Home Improvement

What is a Mattress in a Box?

The term “mattress in a box” refers to any model from an online mattress brand that is compressed and placed in a box for delivery. The term “bed in a bag” may also be used. These mattresses are comparable to models sold in brick-and-mortar stores in terms of construction and performance. The key difference is pricing. Online brands face lower overhead costs because they do not operate many (if any) physical stores or employ commissioned salespeople. As a result, mattresses in a box tend to be a cheap mattress alternative. They are an ideal choice for shoppers who’d like to save money and who prefer the convenience of delivery to your home.

Preparing a mattress for shipping in twin mattress in a box is fairly straightforward. The mattress is compressed using a large press, encased in plastic, and rolled into a cylindrical shape. This process – also known as “roll packing” – reduces the mattress to a much more compact size, allowing it to fit in a box that can be shipped via standard ground delivery.

A common misconception among consumers is that roll packing causes permanent damage to the mattress. However, mattresses in a box are designed to be highly resilient. Once the plastic wrapping is removed, the layers will expand until the bed reaches its full intended shape. The foams, coils, and other components should fully recover in one to two days without any sort of damage.

What Are the Benefits of Buying a Mattress in a Box?

There are many reasons to choose an online mattress brand over a brick-and-mortar seller. These include the following:

  • Lower prices: As we mentioned above, mattresses in a box tend to be fairly inexpensive compared to models sold in stores. This is largely due to higher overhead costs for brick-and-mortar brands, who need to operate physical locations and employ a large number of sales staff.
  • More convenient shopping: Online mattress purchases can be completed with a few mouse clicks, and do not require any store visits. Buying online can be especially beneficial for people who live in rural areas.
  • No sales staff: Most brick-and-mortar mattress stores employ salespeople who work on commission. These employees are certainly knowledgeable about products and often helpful sources of information for buyers. However, some customers find mattress sales staff a bit too pushy. Online brands often offer live web chat with customer service personnel, but shoppers can browse the website and ask questions as they arise without feeling pressure from salespeople. Most mattress websites also contain detailed product specs and images shoppers can use to compare different brands and models.
  • Free delivery: Thanks to the compression process, mattresses in a box can be shipped for free via FedEx, USPS, and other ground couriers. Online brands generally offer free delivery throughout the contiguous U.S., and some extend this to customers in Alaska, Hawaii, U.S. territories and/or Canada. A small number of online brands offer free White Glove delivery, which includes in-home assembly and old mattress removal. However, most charge an extra fee for this service.
  • Sleep trials: Many consumers are apprehensive about buying a mattress they haven’t personally tried. At brick-and-mortar stores, customers may test out a variety of models. However, lying on a mattress for a few minutes may not provide an accurate representation of how the bed feels night after night. We’ve found that most online brands offer sleep trials that allow customers to test out a mattress for a certain length of time, during which they can decide whether to keep the mattress, return it for a refund, or (if available) exchange it for a different model. Most sleep trials run at least 90 nights, and some span up to one year in length.

How to Buy a Mattress in a Box

Weighing your own needs and preferences as a sleeper is key to finding the right mattress in a box. Every mattress is uniquely constructed and suits some sleepers better than others. The ideal mattress for you will likely depend on factors like body type, sleep position, and the local climate where you live.

Our team has tested hundreds of mattresses, and we’ve found that firmness level is a good starting point for choosing a mattress. If you weigh less than 130 pounds, sleep on your side, or experience pressure points along your spine, our testing shows you’ll probably feel most comfortable on a softer mattress. Our testers who weigh more than 230 pounds and sleep on their back and/or stomach tend to prefer a firmer mattress instead, while those in the range of 130 to 230 pounds usually enjoy medium to medium firm mattresses.

From there, you should take other variables into account. If you sleep with a partner, then you may need a mattress that isolates motion well. Those who reside in hot or humid environments should also consider a mattress with cooling components. Once you’ve nailed down these personal criteria, you can follow these steps to complete your purchase:

Research different brands: In order to find the most suitable mattress, shoppers should take time to learn about different models. This can help understand differences in construction, pricing, and performance. Some of the best-known online mattress companies include Allswell, Brooklyn Bedding, Casper, Nectar, Saatva, and Tuft & Needle, but buyers can choose from hundreds of brands.

Review the top pick(s): After extensive research, shoppers should be able to narrow down their options to one or two mattresses. Spend a few more minutes reevaluating these models to ensure they are the best choices. Online product specs and images, as well as mattress in a box reviews, can be very helpful during this step.

Chat with customer support: Most online mattress brands offer some sort of live web chat with customer service representatives. They can answer any lingering questions about your top mattress picks. If webchat isn’t available, consider emailing or calling the company’s customer service department.

