Why Does My Mattress Have A Do-Not-Remove Tag? Experts Explain
Don't worry, those warning tags on your mattress and pillows aren't really meant for you.
What do you see when you fluff your pillows or put a fitted sheet on your mattress? If you perform either task with any level of regularity—you do have extra time on your hands because of the pandemic, after all—chances are you've noticed a tag warning you to avoid removing it for any reason. But why? Is it actually illegal to remove a tag from an item that you purchased and you now own?
To answer these questions, you need to have some historical context. When the mattress industry was booming in the late 19th century, manufacturers began doing what most businesses do in their situation: look for ways to cut production costs and increase profit margins. Apparently, the solution they came up with was to stuff mattresses with unsanitary—sometimes even infested—materials, including "old bedding from hospitals," says Alan Axelrod, PhD, author of America Out Loud.
As you can imagine, this didn't go over well with the government, says University of Washington School of Law's Mary Whisner. And starting in 1913, state governments began requiring manufacturers to put a tag on all mattresses and pillows, identifying the contents within, as well as their condition. After all, they didn't want consumers to face harmful health problems like smallpox and tuberculosis due to unsanctioned materials.
According to Bed Times Magazine, however, state guidelines often didn't align with each other—or were enforced differently depending on the state. In an attempt to streamline regulations in the 1940s, the Association of Bedding Law Officials (ABLO) partnered with the National Association of Bedding Manufactures (NABM) to introduce a uniform tag that read: "Do not remove tis tag under penalty of law."
Essentially, the tags are there as a way to promote consumer safety, and hold corporations accountable. However, these warning tags have often been a cause for confusion over the years. So, starting in the 1990s, the tags were amended to include the words, "except by the consumer," to add clarity regarding their purpose, Axelrod says.
That means, as long as you're not planning to resell your mattress or pillow, you can remove the tag whenever you please. However, Consumer Reports does note that you may face some difficulty trying to enact your warranty if you do in fact remove the tag from your mattress—so maybe don't go grabbing your scissors just yet. And for more about the type of bedding you use, check out the 15 Signs You Need a New Mattress ASAP.