5 reasons not to put a mattress on the floor — and 3 why you should

A man sits on a mattress on the floor placed on a hardwood floor so it sleeps cooler
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Placing a mattress on the floor is a trend we’ve seen come and go for years, but not all mattresses are designed to be placed on the floor. Most of this year’s best mattresses should only be used on a suitable bed base, and that’s especially the case for memory foam. If you don’t use a base you could void the warranty, leaving you without any coverage. 

However that isn’t the case for all mattresses, and while the reasons not to put yours on the floor will outweigh the reasons why you should – especially if you have a memory foam mattress – it’s an interesting debate. 

So whether you’re doing it for budget reasons, health reasons or because it looks minimalist and chic, here’s our take on the mattress on the floor argument… 

Can you put a mattress on the floor?

When you buy a new mattress, one of the next decisions you’ll need to make is what surface to put it on. There are several types of bed base, including box springs, platforms and divans, but what if you don’t want to or can’t buy any of those? It’s certainly more simple to put a mattress on the floor, but it isn’t always the right decision. 

Mattresses made from memory foam are particularly sensitive to being placed on the floor, as the porous material is more prone to developing mildew and attracting bacteria when positioned this way. Mattresses need space to breathe to remain healthy, and they can’t do that when squished against your bedroom floor. 

Here are the biggest downsides to putting a mattress on the floor…

Using a brush to clean a mattress covered in mold

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1. It may develop mildew or mold

We usually see this in warm or humid places, but in truth most mattresses run a higher risk of mildew or mold when placed on the floor. There’s zero air flow between your bed and the floor, making it a lovely moist spot for bugs and other nasties to gather, breed and dig in. Hybrids and innersprings will fare better than dense all-foam beds as air moves more freely through and around the springs.

2. The mattress will feel hotter to sleep on

When you place a mattress on the floor, you restrict airflow. That means there’s no place other than the top and sides for heat to escape, so more of it will pool in the mattress. If you’re a hot sleeper (prone to overheating at night), this could lead to broken sleep. The only exception is if you have hardwood or tiled floors, as your mattress won’t be insulated on that type of flooring and heat will escape faster. 

Have carpets, sleep hot and still want to place your mattress on the floor? Then we’d recommend choosing one of the best cooling mattresses for hot sleepers and making sure it can be used on the floor. 

3. It can aggravate your allergies

Hot sleepers aren’t the only ones who should think twice about putting a mattress on the floor - people with allergies should reconsider too. Why? Because dust and dust mites will accumulate faster in a mattress resting directly on the floor compared to one sat on a slatted base.

A bed bug up close

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4. It’s an open invitation to bed bugs

While bed bugs will always find a way unless you’ve wrapped your mattress in a full mattress protector (covering the top, bottom and sides), placing your bed on the floor makes it easier for them to jump on and burrow in. Getting bed bugs out of a mattress is hard work and you could lose your mattress for six months while it’s going through the process of shedding bugs. 

5. You risk voiding the warranty

Most mattresses in a box come with a 10-year warranty, though a few have a lifetime warranty. Read the small print and many will caution that the mattress must be used on a compatible frame otherwise the warranty will be void. We strongly recommend reading the guidelines from your chosen manufacturer before moving your bed to the floor.

Why you should place your mattress on the floor

The obvious reason to ditch the bed frame, base or platform is to save money, and in our ongoing cost of living crisis, many of us will have no choice but to make this decision. For others, placing a mattress on the floor looks pleasing. Beyond those two, here are some benefits to sleeping on a mattress on the floor - as long as your bed is compatible and you won’t be voiding your warranty…

It makes soft mattresses firm and supportive

This is a common fix with sagging and too-soft mattresses, as you’re using the floor to instantly ramp up the firmness of your bed. We wouldn’t try this if you have any mobility requirements or need a good boost to get up, as you’ll find it tricky doing so from such a low position.

A woman sleeps happily on a white mattress placed on the floor

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But if your bed has become too soft yet you don’t have the budget to replace it just yet, placing it on the floor will make it firmer. The bonus of doing this with older mattresses is that it doesn’t matter if you void your coverage - because you probably don’t have it any longer anyway. 

Posture, pain relief and cooler sleep

There isn’t a huge amount of research in this area, but some reported benefits include better blood circulation, reduced neck and back pain, and better posture and spinal alignment with less cushioning. 

And as mentioned, if you place a mattress on hardwood or tiled floors, it will sleep cooler, reducing your chances of sweating and waking up because you’re too hot.

We’d like to see more research into these areas though, especially with regards to back pain relief as a firmer mattress isn’t always the right approach. In fact, studies have shown that medium firm mattresses provide the highest relief from back pain. 

Tips for placing a mattress on the floor

1. Place foam or cardboard beneath it

Only do this if you have hardwood or tiled floors - skip it if you have carpets or rugs down. By placing a thin layer of cardboard or foam under your mattress you can insulate it better so it doesn’t lose all warmth and leave you feeling cold at night. Fall and winter are prime times for doing this. Obviously if you sleep hot, you may welcome a cooler bed.

2. Prop it up once a week for airing

Remember how we said moisture can lead to nasty mold and mildew growth on a mattress placed on the floor, especially memory foam ones? One way to try and reduce this is to lean your mattress against a wall for several hours a week. While this is a pain, it will help keep unwanted moisture problems at bay. We’d recommend doing it on laundry day when you’ll be stripping off your bedding for washing anyway.

A couple sit on a mattress covered in black sheets in a new bedroom they've just moved into

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3. Choose the right spot

This might be difficult depending on the size of your bedroom, but pick a spot where there’s good airflow. There are pros and cons to placing it in front of a window, as it will attract more moisture there as well as sunlight. The latter can kill dust mites, but it will also age your mattress faster.

4. Reevaluate your sleeping position

Just because you loved side sleeping on a mattress when it was placed on a bed base or frame doesn’t mean it will be just as comfortable for you if you’re sleeping on a mattress on the floor. So you may need to experiment with a new position or draft in a bunch of pillows to plug gaps and make sure your head, neck and spine are still aligned. Back and stomach sleepers may not need a pillow at all when sleeping on the floor.

5. Keep the floor and your mattress clean

There’s no getting around it: you’ll have to do more maintenance to keep your sleep space clean when you place a mattress on the floor. Brush or vacuum under your mattress regularly, dust near-by walls and furniture, and learn how to clean a mattress according to which type you have (foam, hybrid, innerspring or an organic mattress).

The bottom line? You can place any mattress on the floor, but doing some has greater risks for your health and that of your mattress. To avoid the big mistakes people make when putting a mattress on the floor, keep the floor clean, protect your mattress with a cover, and air and clean it regularly.

Claire Davies
Senior Sleep Editor, Certified Sleep Science Coach

Claire Davies is Tom's Guide's mattress expert and main sleep product tester with over 15 years' product review experience, and she is responsible for all mattress and sleep coverage on the site. A qualified journalist, Sleep Editor and Certified Sleep Science Coach, Claire writes about all things related to sleep, from mattress reviews to the latest sleep techniques and research. Claire has interviewed a wealth of experts, from mattress designers and innovators to neuroscientists and doctors of sleep medicine. Before taking on the role of Sleep Editor, Claire worked as Health & Wellness Editor at Top Ten Reviews, and before that was a Senior Content Editor at T3. Claire is super-passionate about how consistent, good quality sleep can boost our physical and mental wellbeing, and would love to hear from PRs and brands regarding sleep products, services and research that can help our readers sleep better than ever.