This is what happens to mattresses in a box when they’re returned

Two men load a mattress into a van
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One of the best things about buying a mattress in a box online is that you’ll get a generous trial period to try it out. If you’ve done your research beforehand and consulted our official best mattress guide, you should hopefully be sleeping on your dream bed by now.

However, despite how much extensive research you do, there’s no substitute for actually sleeping on a mattress and sometimes we end up with one that just doesn’t quite fit our sleeping style. All the major mattress brands have limited sleep trials and return policies, but what happens to your unwanted mattress once it arrives back with a brand? 

For many of us, knowing that a brand has reputable policies that support the environment are important considerations when choosing a mattress. So it’s equally important to know that unwanted mattresses are dealt with in eco-friendly ways. For Sleep Awareness Week 2024, we’ve taken look at  what major mattress brands do with returned mattresses.

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What is a mattress in a box? 

Boxed mattresses get their name because of the way they’re packaged for shipping. The mattresses are compressed for shipping, using a machine that rolls them up and vacuum packs them into heavy duty protective plastic. This rolled-up mattress is then placed into a cardboard box for shipping.

The joy of mattresses in a box is that you can order them online from your home and try them out over a trial period to see if they’re the right fit for you. You’ll also find that many of the best mattresses in a box are cheaper than their comparable models sold in stores, as manufacturers are able to make savings by not having bricks and mortar premises. And as long as you’re paying similar prices, there should be no discernible difference in quality between a bed in a box vs a traditional mattress.

Today's best prices on top-rated boxed mattresses

A woman carries a bed in a box

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How to return a mattress in a box 

If you’ve ever taken a mattress out of vacuum packaging, you’ll know that what comes out isn’t ever going back in again. Fortunately, mattress manufacturers don’t expect you to defy the laws of science to return a mattress. Providing that you’re within the trial period and the mattress is clean and intact (hence the importance of always using a mattress protector), brands will arrange for the mattress to be collected from your home and taken away. 

Exact policies vary slightly from brand to brand, but we’ve covered all of the major ones in our full guide on how to return a mattress in a box, which covers many of the best memory foam mattresses and hybrid beds for sale.

What happens to mattresses in a box once returned?

You’ve arranged for your mattress to be returned, but what’s going to happen to it when it arrives back with the manufacturer. Most of us want to know that an unwanted mattress isn’t going to go to landfill but will be utilised in some fashion. Exactly what happens to unwanted mattresses varies with different brands. Here are the policies for some of our top brands in both the US and UK.

Saatva 

We’re huge fans of the Saatva mattresses and the Saatva Classic is our top pick in the best hybrid mattress category. But even the best of mattresses isn’t right for everyone. If you return or exchange your Saatva, the brand will either donate it to a veterans’ shelter or offer them to employees, discounters and associates across its network made up of over 150 delivery centres. Keep in mind that Saatva charges a $99 return fee. For the latest savings, see our guide to the best Saatva mattress sales on all of the brand's beds.

Casper

Popular US brand Casper offer returns within its trial period, as long as you’ve slept on the mattress for 30-nights. Returned mattresses are all either donated or refurbished (Casper do then sell these refurbished mattresses at a cheaper price).

Purple

Purple ask customers to sleep on its mattresses for 21 nights before returning, as the unique GelFlex Grid can take a little get used to. If you do choose to return the mattress, Purple recycle it and use the parts for new mattresses. Returned mattresses are never refurbished. If you're thinking of buying a Purple bed in a box, our Purple mattress deals hub contains the latest offers.

Avocado

The Avocado Green is our favourite organic mattress and the Avocado brand has impeccable eco credentials. So as you might expect, they donate any returned mattresses to charitable causes. You do need to sleep on the mattress for 30 days minimum and there’s also a $99 return fee, just like with Saatva. Take a look our Avocado mattress deals guide for the latest discounts.

DreamCloud Mattress

DreamCloud again asks sleepers to trial the mattress for at least 30 nights before initiating a return. The company has a policy of not selling used or refurbished mattresses and instead ask customers to allow the brand to find local organisations to donate the mattress to. 

Two men carry a mattress down a flight of stairs

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Nectar Mattress

Nectar and DreamCloud are part of the same company, so it should come as no surprise that the policies for returns work in the same way for both brands. Again, you’ll need to sleep on a Nectar mattress for at least 30 nights and then, if you initiate a return, Nectar will again find a local organisation for donation of the mattress. 

Tempur-Pedic

Tempur-Pedic charge a hefty $175 to return a mattress, with customers again being required to sleep on the mattress for 30 nights first. Returned and exchanged Tempur mattresses are recycled and repurposed for other home furnishings or donated to charitable organisations.

Simba

Simba is a certified B Corp company and work hard on its eco credentials. One of the brand’s promises is to never send a mattress to landfill, with any returned or exchanged mattresses being either refurbished or recycled. 

Emma UK

Any Emma mattress returned during the 200-night trial period is either cleaned and sold as a refurbished mattress or donated to charity. Emma’s website also asks customers to bring their mattress to the doorstep, as couriers aren’t allowed to enter the home.

Eve Mattress

Eve will take your mattress back provided you’ve slept on it for at least 30 nights. The mattresses are either refurbished for the brand’s eBay store, donated locally or recycled. If the mattress does have to be recycled, Eve say that 94% of it will be used for items such as car insulation, carpet underlay and even dog beds. The other 6% is used for energy.

Why you should always read your mattress warranty

A good mattress warranty should cover you for longer than the expected life of your mattress and cover any manufacturing defects. A warranty doesn’t cover not liking a mattress or finding it the wrong firmness for your body type. This is why it’s so important to buy a mattress with a decent trial period so that you can test the mattress out fully. 

Many warranties also detail what will happen to a mattress once it’s returned to a manufacturer and, as you’ll have seen from some of the examples above, you might be required to coordinate with a brand to get a mattress donated locally to your house. So always read the small print! Our guide to mattress warranties will give you all the details you need.  

Jo Plumridge
Mattress tester and sleep writer

Jo Plumridge is an experienced mattress reviewer with several years' experience covering all things mattresses and sleep, and who tests memory foam, hybrid and organic mattresses. What Jo doesn't know about a boxed mattress isn't worth knowing, so naturally we tasked her with producing a series of features for Tom's Guide looking at all aspects of mattresses, from how to pick between latex and memory foam (it's a tricky one), to the seven mistakes people make when buying a mattress for the first time. When testing the DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid for Tom's Guide, Jo said: "I loved the back support and pressure relief it offered. Plus, it looks far more expensive than it is." When she isn’t writing about sleep, Jo also writes extensively on interior design, home products and photography.