Determining Mattress Durability

One of the most frequently asked questions when consumers are buying a new mattress is "how long will this mattress last" and even though this is one of the most important parts of the value of a mattress purchase there are very few sources of information that will provide a reliable answer to this question.

When you sleep on a mattress the upper layers will compress and deflect more than the deeper layers or components partly because the upper layers are usually made to be softer than the deeper transition and support layers or components of a mattress (and firmness/softness is also a factor in the durability of a material) and partly because they are closer to the sleeping surface and subject to direct compression without any of the layers above them absorbing some of the compression forces first. It's this constant compression and deflection of the materials and components in the upper layers of a mattress that leads to changes in firmness or thickness which affects comfort, pressure relief, and the ability of the materials and components to support the weight of the body with the spine in its natural alignment.

Most materials and components will become softer as they break down over time (especially under the heavier parts of the body such as the hips/pelvis) 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 the mattress) are especially important when you are assessing the durability and useful life of the mattress as a whole because they will usually be the weakest link in the mattress in terms of durability and the materials and components that are closer to the bottom of a mattress (the support core of the mattress) won't normally be the weakest link in the mattress.

Durability will also be affected by the body type of the person that sleeps on it because higher body weights (or more specifically a higher BMI) will compress the layers in a mattress more deeply than lighter body types (or a lower BMI) so they will generally need more durable and firmer materials and components in the upper layers than those that are in lower weight ranges for the mattress to maintain its comfort and support for a similar length of time.

There are also many reasons such as health conditions, age, flexibility, or just normal differences between people that some people may be closer to the "princess and the pea" end of the range and are more sensitive to changes in the mattress than those that are closer to the "I can sleep on anything" end of the range that may continue to sleep well on a mattress that more sensitive people would no longer sleep well on and would need to replace.

If a mattress is close to the edge of the comfort/support range that would be too soft for a specific person when it is new then even relatively small changes in firmness may be enough to take them outside of the comfort/support range that would be suitable for them as well and the useful life of the mattress would likely be much less than a mattress that was more in the middle of a suitable comfort/support range for that person (see post #2 here)

In other words, because of all the many variables involved that can affect how long a mattress will maintain its comfort and support relative to any specific person, the most meaningful definition of durability is:

"Assuming that you sleep well on a mattress when it's new ... durability is the length of time you continue to sleep well on a mattress before changes in the materials and components in the mattress caused by changes in firmness or the normal wear and tear or breakdown of the materials over time lead to a loss of comfort and support to the degree that you no longer sleep "well enough" on a mattress and decide to replace it."

While there is no way to specifically quantify or predict how long any mattress will maintain it's comfort and/or support for any particular person for certain or how long it will take before they cross the thresholds between sleeping well on a mattress to sleeping "OK" to tolerating a mattress to finally deciding to replace it because it is no longer suitable or comfortable for them (because this is the only real measure of durability or the useful life of a mattress that really matters) and because there are too many unknowns and variables involved that are unique to each person ...  if you have confirmed that it meets the minimum quality/durability specifications relative to your BMI that are suggested in these guidelines then it would be reasonable to expect a useful lifetime in the range of 7 - 10 years and with higher quality and more durable materials than the minimum guidelines suggested in this article like latex or higher density memory foam or polyfoam (in the upper layers especially) it would likely be in the higher end of the range or even longer and the chances that you would have additional "bonus time" beyond that would be higher as well.

In order to make a reasonable assessment of the durability of a mattress and bearing in mind that because of all the many variables involved that no set of guidelines will be 100% accurate ... and to greatly shift the odds of buying a mattress that will maintain its comfort and support for many years in your favor ... this is how to assess the durability and useful life of a mattress based on the materials and components inside it regardless of how long the mattress has been available for sale or the name of the manufacturer on the label.

Other factors that can affect the durability and useful life of a mattress:

While I would want to know the specifics of an innerspring in a mattress to be able to make more apples to apples comparisons between mattresses and I would want to know the thickness of the innerspring so you can add up all the layers and components in a mattress to make sure that they add up to the total thickness of the mattress and confirm that you aren't missing any layers ... more detailed information about an innerspring isn't usually that important in terms of durability because innersprings aren't normally the weakest link of a mattress and will generally last longer than the padding layers above the innerspring. For those that want more information about the pros and cons of different types of innersprings for reasons other than durability there is more information in this article about innersprings and in post #10 about latex here.

There are also other variables that can affect the durability and useful life of a material such as the specific chemical formulation of a foam material, the cell structure of the foam, or some other more "arcane" and less significant factors but in practical terms these aren't as relevant or important as the other variables that are discussed in this article which will be enough to make sure that the odds of buying a durable mattress that will last you for many years are very high.

While it's not a durability issue ... I would also make sure that the foam materials in your mattress have a reliable safety certification as well so that you can have some confidence that any harmful substances or VOC's are below the testing limits for the certification which for most people would be "safe enough" (see post #2 with information about reliable safety certifications here).

It's always more realistic to think of about 10 years as a maximum reasonable expectation for any mattress no matter what the quality or durability of the materials and then treat any additional time after that as "bonus time" because after about 10 years the limiting factor in the useful life of a mattress will often be the changing needs and preferences of the person sleeping on the mattress and even if a mattress is still in relatively good condition after a decade ... a mattress that was suitable for someone 10 years earlier may not be the best "match" any longer.

Having said that ... if a mattress only uses the highest quality and most durable materials and for people whose needs and preferences or physical condition or body type hasn't changed much over 10 years then "bonus time" or even "extended bonus time" with more durable materials such as latex, higher density memory foam or polyfoam, natural fibers, or other high quality and more durable materials that soften, compress, or break down much more slowly is much more likely and you will find some people who have slept well on some of the most durable mattresses and materials for several decades but these are the much more the exception than the rule.

