Waterbed Mattress Guide:
Pricing, Safety, Practicality & More
Close up wave of blue water
Image of Zach Gentry
Zach Gentry
Helix Customer Experience Manager / Mattress Guru
Updated: February 20, 2020
Although they originally began to pop up in the 19th century, waterbeds have remained a popular choice for sleepers for centuries. While they may not be as common as they once were, waterbeds still offer a cooler sleep and relieve pressure that’s typically put on the spine and lower back.
Since finding the right mattress or waterbed can be an intensive process, here’s everything you should know about these unique mattresses:
What is a Waterbed Made of?
If there’s one type of mattress with a rich history, it’s the waterbed mattress. Historically, the water mattress began to pop up in 3600 BCE when Persians filled their goat-skin mattresses up with water. During the 19th century, doctors used rubber waterbeds in hospitals as a treatment for patients that dealt with bedsores and poor circulation.
Eventually, Charles Hall developed the modern-day waterbed, which used sturdy vinyl rather than rubber to provide a more pleasurable sleep. It’s worth noting that there are a few different types of waterbeds:
Soft-side waterbeds hold their shape with foam bolsters and typically include a padded top layer and a fabric casing to help prevent leaking.
Hard-side waterbeds, on the other hand, retain their shape with sturdy hardwood or softwood known as a “waterbed frame.”
While waterbeds declined in popularity during the 1990s due to the regular maintenance they require, modern technology and new manufacturing methods may suggest that these beds are making a comeback.
How Long Does a Waterbed Last?
One significant advantage that waterbeds have over other mattress types is their lifespan. While a memory foam mattress may only last eight to ten years, a waterbed can last for up to twenty years (and may also come with an extensive warranty as well).
However, the biggest component in a waterbed’s lifespan is how well it’s taken care of. Unlike traditional mattress types, waterbeds run the risk of leaking, bursting, or popping if their owners don’t properly care for them. To prevent this, most waterbed owners need to keep up with regular maintenance.
This includes filling your waterbed and making sure that it’s correctly installed when you first purchase it. A waterbed that’s overfilled may burst after enough use while one that’s underfilled may not be able to provide the support that a sleeper needs.
Another thing that waterbed owners typically need to do is add a waterbed conditioner at least once a year to make sure the vinyl layer stays supple. Without conditioner on a regular basis, the vinyl in your waterbed can become brittle and start to “crack,” a precursor to leaks.
Speaking of leaks, most waterbeds—regardless of how sturdy they are—may develop a leak from time to time. Waterbed owners may have to take the time to patch up a leak every few years.
While waterbeds may require maintenance that a traditional mattress doesn’t, the benefit is that these mattresses often last for much longer.
Price Range for a Waterbed
Price can vary greatly based on an individual’s needs, preferences, and the size of bed they’re trying to purchase. A twin-sized waterbed without any of the bells and whistles may only cost around $200 — especially if it’s bought from a department store rather than a major mattress retailer.
If you’ve got a little more room in your budget, water bed pricing with luxury features can end up costing upwards of $2,000. With these premium beds, manufacturers may find unique ways to include memory foam or other materials that result in less maintenance and a longer lifespan.
Keep in mind that, while some waterbeds may end up costing more, these more expensive options also include extensive warranties as well.
Waterbeds vs. Hybrid Mattresses
While waterbeds have declined in popularity, hybrid mattresses have become the most popular models in recent years. Instead of sacrificing the firmness of a coil mattress or the added support of a memory foam bed, sleepers can experience the best of both worlds with a hybrid mattress.
In comparison to a waterbed, hybrid mattresses tend to be more comfortable for those with chronic pain or back issues since it aligns the spine.
When it comes to durability, however, waterbeds have the advantage historically. A waterbed that’s properly taken care of can have a lifespan of two decades.
How Firm is a Waterbed?
Waterbeds have plenty of advantages, but they aren’t typically a firm option. Many sleepers find that these mattresses feel “bouncy” and allow for plenty of movement. Although there is a vinyl exterior, these mattresses are still filled with water and can give the impression that you’re floating on water.
Keep in mind that, while waterbeds may not be firm, they’re still capable of providing just as much support or relief that sleepers find in traditional mattresses.
Are Waterbeds Practical?
Not only do they require more maintenance than most mattress types, but they aren’t usually the firmest option either. If you’re looking for a more practical option that doesn’t mean sacrificing comfort or support, a hybrid mattress from Helix Sleep is the right choice.
Take The Sleep Quiz To Find Your Match
There’s a lot that goes into finding the best mattress—so much so that it can feel a little overwhelming. Luckily, you can try the Helix Sleep Quiz today to get started on your journey for the perfect mattress according to your body size, sleep style, and unique preferences.