What Happens to Returned Mattresses?

By Andrea Pisani Babich

Jun 8th, 2023

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Did you ever wonder if your new mattress is only new to you? Read on to learn what happens to returned mattresses and how you can be sure the new mattress you paid for is not a pre-owned model.

Even if you’ve done all your research – you’ve read up on mattress construction and materials, perused countless Mattress Advisor reviews, scoured customer feedback, even tried out your favorite mattress in a showroom – there is still a small chance that you will not be happy with your mattress once you set it up and sleep on it for several nights.

Mattress companies, especially those that sell directly to customers online, warn that all mattresses need to be broken in by actually sleeping on it night after night. In fact, it can take as long as a full month for your body to adapt to a new mattress and the mattress to lose its factory feel. That’s why some companies require you give their mattress a shot for a minimum number of days – usually around 30 – before you can return it.

But even after 30 days, you might still feel unsatisfied and want to send your mattress back.

You’re in luck. Most mattress retailers accept returns, some with more conditions than others. More on that later. But did you ever wonder what happens to your unwanted mattress once you’ve returned it? And more importantly for you, might you be sleeping on someone else’s unwanted – and used – mattress?

Where Does A Returned Mattress Go?

If you’ve have recently bought a mattress from a reputable vendor, you can rest assured that it is new unless otherwise clearly indicted. If you are unsatisfied with your mattress and want to return it, you don’t have to feel bad about cluttering up landfills with practically new mattresses.

Your returned mattress will still find a good home with someone who needs and wants it. In most cases, when state law allows it, returned mattresses are donated to charities like the Salvation Army, women resource centers, or homeless shelters. When donations are not allowed, the discarded mattresses are disassembled and cut up for other products like carpet padding, roofing material, or gymnastic mat foam inserts.

Some states do allow reselling pre-owned mattresses after they’ve been cleaned and/or refurbished and relabeled. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission, as long as mattresses meet certain labeling and processing requirements, used mattresses can be resold. These mattresses are often sold as clearance items, or in “Scuff and Tear” sales. So, if you’re getting a clearance price for your mattress, you might actually be buying a pre-owned mattress.

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a bargain, you may not be able to tell if your mattress has been broken-in already by someone else until it’s too late.

How to Tell If Your Mattress Is New

How can you tell if your mattress has already been bought, used, and returned by another customer? While there are laws in some states that restrict the resale of pre-owned mattresses, some deceptive mattress companies will try to get around the rules. And in some states, there are very loose regulations of the bedding industry, so consumers in those states are left with few protections from shady vendors.

“There are many unscrupulous parties that just take a used mattress, sew a new cover on it, don’t sanitize it, sell it as new and don’t disclose it,” said Chris Hudgins of the International Sleep Products Association.

So how can you tell if a mattress that is new to you is actually new?

  • Look for the tag. New mattresses will have a white tag attached that certifies that the mattress contains all new materials. If a mattress has been owned before, it should have a red or yellow tag on it that warns customers that the mattress contains “used materials.” Never buy a mattress without any tag certifying it is new or used.
  • Just ask. Don’t be afraid to ask a retailer if they sell used bedding. If they do, make sure you order a new mattress. When it arrives, be sure to look for the white tag certifying that the mattress is new. Ask the vendor to write “new” on the receipt if that’s what they agreed to sell you. If it turns out to be used, you’ll have evidence of fraud.
  • Decline torn and re-taped packaging. If your mattress arrives in a bag that has been torn wide enough to remove the mattress, it is probably someone else’s returned mattress. Decline this delivery if you paid for a new mattress.
  • Check the return policy. Avoid buying from companies that require a restocking fee for returned mattresses. If you must pay a restocking fee to return your mattress, you know that mattress will be sold again. If you buy from this company, your “new” mattress may be one that has been discarded by another customer.

Reputable Vendors Handle Returns Responsibly

Online mattress companies recognize that competition in their field is fierce, and consumers have a wealth of information at their fingertips. In addition, they know that customer reviews can either make or break them. That’s why they conduct ethical business practices and deal with returns in ways that are good for their customers and the local communities.

Among ten of our favorite direct-to-consumer mattress companies, not one resells returned mattresses and all either donate their returns to charities or non-profit organizations, or they recycle them. If you buy a mattress from one of these companies, you will know that your mattress has never been slept on, and in the unlikely event that you are unsatisfied, your mattress will be donated to someone in your community who really needs and wants it.

Return Policies of Some of Our Favorite Mattress Companies


In-home trial period: 100 nights

Details: Casper will send a truck to pick up your mattress from your home. Most returned mattresses go through the wash and are then donated to local charities or “upcycled for use in our pop-up experiences.”


In-home trial period: 100 nights

Details: You can return your mattress after 21 days. Then they will retrieve it from your home and will donate it to a charity in your location, or you can choose your favorite local charity.

Tuft & Needle

In-home trial period: 100 nights

Details: Tuft & Needle will pick up your unwanted mattress from your home. According to their website, only about 5% of their mattress sold are returned. Ninety-three percent of those are donated to local charities and non-profit organizations across the country. When they can’t be donated, they are recycled for other uses.


In-home trial period: 100 nights

Details: If you are not satisfied with your Leesa mattress, Leesa will arrange for a pick-up at your home and deliver it to a local non-profit organization or other charity. They ask for a $49 return fee to cover the cost of pick-up and delivery to people in need.


In-home trial period: 365 nights starting 30 days after delivery

Details: Nectar will work with you to have your mattress donated to a local charity if it doesn’t end up working out.


In-home trial period: 100 nights

Details: You can return your Helix mattress for a full refund after at least 30 days from delivery. Helix tries their best to donate returned mattresses to charities and housing facilities in your community. When state laws do not allow donating used mattresses, Helix sends mattresses to recycling centers so they don’t sit in landfills.


In-home trial period: 120 nights

Details: Saatva will charge you a $99 transportation fee to pick up your discarded mattress and return it to their warehouse. There it will be inspected and either marked as a “sample” and donated to a local charity or offered to employees.

Brooklyn Bedding

In-home trial period: 120 nights

Details: Returns can be made after at least 30 days from delivery, and there are no fees. They will send a truck to deliver your mattress to a local charity. You will receive a full refund after you show them the donation receipt. 


In-home trial period: 120 nights

Details: Layla will pick up your discarded mattress, donate it to a local charity, and issue you a full refund.

How to Make Sure You Will Love Your Mattress

Our goal at Mattress Advisor is to help you find the perfect mattress so you’ll never need to return it. Our expert review team has tested over 120 different brands of mattresses using a 6-point testing procedure plus an 8-point evaluation. Our reviews provide scores on 14 criteria for each mattress to help you find the perfect place to rest your weary bones. So, a site like ours is a good place to start your search for the perfect mattress.

Beyond reading mattress reviews, you should consider the following features of any mattress you consider buying:

  • Support for neutral spinal alignment
  • Limited motion transfer
  • Mattress firmness you find comfortable
  • Relief for pressure points
  • Heat transfer away from your body
  • Premium materials for high durability
  • Sufficient edge support
  • Generous trial, warranty, and return policies

For more tips to help you avoid returning your mattress, see our mattress buying guide, and for more top picks, head over to our best mattresses page or our guide on the best value mattresses.


Better Business Bureau: bbb.org/new-york-city/get-consumer-help/articles/are-you-sure-your-mattress-is-new/

ABC WJLA: wjla.com/features/7-on-your-side/mattress-undercover-old-or-new)