Bed Bug Alert – “Renovated” Mattresses
By Chris Williams on March 22, 2016.
Have you ever been tempted to buy a “new” mattress that was labeled as “Reconditioned?” You better think again. That used mattress may not have been reconditioned at all. There are also unscrupulous companies that collect discarded mattresses and then re-sell them as new to unknowing consumers. Their suppliers are paid about $5 for each used mattress that they collect from roadsides or dumps.
What’s Inside Your Rebuilt Mattress?
Most states have laws regulating the reconditioning and sale of used mattresses. By law, reconditioned mattresses are supposed to receive new frames, new covers, and new fill material and they are supposed to be sanitized to destroy bacteria and eliminate dust mites and insects. In reality, some are simply stuffed as-is into a clean, new mattress cover, then wrapped in plastic to look factory-new, and put on display floors.
Why are we discussing this in a pest control blog? Because reconditioned mattresses are known to be one way that bed bugs can be introduced into a home or other building (see Used Furniture Can Hide Bed Bugs). Although this practice has been going on since long before bed bugs resurfaced as a major problem, the advent of bed bugs makes the existence of reconditioned mattresses even more of a concern. If the mattresses are “sanitized” at all, it is often with a disinfectant spray that only kills bed bugs it touches. Hidden bugs and their eggs are unaffected.
In 1996 and again in 2008, Dateline NBC purchased mattresses from a renovator and slit them open to find, under the new cover, used mattresses that were stained with urine, feces, and mold. They also found both dead and live bed bugs under the new covers.
This is one reason why we advise people not to discard bed-bug infested mattresses in the conventional manner. They should be cut open, bagged, and labeled “Bed Bugs” so they are not re-used by anyone (see Don’t Discard Bed Bug-Infested Furniture).
Massachusetts Recycles Its Discarded Mattresses
Recycling mattresses should be a good thing. In Massachusetts, 600,000 mattresses are discarded annually. The state ships about 2/3 of these out of state to companies that refurbish them and is pushing to also recycle the remaining 200,000 that end up clogging landfills. Connecticut recently instituted a fee on every mattress sale that will subsidize a statewide recycling program. Other states are pushing to recycle mattresses, so expect renovated mattresses to become even more common.
By law, reconditioned mattresses must have a special colored label or tag attached that clearly states that the mattress has been reconditioned or that it contains used materials. While there are plenty of legitimate mattress renovators who follow the rules, think twice about any mattress that is labeled as “reconditioned,” “refurbished,” “rebuilt,” “renovated,” or that is labeled as containing used or “secondhand materials.”
Who buys reconditioned mattresses? Typical purchasers are low-end hotels, shelters, school dormitories, and perhaps consumers who like to gamble. Once “refurbished,” a full set will sell for about $50, compared to a couple hundred for the cheapest new set. It’s tempting, and most who jump at that price figure that they are just buying a lower quality mattress, not bringing home a health hazard! If the mattress price sounds too good to be true, look at the attached tags and labels, ask questions, and make sure you fully understand what you’re buying.