Look for promotions: Online mattress brands often offer coupons and discounts for certain models. In most cases, the details for these promotions will be prominently displayed on the bed’s product page or elsewhere on the company’s website. These discounts may amount to hundreds of dollars off the original asking price. Additionally, purchasing a mattress during a holiday sale can result in big savings. Sales are commonly held during major holidays such as Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, and Veterans’ Day, as well as major shopping days like Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.

Buy the mattress: As they would on other vendor websites, customers should select the mattress they want in their desired size. They will be redirected to a purchasing page to enter their name, address, phone number, and payment information. They may also be asked to select a shipping method if more than one is available. After all of the required information has been entered, customers may complete their purchase. They should receive a confirmation email from the brand shortly thereafter.


Mattresses in a box may be removed from their packaging as soon as they reach the customer’s residence. The process for unboxing a new bed is as follows:

  1. Bring the box to the bedroom where the mattress will be used. Though compact, the box may be quite heavy since compressing the mattress does not affect its overall weight (a queen mattress can weigh at least 75 pounds). We’ve found that two or more people may be needed to carry the box into the bed’s intended room.
  2. Open the box and remove the roll-packed mattress. We recommend depositing it onto the foundation or base on which it will be used, since the bed may be more difficult to move once it fully expands.
  3. Carefully cut through the layers of plastic with a pair of scissors. The plastic is somewhat thin, so do not let the blade come into contact with the mattress itself. There will be multiple plastic layers. Before cutting the final layer, unroll the mattress until it is flat and arrange it on the foundation with the head and foot in their appropriate positions. Also, make sure the mattress is not upside down.
  4. Cut the final plastic layer. The mattress will immediately begin to expand, but it will not be ready for use. The shape recovery process may take anywhere from 6 to 48 hours, depending on the mattress. Don’t worry if the mattress feels excessively saggy at first – this simply means more recovery time is needed. When the mattress feels supportive and comfortable, it’s ready to sleep on. This usually happens on the first day.
  5. Don’t wait too long to unbox the mattress. Leaving a bed in its box for 2 weeks or longer can cause permanent structural damage. Many mattress brands specify the maximum number of days a mattress can remain in its original packaging. If the bed is not unboxed during this time and damage occurs, the warranty may be voided.


Most new mattresses emit off-gassing smells due to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are released when the bed is unboxed. VOCs are relatively harmless but they carry a distinct chemical odor that many people find unpleasant. In most cases, mattresses will stop producing these smells after a few days, if not sooner. However, some mattress materials are associated with stronger and/or more persistent odor.

Models with foam layers tend to emit more off-gassing smells. Memory foam and all-polyfoam mattresses usually receive the most odor-related complaints from owners. Innersprings, hybrids, and airbeds may also carry off-gassing smells due to foam components in their comfort and transitional layers, but their coil systems often promote strong airflow to make odors dissipate more quickly.

According to our research, the fewest reports of bothersome off-gassing smells come from latex mattress owners. Although organic and natural latex can carry a rubber-like odor, these materials do not produce VOCs. That said, mattresses with synthetic or blended latex may emit VOCs due to certain chemical fillers in the latex foam.

Off-gassing is rarely a serious long-term issue for mattress owners, but those who are sensitive to strong smells may find memory foam or all-polyfoam beds a bit overwhelming. We recommend a latex, innerspring, hybrid, or airbed model to these individuals instead.

Foundations and Platforms

Rather than placing a mattress directly on the floor, many owners support their bed with a base of some kind. Options for these support systems include:

  • Box spring: Most box springs feature a wooden frame and steel springs encased in a cloth cover. Some newer models have metal frames, as well. Box springs usually measure between 5 and 9 inches thick. They provide sturdy support and the springs absorb shock from sleepers in order to preserve the mattress and prevent wear and tear.
  • Foundation: Also known as a bed frame, foundations often consist of metal or wooden slats that support the bottom of the mattress and thick rails to prevent the bed from slipping off the edges. Foundations do not absorb shock as well as box springs, but we’ve observed that they tend to provide more overall support.
  • Platform bed: A platform bed is essentially a slatted foundation with a headboard. These beds may be a bit more stylish than standard foundations. Buyers can also select a panel bed, which features slats along with a headboard and footboard. Canopy and four-poster beds – both of which include corner posts – are also widely available.
  • Adjustable base: An adjustable base can be elevated or lowered at the head and feet to change the sleeping angle. We’ve found these bases can be particularly helpful for people with neck and back pain, chronic snorers, and others who experience discomfort lying on a flat mattress surface. However, they tend to be fairly pricey.

When choosing a foundation or base for a new Gel Memory Foam Mattress For sale, be sure to check the bed’s product warranty. Many brands specify which support systems are acceptable. Conditions may include maximum slat widths and support system materials. Failure to use a proper support system may result in a voided warranty if damage occurs.


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