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Secondhand Crib Mattress – Must Know The Risk of Using a Secondhand Crib Mattress

by | Aug 15, 2017 | 0 comments

Unfortunately, there are times when some people are confronted with the decision as to whether they should use a secondhand mattress.  In many cases, there may be financial burdens that compel some people to consider this option but this isn’t always the case.  In some cases, it’s just a matter of someone offering someone else their used mattress.  This might happen, for example, in a family structure where members strive to share things.  If you know the person that is offering you a secondhand crib mattress, the crib mattress doesn’t look terribly abused or compromised, and if the mattress has the type of surface that can be cleaned with strong antibacterial/antiviral cleaning agents, then using a secondhand mattress might be okay.

Otherwise, there are a number of serious risks you need to take into consideration before accepting and using a secondhand crib mattress.  In general, it’s better if you buy such a product brand new but, if you are financially unable to do so right now and, as has been stated, you can overcome all of the objections and concerns mentioned in this article, then the secondhand mattress being made available to you might be okay for your child’s use. Actually, there are risks even for brand new mattresses—in other words, there are not risk-free crib mattresses.

Perhaps some people may too quickly jump to wrong or judgmental conclusions, assumptions and even myths such as these:

  • “All secondhand crib mattresses must be crawling with disease-promoting germs and nasty stains.”  While these may be legitimate concerns, neither of these “assumptions” is necessarily true.  What about a crib that someone bought but hardly ever used and, so, decided to give to a family member or friend?
  • “Only dirt-poor Moms would even consider using a secondhand crib mattress.” That may not necessarily be true.  Some families have traditions involving the passing on of personal items like bedding, furniture and even clothing.  Some of these people may even be well-off, so we all need to be careful about making potentially false assumptions about anyone
  • “All secondhand mattresses are in bad shape, stained, smelly, and badly abused.”  It’s possible to find so-called “secondhand” crib mattresses that maybe were bought, stored away but never used.  Consider a couple that was expecting a baby but, unfortunately, there was a miscarriage or some other unforeseen disaster.  That mattress they bought and stored away (and even took out of its original package) was never used but may still be labeled as “secondhand.”  Why isn’t such a crib mattress perfectly suited for anyone to use?
  • New crib mattresses are risk free—they are always safer than, say, a secondhand option.”  That may not be true in some cases.  There are plenty of cases involving SIDS, for example, where a brand new mattress was being used.  Maybe the toxic fumes from the brand new expensive mattress had something to do with the baby suffocating—something that might have been avoided had the mattress been a by-now fumes-free used mattress in perfectly good shape, perhaps with better firmness than the new mattress?
  • “Secondhand mattresses are always a bad choice, so stay away from them 100% of the time.”  While it is indeed better to buy a new mattress, we also need to stop using these types of all-inclusive generalizations.  As has already been stated, some secondhand crib mattresses are actually “new” (in that they were never used) but were merely stored away and offered to someone later on.  Or the mattress may in fact, in spite of having been used, be very clean, germ free, and with no stains or other major imperfections.

As for why some parents and guardians decide to go with a secondhand crib mattress, well it may be for one of the following reasons:

  • So that they can get a better-quality, otherwise-unaffordable crib mattress
  • So that they can keep a family tradition going of sharing things of this nature—they may have even babysat for the children that previously used the mattress
  • Because of financial strains, they may not be able to afford a new mattress right now—in other words, it may be a secondhand mattress or nothing for some impecunious people
  • So that they can save some money . . . some people live on a very tight budget . . . it’s very difficult to turn down an opportunity to save money in one area so that you use the money you saved in another crucially important area (like paying rent on time)
  • Possibly so that they can make other people happy. . . a daughter-in-law, for example, might not want to offend grandma who, it just so happens, had a crib mattress to give her that she had kept, by all appearances, in tip-top condition

What Are The Main Risks Involved When Deciding To Use A Secondhand Crib Mattress?

