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

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As a new parent, you may be confronted with the decision as to whether you should use a second hand 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. If you know the person that is offering you a second hand crib mattress, the crib mattress doesn’t look terribly worn or dirty, and if the mattress has the type of surface that can be cleaned with strong antibacterial/antiviral cleaning agents, then using a second hand mattress might be okay.

Otherwise, there are a number of serious risks you need to take into consideration before accepting and using a second hand crib mattress. In general, it’s better if you buy a new brand crib mattress but, if you are financially unable to do so right now and the mattress is in a good condition, then the second hand mattress being made available to you might be okay for your child’s use.

Why Would Parents Or Guardians Consider Second hand Crib Mattresses?

Second hand mattresses are not always a bad option. However, there are some myths surrounding the use of second hand mattresses that need to be busted:

  • “All second hand 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 really poor Moms would even consider using a second hand 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 second hand mattresses are in bad shape, stained, smelly, and badly worn.” It’s possible to find so-called “second hand” 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 labelled as “second hand.” 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 second hand 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 well-aired used mattress in perfectly good shape, perhaps with better firmness than the new mattress?
  • “Second hand mattresses are always a bad choice, so stay away from them 100% of the time.” While it is indeed usually better to buy a new mattress, we also need to stop using these types of all-inclusive generalizations. As has already been stated, some second hand 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 second hand crib mattress, 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 the only option for their budgeet
  • So that they can save some money. Some people live on a very tight budget and it can be very difficult to turn down an opportunity to save money in one area when money’s tight.
  • 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 Second hand Crib Mattress?

Not all second hand crib mattresses pose a risk to children, especially if the mattress in question is in excellent condition. However, there are some inherent risks of second hand mattresses to make yourself aware of:

  • Perhaps a child with a serious communicable, infectious and/or contagious disease slept on this mattress. However, even if that’s the case, that doesn’t necessarily mean that those germs are still on this mattress. If you know the previous owners well, you will probably know whether this applies to your situation.
  • Most bacteria and other organisms need a host to survive on, so they will die off or may have been sterilized away. As for viruses, yes, they can stick around 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 infections in hospitals (which have the largest collection of “second hand 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 second hand 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 second hand 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 second hand 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 second hand 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, is sagging 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 second hand 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 second hand mattress may be 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 and could even be odourless.


Unfortunately, most people will tell you that you can’t possibly consider second hand crib mattresses, as if doing so would be a crime against children.

However, this is not an accurate summary of the risks. Yes, there are risks in using second hand 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 second hand 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.