Considering that the average person spends about 26 years of their life sleeping, how we take care of our mattress matters. But a mattress is easy to forget about. Most of the time, it’s invisible, obscured by sheets and too many throw pillows. As long as it does its job, we may not even think about it until it’s time to be replaced.
Given that we typically spend somewhere between $450 and $2,500 for the privilege of upgraded slumber, it needs proper care and cleaning like every major purchase in our homes. But many of us unwittingly do things to our mattress that hasten the end of its useful life. Here’s what to avoid if you want to make it last longer.
Not using a mattress protector
Mattress protectors safeguard your sleep haven from perspiration, spills, and stains, which, if left untended, can cause mould and bacteria growth within the mattress. They also protect your skin from having allergic reactions to dust mites within the fibres. While the protectors of old were cheap, plastic, and hot, many water-resistant yet breathable options now exist on the market.
Forgetting to rotate the mattress
According to the Sleep Foundation, “areas of a mattress that are exposed to heavy pressure (typically around the hips and shoulders) tend to sag prematurely,” and a regularly-rotated mattress will outlast a non-rotated one “potentially by a year or more.”
Your owner’s manual will provide definitive instructions for how often to rotate yours, but a good rule of thumb is 1-2 times a year for memory foam, latex, and newer innerspring mattresses. Many modern mattresses are one-sided, in which case, skip the old-school flipping and simply rotate the top of the mattress down to the foot of the bed. (The only mattresses that shouldn’t be rotated are those designed with a “zoned comfort system” that provides extra support to certain areas of the body.)
Never cleaning your mattress
Don’t shoot the messenger, but uncleaned mattresses are disgusting. They’re essentially bacteria-breeding graveyards for our saliva, sweat, dead skin cells, and millions of dust mites, who, incidentally, feed on our skin while we sleep before dropping allergenic turds, dying, and leaving their carcasses in our mattress fibres. (And yes, some mites will still get through a mattress protector.) Use the upholstery attachment of your vacuum to remove unwanted intruders from the top and sides of your mattress every three months.
Jumping on the bed
Turns out that parents who yell at their kids to stop jumping on the bed aren’t just indiscriminate killjoys — they (we) are right. Not only can it lead to serious injuries (especially when a window or ceiling fan is nearby), the concentrated jolts of heavy pressure can damage the internal structure of the mattress, causing lumps. It can also weaken innersprings and damage the bed frame. It’s an all-around bad idea — and a victory for no-fun parents everywhere.
Washing your sheets too infrequently
Your sheets contain sweat, pet dander, dirt, and other debris that eventually descend into your mattress. Washing them weekly, or at least every two weeks, will keep your mattress fresher. Remember to include any blankets and duvet covers in those sheet washings as well.
Depriving it of sunshine
Granted, a mattress isn’t a plant that needs sunlight to survive, but letting it catch some unadulterated rays once in a while has benefits. While it won’t completely disinfect a mattress, sunlight is a natural deodoriser that removes musty smells, while UV rays kill mould, bacteria, and mildew. A sunbath will also zap a considerable number of dust mites. Just be sure to bring it in before any outdoor dampness descends.
Using the wrong bed frame
Depending on what kind of mattress you purchase, you may need to reevaluate the frame supporting it. Where a box spring and slatted bed frame was an adequate foundation for most traditional mattresses, those newer, denser, heavier memory foam mattresses require the more solid and sturdy structure of a platform bed frame. Follow manufacturer guidelines to properly support the lifespan of your mattress.
Storing it in the garage (or basement)
If you want to tuck a mattress away for future use, avoid dragging it to an unfinished basement to hang out forever. After giving it a thorough vacuum, wrap it in a protective mattress cover and store it flat in a climate-controlled environment. Leaving it upright in a garage or damp basement leaves it vulnerable to humidity, mildew growth, bug infestations, and inner padding and coil migration that will permanently damage the cushion and render it un-sleepable. (Trust me, I’ve done this experiment.)