If you’re a savvy shopper, you’re well aware of the fact that you can save a lot of money by opting for used clothes, electronics, furniture, and countless other items. But if you’re someone who loves nothing more than cruising Craigslist or shopping the nearest flea market for your latest steal, the leading health experts would all urge you to avoid buying at least one item at all costs: a secondhand mattress.
According to Consumer Reports, a good mattress has a shelf-life of only 10 years—and that’s assuming that the owner has routinely rotated it every two months during its lifespan and never allowed any children to use it as a trampoline for prolonged periods of time. If you’re over 40, the report suggests that you may be ready to change yours after five to seven years, and entirely for the sake of your spine.
“When you sag, your spine gets bent, and that can lead to discomfort,” David Rapoport M.D., professor of pulmonary medicine, critical care, and sleep medicine at Mount Sinai, told Self Magazine. That discomfort can unfortunately lead to both sleepless nights and chronic back-and-neck pain down the road.
But that’s not the only reason to buy your mattress brand new and at a reputable store. Over time, all mattresses accumulate dust mites, which feed on your dead skin cells (ew) and wreak havoc on people who suffer from allergies. “Every mattress is a crime scene in terms of how it gets inoculated with mites,” Glen Needham, a retired professor of entomology at Ohio State University, told Slate. “All you have to do is get a female dust mite to start laying eggs, and pretty soon you have a starter set going in your mattress.”
If dust mites aren’t scary enough, your used mattress could potentially arrive with even more unwanted company in the form of bed bugs. “[O]ne of the most common ways bed bugs are introduced to a home is through used and discarded furniture,” Jeff White, director of innovation and technical content for BedBug Central, a New Jersey-based pest control company, told Vice.
As you’re probably well aware, bed bugs are tiny insects that feed on your blood, can hide survive for upwards of 2 to 6 months in the nooks and crannies of your furniture without feeding, and are very, very costly to get rid of.
So if you’re in the market for a new mattress, make sure you follow the guidelines outlined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
“The easiest way to tell if you’re buying new or used is to look at the label attached to the mattress,” the FTC states. “In most cases, new mattresses will include a white tag or label that indicates that the mattress contains ‘all new materials, consisting of….’ Depending on the state, used mattresses may contain a tag, sometimes red or yellow in color, that warns that the mattress contains used materials. Federal law requires that any mattress that contains used stuffing bear a tag or label with that information. If you don’t see any tag, consider doing business with another retailer. Otherwise, you simply don’t know what you’re buying.”
So good luck, sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite. And for more amazing advice, make sure you’re aware of The Most Dangerous Pests Lurking in Your Home.