The Pros & Cons of Waterbeds

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Interestingly, waterbeds have quite a long history. The first evidence of waterbeds dates back to Persia somewhere around 3600 BCE. Waterbeds of the time were goat-skin mattresses filled with water. The waterbed as we know it today came to us courtesy of Charles Hall, who, in 1968, after some failed attempts with Jello and cornstarch gels, invented a waterbed with a vinyl mattress.


Waterbeds reached peak popularity in the '80s, the decade where more was more. At the height of their popularity, waterbeds were a $2 billion a year industry, and they were found in as many as one in every five American homes. The '90s ushered in a new era in home decor trends (and everything else), and waterbeds quickly fell out of favor.

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The fact is waterbeds were high maintenance, and it seems no amount of clever advertising could overcome that. Beyond that, people who purchased and used waterbeds quickly found that it made them motion sick, and waterbeds were perceived to be such a risk that most rental agreements often included a "no waterbeds clause." But perhaps the most important reason for the waterbed industry's failure was that the counterculture that embraced them grew wise and grew up; there just wasn't a market for them anymore.


Are Waterbeds Still Available For Purchase?

Waterbeds are still manufactured and available for purchase today. While you may have a problem finding them in brick-and-mortar stores, there are plenty of online options. If you're in the market for waterbeds, you can expect to spend up to $2,000. Waveless models and those with more comprehensive heating functions can be even pricier.


Pros of Waterbeds

All beds and mattresses have their pros and cons, and waterbeds are no exception. If you're thinking about buying a waterbed, here are a few things to consider before you make the investment.


One of the main advantages of a waterbed is its comfort level. Because the mattress is filled with water, you'll find that your water bed easily conforms to your body. Moreover, a water-filled mattress offers little to no resistance either, so there's far less pressure on your joints. Waterbeds can also be great for those with chronic back pain as they eliminate pressure on the spine, which, in turn, enables the surrounding muscles to relax.


Like any bed, the overall issue of comfort is often quite subjective. Essentially, sleeping on a waterbed is like sleeping on a hammock—both have movement and a cocoon-like effect. So, it stands to reason if you like snoozing in a hammock, you'll probably love sleeping on a waterbed.


Deeper Sleep

Just as you would assume, when you sleep on a water bed, it feels like you're floating, which can be incredibly relaxing for some people. If you frequently struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, and you've tried the latest viral sleep hack to no avail, you may want to give a waterbed a go. Water can help you fall asleep faster and contribute to longer, deeper sleep periods.


Temperature Control

During the cold winter months, a waterbed can be heated, so you never have to worry about getting into a chilly bed. Even better, many waterbeds are equipped with adjustable heating systems, so you can select the exact temperature you prefer for the mattress. In addition to making your bed toasty, the heat from your waterbed can further enhance muscle relaxation and joint pain relief.


Hypoallergenic and Easy to Clean

Most waterbeds are made from vinyl, which is excellent at keeping dirt, dust, and allergens at bay. As a result, waterbeds are ideal for allergy sufferers. A waterbed mattress is also relatively easy to clean (a cloth and a little vinyl cleaner are all you really need). And as you might have guessed, regular maintenance doubles down on the waterbed's ability to keep potential allergens in check. Since the mattress is so easy to clean, dust mites do not have a chance to accumulate, which can help reduce the incidence of allergic reactions, eczema, and asthma as well.


Adjustable Firmness

With standard mattresses, you get what you get when it comes to fitness. However, with a water bed, your mattress is fully customizable, and doing so is quite easy. If you prefer a firmer mattress, just add water. If you prefer a soft or medium firmness, just remove some water—easy peasy.


Cons of Waterbeds

Poor Support

While a waterbed can conform to your body, it offers virtually no support to the joints. As a result, you may begin to experience back pain or numbness after sleeping on a waterbed. It's worth noting here that there is an adjustment period for waterbeds (usually about two weeks). If your pain and discomfort continue after the initial two weeks, it may be time to reassess your purchase.




While waterbeds can help you sleep better at night, the looming possibility of leaks can certainly keep you up at night. Sure, waterbeds are made of robust vinyl material, but anything can happen. And when you consider that a Queen size water bed holds about 200 gallons of water, a spill of that magnitude can be catastrophic. Plastic liners can mitigate the risk of punctures and any ensuing chaos, but there's no way to eliminate the possibility of leaks completely.


Difficult and Expensive to Maintain

If your waterbed springs a leak, you will have to patch the leak or completely replace the bladder, which can be expensive. And dealing with a leak is a pretty labor-intensive process. You'll have to drain the mattress, 200 gallons or 235 gallons for a queen or king, respectively, and then fill it back up once you've resolved the problem.

Beyond fixing punctures and addressing leaks, the water in your waterbed needs to be treated and regularly maintained. When you first fill your water, you should add a water conditioner that inhibits bacteria growth (more on that later), and you should recondition the water every six months or so.

Foul Odors

First, the vinyl that's used for waterbeds tends to have a strong scent. This is not usually a terrible problem, as the smell usually dissipates after the mattress has aired out for a few days.

Beyond the initial smell, some waterbeds may develop a strange odor over time.

The fact is it's not uncommon for bacteria to grow on the mattress or in the bladder; it is a moist environment, after all. And if you know anything about bacteria, you know that it smells. At the end of the day, the bacteria that are proliferating in your waterbed can lead to a strong, musty smell. If you're lucky, you may be able to get rid of the smell with a thorough cleaning of your waterbed. Unfortunately for some, the smell is embedded in the mattress, lingering in their bedding, hair, and clothes, even after a thorough cleaning. When that happens, the only option left is to throw the waterbed away.

It’s Difficult to Find Suitable Bedding

Hard-sided water beds, which usually feature a vinyl mattress in a wooden frame, do not come in the standard sizes that regular mattresses do. As a result, finding sheets that fit your waterbed can be difficult. Even when you can find sheets that fit, you will likely have limited options, so matching them to the rest of the decor in your bedroom may be difficult.



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