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How we test mattresses

Testing mattresses is back-breaking work.

plain white mattress with layers

Despite the obvious assumption, we don't test mattresses by taking naps on the job. CHOICE tests spring, foam, latex and hybrid mattresses from traditional bricks and mortar retailers, and online-only bed-in-a-box manufacturers.

How we choose what we test

Our priority is to test what you'll see in the shops. This means that sometimes we might not cover that one brand with one model that's sold 100 samples in Australia.

Instead, we focus on the big brand models that sell thousands and that you'll most likely see in your local retailer. How do we know what's in retailers? We check current market figures to see what's selling well.

We also include models that you've requested; if a lot of members want it, we're going to test it.

  • Retailer mattresses: We select models from major brands such as Sealy, SleepMaker and A.H. Beard based on feedback from member surveys. We also selected one exclusive model from third-party retailers such as Snooze, Forty Winks and Ikea, so you can consider alternatives to the big names.
  • Mattress-in-a-box: We buy these (also known as bed in a box) from popular manufacturers, and compared them to a traditional store-bought innerspring mattress. Though mostly made of memory foam and latex, you can find some innerspring bed in a box brands.
  • Our decision to focus on firm models was also directed by member feedback from our CHOICE Community forum.

When we know what you want, our buyers go out and use member funds to buy the products from a variety of retailers, both in person and online.

This means we get what you'd get, so we can be sure the results are what you'd find.

How we test mattresses

Opinions on mattresses are subjective. What one person might consider comfortable, another might find punishing.

That's why manufacturers make mattresses with varying degrees of firmness. A good mattress will retain its properties over a lifetime, not getting any less or more firm over eight years of use.

Our mattress test primarily addresses firmness. We aim to identify if the mattress will change in firmness over time, or whether you can rely on it to deliver the same standard of comfort that convinced you to buy it in the first place.

  • Retail and mattress-in-a-box models were tested under the same conditions, using the same methodology in partnership with independent labs in Europe.
  • We conducted body support tests with people chosen to comply with the 5th percentile female (1.55m/54kg) and the 95th percentile male (1.91m/104kg). This range of heights and weights covers 90% of the general population.

Our tests cover:

Usage wear/damage: We roll a cask-shaped roller over each mattress for 30,000 cycles to simulate around eight years' use. Visible damage such as cracking, broken springs or pilling contributes to the usage wear/damage score. A higher score means less damage.

Mattress damage test

Our usage wear/damage test simulates human use.

Comfort: Dorsal (on back) We use 36 measuring points to register the test subject's body sinking into the surface of mattress. Lateral (on side) We mark five aligned spots on the spine of a standing test subject. We take photos of the test subject lying on the mattress to analyse the distance and angles between the spots. Results for both positions are compared to an index of optimum support examples.

Mattress pressure test

Pressure distribution measurement during dorsal assessment.

Mattress body support test

Comfort test – lateral assessment.

Comfort after eight years of use: We run the comfort test a second time under the same conditions after the usage wear/damage test.

Stabilisation: We measure the movement of the mattress after a standard impact (17.5kg), simulating a sleeping person turning over. We also count the number of bounces up and down before the mattress is calm again.

Sagging: We measure height and firmness straight out of the box, then again after the usage wear/damage test.

Mattress height and firmness test

Height and firmness assessment.

Sweat repellent (human):The test subject lies on the mattress without moving for two hours in an environment with an ambient climate of 23°C. We measure the relative humidity between the body and the mattress beneath the waist of the subject.

Sweat repellent (technical): We perform this test in a climate chamber at 37°C for 10 hours. We place a measuring vessel under the mattress so that moisture can only escape through it. The vessel is weighed before and after testing to determine permeability and water intake.

Smell: Odour is assessed out of the box and two weeks after opening, by a panel of mattress experts. Note, this test is no longer performed as of May 2020. Mattresses tested after this date do not have smell results, but we will include previous results. They don't contribute to the overall score.

After testing, we open up each model to note spring types, spring count, the number of layers and types of material used. Each product profile includes a cross section that breaks down the contents of each mattress.

Cross-section

A mattress cross-section example. Higher resolution images are available in our test results.

Test criteria explained

The overall score is made up of:

  • Unused, out of the box comfort score (male and female average, 30%)
  • Comfort score after eight years of use (30%)
  • Stabilisation (15%)
  • Sagging (10%)
  • Sweat repellent (10%)
  • Usage wear/damage (5%)

We also note the advertised firmness, then test the mattress to see if these claims stack up.

Because we have stopped conducting a smell assessment, these results no longer contribute to the overall score. The 5% weighting has been rolled into "comfort score after eight years of use" and overall results were retroactively applied to all tested models in order to maintain fair comparison points.