7 common mistakes you might make unboxing a mattress – and how to avoid them

Helix Midnight Luxe Mattress
(Image credit: Future)

As a sleep writer, I've had a lot of practice unpacking mattresses in a box. With practice comes experience, and also plenty of mistakes. I've made all kinds of errors unboxing mattresses and with this guide, i want to prevent you from running into the same issues.

Having found the best mattress for your sleep style, the last thing you want is to damage it while unpacking. Mattresses in a box come compressed, rolled, and tightly packaged, so they require some careful maneuvering. Otherwise you might be off to a nightmare start with your new bed.

In this guide, I'm exploring some of the most common mistakes you might come across when unboxing a new mattress and how to avoid them. I've also rounded up some of the best mattress sales on beds in a box to shop today.

7 common mattress unboxing mistakes and how to avoid them

1. You've left it too long in the packaging

To fit a big mattress into a small box, the bed has to be compressed, rolled, and then tightly packed. While this initial rolling process is carefully done to avoid damaging the interior of your best mattress in a box, once rolled, a mattress should only be kept in that state for a short while.

If left sitting in the box too long you might find once unrolled it never expands to its full shape. Keeping the mattress packaged can also lead to a build up of off-gassing – an unpleasant surprise when you finally get to unboxing. So once your new mattress has arrived, unpack it as soon as possible. Preferably, right away.

Helix Midnight Luxe Mattress

(Image credit: Future)

2. You didn't get help

Compressing and rolling a mattress into a box might make the bed smaller, but it isn't any lighter. Mattress unboxing is typically a two person job, especially if you're dealing with a larger size, like the best queen size mattresses. I recommend asking for a helping hand, otherwise you risk damaging the bed and hurting yourself.

If you are planning on unboxing alone, go carefully and try to choose a mattress with handles. Alternatively, you might want to invest in white glove delivery. With white glove delivery, the company delivers the bed to a room of your choice, unboxing it and placing it on the bed frame.

3. You didn't clear the area

An unrolled mattress is a bulky item, and you're probably going to have to move it around to get it centered in the bed frame. Speaking from personal experience, it's easy to knock over a lamp or chair when trying to get your mattress straight on the frame. 

As well as the size, mattress unboxing can be a surprisingly speedy process. Once that tight packaging is off, the bed has a tendency to spring open. You want to make sure there's nothing in the way when your mattress starts unfurling. 

4. You snagged the mattress with scissors

Mattresses in a box typically come in tightly packed layers of plastic that hold the bed in its rolled shape. When unboxing, you need to slice through this plastic, avoiding the mattress underneath. Cutting a mattress as you unbox isn't just a frustration – it can also void the warranty. So take your time, go carefully, and clear away excess packaging as you work. 

Helix Midnight Luxe Mattress

(Image credit: Future)

5. You put it on the bed frame upside down

Most mattresses consist of several layers of materials, each carefully placed to enhance the overall performance of the bed. Placed the wrong way round, these layers can't provide the comfort and support you need. Plus, you risk damaging the interior.

When the mattress is still in its packaging it can be hard to spot which is the right way up, so don't worry if you get it wrong first time. But once the mattress is on the bed frame, take a step back and double check it's facing upwards. If it isn't, flip the mattress over now so that it can expand properly.

6. You didn't open a window

Mattress off-gassing refers to the unpleasant smell released by a mattress in a box when removed from the packaging. Off-gassing can take a while to clear and if you're sensitive to smells, you might even find it disrupts your sleep. 

This can be a particular problem with memory foam mattresses – even the best memory foam mattresses are likely to have some off-gassing. The best way to clear off-gassing is to open a window and allow for the scent to dissipate. To deal with the problem immediately, leave the window open as you unbox.

Helix Midnight Luxe Mattress

(Image credit: Future)

7. You unboxed right before bed

A boxed mattress needs time to expand before it can be slept on, and it can take as long as 72 hours before your bed is fully ready. Sleeping on a mattress before it has fully expanded risks damaging the materials, so leave plenty of time between unboxing and going to bed. While it's tempting to collapse straight on your new bed, giving it time to expand will mean you have a better experience when you finally get to enjoy the bed. 

3 best mattress in a box deals to buy today

1. Nectar Memory Foam Mattress: was from $699now $349 at Nectar

1. Nectar Memory Foam Mattress: was from $699 now $349 at Nectar
The popular Nectar Mattress is an all-foam bed in a box with a medium-firm feel that suits back and stomach sleepers. In our Nectar Memory Foam Mattress review we found that it did take a while for this mattress to expand, but once back to full size, it delivered exceptional comfort for the price – a queen is just $649 (was $1,099) and you get a 365-night trial. 

2. DreamCloud Hybrid Mattress: was from $839now $449 at DreamCloud

2. DreamCloud Hybrid Mattress: was from $839 now $449 at DreamCloud
The DreamCloud has a surprisingly luxurious feel for a budget-friendly mattress in a box. During our DreamCloud Mattress review we found it's worth enlisting a helping hand when unboxing this heavy bed, but the effort pays off with a  hotel-like quality. There's an evergreen sale at DreamCloud, reducing a queen from $1,332 to $665. 

3. Helix Midnight Luxe mattress: was from $1,373.80now $1,099 at Helix

3. Helix Midnight Luxe mattress: was from $1,373.80 now $1,099 at Helix
One of the best mattresses for side sleepers, the Helix Midnight Luxe delivers a plush feel with a strong supportive core. We were pleasantly surprised to discover during our Helix Midnight Luxe mattress review that the bed fully expanded in under an hour, allowing us to sleep on it almost immediately. The 20% off Helix sale is evergreen, knocking a queen from $2,373.80 to $1,899 (plus free pillows).

Ruth Jones
Sleep staff Writer

Ruth Jones has recently joined the Tom's Guide team as a sleep staff writer, covering all things mattresses and sleep. Ruth previously worked as a sleep and mattress writer for our sister website TechRadar, and has a deep interest in sleep and how it affects our day to day wellbeing. Ruth is a self-confessed stomach sleeper with a penchant for medium-firm mattresses, and also loves a good eye mask for helping her to fall asleep easier at night.