4 hacks to extend the life of an old mattress

Can't afford to replace your bumpy, sagging, worn-out mattress? Here are some handy stopgaps

Man sitting on a bed in discomfort
(Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

While you should expect a quality mattress should last for around eight to 10 years, even the best mattresses won’t last for ever. Typically, an aging mattress will start to sag in the middle, and over time that can do untold damage to your back and joints, not to mention giving you a poor night’s sleep. So it should be your number one priority to replace it. But what if you just can’t afford a new mattress right now?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to bring a worn-out mattress completely back to life. But there are some tricks that can firm it up in the short term, or extend its life for a year or two, while you save up enough money to buy a new one. In this article, we’ll share four strategies for reviving a sagging mattress.

Before we kick off, we'd also like to draw your attention to the fact that it might not be as expensive as you'd expect to pick up a whole new mattress. While sticker prices may be high, sales are very common in the mattress world, so unless you need your new mattress immediately, chances are you'll be able to pick it up for a discounted rate. Head to our best cheap mattress deals page for today's top offers on leading brands, as well as our favourite bargain models.

1. Add a mattress topper 

The hands-down best way to reinvigorate an old mattress is by adding a mattress topper. As the name suggests, this lies on top of your mattress and adds an extra layer of comfort; covering up and evening out any lumps, bumps, sags or dents. Yes, a mattress topper costs money, but it’s far cheaper than buying a new mattress, and will help you get extra life and comfort out of your existing one. 

When looking for the best mattress topper for your needs, you’ll want to consider its depth, number of internal layers, and what it’s filled with, which may be memory foam, feathers, latex or polyester. Most of the biggest mattress brands do them, so this can be a good way of getting the same quality materials you'll find in a luxury mattress, without shelling out luxury mattress prices (the Simba Hybrid mattress topper is a multi-layer wonder that's almost a mini-mattress in itself). It's also a good way of exploring the benefits of memory foam if you're sleeping on springs at the moment. For two good examples, check out our comparison of Eve’s topper vs Panda’s topper.

Also consider buying a mattress protector, which is a bit like a fitted sheet but thicker, more protective and, in some cases, waterproof.  By protecting against stains, spills, dirt, dust-mites and more, they help to prolong the life of your mattress, as well as adding an extra layer of cushioning. Mattress protectors are typically very affordable: check out our round-up of the best mattress protectors to learn more. 

2. Rotate or turn your mattress

Mattresses typically start to sag when pressure on them is concentrated in one area. So in general, it’s important to regularly flip your mattress, and/or rotate it from top to bottom, to make sure your weight is evenly distributed over time. (Note that some mattresses are not designed to be flipped, so do check the manufacturer’s instructions before doing so.)

How often should you flip your mattress? In general, a good rule of thumb is to flip and/or rotate your mattress every six months. However older, worn mattresses may need to be turned more frequently, such as every three months. If you’ve never flipped or rotated your mattress before, doing so can make it feel like a brand new mattress. So it’s definitely worth trying, before you go to the expense of replacing it.

3. Place a piece of wood underneath it

Plywood

(Image credit: Magdalena on Unsplash)

It may sound strange, but a popular way to firm up a sagging mattress is to place a piece of plywood or MDF between it and the bed frame. This wood needs to be cut to the exact same size as your bed. Many big hardware stores such as B&Q have a timber cutting service that will do this for you. 

This low-cost option really does work in firming up the feel of your mattress. However, it also makes it more difficult for the mattress to breathe. So you'll need to rotate your mattress more often and pay more attention to cleaning it to prevent dirt and mould building up. Read our article on how to clean a mattress for more on that.

4. Place a pillow underneath it

If your mattress is sagging in a particular area, another simple yet effective approach is to place a cheap pillow or pillows underneath it to firm things up. Try to use a fitted sheet to envelope both the mattress and pillow/s, so the combination feels as seamless as possible. As you might expect, this is very much a trial-and-error strategy in practice, but it can be surprisingly effective.