The Rise and Fall of the Waterbed in the United States

Waterbed in bedroomMost of us would probably remember the first time we laid eyes on a waterbed – maybe had one of our own. Waterbeds were once a huge trend; classy, sexy, comfortable, and you had to have one.

The waterbed got its kickstart in California, in the late 60s. After failed experiments with cornstarch and even Jell-O filled chairs, Charlie Hall, a design student in San Francisco State University, had the idea of a mattress full of water. Hall designed the product while focusing the comfort and a good night’s sleep. The water-filled mattress was his master’s thesis, and once he presented it, his entire class spent the night playing with it. That’s how the modern waterbed as we know it was born.

During the 1970s, waterbeds hit the US market while the general idea of choosing an innerspring mattress was firm, firmer, or firmest.  Over the next 20 years, waterbeds became a must-have household product for many people. By the end of 1989, waterbed sales reached upwards of $30 million. People just couldn’t get enough of the waterbeds as these beds offered seamless comfort when compared to conventional spring mattresses. They were also believed to be super-fashionable and incredibly sexy amongst the youth. That’s how waterbeds became the beds of the sexual revolution and were viewed as a significant piece of impressing the opposite sex. If you didn’t have a waterbed, you had a lesser chance.

Why they were so popular

Aside from their appeal of passion, which was liberally encouraged by manufacturers who tried some slogans like “Two things are better on a waterbed, one is sleep,” waterbeds offered something that most beds at the time didn’t offer: a comfortable good night’s sleep.  When you were lying down on the waterbed, your body’s pressure was distributed equally, meaning you experienced support without any excess pressure on any part of your body, such as your hips, back, or shoulders.

Also, waterbeds were cheap, very cheap! If you went shopping for a waterbed, the average price you’d come across back then was between $150-350. Plus, by the end of the waterbed era, it could cost as low as $90, which was also too much to resist.

Why the love is over

All of a sudden, the passion was gone. The sexual marketing, which had been a big hit thanks to advertisements back in the 80s, quickly became old news in the 90s and it started to be considered as quirky and weird to be lying on a waterbed. Plus, the feelings of practicality and sensibility took over, and it was not as acceptable to be sexually rambunctious and to be over the top.

However, this wasn’t the only factor against waterbeds. They also had technical problems such as propensity to spring leaks, and they needed constant maintenance. If you wanted to move your waterbed, you had to drain it first, which was a time consuming process.

By the early 90s, as suddenly as they were cool and sexy, they became weird and lame.  It became clear that the novelty of waterbeds wasn’t worth the additional work they needed. Also, different manufacturers came up with different mattress innovations which offer comfort, flexibility, and softness while not making you run a garden hose through your second-floor bedroom window.

As for today…

Today, even though the waterbed market is still active in a much, much smaller scale, the market of mattresses offers significantly more options than it did during the waterbed era. If you spend some time looking at different mattress options, you’re likely to come across hybrid mattresses, innerspring mattresses, gel mattresses, pillow-top mattresses, or latex mattresses, or even waterbeds, if you’re lucky!

The answer to the question of “what kind of mattress is best for me?” depends on many factors, many of which are separately specific. The best way to find out which type of bedding is best for you is to come see us in person or you can give us a call, so our specialists can help you out with finding the best option for your needs and comfort.

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