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Kirill Kulikov
Kirill Kulikov

Mattress Buying 101


Lexie Sachs (she/her) is the executive director of the Textiles, Paper and Apparel Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, where she researches, tests and reports on fabric-based products ranging from sheets, mattresses and towels to bras, fitness apparel and other clothing. She also evaluates luggage, rain gear, disposable paper goods and baby products. Lexie has more than 15 years of experience in the textiles industry and a degree in fiber science from Cornell University. Prior to joining GH in 2013, she worked in merchandising and product development in the fashion and home industries.




mattress buying 101



Many people approach mattress shopping in the wrong way, by focusing solely on measures of firmness level or sleep position, considering only the price, or choosing materials and technology touted in an ad. But that approach might land you a not-so-comfy mattress that you could regret buying.


As the name suggests, an innerspring mattress uses a system of connected metal springs, or coils, to support the weight of your body. A top layer of soft, fabric-encased padding (aka the comfort layer) provides cushioning and contouring without the sinking sensation of memory foam. In general, a quality innerspring mattress offers good edge support, is more breathable (and thus cooler) than its all-foam counterparts, and comes in a range of firmness levels to accommodate a variety of preferences.


Most online mattresses come with a free trial period of about 100 days or so, if you buy it directly from the company. You might be required to try a mattress for 30 days before you can initiate a return, though. Third-party retailers, such as Amazon, department stores, and mattress stores, might have their own rules, whether you purchased the mattress online or in a brick-and-mortar store.


In this guide, I will go over the basics of selecting the correct mattress. Elsewhere on the site, I will go into more detail on each of these topics and more, but this will be enough to get you started. If you just want a recommendation, check out some of our top picks below.


The most important factor in finding the correct mattress is proper support. You need the mattress to push up on your body to counteract your body weight. So that means a hard, firm, stone-like mattress, right? Wrong.


Motion & SeparationIf you share your bed, you want to minimize motion transfer. If your partner gets in or out of bed, or changes positions, you run the risk of being woken up if the mattress transfers too much of that motion to your side of the bed. Try the mattress in the store with your partner, and have your partner switch positions while your back is turned to see how much motion you feel.


TemperatureAnother issue some people have is heat retention of the mattress. Most good mattresses these days have features to help mitigate this (advanced foams, phase change materials, ventilation, etc). The biggest risk here is with cheap memory foam mattresses.


$400-600: These range from some of the nicer guest room mattresses to maybe the bare minimu