Log in to comment

Arzack's Avatar
Arzack replied the topic: #2 17 May 2017 11:06
I love bonnell coils mattresses breathability but I'm concerned about their durability. All I can find is mattresses with an insulating synthetic felt and a foam layer (in Italy at least), like this i.imgur.com/sqcksqz.jpg
How durable is the felt layer? And are there hybrid alternatives without the foam (non Pocket coils)?
If the felt is more durable than the foam layer, I might buy a mattress without the foam layer and add a latex topping, is it a bad idea?
Phoenix's Avatar
Phoenix replied the topic: #3 17 May 2017 13:13
Hi Arzack,

Welcome to the Mattress Forum! :)

I love bonnell coils mattresses breathability but I'm concerned about their durability.


There are some very durable Bonnell spring units available. Like any spring unit , it would depend upon such things as the actual design, profile, turns, gauge of steel, tempering and number of springs.

How durable is the felt layer?


This depends upon the thickness, bonding and density of the felt layer. Generally, a felt (insulator) pad is made from resin bonded recycled fabric trimmings for weight balancing, evening out the feel over lower spring counts, minimizing the feel of the coils, and preventing materials from compacting into the innerspring unit.

And are there hybrid alternatives without the foam (non Pocket coils)?


I’m not sure what you’re asking here. A hybrid mattress is meant to describe a mattress using a pocketed spring unit with various foam layers on top, usually polyfoam, memory foam or sometimes latex. I’m not aware of a mattress made using just a Bonnell spring unit and a felt pad on top, although I guess there certainly could be one produced somewhere. Your best bet for something like that would be from a local small mattress manufacturer who could customize an order for you, or form purchasing individual components.

If the felt is more durable than the foam layer, I might buy a mattress without the foam layer and add a latex topping, is it a bad idea


A high quality felt pad can be quite durable, but it ultimately would depend upon the use within a completed sleep system. If you were considering using latex on top of a Bonnell spring unit, a felt pad certainly would be desirable, as you’d want a flatter surface so as to not feel the springs through the latex.

Phoenix
nascarnole's Avatar
nascarnole replied the topic: #4 20 Aug 2017 04:31
Hello. I have read this and the mattress specs article, but I am still unclear: What are the best measurements to look for when shopping for a latex hybrid mattress? In other words, how thick should the various layers be? Are there any components which should be considered red flags? I am trying to formulate a checklist to rule mattress in/out. Thanks so much.
Phoenix's Avatar
Phoenix replied the topic: #5 20 Aug 2017 10:15
Hi nascarnole,

I am still unclear: What are the best measurements to look for when shopping for a latex hybrid mattress? In other words, how thick should the various layers be? Are there any components which should be considered red flags? I am trying to formulate a checklist to rule mattress in/out.


Regarding the latex in a latex hybrid mattress, as mentioned in the mattress durability guidelines listed at the beginning of this thread, any latex (Dunlop or Talalay – synthetic, blended or natural), would be considered a high quality material and unlikely to reduce the useful life of a hybrid mattress.

Both Dunlop and Talalay have their own unique comfort characteristics, and the differences between them are summarized in post #6 here . The preference of choosing one type over the other would be a personal, and not a quality, choice, and the ability to be able to test something similar in person (if ordering online) would be the best way to determine if you had an affinity for one version of the latex versus another.

Regarding the innerspring support unit, this would most often be some version of a pocketed spring unit in a latex hybrid mattress, and again this usually isn’t the “weak link” within a mattress. Some manufacturers will offer a few different pocketed spring options (often something adding zoning or perhaps a firmer spring unit) that they might recommend for different sleeping posture, BMIs or personal preferences.

The best advice I can provide when you can't test a mattress in person is always a more detailed phone conversation with a knowledgeable and experienced retailer or manufacturer that has your best interests at heart and who can help "talk you through" the specifics of their mattresses and the properties and "feel" of the different latex materials and spring units and the options they have available that may be the best "match" for you based on the information you provide them, any local testing you have done or mattresses you have slept on and liked or other mattresses you are considering that they are familiar with, and the "averages" of other customers that are similar to you. They will know more about "matching" their specific mattress designs, options, and firmness levels to different body types, sleeping positions, and preferences (or to other mattresses that they are familiar with) than anyone else.

As for thickness, the thickness of a mattress is just a side effect of the design and by itself isn't particularly meaningful because whether a thicker or thinner mattress would be better or worse for any particular person will depend on the specifics of the materials (type, firmness, etc.) and on all the other layers in the mattress. Thickness is only one of many specs that are used to make different mattresses that perform and feel differently and that makes a mattress suitable for one person and not another. There is more about the effect of thickness in post #14 here . Regardless of how thick or thin a mattress may be, the most important part of the "value" of a mattress is how suitable it is "as a whole" for your particular body type, sleeping positions, and preferences in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences) regardless of how thick it may be.

I hope that helps makes things a bit easier to understand.

Phoenix
amyvols93's Avatar
amyvols93 replied the topic: #6 02 Jan 2018 20:37
So, if my husband has a BMI that is 34 and he is a back sleeper and my BMI is 19 and I am a side sleeper, I assume I go with materials best for him?
I have been reading for hours and I am still so confused. I do believe I am to the point of overthinking this purchase. However, our current bed situation is so bad and has been for so long I don't want to make the same mistake again!

Latest Posts

TheMattressUndergounf
TMU
TheMattressUndergounf