The Laws for the Resale of Used Mattresses

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The sale of used mattresses fall under specific state and federal laws. To identify a used or rebuilt mattress, look for a yellow, red -- or both -- labels attached to the mattress in states that require them for used mattress resale. While new mattresses require a white tag that indicates new materials used in construction, federal laws dictate that any mattress that contains reused or recycled stuffing must have a tag that displays this information.

Used mattresses must contain specific labels.
Used mattresses must contain specific labels. (Image: angelo gilardelli/iStock/Getty Images)

State Laws

Examine the label on the used mattress. Determine if it contains verbiage about reused stuffing or whether it’s an entirely new mattress. Each state has different laws on the resale of used mattresses. Not all states require these mattresses to be labeled – or allow anything but the mattress springs to be reused. In some states, used mattresses can be resold when sanitized or disinfected and covered with new cotton or linen ticking. To find out the laws for your state, contact the department of health, consumer affairs, licensing or agriculture.

Red and Yellow Labels

California, for example, prohibits the sale of used mattresses with visible stains or soiling. Used mattresses that contain yellow tags indicate that the mattress has been sanitized and clean. The red label defines the contents of a rebuilt mattress and the types and amounts of used material in the mattress. In states with resale laws for used mattresses, the law does not apply to individuals selling mattresses, only businesses or retailers.

Federal Flammability Standard

In addition to the labels required on new and used mattresses, federal standards require that mattresses meet its flammability requirements. Flammability standards enacted July 1, 2007 ensure that mattress fires are limited and less intense and that the fire does not spread as rapidly. Under these guidelines, mattress materials must not exceed a 200 kW peak heat during the first 30 minutes of safety tests.

Label Information

The reasoning behind the label information is to ensure that consumers know what they are getting. With the color coded system, the white labels should indicate the use of all new materials. When buying a new mattress, the government recommends that you have the retailer write "New" on the sales receipt; that way, if you find the label says that it contains reused materials, you have a foundation to make a claim against the retailer. Yellow and red labels stand out enough to identify sanitized or rebuilt mattresses with a quick glance. Government label requirements -- especially when textiles are involved -- must specify generic material names, the percentage of fibers by weight of each material in the product, the manufacturer name or registered ID number, and the country of manufacture. Mattresses and other upholstered goods, under federal laws, must clearly indicate on a 2-by-3-inch label that they contain used stuffing or other similar terms.

Licensed Retailers

Some states also require that retailers selling used mattresses display a license from the appropriate state department that allows them to sell these products. In Georgia and other states, for example, it is against the law to sale a used mattress as if it were a new one.

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