What Is A Bed In A Box? All Your Questions Answered

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What is a bed in a box? It’s literally a mattress that is delivered to your door, neatly packaged in a box!

You feel a bit concerned about that? Don’t worry, I get it. We are so used to testing mattresses in stores, it probably feels like a huge risk.

You’re wondering how it all works. Why are they so cheap? Do companies honor the return policies and warranties? How do I set it up?

I sleep on a mattress that came in a box and have done for 3 years. I’ve tested loads of them, and I also regularly keep myself updated on what’s available in traditional furniture stores.

I’ll help you understand exactly what a bed in a box is, how it works, and put your mind at ease about buying one.

How Does A Bed In A Box Work?

Let’s walk through the entire process from how a mattress squishes in a box right through to you sleeping on it.

  1. Compression: Once the mattress is manufactured, it goes through a compression process. A large machine compresses the mattress, reducing its size and thickness. Imagine squishing a marshmallow with your hand. It kind of works like that.
  2. Rolling: After compression, the mattress is rolled tightly from one end to the other. This rolling process helps further reduce the size of the mattress and makes it easier to fit into a box for shipping.
  3. Vacuum-Sealing: Once rolled, the mattress is vacuum-sealed in plastic packaging. This removes the air from the mattress, allowing it to maintain its compressed state. Just like when you vacuum seal clothes to pack them away, or you buy vacuum sealed food from the supermarket.
  4. Packaging: The vacuum-sealed mattress is then placed inside a sturdy cardboard box. The box is typically designed to be compact and easy to handle, making it suitable for shipping via standard delivery services. Your box may have sturdy handles or even have wheels built in, depending on the brand.
  5. Shipping and Delivery: The boxed mattress is shipped directly to your chosen address. Since the mattress is compressed and packaged in a box, it can be shipped via regular parcel delivery services, eliminating the need for specialized delivery methods. Pretty much all bed in a box brands will offer you free shipping.
  6. Unboxing and Expansion: Once the boxed mattress is delivered, you unbox it by removing the outer packaging and plastic wrapping. As soon as the mattress is unrolled and released from its vacuum-sealed state, it begins to expand back to its original size and shape.
  7. Expansion Time: It may take several hours or even up to a day for the mattress to fully expand and regain its intended firmness and shape. During this time, the mattress may emit a slight odor, which is normal and typically dissipates within a few days. I recommend you unbox your mattress with a window open.
  8. Ready to Use: Once fully expanded, the mattress is ready for you to sleep on. I’ve found with all the mattresses I have unboxed, this has been the same day I removed them from their box, even if it took another day for it to fully expand.

Bed In A Box Vs Traditional Mattress

When you’re buying a mattress, cost, quality and comfort are probably your main considerations. Let’s compare how a bed in a box stacks up against traditional mattresses, along with other factors like convenience and trial periods.

