Why can't You Take the Tag off of a Mattress?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Removing a mattress tag has been a source of a great many jokes. Until recently, most mattress tags contained the bold statement that removing the tag was illegal and punishable by law. This may have frightened some children who actually ripped off tags, but the warning was never meant to apply to people who had actually purchased a mattress.

The tags on mattresses and pillows are meant to warn stores, not consumers.
The tags on mattresses and pillows are meant to warn stores, not consumers.

Concern arose in the early 20th century regarding the materials used to make mattresses. Some of the materials could contain a host of nasty chemicals or materials that easily conducted illnesses or harbored pests like body lice. As such, the US government sought to address this by requiring manufacturers of mattresses to place mattress tags on their wares, clearly defining the contents of the mattress. Thus consumers could make an informed choice and steer clear of mattresses stuffed with dangerous materials.

Warnings against taking the tag off a mattresses don't apply after purchasing the mattress.
Warnings against taking the tag off a mattresses don't apply after purchasing the mattress.

However, listing the materials meant that some mattresses would simply not sell, because of their materials. This led to new US laws, which not only required mattress tags but also were stamped in bold letters with the message “Do not remove under penalty of law."

However, many people were actually not aware the law was intended for mattress dealers, hence the jokes began regarding people serving hard time for removing the tag from their mattress. Finally, enough public concern arose in the last decade to change to the message so it was clear a consumer could remove the tags without suffering FBI raids or possible unknown imprisonment for committing this “serious” crime.

It is important, for a consumer to look at mattress tags since they give one pertinent information. First, if the tags have been removed, it’s difficult to ascertain the filling components of the mattress. Second, an unscrupulous dealer might attempt to resell a used mattress as new. A mattress with no tags is probably pre-owned.

Even though the laws prohibiting mattress dealers from removing mattress tags sound unbelievably grim on the actual tag, few states actually conduct mattress inspections to assure that tags remain in place. However, as a consumer, conducting your own inspection can help you find the best mattress. Once it is delivered, feel free to gleefully remove all tags without fear of criminal prosecution.

Mattress tags reveal important information about the contents of the mattress.
Mattress tags reveal important information about the contents of the mattress.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


They should be a lot clearer with their message and put something like "do not remove tag unless otherwise purchased" or something like that.


@BrickBack - Those are good tips. I also wanted to add that mattress prices are negotiable except for those of a certain brand like Tempur-Pedic. They have a set price on their mattresses but the store can always throw in a few pillows or free delivery.

I have gotten about 50% off the retail price in many mattress stores because I was not in a hurry to buy my mattress and was ready to leave the store because I could not find what I wanted for the price that I wanted.

The salesperson at one store, not only offered me 50% off the retail price, but they also offered free delivery and haul a way of my old mattress along with a free bed frame.

Buying a mattress is sort of like buying a car in many of these mattress stores. The only thing that I would not consider is a demo model. Every now and then the stores try to sell demo models at an incredible low prices.

I always decline these offers because these are the mattresses that everyone has laid on in the store. When I buy a mattress, I want something brand new.


@Icecream17 - I know what you mean. Whenever I go to a mattress shop the salesperson shows me so many mattresses that I am totally confused and don’t know what to buy.

My suggestion is to have the name of the mattress available that you currently own so that the clerk can show you something similar. By the brand and the style they can tell the fit that you prefer.

Another option is to tell them to show you a soft mattress and a firm mattress in order for you to decide which direction to go into. I would also consider the warranty available. If a mattress company is offering a twenty year warranty opposed to a ten year warranty then it makes me feel that that mattress with the twenty year warranty is of superior quality which makes me focus on those.


I always wondered why they had those warnings and I guess you are right it is similar to the jar warnings.

I have to say that I am very picky when I am purchasing a mattress. I do a lot of mattress comparisons online to find out which mattress will work best for me. It can be confusing because there are so many mattresses and there is so much to consider when buying one.

For example, mattress can either be soft or firm. There are varying degrees in the middle. If you have back problems you might want to consider a mattress with memory foam that offers a lot of support. You can even consider a firmer mattress like a Simmons Beauty Rest mattress.

I prefer the soft mattresses and they usually have a layer of latex which not only allows the mattress to breathe a bit and feel cooler but it also provides a comfortable softer feel.

You can always look at mattresses on Consumer Reports and while most stores will carry the brand listed they might not carry the exact style which makes mattress shopping a little confusing.


So the mattress tag law is sort of a protection, similar to the seals on jars and bottles that you buy in a store. If the seal, or tag, is broken, you might not want what's inside it.

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