One good turn: Keep mattresses healthy

Mattress Gallery

 Q.  I can't sleep on my mattress anymorethere are dust mites, body impressions, and wear and tear. Is my mattress salvageable?

 A. There are many ways to keep your mattress healthy and comfortable. For general maintenance, you need to determine whether you have a two-sided or one-sided mattress. Most mattress manufacturers now use one-sided products, because they require fewer rotations.

Although most homeowners dread "flipping" the mattress on a regular basis, this is crucial to extend mattress life. Other than TempurPedic mattresses, you should spin the mattress, not flip, one-sided products every six months. For two-sided, alternate between flips and spins every three months. Also, most people forget about the mattress spring or foundation– you should rotate the spring at least twice a year.

It's always a good idea to put a pad or protector on your mattress. Any stain– whether Vicks VapoRub or an unmentionable– voids mattress warranties.

You have two choices: a thick, lofty pad with fiber in it, or a waterproof and breathable urethane-bacteria cloth. The latter is thinner and more protective, but less comfortable. However, the comfort should ideally be built into the mattress.

If you have issues with body impressions, a little trick is to stand the mattress on end against the wall when you're planning to go away for the weekend. The upright mattress will naturally fluff out, and the body impression will diminish. Most manufacturers recommend up to 1.5-2 inches of body impression. Mattresses provide some conformity with our sleeping pattern– if the body impression becomes too large, contact the retailer for directions about how to alleviate the indentations.

One customer and former frat guy decided to use his hazing paddle to get rid of the body impression. With some vigorous pounding, the brother was able to fluff the mattress to acceptable conformity. You should use the paddle technique only for inner-spring mattresses with synthetic fibers, and not for viscoelastic, or Swedish, foam beds or natural fibers (i.e. down).

The unlikely appearance of bed bugs is sure to bother mattress owners. Mattresses with synthetic materials are better at resisting the incursion of such critters; such mattresses are hypo-allergenic. Dust mites that feed on the matter shed from our body are another problem; protective covers help eliminate them. You can find dust mite covers at any home store if you're having allergic reactions, but they're not very breathable.

Finally, most queen-size (and bigger) mattress owners ignore recommendations to provide center support. You need vertical support from the floor to the center of the bed for mattresses larger than double size. Pick up a piece of 2x4 wood at a home improvement store, so the box spring will not sag with one person. You don't want to roll to the gully in the center of the mattress every night.

Arthur Cox of Mattress Gallery