Buying a mattress online offers lots of convenience, but the purchase is only half the battle. I’ve been testing mattresses as a part of my job for nearly four years, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the process. Here’s the best advice I have to give for setting up your mattress once it arrives. May your box handles be reinforced, and may your scissors cut true. Godspeed.
Check out our other sleep guides, including the Best Mattress, Best Organic Mattress, Best Sound Machines, Best Bedsheets, and Best Sleep Gadgets for more recommendations.
Special offer for Gear readers: Get WIRED for just $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com, full Gear coverage, and subscriber-only newsletters. Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.
Should You Pay for White-Glove Delivery?
A bed in a box is, in a word, unwieldy. Usually, these boxes are big and wide rectangles. They can weigh up to 150 pounds before they reach FedEx’s limit. If you live in a walk-up, if your bedroom is on the upper floor of your home, or if you don’t have a ton of physical strength, you may want to consider paying for white-glove delivery. It can be pricey, but it means someone else goes through the trouble of bringing the mattress into your home and setting it up.
If you’re setting up the bed yourself, keep an eye on that tracking information and try to meet the delivery person as soon as they arrive at your home. Trust me when I say you do not want to arrive home from a camping trip to find a soggy cardboard box sitting in the middle of your driveway. Even with the cut-out handles that many of these boxes employ, they can be difficult to move. Without the handles, it’s a lot worse.
When lugging the mattress inside and setting it up on your own, make sure you have a lifting buddy to help get the box where it needs to be. A dolly can be helpful. A brand-new, comfortable bed won’t offset the physical toll of throwing out your back. Lift safely!
Once the Mattress Is Inside
Some specifics may differ from brand to brand, but the general setup process is the same. Cut open the cardboard box carefully—the mattress is vacuum-sealed, and you do not want to remove the plastic before you’re ready. Inside your box, there will be a big, tube-shaped, plastic-wrapped jelly roll. This is your sealed mattress. Place the tube on or near your bed frame.
Typically the mattress will be double- or triple-sealed, so there will be an outer layer of looser plastic wrap encasing the vacuum-packed bed itself. You can start removing the plastic layers one at a time once the mattress is where you want it. Remember that the mattress will start inflating very quickly once you break the vacuum seal. I made the mistake of slicing into the plastic packaging while the bed was in a completely different room. That meant I had to wait for the mattress to inflate and then transport it to my bedroom—not ideal in a tiny apartment.
When you’re down to the final vacuum-sealed layer, orient your mattress in the correct direction on its frame. You may need to unfold or unroll it to get it placed. You also want to make sure the right side is facing up. Learn from my mistake! You do not want to go through the pain of flipping a floppy mattress over when you realize it’s upside down. Once all these steps are completed, you can get this bad boy inflated.