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The Real Mattress Buyer's Guide - Follow The 5 C's

A Mattress Buyer's Guide – The 5 C’s

It’s not every day you go out to buy a new mattress. So when you do, what should you look for? Listed below are my 5 C’s (Contents, Construction, Care, Compare and Cost) to guide you through selecting the mattress that best suits you.

Sleep is the foundation of the ‘sleep, exercise, nutrition’ well-being triangle and your mattress is the foundation of a good night’s sleep. This makes your mattress, probably THE most important furniture purchase you’ll make.

Follow these simple steps towards sleeping blissfully.


Your mattress is not like a tin of beans; you won’t open it up when you get it home to check what’s inside. With this in mind it’s important to know what’s inside and what the benefits of the contents are to you.

A mattress can be divided into two main sections: Comfort and support. The Support is usually the spring and the comfort is everything else inside the mattress.

Springs come in various types and configurations. An industry standard ‘pocket’ spring is 6” high, 2” in diameter and has 6 turns. Of this type of spring, the maximum that fit inside a king-size mattress is 1400. If you see a number higher than this, it’s important to know how the higher number is achieved. Ask the instore expert to explain to you how springs differ and how different springs change the feel and firmness of the mattress. It doesn’t necessarily follow that more springs is better as this short video explains.

The comfort of a mattress is determined by the fillings. The most common traditional fillings include: polyester, cotton felt and wool. More luxurious fillings include: silk, horsehair, cashmere, mohair and cattle tail. Foams such as memory foam, polyurethane (PU) foam, cool foam, medical foam and latex are also used as fillings. Each filling will provide a slightly different feel and the amount of fillings will determine the comfort.

When selecting your new mattress, comfort and support are equally important. There’s no point having a really supportive firm mattress if it’s uncomfortable, and there’s no point having a sumptuously comfortable mattress if it doesn’t support you properly.


To attain true value when buying your mattress, you should consider the durability of the mattress. Durability being the length of time your mattress performs to a high standard of comfort and support. Most mattresses will feel wonderful for the first few months, especially when you’re comparing it to the nasty mattress you’ve just replaced, however, your new mattress should still be performing after 3, 5, 7 years or more.

The quality of the components and the methods of production will determine durability. The areas you can look for that will suggest a mattress is well made are: the edges, the sewing, the fabric and the detail.

Sit on the edge of mattress to test how supportive it feels. Try to find a mattress with edge-to-edge support. There’s no point buying a king-size mattress that only has a double size sleeping area. Lay on the mattress, right up to the edge and see if you feel as though you’re about to slide off. A mattress with a firmer edge is constructed using either a metal ‘rod-edge’ or ‘hand side stitching’. Side-stitching by hand is a skilled art and takes about ¾ of an hour per layer. Because of this, only the highest quality, more luxurious mattresses will be side-stitched. Another way to strengthen the sides is to encapsulate the springs with support foam. This method creates very neat tailoring.

The top panel or main cover of the mattress will be either a poly-cotton damask or knitted polyester which may include differentiating additions like aloe vera, silk, or tencel. There are many variations of fabrics used for panels. Usually a mattress containing foam will have a knitted cover and a traditional pocket sprung mattress will have damask. A cover containing high cotton content will feel softer, cost a little more and be more durable.

The fillings inside the mattress will be sewn to prevent them from moving and becoming uneven when you sleep on them. There are three common ways of securing the fillings: Quilting, micro-tufting and hand tufting. Quilting is normally associated with lower quality mattresses as the quilting machines used in the factories can only sew upto a limited depth. For deeper fillings, a more traditional hand tufting is used. A tuft is a cord that is inserted through the mattress and secured at each end with a woollen or felt toggle. A hand tufted mattress will appear to have undulations to the surface. These are normal and should reduce as the mattress settles with wear. Micro-tufting is a method of securing fillings by machine and recreating the undulations of a hand-tuft. Again the depth of fillings that can be sewn is limited, but greater than when quilting.

The final details on quality mattresses include handles for turning and small side vents to allow air to circulate inside the mattress so that it can remain cool and dry.


A traditionally made mattress has two sleeping sides and should be turned and flipped regularly. Turning and flipping will even out wear and extend the lifespan of your mattress. Some mattresses are designed to be flipped seasonally so they have a cool side for the summer and a warmer side for the winter.

Non-turn mattresses have one sleeping side and would have a shorter lifespan than a flippable mattress. They are very convenient for people who are unable to flip their mattress, or choose not to. Most non-turn mattresses contain foam as a filling. It is claimed that foam mattresses don’t need turning because they don’t settle the same way a traditional mattress does. This isn’t entirely true as foam also settles. Higher grade foam will settle less than lower grade foam.

Some foam mattress come with a removable cover that can be unzipped and laundered. My recommendation is to use a mattress protector to keep your mattress clean and hygienic. Always buy two protectors; one for the bed and one for the laundry and alternate them regularly.


Once you have identified the type of mattress you think suits you, lay down and try a few different ones to see which one’s best. I’m often told that you can’t tell if a mattress is right by trying it in a shop for 10 minutes, maybe so, but you can tell instantly if it’s wrong.

Mattress buying rule no.1 is to try before you buy. This way you will know exactly what you’ve bought before it arrives at your home and you can compare other mattresses to make your selection. Comparing a new mattress with your old worn out one is an unfair comparison.

Try mattresses in different price ranges to understand what a higher investment buys you. Ultimately, you want to sleep well every night on your new mattress for many years. Ask yourself what’s better; spending some money of the wrong mattress or investing more money to buy the correct mattress? Every night you spend sleeping poorly on an inadequate mattress is doing yourself some harm.

Also, compare different sized beds. Buying a bigger bed and having a larger sleeping area can help you sleep better. When you were a new born baby, your mother put you in a cot. A typical baby’s cot is 2’3” wide. Now you are a fully grown adult, you may be sleeping in a 4’6” bed with a partner. This gives you the same sleeping area you both had as tiny babies. Is it time for a bigger bed maybe?


I have purposefully left the cost of the mattress until last as there is far more to buying a mattress than the price tag. However, I fully appreciate that we all have budgets. It’s important to buy a product that will fulfil the need for which it’s bought, there is though, an upper price level where any additional cost buys very little more.

Achieving a good deal or high discount when buying anything has a feel-good factor. I encourage you to search for a good deal, but this should be secondary to selecting the correct mattress. Treat your mattress purchase as an investment in your well-being rather than a cost; afterall, you’ll be using it for 1/3rd of your life.

Factor into your purchase delivery of your new mattress into your bedroom and a cost to dispose of the mattress you no longer need. Once you have an overall cost, you can then decide on how you wish to pay. Always try to negotiate a lower price if you can then simply pick a card, pay cash or spread the payments with a finance plan.

The peace of mind you experience by buying the right bed will also contribute to you enjoying blissful sleep; every night.

About the Author: Jerry Cheshire is proprietor of award winning bed retailer Surrey Beds in Purley. Follow him on twitter here and download his '7 Key Mistakes People Make When Buying a Bed' PDF here.