A mattress is one of the most awkward things to carry by yourself; it's too wide to reach around and too floppy to carry on your back. And it's heavy. Two people can carry one fairly easily if they position themselves at either end, set the mattress on its side and carry it by its handles -- if it has them. Alternatively, loop ropes or towels underneath it and use them as handles. If you're all alone, a set of wheels makes an acceptable substitute for a helper; lacking wheels, you have to slide the end of the mattress along the floor. Keep in mind that movers unanimously recommend getting help when moving a mattress.
Wrap It Up
Whether you use wheels or slide the mattress along the ground, it's important to protect it; after all, someone will be sleeping on it at some point. Take everything off the mattress, including sheets and under-padding, and put the mattress in a mattress bag. You may have to spend a few dollars for the bag, but it will be money well spent, especially if you're taking the mattress outside.
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Hotel personnel use a special wheeled vehicle for moving mattresses -- it has a simple metal frame that fits around the mattress and a handle to make maneuvering the mattress a breeze. If you don't have one of these, a child's wagon or a four-wheeled dolly will also work. You can even make your own dolly by screwing four casters onto a 1-by-2-foot sheet of 1/2- or 3/4-inch plywood.
Moving a Standard Mattress
No Wheels Available
If you're in too much of a hurry to find wheels, you can maneuver the mattress by setting it on its side, lifting one end and letting the other end slide along the ground. This is difficult to do if you have nothing to grab onto; you can make it easier with ropes or bungee cords.
Wrap a rope or bungee cord around the front end of the mattress.
Secure another rope or bungee cord to the middle of the first rope on one side of the mattress -- about 6 inches from the floor. Wrap it around the back of the mattress and secure it to the rope or bungee on the other side. Make sure all the ropes or bungee cords are tight.
Lift and pull the mattress by grasping the horizontal ropes or cords at the points there they connect to the vertical ones.
Slide the mattress off the bed and set it on the floor on its side.
Lift one end and slide the wheeled platform, wagon or mattress mover underneath the mattress. Slide the vehicle to the center so that the mattress balances on it. If you have a mattress mover, simply slide the mattress all the way over until it contacts the handle.
Secure the mattress to the vehicle with straps or bungee cords to prevent it from falling off. You can now easily roll the mattress anywhere, even up and down stairs.
Help for Memory Foam Mattresses
Memory foam mattresses are not only heavier than regular mattresses, but they are floppier, which makes them especially difficult for two people to carry, let alone one. If you have to move one of these, reinforce it with cardboard to make it more stable. Find two large cardboard boxes, disassemble and flatten them; then place one on the each side of the mattress and secure everything with cords. Now you should be able to handle the mattress like a standard one.
Memory foam mattresses are less floppy when cold. If it's winter, open the windows and let the room get chilly before moving the mattress. In the summer, turn on the air conditioner at least an hour before moving.
Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker and Family Handyman.