  1. Cost:
    • Bed in a box mattresses tend to be more affordable than traditional mattresses. The direct-to-consumer model cuts out middlemen and showroom expenses, allowing bed in a box brands to offer more competitive prices.
    • Traditional mattresses, on the other hand, often involve additional costs associated with showroom overhead, sales commissions, and distribution channels, making them generally more expensive.
  2. Quality and Longevity:
    • Both bed in a box and traditional mattresses come in a variety of qualities. While some bed in a box mattresses offer high-quality materials and durability, others may not be as long-lasting.
    • Traditional mattresses often come with longer warranties and may be perceived as more durable due to their construction and materials. However, quality can vary greatly among different brands and models.
    • Basically, there’s no clear winner when it comes to quality. You’re going to need to research individual brands and stores. I’ve seen some really shoddy mattresses both instore and online. I’m here to help you avoid those, no matter where you buy from.
  3. Comfort and Support:
    • Comfort and support are subjective and can vary depending on individual preferences and body types.
    • Some bed in a box mattresses offer innovative foam layers and hybrid constructions that provide excellent comfort and support. The bed in a box market is so competitive that brands are constantly trying to outdo each other with their latest innovations and technology. This can lead to amazing benefits in comfort for you, the buyer.
    • Traditional mattresses also come in a variety of designs, including innerspring, memory foam, latex, and hybrid models, offering a wide range of options to cater to different sleep preferences.
  4. Convenience:
    • Bed in a box mattresses offer convenience that is honestly pretty hard to beat. They can be easily purchased online, shipped directly to your doorstep (at no extra cost to you), and set up without the need for delivery personnel or installation services.
    • Traditional mattresses may require scheduling delivery times, coordinating with delivery personnel, paying a fee, and maneuvering a full size mattress around your house.
    • Both leave you with the problem of what to do with any old mattress, some bed in a box brands set themselves apart by offering to dispose of your old mattress for you, making them ultra convenient.
  5. Trial Period and Return Policy:
    • Many bed in a box companies offer generous trial periods, allowing customers to test the mattress at home for several months before deciding whether to keep it. I’ve seen some companies offer up to 18 months! You really need 30 nights to test a mattress so any brand offering 100 nights will be good.
    • Traditional mattress stores may offer trial periods as well, but the policies and terms may vary. Additionally, returning a traditional mattress may involve more logistical challenges (like you having to repackage the mattress and delivering it to a depot) and potential restocking fees.
  6. Environmental Impact:
    • Bed in a box mattresses often use compressed packaging, which can reduce the environmental footprint associated with shipping and transportation.
    • Traditional mattresses may involve more packaging materials and larger delivery vehicles, potentially contributing to a higher environmental impact.
  7. Customization and Options:
    • Both bed in a box and traditional mattresses come in various sizes, firmness levels, and designs to accommodate different sleep preferences and needs.
    • Many bed in a box brands now offer a sleep quiz to help you choose the best mattress from their range, or interchangeable comfort layers so you can set the mattress to exactly how you’d like it.
    • Some traditional mattress stores may offer more customization options, such as adjustable bases and personalized fitting services.

In summary, bed in a box mattresses offer convenience, affordability, and a hassle-free purchasing experience, while traditional mattresses may provide a wider range of customization options, longer warranties, and perceived durability. Ultimately, your choice between the two depends on your own preferences, budget, and priorities.

What Kind of Mattresses Are Sold In Boxes?

Thanks to the evolution of the roll pack machine, most mattress types can compacted down for shipping in a box. The three most popular types for every day use are:

  • memory foam mattress (which usually have a soft memory foam comfort layer and a firmer polyfoam core)
  • latex mattress (which is made of latex: it might be organic, natural, or synthetic)
  • hybrid mattress (this mattress type has a coil support system and a foam comfort layer, the foam could be memory foam or latex)

These mattress types all have their pros and cons, and most people can find a mattress that works very well for them within this range. From my experience of the online mattress market, memory foam mattresses are by far the most common and are very popular.

My personal preference is a hybrid mattress, because I prefer the support of coils over foam, but like the feel foam or latex can give as a comfort layer. They are also best for air circulation and strong edges.

Is A Bed In A Box Any Good?

The answer here is, like with most things, it depends.

I am brutally honest in my mattress reviews, and I’ll let you know if I think a mattress is poor quality or if there are lots of customers complaining about the same problem over and over with a mattress.

There are lots of really great beds in boxes out there, and here are some of the key indicators I look for in determining mattress quality:

  • Transparency with materials used. I like it when companies are happy to show you all their figures for foam densitys, and all their certifications for their organic and non toxic claims. If a company won’t supply these to you it’s a red flag.
  • Reviews from people who have owned the mattress for more than a year: how is it holding up?
  • Good quality covers with materials such as organic cotton
  • Natural or organic latex when latex is used
  • Exceptional customer service (you want to feel looked after when making the choice about spending money on your bed)
  • At least 3 inches of great quality foams in the comfort layers of the mattress (any less and the mattress may feel too firm)
  • Made in the country you live in (for most of my readers, this means you’re looking for made in the USA). This is important because it means a shorter time between the mattress being made, compressed into a box, and arriving at your house. A mattress that sits around in a box too long may take longer to decompress or may not decompress to its full height evenly.

