Buying a Bed in a Box
Foam mattresses that can be delivered right to your doorstep are everywhere. Before you order, consider the following
Most foam mattresses are made from flexible polyurethane foam (FPF), which can be tweaked to change the material's properties (like density, firmness, or flexibility). Memory foam is an FPF engineered to distribute pressure, so there's minimal bounce. Most boxed mattresses use a combination of FPFs arranged in layers to create a particular feel or emphasize specific properties.
CAN YOU TRY BEFORE YOU BUY?
Shopping online, sight unseen, can feel risky; after all, a foam mattress is still a big purchase (most queen models run $500–$900). So some Web-based brands have begun partnering with brick-and-mortar stores (like Target and West Elm). Retailers generally carry a single box-mattress brand, but that's at least one that you can check out in person—and pop in your trunk if you like it.
Getting even a twin mattress into a carton isn't easy; it takes machines to fold and roll a mattress into a shipment-friendly size. Once out of the box, mattresses can reach full size in a few hours. Still, manufacturers recommend allowing a day or two for full decompression—and off-gassing. This chemical odor is basically "new bed smell," but to really know what you're buying, look for brands that use independently tested foam. A stamp of approval from CertiPUR-US, for example, indicates foam is low-VOC and made without harmful chemicals like formaldehyde.
SLEEP ON IT
Many shipped-to-you foam mattresses boast lengthy in-home trial periods and free returns, but it's important to read the fine print. You don't want to be stuck paying return shipping on a mattress (there's no way you're getting it back in the box). There's also the matter of your old mattress: While retail stores often offer removal, that’s not an option here. You'll need to figure out disposal—and in case you aren't completely sold on your new mattress, you may want to hold off on tossing your old one for a while.
Thanks to Helen Sullivan, communications counsel, CertiPUR-US Program.