How to Pick the Right Futon Mattress for You
Types of Futon Mattresses
Futons, and their mattresses, are traditionally categorized in two buckets:
- Traditional/Japanese—Japanese futons are placed on tatami mats, allowing sleepers to rest on the floor. These are folded and kept away during the daytime.
- American—American futons are slightly thicker than Japanese futons and usually consist of a frame made from wood, metal, or a combination of the two and a mattress.
Considerations for Specific Features and Functions
- Thickness—Futon mattresses can measure anywhere from 3” to 10”, with most falling between 6” and 9”. If you’re petite, a thinner mattress will do, but heavyweight individuals will want to look for the thickest option available.
- Size—Twin, Full, and Queen are the most common futon mattress sizes available, but some futon mattresses are offered in loveseat sizes, bunk bed sizes, and custom sizes that match the brand’s corresponding frame.
- Comfort—In general, the thicker the futon mattress, the more comfortable it will feel. Keep in mind that the mattress should provide a comfortable feel when it’s in both seated and flat positions.
- Durability—If you plan to sleep on a futon the majority of the time, you’ll want to choose a more expensive model that’s durable. If the futon is a guest bed, a less durable mattress should work fine since it won’t be used as frequently.
- Style—Futon frames and their accompanying mattresses come in different styles, including bifold, trifold, and loveseat options. The style of the mattress you select should match that of your frame. You’re also likely to have color and cover material options to choose from, depending on the manufacturer. For example, some futon mattresses come in just one or two earthy tones, while others are available in upwards of fifty colors in cotton or linen and tufted or non-tufted finishing.
- Cover—If you plan to use the futon bed regularly, the futon mattress should come with a cover that’s removable and can be washed and dried in a conventional machine to ensure it remains clean and hygienic.
- Material—Futon mattresses are typically made from all-foam, all-cotton, a combination of foam and cotton, or innerspring coils beneath layers of foam and cotton. Less expensive models usually consist of only cotton padding layers, but most sleepers will find that mattresses with poly foam and coils sleep the most similarly to traditional mattresses.
- Back pain—If you suffer from back, neck, hip, or joint pain, the best futon mattress for you will likely have multiple foam layers or pocketed coils for closer conforming and pressure relief. Be sure to read my recommendations on the best mattresses for back pain as well.
- Weight—Similar to standard mattresses, shopping for a futon mattress requires understanding your body type, sleeping position, and weight. If you’re lighter or purchasing the mattress for a child, a thinner mattress should be fine. If you’re heavyweight or overweight, a thicker mattress will do a better job of supporting your body and preventing too much compression, and therefore pain, throughout the night.
Considerations for Price and Buying Experience
When shopping for the best futon mattress for your futon frame, here are a few additional factors to consider related to cost and buying experience.
How often will you be sleeping on it?
If you plan to sleep on the futon most nights or have frequent house guests, you may want to choose a more expensive futon mattress that’s more likely to provide you with comfort, durability, and pressure relief. If you’re purchasing the futon sofa for a dorm room, for example, or anywhere it will serve primarily as a lounge piece, less expensive models will work.
What’s your budget?
Futon mattresses are cheap when stacked up against their affordable standard mattress counterparts, costing just $100 to $350 on average. When considering your futon mattress budget, you’ll want to take into account whether you need to purchase a futon frame as well.
What material are you leaning toward?
The price of a futon mattress is highly influenced by its materials. Innerspring futon mattresses tend to be the most expensive, and futon mattresses with cotton padding tend to be the cheapest.
Do you care about a warranty?
Sold as a temporary solution for small spaces or an occasional guest bed, most futon mattresses don’t come with a warranty of any kind. If a futon mattress does come with a warranty, it’s usually limited and expires between one and five years after the purchase date.
Benefits of Futon Mattresses
Read on for the pros and cons a futon mattresses.
- Space and utility flexibility—Perhaps the most appealing feature of a futon mattress, the utility and flexibility it offers are almost unmatched. Futon mattresses and their frames save storage space, convert easily into a lounge space or bed, and work well in small apartments and dorm rooms.
- Hosting—Modern versions of futon mattresses can offer a relatively good sleeping experience for guests without the need for a fully outfitted guest room.
- Cost—Futon mattresses cost much less than standard mattresses, making them a wise investment for shoppers on a budget who need a futon mattress replacement or an extra bed for guests.
Cons of Futon Mattresses
- Durability—Most futon mattresses need to be replaced every five years or less. However, some expensive models can last five to ten years.
- Comfort—Mattresses with foam layers will provide closer conforming and pain relief, but they’re no match for a high-quality standard mattress.
- Temperature neutrality—Futon mattresses, which typically incorporate foam, tend to absorb body heat and sleep warm. The incorporation of breathable materials, like cotton and innersprings, can help with this.
- Odor potential—Also known as off-gassing, this is a common issue for futons, especially those made with foam layers.
- Responsiveness—Similar to standard mattresses, futon mattresses that incorporate springs will have the most bounce, but no futon mattress type can offer the responsiveness or motion isolation of a standard mattress designed to deliver on such qualities.
Who is a Futon Mattress Best for?
Some shoppers use futons as a primary bedding surface, but futons are most commonly used for guest beds and as nontraditional accommodations for overnight sleepers. You’ll also find futons in dorm rooms and apartments. Here’s a list of who a futon and a futon mattress are best for:
- College students with limited space in their dorm rooms who want a fold-out bed for the occasional out-of-town guest and also need a lounger/sofa.
- Apartment renters or owners who don’t have a second or third bedroom for overnight guests but want the ability to offer a reasonably comfortable sleeping surface that also serves as a lounge area for their day-to-day routines.
- Owners of futons whose accompanying futon mattresses have become soiled, stained, uncomfortable, odorous, or old.
- Owners of sofas or similar lounge furniture who need a replacement cushion or soft sitting or sleeping surface.
The performance and experience of a futon mattress will depend on a variety of factors including materials, durability, price, temperature neutrality, and more. We recommend weighing these performance factors against your budget, the size futon mattress you need, you or your house guests’ body weights, and your personal preferences in order to choose the best futon mattress for your home. Use the list of our top futon mattresses of 2020 to get you started, then leverage the buyer’s guide to direct you to the ideal futon mattress for your space.