Where's the best place to shop for a mattress? Online or in a store. Illustration depicts a confused shopper.

How to choose the best mattress

Expert insider tips for choosing the best mattress in 2021

It is impossible to generate an exhaustive criteria or list to choose the perfect mattress that meets the specific needs of every individual. Any website touting such a list raises cause for concern.  Instead, we wish to provide you the most important and most simple attributes to look for while shopping for mattresses both online and in-store. The tips listed below can serve as a guide to help you to narrow your search and save time in your hunt for the best mattress for your unique needs. It is our goal in providing this list to reduce a few of the hardships shoppers often experience during this particular “grudge purchase.” These tips pull back the curtain on some of the mysticism associated with mattress shopping.

Product Photography should show you exactly what's inside.  Our images properly depict our interiors. We are proud of what we put inside our Harvest Mattresses. Authentic image of the inside of our Harvest mattress

Tip #1 Look for clear images depicting exactly what’s inside the mattress.

When looking at any mattress, look for brands that use un-doctored photographs (photographic imagery) or samples of the product’s interior components and layers. While digital renderings illustrating the interior components of a mattress are “pretty” and well done, they do not precisely depict what the material actually looks like inside.  Digital renderings only give you a sense of the layer makeups; why not just show it? This should give you pause and make you ponder why. Most times, it is because the material is simple and unimpressive. While not always the most inspiring feat of engineering, mattresses can be well built without being flashy or full of marketing glitz.

Tip #2 Certifications, do they matter?

The short answer is: Yes. Important certifications for natural or organic mattresses include: GOLS,GOTS, OEKO-TEX and GREENGUARD GOLD. GREENGUARD GOLD is one of the most important of them all; let us explain why. It ensures that the fully assembled product has been measured for various pollutants, VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), phthalates, and formaldehyde. Be wary of some certifications such as CERTIPUR-US as they are sponsored and created by the polyurethane foam industry. More on that here from a savvy reddit user who did legitimate research.  It is important that all certifications are verified via true, unbiased third-party certification (laboratories/organizations). It is best when these certifications are readily presented and substantiated with documentation. 

Image illustrates trusted 3rd party product certification logos to look for. GOTS, GOLS, OEKO-TEX, ECO INSTITUT, GREENGAURD GOLD


Some mattress retailers will create their own product model from commonly available raw materials and give these layers “unique” titles to make their products appear more sophisticated. This practice works to their advantage as the product becomes less shoppable making comparing “apples to apples” nearly impossible. These names are then trademarked by the manufacture or retailer for protection.

There are various foam fabrication techniques and formulas. However, the array of raw materials used in today’s mattresses is quite small and the pool of industry suppliers to choose from is even smaller. Some of this was explained well by that funny show Adam Ruins Everything. Some basic rules of thumbs when researching this aspect of mattress shopping include:

• You should be able to search google for the product name or foam type. 

• A google search of the product name or bed name should return multiple results of retailers offering that same bed or material(s).

• Search results for a type of foam layer should return an array of brands that use that same foam as well.

This will allow you to find the best and most convenient purchase option. We can assure you that there is a very small number of truly unique, patented, proprietary mattress components used in building mattresses. Sadly, for most mattress retailers and brands these tactics are simply used to over glorify a common product or construction style. Total transparency provides a better expectation for overall product performance.  

Tip #4 Firmness Scales

Almost all online mattress companies and mattress retailers will display a scale of firmness. It is on this scale we attempt to express how soft or firm a mattress is.  This is typically a scale of 1-10. While it is important to look at this, one has to understand that comfort is subjective. These scales or ratings are not formulated by a single individual or standardized measurement.  They are speculated by each brand.  Most online retailers will rate their mattress intentionally as a 5 or 6 to simply appeal to a broader audience.  This aspect is the single largest reason for customer returns or overall dissatisfaction. It is strongly suggested that you exercise caution with this. If your #1 priority is the perfect firmness level, it is suggested that you try before you buy. This will save you a lot of hassle. It is reported that well over 20% of online mattress purchases are returned. Purchasing a mattress online is widely reported as pain free. However, there are thousands of consumers that would beg to disagree on this after going through the process.

Illustration depicts a confusing comfort scale to rate a mattresses comfort level. There is no standard scales in measuring comfort.

Illustration depicts a glamorous mattress rating.

Tip #5 Star Ratings

Star ratings are a great tool developed by websites. They provide basic insight into customer satisfaction with a particular brand, product or service.  However, we must point out that almost all “mattress reviews” from consumers are given back to mattress companies within the first week or two of ownership. Is this claim able to be substantiated? A massive number of good reviews is great. On one hand, you should take into account that the vast majority of these reviews are not based on years of use and overall performance. On the other, reviews can be extremely helpful to get a good sense of the brand’s return policy, delivery processes, overall customer care and willingness to service its customers.

Illustration of mattress review website

Tips For Understanding Mattress Reviews Websites

Tip #1 Does the review website contain only Bed in a Box options?

The mattress industry is hundreds of years old. We have always found it odd that most mattress review sites list rarely contain any of the actual top ten mattress manufacturers. Are we to believe that only newly hatched start up brands are the only companies that can build a top ten rated mattress? In our research, we were only able to find one legitimate mattress review website. This website offers direct consumer input alongside their professional opinion. They review both bed in a box brands as well as most of the current top ten mattress manufactures. You will also notice they DO NOT provide a Top Ten List. We find this approach to offer the most honest input with no brand bias.

Harvest Green Mattress in a box on a front porch stoop.
Illustration of man walking away with a bag of money and mattress reviews.

#2 Affiliate Top Ten Rankings

The mattress industry is very competitive and brands are paying HEFTY commissions (up to 20% of the total cost of the mattress) to third-party reviewers and affiliate websites in order to be relevant. You will notice a lot of the same brands on various websites with top ten ratings. By viewing these websites and YouTube videos, one can almost get a sense of a mattress company’s advertising budget. It’s important to note these listings come with a financial bias based on their potential cut of the sale as stated above. The real question is, what is the mattress company sacrificing in the actual product to afford such generous advertising budgets? Affiliate link disclosures are mandated by the FTC.  It is highly recommended that you make note of any review websites offering any arranged ranking lists such as top ten mattresses, top twenty mattresses for side sleepers, etc...  It’s reasonable to assume that the brands closer to the top of any list directly correlates to that brand’s generosity in terms of kickbacks. The world is changing and you should consider these websites to be nothing more than a new kind of mattress retailer. In this new world search engines and review websites have simply replaced the cost of maintaining a physical storefront. Mattress review websites are a “place” of business, just one without a physical storefront.

Illustration of man walking in with a bag of money and mattress reviews.

Tip #3 Is the review website owned by or affiliated with an actual mattress brand?

Most may not know unless one has scoured reddit countless hours that some, if not most, of these review websites and affiliate websites are owned and operated by the actual mattress brands themselves. It’s true as seen on that famous episode of Adam Ruins Everything.

The list may shock you…  Buyer Beware. See for yourself below.

Magnuson, Michael. “Review Sites With Ties to Mattress Companies.” Good Bed, Goodbed.com, 2021, www.goodbed.com/guides/biased-mattress-review-websites/.

Our Design Specifications | Harvest Green Mattresses