5 Signs it’s Time to Replace a Futon Mattress


Futon mattresses are the ultimate multi-tasker of home furniture, functioning as a sofa by day and bed at night.  Whether it serves as your guest bed or your bed, futons are not just a college student’s go-to or an exotic conversation piece.  Futons are highly functional, adaptable to just about any type of living space, and just as popular as they have ever been.  And just like traditional mattresses, futons have a shelf life.

What are the signs that it’s time to replace a futon mattress?  The following five signs will let you know that it’s time to replace a futon mattress:

  1. Mattress is too firm, uneven or bottoming out
  2. Poor sleep quality
  3. Unusual aches and pains
  4. Visible wear or damage
  5. Worsening allergies or skin conditions

It is never easy parting with a comfortable, familiar piece of home furnishing, particularly one that is used day and night.  But if the condition of your futon mattress is causing diminished sleep quality, or if it is compromising your health and well-being, then prudence dictates that you replace it sooner rather than later.  Read on and learn the telltale signs that it’s time to replace your futon mattress.

5 Signs It’s Time to Replace a Futon Mattress

Although there are some similarities between traditional mattresses and futon mattresses as far as how they age and wear over time, futon mattresses are constructed differently and are often called upon to serve as more than just a bed.  A futon is just as likely to be found in the living room or a community space as the bedroom or guestroom.

For these reasons, if you are a futon owner, you would be well advised to spend a few minutes and become familiar with the different ways that your mattress may be telling you it’s time to start considering a replacement.

Sign #1 –Mattress is too Firm, Uneven, or Bottoming Out

As a general rule, futon mattresses are firmer than traditional mattresses because of the way that they are constructed.  Most futon mattresses owners know ahead of time to expect a firmer sleeping surface, or they find out the hard way and adjust.  As a futon mattress ages, its ability to recover from a night of supporting your weight lessens and eventually, years of continuous use takes its natural toll.

Most futon mattresses are filled with some type of natural fiber such as cotton, and over time these fibers will compress and result in reduced lift and support.  Manufacturers recommend that futon mattresses be rotated and flipped regularly to ensure even and balanced wear.  Failing to heed this advice can result in uneven compression and distribution of the inner fibers.

Bottoming out is a condition that occurs when the compression or deterioration of the futon mattress filling is so severe that one can feel the wood slats of the futon frame that support the bottom of the mattress.  Thinner futon mattresses (less than six inches in thickness), as well as those utilizing cheap filler material, tend to bottom out at a much higher rate than thicker or higher quality mattresses.

Sign #2 – Poor Sleep Quality

Unless you are one of the rare people that can sleep like a rock regardless of circumstance, then you have experienced the frustration of a sleepless night.  Worse than the endless tossing and turning and staring at the ceiling in the darkness is the sluggishness that you feel throughout the next day.  Poor sleep quality can affect your productivity, ability to function normally, and your general well-being.

If you experience a sudden or unusual drop in sleep quality, you may want to consider the possibility that your futon mattress may be passed its prime.  This is particularly true if your mattress is older than ten years old or has been used consistently (e.g., sofa by day, bed by night).  If you notice that the futon does not hold its lines as it once did while in the upright sofa position and the edges sag, your mattress may be telling you that it is time to consider taking action.

One thing to consider is the possibility that your futon mattress is actually in good condition, but your body has changed from the time you first started sleeping on your mattress.  Recovery from injury, weight gain or loss, or development of certain health conditions, such as back issues, can result in a significant change in the type of mattress that best suits your body’s needs.

Sign #3 – Unusual Aches and Pains

If you are not ordinarily prone to aches or pains associated with your neck, shoulders, or back, and you experience one or more of these ailments when you wake up in the morning without a reasonable explanation, the culprit may be your futon mattress.  Over time and after repeated use, even the highest quality futon mattresses will lose their lift and begin to compress.

A futon mattress will wear faster in spots where it is subject to the most use.  This is one of the reasons that regular mattress rotation and flipping is so strongly urged by manufacturers and retailers.  Even the slightest change in the way that a futon mattress supports your head, neck, and spine can result in stiffness and soreness the next morning.

