Top 10 Problems With Tube or Cylinder Type Softside Waterbeds

Many purists do not consider a Tube Type Waterbed a true Waterbed rather they consider it a hybrid waterbed. This is the beginning of our two part blog that highlights the ten things we consider to be the biggest problems with this type of water bed.

1. Tube Beds do not feel like a deep fill waterbed.
It does not form to the body the way waterbeds that are 7 inches or deeper do.  Deep fill waterbeds are much better at relieving pressure points on the body and decreasing tossing and turning than tube beds.

2. Softsided systems like the tube bed are usually too firm for most waterbed lovers.
They can feel as firm as a regular spring mattress, not providing the same head to toe full body support as a waterbed.Softside Waterbed Dual 8300

3. Tube type waterbeds usually are not heated.
Adjustable heat is the one thing most waterbed owners want yet many tube beds don’t have them. Most tube type waterbeds are designed with a thicker top cover to insulate and eliminate the need for a heater. If a heater is used it must be a low watt heater to keep the bed from overheating or even possibly burning out.

4. Trying to find where the leak is located.
With 8 tubes in a Queen mattress and 10 in a King mattress, each must be examined very closely. Many times it is one of the 8 or 10 cap and plugs that can leak and they must be replaced. If the leak is found in the vinyl of the tube, we recommend replacing the tube. Repairing in tubes can be tricky because leaks are usually in high stress areas due to their design.  It is common for them to fail around a seam or the valve making it nearly impossible for a patch to stick and contain water.

5. Tubes / cylinders are awkward and hard to fill. 
Tubes are usually filled in an area close to a water source and then carried into the bedroom and placed in the bed. Each tube should be filled to the same level. This means holding the 60 to 100 lb. tube erect which is very heavy and very awkward and filling to the fill mark on the tube itself. This is contrary to the sales pitch many sales associate provide suggesting that they are easy to fill, drain, and move. These same people usually have never installed one in a customer’s house much less attempted to fill and get the water level precisely the same so comfort is not affected..

6. Lack of core support from the multiple water mattresses
Look at the fingers on your hand and tightly pull them together. This is basically a simplified demonstration of the core support in a tube bed. The gaps in your fingers are no different from the gaps in the tubes that are lacking to properly support the sleeper. Over filled tubes exaggerate the problem and layers of foam in the cover disguise the problem.

7. Top covers can and do break down quickly.
One of the most common problems next to tube failure in these water log designed beds is that the cover of the mattress breaks down. Mattress covers are over filled with materials to insulate sleepers from what is usually considered a non heated waterbed. They usually have 4” or more of padding and foam and frequently breakdown and compress much like a fluffy pillow top mattress not to mention these top covers are not standardized or cheap to replace.

8. Finding the right size replacement tubes can be tricky.
Tubes are not standard in length and must be the correct length or they will rupture at the end seams of the bed. Some tubes are round while others are more squared off. Always take the old tube with you when you are shopping for a replacement tube to make sure you’re replacing it with a proper replacement..

9. Baffled or fiber filled tubes can be very hard to drain.
This baffling is usually an open cell foam. This foam acts like a giant sponge making them hard to extract the water from. If the baffled tubes are not handled carefully the foam can be torn. It can also shift out of its correct position or get balled up inside the tube. These tubes can cost up to 50% more than a free slow tube to replace.

10. Free flow tubes don’t have a very long life expectancy.
These cylinders have a tendency to give the bed a bucking motion. The water races the length of these tubes when pressure is exerted on the opposite end, which stresses the end seams and can cause a seam failure.tube_1

Somma is probably the most recognizable brand name of tube beds sold. Don’t get us wrong many people have enjoyed these beds over the years, however our 24 plus years of handling their service issues is the reason we are not big fans of their design. At STL Beds we have limited our sales of them and even removed them from our showroom floor. Their high failure rate, lack of support, durability and the fact that they feel nothing like a true waterbed puts them at the bottom of our recommendation list. Our suggestion is to consider a true deep fill softside waterbed. If your response is that tube waterbeds don’t feel like a waterbed then I think you can see why we believe the tube bed is a hybrid bed with a lot of troublesome issues making nearly any other mattress a better option.


