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Twice upon a mattress: Be wary when buying used bedding

Consumer Reports News: October 07, 2010 05:14 PM

Normally news about the illegal sale of used mattresses wouldn't raise eyebrows but with infestations of bedbugs on the rise it's raised some hackles. While the report didn't say if the mattresses in question had been infested, it did say that they may not have been properly cleaned and sanitized. In other words: Yuck.

Here's what happened. During a routine inspection at the Home Mart store in Hartford, Connecticut, state inspectors confiscated 154 Industrial Mattress box springs and mattresses. The bedding carried a yellow tag stating it was refurbished, says Claudette Carveth, a spokesperson for Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection. The agency charged that Industrial Mattress, which lost its bedding license in Connecticut last year, violated a consent order by selling bedding that was possibly unsanitized.

Used mattresses can be resold in most parts of the country if labeling and processing requirements are met, according to Mitchell J. Katz, a spokesman for the Federal Trade Commission. New mattresses typically have a white tag or label stating that the mattress contains all new materials. And federal law mandates that mattresses containing used stuffing carry a tag or label disclosing that information. The rules apply to traditional retailers as well as to thrift, secondhand and consignment shops.

Unfortunately, other regulations on used mattresses vary from state to state so if you're in the market for one, be sure to ask lots of questions. In fact, if the mattress doesn't have a label, don't buy it. A cheap mattress may become expensive if it transports bedbugs into your home. And if you're shopping for a new mattress, make sure you indeed get one by following these guidelines from the FTC:

  • Avoid retailers that sell mattresses without tags.
  • Ask if the retailer sells used mattresses.
  • Check for a “new” mattress tag before buying and again when the mattress is delivered.
  • Insist that the retailer write “new” on your receipt. This helps if it turns out your mattress is used.
  • Get the store’s return and refund policies in writing.

More on mattresses. Consult our mattress buying guide and our Ratings of mattress brands and mattress stores (available to subscribers).
—Kimberly Janeway

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