Mattress Durability Guide: How Long Should It Last?
When you sleep on a mattress, its upper layers will compress more than the deeper layers because:
- the upper layers are often made to be softer than the deeper support layers of a mattress (and firmness / softness is also a factor in the durability of a material) and
- the upper layers are closer to the sleeping surface and subject to
direct compression. It’s this constant deflection of the materials and components in the upper layers of a mattress that leads to changes in firmness or thickness – which in turn will affect comfort, pressure relief, and the ability of the several components and materials to support the weight of your body with the spine in its natural alignment.
Most components and materials of your new mattress will become softer as they break down over time, while fiber materials will compress and pack down and become firmer and less fluffy over time.
This is why the durability of the upper comfort and transition layers (the top 3″ to 6″ of your new mattress) are particularly important when you are evaluating the durability and useful life of the new mattress as a whole, because they’ll often be the weakest link in the mattress in terms of durability, while the components and materials that are closer to the bottom of a mattress (its support core) will not normally be the weakest link in the new mattress.
The durability of the new mattress will also be affected by the body type of the person that sleeps on it because higher body weights will compress its layers more deeply than lighter body types, so they’ll need more durable and firmer components and materials in the upper layers than those that are in lower weight ranges for the new mattress to maintain its support and comfort, for a similar length of time.
Furthermore, mattress warranties have nothing to do with durability. A warranty will only cover defects in a new mattress which are generally defined as visible impressions that are more than a specified amount when there is no weight on the mattress and do not cover changes in the firmness of its components and the loss of support and comfort – often the key reason for the need to replace a new mattress.
Outside of actual defects in a new mattress (which are relatively uncommon and will generally be visible during the first year of its usage), durability issues will often take several years to become visible.
Assuming that you sleep well on a new mattress for the first 12 months, durability can be defined as the length of time you’ll continue to sleep well on it before changes in its components and materials caused by changes in firmness and/or the normal wear and tear and/or breakdown of the materials over time lead to a loss of support and comfort to such an extent that you no longer sleep comfortably enough on your mattress and eventually decide to replace it.
This is how to estimate the durability and useful life of a new mattress based on its components / materials inside it – with the following 3 phases:
Calculate your Body Mass Index. BMI is based on your height and weight and you can use one of many online BMI calculators to find out your own BMI.
Collect relevant information that you need to know about the components and materials in a new mattress you’re considering to buy. Most manufacturers / retailers with know-how about mattress components and materials also understand the importance of using more durable components and materials in a new mattress, and so will provide you with such information because it’ll differentiate their mattresses from all others in the industry that might use less durable components / materials. If for any reason a manufacturer / retailer is unwilling to provide you with the specific information that you need to identify any lower quality components/materials in the mattress, then it would become a risky purchase.
The following components / materials can have a significant effect on the durability or useful life of a new mattress depending on their quality / density and/or thickness:
- Memory foam (or gel memory foam)
- Semi-synthetic fiber (rayon made from bamboo)
- Natural fiber (wool, cotton, horse hair, silk)
- Synthetic / polyester fibers
Components / materials that are all of high quality and are very likely to sustain the durability or useful life of a new mattress:
- Latex foam (either Dunlop or Talalay made with natural rubber or synthetic rubber – and combinations)
- Micro-coils or mini coils (thinner versions of pocket coils that are used in comfort layers instead of the support core in a mattress)
- Innerspring (coils used as the support core of a mattress)
- Buckling column gel
After knowing the thickness and type of all the materials and layers in a new mattress, then you can ascertain whether it has any lower quality components or weak links that might compromise its durability / useful life by comparing them to the following guidelines.
If your Body Mass Index is below 30:
- Polyfoam: if the new mattress is one-sided, then its density should be above 1.8 pounds per cubic foot, but if it is two-sided then its density should be above 1.5 pounds per cubic foot.
- Memory foam: if the new mattress is one-sided, then its density should be above 4 pounds per cubic foot, but if it is two-sided then its density should be above 3 pounds per cubic foot.
- Firm polyester fiber: you’ll often find it in low budget mattresses, and should be avoided if it uses more than an an inch of this material in its upper layers.
All other components / materials on these guidelines are durable and wouldn’t become a weak link that would compromise the durability / useful life of the new mattress.
If your Body Mass Index is lower than 20, then using slightly lower quality / density and less durable components can be less risky because you won’t sink into the mattress as much and lower density foam materials won’t be subject to the same degree of compression that cause them to break down as quickly as they would for higher weight ranges.
If your Body Mass Index is higher than 30:
Higher BMI ranges will need more durable components / materials in a new mattress.
- Polyfoam: if your new mattress is one-sided, then look for 2 pounds per cubic foot density or higher, and if it is two-sided then look for a minimum density of 1.8 pounds per cubic foot or higher.
- Memory foam: If your new mattress is one-sided, then look for at least 5 pounds per cubic foot, and if it is two-sided then look for at least 4 pounds per cubic foot.
Other factors that can affect the durability and useful life of a new mattress
- Firmness: firmer materials will tend to compress less and last longer than softer versions of the same material.
- Quilting layers: foam or fiber that is quilted to the cover will be compressed by the quilting process and would be more durable than the same material that isn’t quilted to the cover.
- Layer position: deeper layers or components are less subject to compression forces than layers that are closer to the surface. Thus, lower quality and less durable materials that are deeper in the new mattress would have less effect on its durability and useful life than the same layers that are closer to the sleeping surface.
- Replaceable layers: some (latex) mattresses contain individual loose layers and a zip cover where each layer can be removed and replaced. Because a new mattress will normally soften and break down from the top down, this can be a major benefit in terms of its durability because a single layer that has softened before the other layers and components (often the upper layer of the mattress or its topper) can easily be replaced without having to buy an entirely brand new mattress.
In short, if a new mattress only uses the highest quality and most durable materials and for people whose preferences and requirements or physical condition or body type hasn’t changed much over 10 years, then bonus years of usage with come from more durable materials such as latex, higher density memory foam or polyfoam, natural fibers, or other high quality materials that soften, compress, or break down much more slowly.
New Mattress Specifications
The information you need to collect about any new mattress you’re considering before making the purchase (online or at your neighborhood) is as follows:
- The type and thickness of each component/layer for the new mattress.
- The density of any memory foam and/or polyfoam layers in pounds per cubic foot.
- The type of innerspring, the gauge and number of the coils, and the density of any polyfoam edge support.
- The type (Talalay or Dunlop) and approximate mix (i.e. percentage of natural vs. synthetic rubber) of all latex layers, if appropriate.
- The type or a blend of the fabric and any quilting materials used in the cover. If the quilting material is a memory foam or polyfoam and is less than an inch, then it’s okay not knowing the density. However, if it is above an inch, then you do need to collect info. about the density of any such foam materials in the quilting layers used in the cover of the new mattress.
Finally, you should also collect information about the return policies of the mattress retailers/manufacturers in your shortlist, before committing to anyone in particular.