If you’ve been sleeping on a defective mattress, you’re probably dealing with a whole host of problems right now.

A bad mattress can result in everything from back pain to trouble sleeping, so if your mattress is looking a little worse for wear, it’s definitely time to start planning on getting a new one.

So, what do you do with a defective mattress, anyway?

Surely the mattress company will handle that… right?

You need to know your rights in this situation before you start taking action with your mattress supplier.

Knowing what you’re doing now could save you a whole lot of time and money in the long run.

Is Your Mattress Actually Defective?

There are a lot of reasons why you might consider a mattress to be defective, but unfortunately, only some of these are going to be covered under your mattress’s warranty.

Generally, warranties are only there to protect you from manufacturing defects in your mattress.

Most mattress companies have a pretty narrow definition of what they consider to be a defect under warranty, but there are a few obvious things they’ll cover no matter what.

Some common examples include:

  • Splitting at the seams
  • Structural failure (coils breaking, bending, popping out, etc.)
  • Indentations in the mattress surface below a certain level
  • Irregular bunching (in memory foam mattresses)

Note that most mattress warranties do not cover normal wear and tear – and of course, they have a pretty broad definition of what this means.

What Mattress Warranties Actually Mean

Man signing a paperMost mattresses come with 5-, 10-, or 20-year warranties, but these warranties are commonly misunderstood.

These do not mean that your mattress is expected to last until the end of your warranty.

They also don’t mean that you’ll be able to replace your mattress for any reason if you stop being satisfied with it at any point during this period.

In fact, you’ll typically want to replace your mattress every five to seven years.

Written mattress warranties only cover manufacturing flaws that come up during their coverage – and they’re just a company promise, not a legally enforceable contract.

Implied Mattress Warranties

The only warranties you’re actually guaranteed to have legally enforced are implied warranties.

These are the promises a mattress company makes when you buy their product, or things you could reasonably expect upon purchase.

Note that even implied warranties can be voided if a company expressly disclaims them, or identifies their product as “as is” or “with all faults.”

Mattress Trial Periods

Be sure you don’t mix up your mattress’s warranty with your mattress’s trial period.

 These are two very different things.

Trial periods are designed to let you figure out whether or not you actually want this product.

Online mattress companies in particular usually have pretty generous trial period policies – you can typically arrange to have your mattress taken away if you find anything wrong with it within this span of time, and it often won’t cost you a penny.

What’s NOT Covered with a Mattress Warranty

But back to your mattress’s written warranty.

No matter what your warranty looks like, there are certain things no mattress company will cover.

 For instance, warranties usually aren’t about whether or not you actually like the mattress.

That’s something you need to figure out during the trial period.

In general, companies won’t cover anything they can’t directly observe – so things like excessive softness or failing support are off the table.

Things That Void a Mattress Warranty

Man in suit tears up a paperThere are also a number of things that will automatically void a warranty, no matter how terrible a product you’re dealing with.

If you’ve already done any of these things, it’s almost impossible to get any help from the company.

Removing the Law Tag

All mattresses come with something called a “law tag” that reads, “Do not remove this tag under penalty of law.”

Now, this tag is mostly aimed at manufacturers – you’re not going to have the police busting down your door if for some reason you’ve removed this tag somewhere along the way.

For your purposes, though, a law tag is your proof of purchase.

So if your mattress doesn’t have its tag attached, you’ve likely already voided your warranty.

Buying a Mattress from a Third Party

Mattress warranties only extend to the person who bought the mattress, and nobody else.

So if you got your mattress from a third party (like Goodwill or a friend, not a site like us), you’re not going to be able to get any money back.

Getting Stains on the Mattress

If you’ve spilled any kind of liquid on your mattress that resulted in an irremovable stain, you’re out of luck.

Mattress companies consider spills of any kind to make a mattress unsanitary.

They won’t take it to their storage facilities, so they can’t give you your money back.

They also consider spilling liquids on a mattress to be compromising the structural integrity of a mattress – even if your issue with the mattress has nothing to do with the stain.

This is why it’s so important to invest in a proper mattress case, which will protect your investment from these kinds of problems.

Using a Bad Box Spring

If you’ve been using a faulty box spring or bedframe for your mattress, or if your mattress required a box spring and you haven’t been using one, your warranty is kaput.

Mattress companies assume you’ve been taking proper care of your mattress, and if they can find a reason to say you haven’t been, they will jump on that in a heartbeat.

You can read all about what your company expects of you in the warranty.

How Mattress Companies Define “Sagging”

If you want to return a mattress because of an unreasonable amount of sagging, there are a couple things you should know.

First of all, realize that mattress companies will often only measure the indentation in a mattress’s surface when there’s no weight applied.

So in the eyes of your warranty, it doesn’t matter what your mattress actually feels like when you actually lie down on it.

The only thing that matters is whether or not the mattress naturally sags below a certain point.

You can always find this number somewhere in your warranty, but it’s usually around 1.5 inches. 

Note that, if your mattress is sagging below this point before you even lie down, it’s already going to be extremely uncomfortable to sleep on.

In fact, you’re probably going to have been suffering from symptoms of a bad mattress for a long, long time before you actually qualify for help from your company.

It’s stupid, we know.

What Will Happen if You Get the Mattress Inspected

Detective looking through magnifying glassIf you’re convinced that your mattress problems fall within your warranty, though, here’s what’s going to happen when you call the company up.

First of all, be prepared to be in this for the long haul – it often takes mattress companies between four and six weeks to get this all sorted out.

Part of the reason for this is that they’ll have to go out and get a third-party inspector to have a look at your purchase and determine whether or not you qualify for a refund.

This inspector will be unbiased, but all they can do is follow your company’s guidelines – no matter how unfair they might seem.

If your problem involves sagging, for instance, they’ll just take a string and stretch it out across the width of your mattress.

When the string is taut, they’ll then take a ruler and measure how deep an indentation you’re looking at.

If you want to save yourself some trouble, just do all this before you try calling up an inspector.

You might be able to save yourself a lot of trouble.

What Pays For All This?

You’ll often be required to pay for your inspection out of pocket for the time being.

If your mattress is found defective, you’ll get this money back.

Otherwise… sorry.

Even if you do qualify for a replacement, you still might be required to pay shipping fees to get a new mattress if you bought yours online.

This varies from company to company, though, so be sure to bone up on your policy knowledge in advance.

How Prorating Works

One thing you’ll want to check out is your mattress company’s prorating policy.

You want as much non-prorated coverage as possible, here.

This means that the company will replace your mattress free and clear, and you won’t have to pay a penny.

Most mattresses have a combination of prorated and non-prorated coverage in their warranty, though.

After a certain point, prorating is probably going to kick in.

For each year your mattress is prorated, you’re going to have to pay a certain percentage of the mattress’s initial cost to replace it.

So, the older your mattress is, the more it’s going to cost you.

Conclusion About What to Do with a Defective Mattress

We know it’s complicated, but hopefully by this point you have a pretty good idea as to whether or not you should go to the trouble of contacting your mattress company about your defective mattress.

Know your rights, and don’t go around wasting your time and money.

Be smart.

Know what you’re doing around that mattress!


Ted Wilson

Written by

Ted Wilson

Updated at April 21, 2020