The Laws for the Resale of Used Mattresses

Everyone has seen those tags on mattresses and pillows that warn, "Do Not Remove, Under Penalty of Law." Of course the warning is meant for the mattress seller, and the consumer is entirely free to remove the tag. In order to sell a mattress, a declaration must be made of what is inside the ticking. Each state has certain requirements for the sale of new--and the resale of used--mattresses.

  1. Used Mattress Risks

    • Laws regarding the resale of upholstered furniture such as mattresses and pillows are more strict than for other types of furniture, because fabric, filling and down can absorb body fluids and harbor mold, mites and diseases. One common method of transmission for spinal meningitis is through shared mattresses. Since the useful life of a mattress is about 10 years, it can be safer and more cost-effective to buy new.

    Federal Law

    • Federal law states that mattresses containing used material be marked with a tag, usually red or yellow, that identifies the used material.

    State Law

    • Most states allow the resale of used mattresses, and the laws vary some from state to state. In general, they usually require used mattresses for sale to be disinfected and permanently marked or tagged with the declaration that the item is used and has been sterilized according to the state requirement. Sometimes the tag will also require a registration number to reference inspections and permits issued by the state. Not all states require tags, however. Also, some states allow the resale of mattresses that have been recovered with new ticking, and some states only allow the springs to be reused.

    Consumer Advocacy

    • In 2000 the Federal Trade Commission, in an effort they call "Project Rest Easy," took action against mattress sellers in New York for either misrepresenting used mattresses as new or failing to sanitize used mattresses. According to these rulings, a reseller can't call a mattress "rebuilt" without disclosing how much of the mattress is used material.

    Alternative Disposal

    • What do you do with a mattress you don't need any more? Most charity organizations, including Goodwill, won't accept used mattresses. Giving it away to a broke friend or relative is legal, but not always possible. As a result of the difficulty of getting rid of a used mattress, landfills are stacked with them. According to Treehugger.com, about 40 million mattresses are chucked into landfills each year (reference 1). The Open Architecture Network runs an annual competition for ideas to recycle material from used mattresses. See the link below for more information (reference 2).

    Shopping Tips

    • Shop around. Prices vary.

      If your retailer sells used bedding and you're buying new, make certain there is a "new" tag.

      Look at the tag on the mattress you take home, not the one on the display floor. Don't be deterred by heavy plastic wrapping.

      Have the retailer write "new" on your receipt. This will be an aid in taking recourse if the mattress turns out to be used.

      Avoid mattresses without tags.

      Ask about return policies, and get the information in writing.

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