3 mistakes you’re making when putting a mattress on the floor for sleeping, says expert

A man sits on a mattress on the floor before he falls asleep
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Placing a mattress on the floor can be a good way to save money and save space. But it’s not quite as simple as putting the bed on the ground and calling it a day. There are some benefits to sleeping on a mattress on the floor, but common pitfalls could be damaging both the lifespan of your mattress and the health of your sleep.

While many of the best mattresses of 2024 should be used with a bed frame, there are some beds that suit this set-up. Make sure to read the small print before putting your bed on the floor though, as it can void the warranty. 

If you're shopping for a new mattress, we're just weeks away from the Memorial Day mattress sales, making now an excellent time to buy. But when you do, should you place your new bed directly on the floor? Read on for our expert guide to common mistakes people make when putting their mattress on the floor.

3 big mistakes people make when putting a mattress on the floor

Putting your mattress on the floor might seem like the easiest way to set up your bed, but doing it wrong could damage both your mattress and your sleep. Here Claire Davies, Senior Sleep Editor and Certified Sleep Coach at Tom’s Guide, shares the biggest mistakes people make when using their bed on the floor (and how to avoid them).

1. They don’t protect the bottom of the mattress

Not using a protective layer is a big 'no' if you want to put your mattress on the floor. Even a thin barrier can make a world of difference in how clean your mattress is.

“Placing your mattress directly on the floor puts it at risk of mold and mildew,” says Davies. “By not allowing any space between the floor and the mattress, you’re creating the perfect warm and moist environment for nasties to grow."

Luckily, it's an easy fix. “To avoid this, place your mattress on a tatami mat or a thin bunkie board," advises Davies. "You will still need to air your mattress regularly [see below], but having a sheet of material between your mattress and the floor will help prevent mold and mildew growth.”

2. They don’t clean or air their mattress regularly

If your mattress is on the floor, keeping it clean should be a priority. “Another big mistake people make when placing mattresses on the floor for sleeping is not airing them or cleaning them regularly. Both of these steps are critical for mattresses on the floor compared to those placed on proper bed frames,” advises Davies.

“Learning how to clean a mattress properly is a must if you sleep on the floor as your mattress will be at risk of higher exposure to common allergens such as dust mites, plus bed bugs and bacteria.”

And if you're foregoing a bed frame, your cleaning routine needs to take on a few extra steps. It's important to clean beneath the mattress and make sure furniture around the bed isn't accumulating dust. In addition, Davies advises regularly giving your mattress a chance to breathe.

“I recommend airing your mattress a few times a week by lifting it up off the floor completely for a few hours. Airing your mattress dries out any moisture that might be forming on the bottom, which is essential for stopping the growth of mold and mildew. It also helps stagnant air to escape the mattress."

Make sure you're also using a mattress protector, which will add a barrier between your bed and the ground. Our best mattress protector guide can help you find the right one for you – for a floor mattress, we recommend a full protector covering the top, sides, and base.

Woman wearing beige shorts vacuuming her white mattress to get rid of bed bugs

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3. They don’t consider hot and cold spots

Ditching the bed frame can be a good way to save space in a small room, but even if locations are limited, you should still consider exactly where you're placing the mattress. Being too hot or too cold can affect the integrity and feel of the bed.

“Where you place your mattress on the floor is important too. Positioning it in-front of a window will attract more moisture, increasing the chance of mold and mildew, but UV rays from natural sunlight are excellent dust mite killers. Regular sun exposure may also age your mattress faster, so you need to weigh up the pros and cons of placing a mattress on the floor close to a window," explains Davies.

Avoiding the window doesn't mean defaulting to the coldest corner of your room. “Be mindful not to place your mattress in a cold spot either – anywhere exposed to a regular draught – as this will affect the feel of your mattress. It will make softer mattresses feel harder. Of course, if making a softer mattress harder is your main reason for placing it on the floor, then this could actually be a benefit to you.”

Cons of placing a mattress on the floor

1. You’re at higher risk of allergy triggers

Placing a mattress on the floor limits how much air can circulate, and when the mattress can't breathe, dust and other allergens accumulate faster (especially if you're not on top of your vacuuming). This lack of breathability also traps moisture within a mattress, potentially leading to the growth of mold and mildew. So if you've found itchy eyes and a runny nose are keeping you awake, your floor mattress could be to blame.

A woman sits up in bed looking tired holding a cup of coffee

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2. You risk voiding your mattress warranty

A mattress warranty offers some degree of protection if the bed develops faults or defects outside the usual wear and tear. However, placing your mattress on the floor – instead of an appropriate bed frame – can sometimes void the warranty. Meaning if your mattress has a fault, you won't be able to make a claim. Make sure to read the fine print of your warranty before placing your bed on the floor.

Pros of placing a mattress on the floor

1. It helps older, softer mattresses feel firmer

If a soft surface is causing discomfort, placing a sagging bed on a hard floor can make your mattress feel firmer. This is a good short-term option for adjusting the feel of your bed while you start shopping for the best firm mattress

However, moving the mattress to the floor can't fix a core that has seen better days. Although the sagging layers might feel firmer, you won't necessarily be getting the support you need. And if aches and pains are causing you to rethink your soft bed, placing the mattress on the floor adds a problem of its own – it’s hard to get out of a bed that low down.

2. It can make your mattress cooler

Struggling to sleep in a sudden heat wave? Placing your hybrid mattress on a cold hardwood or tiled floor can provide a quick cooling boost. These hard surfaces don't add any insulation, allowing heat to escape from the mattress fast for a cooler sleep experience.

There is a caveat: place a memory foam mattress on a carpeted floor and instead of cooling, you’re likely to find yourself overheating. Carpet is an insulating material, and hot air will get trapped in the foam interior of your bed. If you can't avoid the carpets, consider investing in one of the best cooling mattresses (but double check the manufacturer's guidelines, to see if your choice can go on the floor).

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

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3. It saves space in small bedrooms

Even a streamlined platform bed adds height and width to your mattress, so in a small room, placing your mattress on the floor can save a marginal amount of space. It’s also good for those who prefer a simple bedroom style – think Japanese minimalism.

However, a minimalist look doesn’t translate to minimalist upkeep. As well as regularly cleaning around the bed space, you’ll need to frequently clean under the mattress, as well as pop it up against the wall to air for a few hours each week.

How to care for a mattress on the floor

There are some benefits to placing a mattress on the floor and if you don’t have the space (or the money) for a bed frame, it might be a necessity. But if you do want to put your mattress on the ground, make sure to follow these guidelines for a healthier sleep setup:

  • Air it regularly. For a couple of hours every week, angle your mattress upright against a wall so it can breathe. This allows air to circulate and moisture to evaporate, preventing mold or mildew from forming.
  • Clean it often. Putting your mattress on the floor limits airflow, allowing dirt and dust to build up. Make sure to clean the top, base, and sides of the mattress, and if you have a spill, clean it up quickly.
  • Place a thin board underneath, such as a tatami or bunkie board. The space between the mattress and the floor is the perfect breeding ground for mold or mildew. A thin board can limit the growth of nasties (although regular cleaning is still necessary).
  • Avoid placing it in hot or cold spots. Placing your mattress in warm spots can degrade the material, causing your mattress to age faster, while cold spots can make soft foams feel harder. You might have to experiment to find the perfect position.
  • Invest in a mattress protector. Mattress protectors are necessary no matter where you place your bed. For a floor mattress, we recommend a full mattress protector that covers every part of the mattress, including the underside.
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.