Buying A Mattress In A Box: Everything You Wanted To Ask

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buying a mattress in a box
Your mattress will arrive looking similar to this

The Answers to all Your Questions about Buying a Mattress in a Box

Buying a mattress online, that is delivered to your house in a box aka “mattress in a box” has really taken the mattress marketplace by storm in recent years. Online mattress sales are exploding all over the place, and new companies offering great sounding mattresses for even better sounding prices are appearing regularly.

I have already written a post about the pros and cons of buying a mattress online instead of the traditional furniture store lie down test. But when writing my reviews of the best mattresses available online, the same questions kept coming up, over and over. I answer these questions in my reviews too, as sometimes the answers are specific to a mattress or a company recommendation, but I thought you would find it really helpful to have a quick list of the most commonly asked questions by people looking to buy a mattress in a box, just like you.

Let’s get started with a short video of exactly how to unbox a mattress, and what it will look like going from the box to your bed. This is a video made by Zinus, manufacturer of the current Amazon best selling mattress by thousands of units per month. I’ve reviewed it here if you’d like to read more.

Your need to know questions, answered:

In no particular order, here are the answers to the most common questions I’ve come across in my time researching and writing about buying a mattress in a box. It is unavoidable that the answer to some of the questions will vary based on the mattress brand you decide to buy, so please treat this as a general guide. I’m happy to answer any individual questions you may have, either in the comments or email me. I want to help you!

  • How should I open the box?
    • Use a box cutter or scissors, but be very careful how you cut it. As you saw in the video above, you want to remove the outer packaging first, without damaging the plastic immediately surrounding the mattress. This is because as soon as you cut that inner layer, you will be breaking the vacuum seal around the mattress, and it will start to expand before you are ready! Another reason to cut carefully is so that you do not damage the mattress, of course. Be prepared for your new mattress to expand quick! A lot of customers find this part quite fun and open their mattresses with a childish glee. We sure did!
  • What are the dimensions of the box?
    • Loads and loads of people are concerned about how big the box their mattress will arrive in is. This is understandable, because you’re probably going to have to maneuver that box into a room! You can get a bit of an idea of a typical mattress box from the image I put at the top of this article. Dimensions of the packaging will vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer (the mattress size will not though, that is standardized) . An example size box is 17 x 17 inches x the height of the mattress size you chose. Confused? Here’s a visual to help clarify:
Mattress box dimensions for Snuggle Pedic (will vary slightly with different brands)
  • Can it be rolled back up for storage after I have taken it out of the box/packaging and used it?
    • No, you will not be able to roll it up. While the mattress will probably be quite light and easy to move, it will not shrink back down or be able to be rolled if you need to store it. I’d recommend keeping the plastic packaging it came in, just in case you need to wrap it up for storage or transport in it’s flat, uncompressed state one day.
  • What if I need to return it?
    • Policies will vary from brand to brand, but mattress companies know it’s hard to ship a mattress around and they want to help you. After all, they want you to feel comfortable taking a risk on their product, and part of that will be feeling secure in not being stuck with it if it’s not right. Check if your mattress has a trial period. Most companies will offer around 100 nights. Some offer 30 nights, some none. If you decide to return the mattress within the trial period or if it is faulty, contact the company you purchased the mattress through. They will usually send you a return shipping label so you can send it back at no cost to yourself. As above though, since the mattress can’t be rolled up, you will probably need to find some way to wrap it up securely for shipping. Piecing together some cardboard boxes can work well for this. Here’s an example showing you how you can do it.
  • How long will it take to decompress?
    • This depends on the mattress. Most memory foam mattress manufacturers recommend you allow 24-48 hours for the mattress to reach its full advertised height. Some mattresses take as little as one hour. Whatever amount of time your company says, they generally agree that you can sleep on the mattress before it’s fully decompressed and this may even help the process. It will take longer if it is very cold because the memory foam stiffens up in the cold. It can also take longer if a lot of weight was put on top of the box in transit (this will also compress the foam). You can help the process to be as efficient as possible by opening the mattress in a warm, well ventilated room.

read about a mattress that springs to life straight away

  • How soon should I open it?
    • As soon as you can! Most manufacturers recommend you decompress the mattress within a week. Some will say up to 30 days maximum. You should not leave it any longer than this as it may cause a delay in the mattress fully decompressing and sometimes it has even caused issues with decompression.
  • Will the mattress have a smell?
    • Most memory foam mattresses contain some petrochemical products in them. When they are decompressing, they may release some chemical smelling odor, which is known as off-gassing. Most memory foam mattresses and some hybrid mattresses will have this, it is a fact of life. Some mattresses seem to have a stronger smell than others. My own personal experience from buying an Ecosa mattress was that there was very little smell. The same has been reported for Snuggle Pedic. Zinus has mixed reports.
  • What sort of base can I put my new mattress on?
    • You can place your new mattress on pretty much any base that is clean and supportive. This means you could use it on a box spring (check it’s in good condition, if it doesn’t support the mattress properly it will sag no matter what brand you buy), a metal grate base, a slat base (ideally with slats no more than 3 inches apart, again so you don’t set your mattress up for sagging), even an adjustable base. You could put it on the floor, but I would not recommend this and the manufacturers would prefer you didn’t as it will be difficult for air to flow around the entire mattress.
  • What is the weight tolerance?
    • This is a question that the answer will vary individually according to the company. I have reviewed several mattresses that say there is no weight limit for their mattress. There is even one company that makes their mattress in the United States, and is therefore able to customize or reinforce the mattress to suit your exact requirements if you feel uncomfortable relying on a one size fits all answer.

  • Will it fit standard sheets?
    • Yes, it will. You will not need to go out and buy new sheets for your mattress. They are standard sizing and I have not heard of anyone complaining that their sheets did not fit. I even found an unexpected happy bonus with my new mattress: it is so much lighter than our previous mattress that changing sheets is about a thousand times easier!
  • Will it feel hot to sleep on?
    • Advances in memory foam technology mean that most memory foam mattresses in a box have one, if not two, layers of either cooling gel and/or holes built into the foam to allow air to flow efficiently around the mattress. However, a common problem can be using a mattress protector on top of the mattress that is not breathable. This prevents the technology within the mattress from keeping you cool, and you will then experience sleeping hot. Invest in a good, breathable mattress protector.
  • How do I clean the mattress?
    • Most will recommend you spot clean only; and to use a mild detergent.  Ensure the mattress is fully dry before putting your protector and bedding back on as moisture can damage memory foam. The best way to keep your mattress clean in the first place is to use a protector. This is pretty critical actually, as stains could void your warranty. Check the instructions from your specific manufacturer, as some mattresses have a cover that you can remove and wash. However, some mattresses have a zip in the cover but the cover is not meant to be removed. If you are in doubt, please ask the company or ask me, I’ll help you!

There you have it. I hope I’ve answered everything you needed to know if you’re considering buying a mattress in a box. I’m here to help you, so if I’ve missed anything, or you have a suggestion that other readers may find helpful, please leave me a comment.


Emily Johnstone

Emily is the creator and owner of Emily's scientific background gives her an analytical, critical, and discerning eye to bring unbiased, thorough, and helpful content to the site. Your good sleep is her top priority. Find out more about Emily and here.