Two Sided vs. One Sided Mattresses

I remember watching my grandparents flip their full size mattress over periodically. Then my grandmother would carefully vacuum their mattress while the curtains in their bedroom swayed in the breeze. “It’s good to let the fresh air in when you can,” she’d holler over the sound of the vacuum. Most mattresses today are not meant to be flipped over. I’m not sure what my grandparents would think about this, but I know many of my customers are disappointed when they realize none of the major bedding manufacturers make two sided mattresses anymore. The one sided mattress has been the standard since the early 2000’s.

“It’s like you’re getting only half a mattress,” an unhappy customer said of the trend.

Why No More Two Sided Mattresses?

New Flammability Standards

Why did bedding manufacturers like Simmons, Sealy, and Serta start making all their mattresses one sided? It really all came down to a change in the federal flammability standard issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that took effect in July, 2007. This flammability standard was specifically aimed at mattresses and foundations, but also crib mattresses and futons. Prior to this regulation, a mattress was a massive source of fuel in a house fire, due to its large size and the fact that most of the foams inside are made of petroleum. Within three to ten minutes, the whole mattress is engulfed in flames, creating massive heat and smoke, hampering rescue efforts and endangering the lives of the home’s occupants and firefighters.

With the new flammability standard, mattress companies were required to use flame retardants, and those worked incredibly well. Rather than burst into flames, a mattress smolders, allowing occupants to get out of harm’s way. (Of course, there are folks who argue about the safety of the flame retardants, but that’s a discussion for some other time!)

Mattress Manufacturing Changes

Starting in July, 2007, mattress manufacturers must send each new mattress in their lineup to a testing lab for compliance with this regulation. At the lab, each mattress set gets placed mattress on top of foundation. It must pass a flammability test before the set is sold in the US. All this testing was and is costly for bedding manufacturers, and they did not believe consumers would willingly pay for flame retardants in their bedding, an advantage that customers can’t see and can’t feel. Additionally, if bedding had two sides, both sides had to have flame retardant material in it, and both sides had to be tested. This required two sets of bedding for testing.

And so it was in the early 2000’s, that one sided mattress took over the mattress industry. This helped keep the costs of the required flame retardants from affecting consumers, even if consumers didn’t know it.

Are Two Sided Mattresses Better?

No, not really. We sell some two sided mattresses by Jamison Bedding. If you want to be able to flip your mattress, you can. If you have a two sided mattress, you must flip it to keep it in good shape. Plenty of owners of two sided beds never flipped them anyway, and that’s why one sided mattresses made sense to begin with, notwithstanding the flammability issue.

The design for the one sided mattress was studied and well-thought out, at least by the larger manufacturers like Serta. They used (and still use) a sturdy base foam at the bottom, topped with coils, and then pre-compressed foams on top. We always recommend rotating your mattress from head to foot frequently, at least with the seasons.

Those who really believe they need a two sided mattress have a one sided pillow top. Pillow tops are the worst to show body impressions. In fact, mattress manufacturers have not been able to make a pillow top that won’t get body impressions. Even if those pillow tops magically grew a second side,  body impressions develop after a night or two on that second side.



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