Although not necessarily complete and given with the understanding that these circumstances apply only some of the time (if at all), here are some of the most flagrant risks you run when you decide to use a crib mattress:

–Perhaps a child with a serious communicable, infectious and/or contagious disease slept on this mattress . . . even if that’s the case, that doesn’t mean that those germs are still on this mattress.

Most bacteria and other organisms need a host to survive on, so they will die off or may have been (or may be now) sterilized away; as for viruses, yes, they can live (if you can call it that since viruses aren’t really “alive”) for a long time after they leave a living organism but that doesn’t mean that they can easily infect someone else using the same mattress.  In fact, it’s safe to say that most nosocomial infections in hospitals (which have the largest collection of “secondhand beds” anywhere) come from people contact and from lack of proper hygiene.  Most surfaces, including mattresses, can be adequately cleaned by merely using strong anti-viral/bacterial cleaning agents.

–The mattress may sink too much or too easily because the material (whether foam or coil springs) has been too long in use and time has taken a heavy toll on this mattress.  This is indeed a legitimate concern but you can test the mattress to see if it gives too easily—if so, it may not be good for use again, especially for a baby or an infant.  After all, you don’t want a baby’s head to sink too much into a mattress that is too soft or too “giving.”

–There is an increased risk of SIDS, according to some experts.  Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the mostly unexplained death of babies/infants that were left alone—not necessarily for a long time.  We do know that SIDS can sometimes be prevented by making sure babies sleep on their backs instead of on their stomachs.  We also know that overheating can also play a role.  If the secondhand mattress retains heat, that’s another good reason to not use it.

–There is always a chance that there may be bedbugs, cockroaches, dust mites, or other critters inside a secondhand mattress.  You may not necessarily be able to tell since most of these critters like to hide inside things.  Be especially careful if the second hand mattress has any holes (unfortunately, air vents may be a problem by themselves) or rips.

–The secondhand mattress may have a mold infestation that may not be visible to you, especially if some moisture seeped into the mattress over time but was never properly dried out or disinfected. Naturally, mold is the last thing you want your child to sleep next to.  Unfortunately, disinfecting the top surface of a mattress won’t do anything to fix this problem, if it’s an internal one.

–If it’s a coil spring secondhand mattress, it may have been used as a trampoline by naughty kids in the past.  This means that it may not give the proper support, firmness or even comfort your child needs.  A giveaway for this problem is if the mattress gives in too much or has too much bounce.

–The metal coils/springs may be protruding in some places too much, something that may not be visible but which you may feel if you push the right areas in enough.  Obviously, this is a serious danger that makes such a mattress unsuitable for further use.

–Be very careful of accepting a secondhand mattress that has significant or large stains.  Actually, a stain-free mattress would be best but, for sure, large, noticeable or nasty looking stains are grounds for not accepting a crib mattress, especially if the stains have an unpleasant smell or look like dried blood, vomit, feces or urine.  Such a mattress isn’t suitable for reuse since it would be very difficult—if at all possible—to clean such stains, especially if they were left like this for a long time.

–A secondhand mattress may be replete or deeply embedded with cleaning agents, as well as ointments, creams and medical treatment products.  All these chemicals may trigger allergies in your child and unnecessarily expose them to potentially toxic things.  Unfortunately, these things may not be visible or even completely smellable.


Unfortunately, most people will tell you that you can’t possibly consider secondhand crib mattresses, as if doing so would be a crime against children and, necessarily, the worst idea anyone ever had.  Yes, there are risks in using secondhand mattresses but, for the most part, those risks are identifiable and manageable. Just as there are some brand new mattresses that you should stay away from, there are some secondhand mattresses that are definitely not suitable for use.  On the other hand, there are instances when a second-hand mattress is perfectly fine, especially if you are on a tight budget, get a mattress that is in fairly good shape (in spite of having been used) and know the person giving or selling you the mattress (thus possibly letting you know the history of the mattress).

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