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THE GOOD: Contours to body for minimized pressure points • good longevity possible • often inexpensive • largely dust mite resistant • can control for temperature.
THE BAD: Can leak / puncture • heavy • set up and maintenance • noise and initial odor potential • possible heating expense.
THE BEDS: Waterbeds come mainly in two types: hard-sided and soft-sided. A hard-sided waterbed (more common of the two) consists of a water chamber inside a wood frame placed on a deck and platform. A soft-sided waterbed looks like a conventional bed. It consists of a water chamber encased inside a frame of sturdy foam and fabric placed on a platform.
THE RESEARCH: This page rates waterbed mattresses only – not the frame or any other aspect of the beds including unbiased, accurate methodology.Consumer data was gathered using an
The table below shows how waterbeds as a group compare to the average mattress.
|Owner satisfaction||C||Waterbeds overall have 74% owner satisfaction. Details.|
|Durability||c||Punctures / leaks are the top complaint of hardside waterbed owners. Main causes are cats, zippers, and writing instruments.|
|Longevity||b-||Punctures / leaks can often be repaired by owner. With good maintenance, waterbeds can last for over a decade.|
|Affordable||B+||Hardside waterbed mattresses often are $50-$400, while softside ones often cost $800-$1800. Higher priced models have more features, namely wave reduction and lumbar support.|
|Support||C-||In general and compared to other mattress types, support is not a strength of waterbeds.|
|Less (back) pain||C||About 15% of owners report (back) pain relief, while 9% complain that their bed causes pain. (See mattresses and pain relief for more analysis.) Also, the "hard side" of hardside waterbeds may be uncomfortable when getting on or off the bed.|
|Conforming ability||a-||Waterbeds contour to the body effectively. The result is a mostly even distribution of one's weight and minimized pressure points.|
|Motion isolation||D+||A mattress with good motion isolation absorbs movement from spreading across the bed and keeps one's partner from being disturbed. Single bladder, free flow waterbeds perform poorly, while dual bladder, waveless models can perform fairly well. Motion of the bed causes sea sickness-like symptoms for about 3% of owners.|
|Dust mite resistant||a-||Waterbeds tend to be resistant to large dust mite populations because the mites cannot enter into the water chamber. This can reduce allergies for some people.|
|No initial odor / off gassing||D||About 17% of waterbed owners report a significant and bothersome initial odor, usually from the vinyl.|
|No noise||c-||Waterbeds are generally quiet if air is removed from inside; otherwise the water may be heard (swishing, sloshing). In addition, the heater may make some noise.|
|Temperature neutral||C+||The mattresses are more likely to sleep cold (without the use of a heater) than they are to sleep hot.|
|Good for sex||c-||For the majority of owners, the beds are viewed as no better than average on this issue. See mattresses and sex for more info.|
|Short break in period||B-||Hardside waterbeds tend to have a somewhat faster break-in period than softside.|
|Easy to set up||d-||A main disadvantage compared to most other mattress types. Setting up / assembling a waterbed requires considerable time / effort.|
|Easy to maintain||D+||A water conditioner should be added occasionally, and the water level needs to be maintained. On the plus side, the mattress never needs to be flipped / turned.|
|Easy to lift, handle, move||f||Waterbeds are the heaviest type of bed and can weigh as much as 1,000 lbs when full. Moving the bed is difficult and time consuming as you must drain the bed to move it.|
|Energy use / cost||d+||Waterbeds are usually heated (at least in winter) to prevent an uncomfortably cold sleep surface. Heating water takes significant energy and will result in somewhat higher electricity costs.|
The table below compares waterbed mattresses that have at least 84% owner satisfaction based on a sample of 60+ consumer experiences. The mattresses below are all suited for.
|Classic CA King||Fiber 3500 Hardside||Innomax Sanctuary|
|Owner Satisfaction (sample)|
|95% (69)||88% (85)||84% (302)
|CA king||super single, queen, king||super single, twin, full, queen, king|
|Waveless or Free Flow|
|70% waveless (estimate)||85% waveless||free flow|
|Includes Safety Liner|
|Vinyl Thickness (mil)*|
|12 yrs total (3 yrs full coverage and 9 yrs prorated)||12 yrs total (3 yrs full coverage and 9 yrs prorated)||20 yrs total (2 yrs full coverage and 18 yrs prorated)|
Waterbed owner satisfaction is somewhat linked to wave reduction. A mattress with wave reduction will have only a few seconds of motion, while a free-flow mattress will have up to a full minute of motion.
Ratings are based on 500+ waterbed owner experiences related to a variety of brands and manufacturers. Find out more about our mattress research methodology and sources.
– At the peak of their popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s, about 20 percent of the U.S. population owned a waterbed. Our research suggests that today about 2 percent of people own a waterbed.
Nevertheless, advances have been made over the decades, such as wave reduction, that make waterbeds more competitive with conventional mattress types in many ways.