The claim is often made that a mattress doubles in weight after 10 years due to the accumulation of dust mites (pictured, left), dead skin cells, dust, sweat and other unpleasant things. Is it an urban myth invented by marketers, or based on fact? The truth is not so black and white.
A lack of research documentation on the topic leads to much speculation about the veracity of the claim.
In the spring of 2015, popular Facebook user and Star Trek alum George Takei published a post that linked to a list of shocking “facts.” The link featured a captioned photograph stating that the weight of mattresses doubles every 10 years, a claim attributed (several links later) to the “accumulation of dust mites and dust mite droppings.”
While the viral spread of that rumor introduced the claim to many Facebook users, this belief is far from new: posts about bedding doubling in weight over a 10-year period have been circulating on the Internet since at least as far back as 2000.
An article published in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in February of 2000 may have been the most damning source of information:
“Dust mites thrive in plush carpets, overstuffed upholstery and cushy bed comforters. One frightening statistic: The average mattress will double its weight in 10 years as a result of being filled with dead dust mites and their detritus. Facts like these can send even the most skeptical consumer running for the dust mop. ‘You see a picture of these bugs, and it’s not pretty,’ says Stephen Wasserman, past president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. ‘But if you’re not allergic to them, I don’t think your environment will be dramatically different if you kill them.’”
Any individual allergic to dust mites or their detritus knows the all-too-real impact of such a sensitivity. But do mattresses truly double in weight over ten years? Furthermore, does the increase ever stop, or do really old mattresses become heavier across the decades?
As is the case with many items suspected to be “fake news,” the mattress claim was questioned when it initially appeared in 2000. And, typically, the clarification of facts failed to spread nearly as far as its more attention-getting, original story. A couple of months after the WSJ article was published, Ohio State University researcher Emmett Glass, who was quoted in the piece, explains:
“’I never quoted that statistic. I told [the reporter] that Internet web sites have statistics that try to strike fear in the consumer, thus promoting their products. I gave her a few off the top of my head (two million mites in an average mattress, mattress doubling in weight, etc.) that I read over the years. She asked me if any of these statistics have any scientific merit and I told her that none of them are in the literature. To the layman that is NO! In fact I asked the Wall Street Journal writer to call an expert on mattresses at the internal sleep products association. She did and was told that the statistic on mattresses doubling in weight was far from the truth. The journalist choose to include it in the story anyway. She liked the statistic because it made her story more interesting.’”
In conclusion, no evidence — credible or otherwise — seemed to support the mattress weight claim. Since the WSJ article seemed to drive home what was once a sales pitch for mattresses, it’s difficult to say precisely how the claim originated.
Your mattress is far likelier to require replacement due to wear and tear than added weight from dust mites and debris. Upgrading your mattress is an easy but significant lifestyle change. Mattress World Northwest offers multiple locations around Portland, offering an extensive collection of premium beds at competitive prices, including memory foam, latex, hybrid and pillow top mattresses. Visit a mattress store location near you and ask us about free delivery, and sleep better knowing you made a great investment.