Considering that we spend about a third of our lives sleeping and quality sleep is vital to a healthy body and sound mind, it would be wise to listen to your body when it is telling you that something is not right, especially if it pertains to the way that you are sleeping.  Often an old mattress that has seen better days will not necessarily show it; this is where knowing its age and the amount of usage it has been through will be very telling.

Sign #4 – Visible Wear or Damage

Because of the unique way that they are constructed, there are limits to the types of self-repair that you can perform on a futon mattress.  As with traditional mattresses, one must exercise care when spot cleaning to avoid wetting or soaking the mattress.  Prolonged exposure to moisture can be very damaging to a futon mattress, mainly if it is not regularly aired out.  For instance, moisture can promote mildew growth as well as creating an environment favored by dust mites.

The overwhelming majority of futon mattresses today are constructed from many layers of natural fibers called batting.  The individual batts are stacked one on top of the other (along with other layers such as micro coils or soy gel foam) to reach the desired mattress thickness.

To prevent these layers from shifting apart while being slept on, sat on, or folded, several stitches go through all of the mattress layers, called tufts.  Depending on its size (e.g., twin, full, or queen), the number of tufts can vary from 28 to 40.  The tufting on a futon mattress is literally what holds it all together.

Should one or more of these tufts break, the batting in the affected area of the mattress can begin to separate or shift, resulting in uneven thickness in the mattress.  This could lead to additional tufts breaking with more widespread lumpiness.  This type of repair is best left to a futon repair shop, particularly for thicker mattresses or ones with different types of layers.

Sign #5 – Worsening Allergies or Skin Conditions

If you suffer from allergies and they worsen for reasons not related to weather conditions or the time of the year, then you may want to consider your futon mattress as the cause.  The same can be said if you suddenly suffer from skin rashes or similar disorders and have no prior history.  Without proper care, a futon mattress can become a collection point for dust, lint, dust mites, and other allergens.

Some futon manufacturers recommend a three-part cleaning routine consisting of:

  • vacuuming the mattress to remove dust and lint from the surface
  • placing the mattress out in the sun to revive the inner fibers and restore lift
  • sprinkling the mattress with baking soda and allowing it to sit for at least one hour before vacuuming the mattress clean.

Regular use of quality futon covers is highly recommended as they provide an effective barrier between you and the outer material of the futon mattress, thus preventing the mattress itself from harboring potential allergens.  Also, regular washing of futon mattress covers will ensure that any potential skin allergens are washed away each time you do the laundry.

If these measures do not alleviate your allergies or skin ailments, then your futon mattress may be too far gone.  This may especially be the case if moisture were to set in the inner fibers and mildew or mold formed inside the mattress.  Short of entirely de-constructing, then deep cleaning and re-constructing all the layers and outer cover, your mattress may have seen its last days (and nights).

How Often to Replace a Futon Mattress

The main factors that will determine how often you will need to replace a futon mattress are: 

  • the quality of the mattress materials
  • the frequency of use (e.g., sleeping every night or strictly as a guest bed)
  • the type of use (e.g., sleeping and sitting) 
  • the level of care, such as regular turning and rotating, daily airing, and vigilant cleaning

Assuming that you adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations as far as daily care and you utilize a high-quality futon mattress cover, then you can expect to replace: 

  • a high-end organic fiber mattress every 15 to 20 years
  • a mattress with micro coils every 9 to 15 years
  • an entry-level mattress with cotton fibers every 2 to 8 years

Most futon frames have wood or metal planks called slats that support the futon mattress, whether it is in the sleeping or sitting position.  The slatting on a futon frame serves a vital purpose as it enables the mattress to breathe.

With a few exceptions, futon mattresses are not designed to be placed on a solid surface, such as a floor, as it would encourage moisture to accumulate within the mattress.  This, in turn, would provide a hospitable environment for mildew growth as well as accelerate the rate that the inner layers compress, leading to over-firmness.

How Long Should a Futon Mattress Last?

Just as with traditional mattresses, the life span of futon mattresses can vary wildly depending on the overall quality and the particular materials used in its manufacture.  A top of the line futon mattress can be expected to last 15 to 20 years even with regular, everyday use.  On the flip side, entry-level futon mattresses manufactured with cheap materials can exceed their useful life within a mere two to five years, even with occasional use.

The original futon sleeping system in Japan used mattresses filled with reeds and other naturally occurring fibers.  Today, an incredibly vast assortment of materials are used to manufacture futon mattresses, ranging from 100% natural cotton fibers to completely synthetic materials that provide an inexpensive cushioning layer such as egg-carton style foam.

