest method. This is a process in which mattresses are subjected to elevated temperatures for a certain length of time. As the mattress exterior is exposed the heat is eventually absorbed through the various layers ultimately reaching the core of the bed. Once the mattress has reached correct temperature, all micro-organisms will be killed. Hopefully someone else could share some info. NOTE: Fabreeze and Lysol are not prefered methods of mattress sanitizing.

Comment by Douglas Belleville — August 20, 2012 @ 9:28 am

These concerns are to be considered just like you should not buy a shirt with a hole in it. To discourage people from buying used mattresses is ridiculous. How many people sleep in hotel or hospital beds a year? No one questions these mattresses. Buying used mattresses is an economical and environmentally conscious decision that should be a very viable option for most. In addition there are ways to seal many of these problems off and have no chance of permeating plastic covering. Not considering a used mattress is the kind of mistake that is going to make this country and world fail. Lets use the blatant resources that are in front of us and not clog up landfills because someone ate a hotdog in bed.

Comment by blooood — August 2, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

I just got out of the hospital today. I’m so glad i’m alive. Chest pain, heart palpitations, asthma atacks, chronic sinus and allergy issues and even dizziness and faiting were the reason I ended up in the E.R. I had inherited my Ma’s apartment and furniture and knew the apartment had mold problems that were never dealt with. After speaking with the landlord for several years over and over again about being sick all Winter because I was closed up in a moldy apartment I was told they wouold “gut the place after I moved”, within the month…I moved. New apartment, same problems, but now only in my bedroom? For several weeks I thought it was the newly placed carpet off-gassing. I was patient, used meds to control/ delay my all-to-familiar symptoms and then I found myself getting worse. Fatigue, dizziness, chest pain and pressure…even cold remedies and my inhalers weren’t working. After a few days of the worst symptoms not going away my family took me to the E.R. After checking my oxygen and listening to my heart and lungs I was rushed from triage to a bed, given oxygen and told they would start testing for a heart attack, pulmonary embolism and blood clots. I’m 40! I was shocked but couldn’t focus on anything but trying to get my next breath. I thought this might be it for me. All tests were eventually cleared. I got discharged earlier today with no asthma, sinus issues, all was well. Tonight I laid down, set my alarm and sneezed and coughed and started wheezing…yep. After a few hours of that building up to another asthma attack I went to my couch. Twenty minutes later…no more symptoms. IT’S THE BED! I can’t sleep, it’s like 5:30am, and decided to Google my latest concern. Could I seriously be getting this sick from my bed? YES!!!! The whole mattress and box springs will be proped by the dumpster at sunrise! All I can say is God bless you for bothering to write this up and no, you’re not being alarmist but honest. Thank you! Thank you! I just thank God I’m alive to write this.

Comment by Mary — November 12, 2013 @ 4:45 am

Mary, Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. Doug

Comment by Douglas Belleville — November 12, 2013 @ 7:47 am

Well I’ve been trying to find good reasons to believe used mattresses are a health hazard. It seems that a clean mattress is important. But I have heard no news of some sort of contagious disease being caught although every writing about this topic seems to talk in a way that says you will die if you foolishly sleep on a used mattress. Or maybe you will drown in dust mite excrement. Regulations stipulating sanitizing for professional resellers of mattresses just makes sense, it’s a procedure. It prevents massive spreading of a bed bug outbreak or something. Yeah everyone wants a new mattress. But it seems there are some fixes for used mattresses. And if you are experiencing allergies from the mattress then you get rid of it. No ones going to die. I’ve decided all this don’t use used mattresses makes about as much sense as buying a new mattress once a day. It’s just common sense so stop spreading the hype. You don’t have to oversell the idea of not buying a used mattress. No one wants to! But it might be between buying a mattress and food for a great deal of people these days. Or maybe driving on bald tires. Now there is something that could kill you!

Comment by Tom — November 22, 2013 @ 10:22 pm

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