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!

14 Comments Leave your comment »

What’s the real reason you don’t sell tubes, can’t get a soma distributorship? I’ve had tubes for years, never had a leak or any of the other problems you mention

Comment by Sharon — September 23, 2013 @ 2:20 am

Hi Sharon, I have clearly state and explained 10 reasons why tube beds are no longer displayed in our store, if you haven’t already I would encourage you to take the time to read them for the answer.

In reference to a Somma distributorship the company went out of business in the late 1990’s. The “licensed rights to that name” were purchased by a company called Land and Sky. By choice STL Beds was an authorized dealer for them, However, (Updated) Due to issues with the Land and Sky’s service and numerous product failures (STL Beds made the decision) to stop selling Land and Sky / Somma. With that said, After buying the defunct company, Land and Sky did away with nearly every Somma designed manufactured good originally built by Somma. They replaced those products with their own proven products and took advantage of the licensed and established Somma name. Somma literally bought that recognition with hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing through Better Homes and Gardens magazine, television advertising and other popular advertising avenues available at that time.

In reference to your personal success as a Somma Tube Bed owner, we love to hear happy successful stories like yours and wish you continued success as a tube bed owner. Disappointingly that one bed by itself does not make the entire brand a success story. If the brand had delivered what it marketed and promised, the majority of former Somma owners would still be sleeping on those mattresses today just like you. Remember the 2001 Pontiac Aztek: 1987 Yugo: 1958 Edsel Corsair: 1971 Chevrolet Vega: but also remember some people loved these cars yet history shows us they may have been 4 of the worst cars ever built. Thank you very much for your input. Doug

Comment by Douglas Belleville — September 24, 2013 @ 8:05 am

I agree that one does not a dozen make!. As an a long time married couple we have slept on beds over the world. Many of these beds were definitely comfortable. We bought our “tube bed” in 1985. After a couple of years and a couple of relocations, we tried leaving one tube out and by using only 7 tubes it increased the confortability of the bed, which we were already very satisfied with, and have remained so for the last 28 years. When returning home from trips and sleeping on the road in quality hotels it is always a pleasure to get back into our “tube bed”! Oh, we have had the bladder-type before. Both with internal dampening material and without..

Comment by Dr. John Kirschke — October 22, 2013 @ 9:39 am

My husband and I have slept on a queen size Somma II bed for 30 years and our guest bed is also a Somma. We’ve replaced the top cover on our Somma once. Our cylinders have never leaked, but we have a few extra, just in case. Guests think the Somma is really comfortable and are surprised to hear it’s a waterbed. It uses standard queen sheets. We always look forward to “sleeping in our own bed” when returning from trips.

Comment by jeanne hammond — February 23, 2014 @ 7:19 pm

I would like to start with I used tubes probably 7 years ago. I went n bought a number bed
My king tubes didn’t fit in new house. Number bed was horrible after 2years. I now just went
back to tubes. Only question why can’t I use a arming mattress pad ? What is real harm … Can’t
Get a straight answer. I used a heater on old one n they dont recommend them either
Thank you love tube system

Comment by Lorrie — May 29, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

I would like to know if you can replace the mattress . Our tubes our just fine. We need a new mattress to hold the tubes in. We love our bed. The firmness is the best thingl Had it for 15 years. Thank you

Comment by Andria Ayers — June 23, 2014 @ 1:25 pm

Hi Andria, while the softside bed without the tubes may be hard to find on line by itself store like STL Beds would be more than happy to look into it for you. We will need you to contact us with the inside cavity dimensions. If the inside walls are vertical we will need 3 measurements.
Inside width, inside length, and depth of the cavity.
If the inside walls are sloped we will need from you :
Inside width and length at the top, inside width and length at the bottom, in addition we will need the measurement of the length of the slope.
Whichever you have this will give us the exact cavity dimensions and tell us if you tubes will fit the softside cavity we have available. You will need to contact us at the toll free number at the top of this page. The tubes are the least expensive part. If I were in your shoes I would purchase the complete bed which will probably end up costing you less. Hope this gets you in the right direction. Doug