The Different Types of Futon Mattress Materials and Their Life Expectancies

As far as useful life expectancy is concerned, the most significant factor will be the type and quality of materials used in the manufacture of futon mattresses.  The best futon mattresses in terms of longevity are made from organic materials such as wool and cotton.  Advances in the use of natural latex have been widely incorporated into the production of futon mattresses as far as providing a long-lasting cushioning layer.

Many futon mattresses (and traditional mattresses for that matter) incorporate materials that are produced from petrochemicals, such as certain foams and types of synthetic latex.  The chemical compounds in these materials break down over time, and this process is often accelerated by exposure to light and moisture.  When it comes to futon mattresses, natural materials tend to last longer.

Here is a quick reference guide to the expected life of a futon mattress based on the materials it is manufactured from:

MATTRESS TYPEMATERIAL(S)LIFE EXPECTANCY (EVERYDAY USE)
Chemical-free (latex)Wool, organic cotton, natural latex15 to 20 years
Organic latexOrganic latex, wool, cotton, coconut15 to 20 years
Memory foam (soy)Soy gel, cotton, wool15 to 20 years
Spring mattress – gelMicro coils, soy gel, cotton10 to 15 years
Spring mattress – foamMicro coils, soy foam, cotton9 to 12 years
Chemical-freeMicro coils, wool, cotton8 to 12 years
Organic cottonOrganic cotton6 to 10 years
Cotton/soy foamSoy foam, cotton2 to 8 years

Aside from the filler material, another factor that affects futon mattress comfort in both the sleeping and sitting positions is the thickness.  As a general rule of thumb, a futon mattress that folds into three parts (tri-fold) should be at least six inches thick, and one that folds into two parts (bi-fold) should be no less than eight inches thick.  Mattress thickness also plays a role in the long-term durability of the futon.

Tips for Prolonging the Life of Your Futon Mattress

With proper care, a quality futon mattress can provide years of quality sleep and functional use.  Because of the way that they are constructed and the types of materials that are commonly used in their manufacture, futon mattresses do require a bit more attention than their traditional counterparts.  

Here are some great tips for prolonging the life of your futon mattress:

  • Regularly turn and flip your futon mattress
  • Allow your futon mattress to air out for several hours per day
  • Roll or fold your futon mattress regularly
  • Perform spot cleaning to remove dirt or stains before they set
  • Use a quality futon mattress cover and wash regularly (have two on hand so that you always have a spare while one is in the wash)
  • Vacuum your futon periodically to remove dust and lint
  • Deodorize your futon periodically

Futon Mattress Recommendations

For the uninformed consumer, shopping for a quality futon mattress can be as daunting of a task as buying a traditional mattress.  Fortunately, you now know the essentials when it comes to futon mattress construction and materials and how these factors affect longevity.  Here are a few options to consider whether you are a first-time futon mattress owner or need to replace one that is past its prime:

  • Nirvana Futons Premier Pocket Coil  – This cotton futon mattress with inner micro coils measures 10” thick and provides soft-medium support.  Multiple layers of foam add to its plush feel while the natural cotton fibers provide cool, moisture-wicking comfort.  Suitable for use with a futon frame (not included) or a traditional bed platform.
  • BJDesign Traditional Japanese Futon Mattrress – Fabricated in Japan, this traditional-style mattress features twice the amount of cotton stuffing used in traditional futon mattresses to provide extra comfort.  Its trifold design is suitable for use with futon frames (with slats close together) or directly on the floor.
  • Kodiak Montreal Queen Futon Mattress & Hardwood Frame – This handsome ensemble features a unique inner system of foam layers and coils completely encased in cotton for comfort and breathability.  A unique hinge system seamlessly transitions the mattress from sitting to sleeping positions.  The frame is constructed from hardwood with an espresso finish.

Conclusion

Futon furniture has evolved from being a staple fixture in college undergrads’ apartments to becoming a highly functional home furnishing piece that is comfortable, practical, and in many cases, Instagram-worthy.  With proper care, your investment in a high-quality futon mattress can pay dividends for years.  And considering that up a third of that time will be spent on that futon, that’s not a bad deal at all.

Recent Content