What else should I look out for?

  • A good warranty of at least 10 years
  • A sleep trial of more than 30 nights. This one is critical because you’re trying the mattress out in your own home. It takes around 30 nights to truly know if a mattress is right for you, so I recommend you look for mattresses that have at least a 100 night sleep trial so you can really get a good feel for it. If you think about it, it’s so much better to have this option of trying a mattress in your very own home, instead of just sitting on one in a store for 5 minutes.

Why Are They So Cheap?

A high quality mattress in a box can be just as comfortable, and in many cases more comfortable, than the big names you’re familiar with from your local mattress store. However, you can pick up an excellent quality “bed in a box” mattress from around $600-$2000 depending on the materials (organic latex is the priciest, memory foam tends to be cheaper). This is often thousands of dollars less than you would expect to pay for a top quality mattress. How is that?

Bed in a box companies sell directly to you online. There are no overheads from running stores, and no sales people to pay. Basically, by selling direct to you, they cut out a whole layer of cost which is built into the price of a mattress when you try it out in store. The companies that offer 100-365 night sleep trials can do so because they are confident in the quality of their mattress, and that you will love it and not want to return it!

Do I Need To Buy A New Box Spring Or Frame At The Same Time?

If you have an old and worn out box spring (here’s how to tell), then yes, you will need to replace it. In fact, just do that! An old box spring will make any mattress sag, and I would be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every time someone complained their new mattress was saggy when actually they’d just put it straight on an old box spring. Here’s a great option from an American company who have been specializing in just making box springs for decades.

If you want to upgrade the whole look of your bed, then you might want to get a nice frame or platform base to support your mattress. You can use these without box springs, I recommend you choose frames with slats no more than 3 inches apart to give your new mattress the best base possible.

How Do I Use My Mattress In A Box?

It’s really simple, but these key steps will help you get the most from your mattress:

  1. Open it up to expand as soon as you can (leaving the mattress in its box for more than a few days can lead to decompression issues where the mattress does not expand evenly – if this did happen you’d get an instant replacement though)
  2. Ventilate the room the mattress is expanding in to get rid of any odor (most will have a slight odor from both the packaging and from the mattress materials expanding, this is normal and harmless)
  3. Use a breathable mattress protector (this will help keep your mattress clean, which you will need to do for warranty purposes, and allow you to make the most of the technologies within your mattress: a non-breathable protector will negate any cooling properties your mattress may have)
  4. Rotate your mattress regularly to allow even wear and to maximize its life
  5. Don’t be afraid to contact the company you bought it from if you have any issues. I see many people complaining that because the mattress won’t fit back in its box that they can’t return it. This is not the case at all. If you need to return your mattress within its trial period, the company must help you with this.

Here’s a short video from popular mattress manufacturer Zinus to show you how to unbox your new mattress:

Lots Of People Enjoy Buying Beds In Boxes

People have fun with their beds in boxes. They are (generally) MUCH cheaper than mattresses you buy in store, and can be more comfortable. Many mattress in box companies use high quality materials to make their mattresses, but you get a great price still, because you are not paying for the upkeep of a store.

I have seen loads reviews where people have delighted in getting the mattress out of the box and watching it expand, watch the video above to see this in action!

If you think a bed in a box sounds like something that could work well for you but want to do more research, I recommend you read my article about buying a mattress online or my mattress buying guide. Alternatively, you can go straight to my bed in a box reviews (the good and the bad) here.


Emily Johnstone

Emily is the creator and owner of bestmattressforyou.com. 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 bestmattressforyou.com here.