Comment by Douglas Belleville — June 24, 2014 @ 9:21 am

Help! We have had our Somma waterbed for 30 years also! We just love it! The problem is our top mattress is falling apart and lumpy. Where is the best place to buy the top mattress that fits over the bottom box spring? I don’t have a model number – how do I ensure that it will fit my box spring?

Is there any way to save some money on the top mattress? Do any other brands fit the somma bed? We live in Las Vegas.

Thank you

Comment by Ruth — July 19, 2014 @ 4:09 pm

Ruth, The fact is this that this is a 30 year old bed and as you described is falling apart. My suggestion do not throw good money after bad. Spending money to try to string along the old 30 top is ill-advised. Besides that most likely the part(s) you are looking to replace no longer exist since Somma has been out of business since the 90’s. The new company building them uses none of their old designs to my knowledge making the possibility of buying said parts impossible. The foundation should be nothing more than an upholstered wooden box. This on the other hand could be kept and should save you a couple hundred dollars. We have tube or cylinder type waterbeds available. Feel free to contact me at the number above to discuss specific options. Good Luck in your tube bed quest. Doug

Comment by Douglas Belleville — July 22, 2014 @ 7:50 am

Hello. Like Jeanne Hammond’s comment above from 2/23/14, I also have a Somma II bed. It is a queen bed – in great shape. However, I need to get a replacement tube for the bed. It is an Infinity Comfort Control Cylinder by Somma. I cannot seem to find these anywhere! Does anyone know where to buy these cylinders? Any help or suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you!!

Comment by Kimberley — February 10, 2015 @ 2:14 am

Hello, we’ve owned this queen size Somma Cylinder bed for 20+ years, we love it too!! the cylinders have never failed, The reason I came to this website was to purchase tablets, I’m thinking we should buy a top cover so it will last another 20. These days maybe this isn’t a good model to make dependable stuff anymore. I just want to say thank you to the MFG. for making a quality product that has been perfect for our lifestyle not to many thing last so long.

Comment by Mark — February 18, 2015 @ 10:43 pm

Hi Mark,
We always love to hear positive stories and experiences in light of a failed manufacturer. That is the great thing about softsides in general, they are modular meaning that you can replace specific parts and pieces when they wear out. In the case of Somma you will want to contact Land and Sky Manufacturing in Lincoln Nebraska. Somma made 2 different kinds of top covers. One was a cap style that the entire top went on like a shoebox lid, the other was a zipper type. If you have the old cap style you may be out of luck I am not aware of anyone still making replacements. If you find someone please comeback and share with our readers who may also need that item. If yours is a zipper top contact L&S they should be able to help you. I will warn you cost has risen dramatically in 20 plus years. You may pay near as much for your new cover as it cost you for the new bed way back when. Good luck and thank you for sharing your experience. PS You can use both the liquid or tablet conditioner in your tubes. Doug

Comment by Douglas Belleville — February 20, 2015 @ 3:56 pm

Good evening Doug. I have reviewed all of your notes and I understand that you have removed tube style “Somma” mattresses from your floor. I appreciate your comments but I have found that a tube style mattress provides me the best sleep. I have had one for more than 20 years and I need to purchase another one. I would truly appreciate hearing if you do have a queen size available for purchase as I will purchase it immediately and have it sent to my home.

Thank you

Comment by Greg — March 21, 2015 @ 8:29 pm

Hi Greg, I removed your personal information so people wouldn’t spam you. I will be in contact with information on our available Tube bed offerings. Doug

Comment by Douglas Belleville — March 24, 2015 @ 8:18 am

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