When you think of a squeaky mattress, you probably think of movie scenes where the hapless stars try to have sex, only to be thwarted by the noisy bed that gives away their every move. But while a squeaky mattress might be amusing on the movie screen, it’s less delightful when it’s your bed that’s alerting anyone within earshot of your every move in bed, amorous or otherwise.
In fact, you might not realize it, but a squeaky bed can actually be harmful to your health. Depending on where the noise is coming from, a squeaky bed could be keeping you from reaching the deepest, most restful stages of sleep. This, in turn, means that you are likely waking up feeling like you hardly got any sleep at all, despite spending hours in bed.
So what can you do? The first step is to figure out what’s causing the squeak.
Common Causes of Squeaky Beds
A noisy bed can come from the mattress, box spring, bed frame, or any combination of them. To determine the source of your squeaks, it’s best to test each part separately. Take the mattress and box spring off the frame and roll around on them, or push on different areas to find the source of the noise. Test the frame by pushing on different spots and gently shaking them to figure out if there’s something in the frame, like a loose bolt, keeping you awake.
As you test your bed, pay close attention to where the noise is coming from, as this will give you an idea if the problem is fixable, and how. While some noises (that loose bolt in the foundation) can be easily fixed, others mean it may be time for a new bed.
An innerspring mattress is a common source of the annoying sounds. Innerspring mattresses are constructed with hundreds of metal coils interconnected with wire. Over time, the repeated pressure on the springs causes them to wear out, and as the metal rubs on metal, it causes squeaking.
Some innerspring mattress designs, like those with continuous or offset coils, are less likely to squeak, but eventually, as any innerspring mattresses get older, they are likely to get louder too. This can also happen with hybrid mattresses that have both foam layers and coils.
If testing your mattress reveals it isn’t the source of squeaking, the box spring or foundation is likely the culprit. In fact, box springs are the most common source of bed noise, thanks to their coils and/or wooden construction.
Although old springs in the foundation can make noise, it’s more likely to be the wood frame of the box spring rubbing on the bed frame. This is especially common if the box spring has metal tipped edges for extra protection that come into contact with a metal bed frame.
Finally, the squeaky sound could be coming from the bed frame itself. Over time, movement on the bed can cause the bolts in the frame to become loose, which creates a wobbly, squeaky frame. If you have a wood bed frame, changes in humidity can also lead to a squeaky bed as the wood swells and contracts with the weather. This causes pieces to rub against each other and make the sounds that keep you awake.
And it’s not just the pieces of the frame that can rub and cause noise. What you think is a squeaky bed might actually be coming from the floor, where the legs of your bed frame are rubbing on it when the bed moves. In addition, if you have an uneven floor, it may cause the bed to wobble as well, or the bed frame may be hitting the wall with movement — any of which can cause very annoying noises.
Fixing the Squeaks
If the noise is coming from your mattress…
If your testing reveals that the source of the squeaking is the mattress itself, then it may be time to get a new one. A squeaky mattress isn’t merely annoying. It’s also not letting you get the best possible sleep.
When a mattress reaches the point where the springs are worn to the point of making noise, that generally means that it’s not providing adequate back support either. Squeaky springs are almost always sagging springs, and sagging springs mean your spine isn’t getting enough support, which prevents you from getting quality sleep and likely means you wake up sore.
However, if a new mattress isn’t possible right now, you may be able to temporarily reduce the squeaking and make your bed more comfortable by flipping the mattress over. Placing a thin sheet of plywood between the mattress and box spring may also help improve the firmness and stop the squeak for a time.
Adding a mattress topper might also make your bed more comfortable, and muffle some of the mattress squeaks. Ultimately, though, a new mattress is the only thing that will stop the problem.
If the noise is coming from your box spring, foundation or bed frame…
If the problem is in your box spring, specifically in the coils, the answer is the same: A new box spring. However, if the noise is coming from the wood or metal, adding some padding or lubricant can stop the rubbing.
Try putting a piece of felt fabric, a sock, or pieces of an old T-shirt or towel between the box spring and the bed frame to prevent rubbing. If the problem is a metal bed frame rubbing on metal box spring corners, a spritz of WD-40 will silence the sounds.
Adding a plywood buffer between the mattress and box spring can also help reduce the noise from the box spring. Again, though, this is a temporary solution, and should only be used until you can get a new one.
When the squeaking comes from your bed frame, you most likely won’t need to purchase a new one, unless nothing you do to stop the sound works. Fortunately, silencing the bed frame most likely only requires an easy fix. Some things to try:
- Add furniture pads to the bed legs, to prevent rubbing on the floor.
- Tighten loose bolts and screws. If you can’t get the bolts completely tight, add a plastic washer between the frame and the bolt to make the joint secure and silent.
- If the bolts are tight, remove them and spray with lubricant like WD-40, or add a coat of beeswax to the parts that are rubbing against each other. Replace metal washers with plastic ones to reduce the friction caused by metal on metal.
- If you have a wooden bed frame without any bolts holding it together, small pieces of cork, available at the hardware store, placed between the frame and the mattress in squeaky areas can dull the sound.
- Rub areas where wood rubs on wood with beeswax, and place a piece of cloth between them. Socks that have lost their mates are useful for this purpose. No beeswax handy? Rub a wax candle over the wood; you might need to add a few coats of wax to eliminate the noise.
- Even out wobbly beds by placing something under the uneven bed legs. If your bed is on wheels, and the casters are causing the squeaks, pick up some caster cups at the hardware store — or just remove the squeaky wheels.
- Place pillows between the wall and the bed frame to prevent the bed from shifting with movement.
Fixing your squeaky bed isn’t only important for keeping your nighttime activities private. Nor is it something you should just “live with.” Regardless of the cause, a squeaky bed can keep you awake — and annoyed. Even worse, when the noise is coming from an old, worn out mattress, you’re probably in pain and sleep deprived, which will affect almost every part of your life.
So when your bed makes more noise than a flock of birds, instead of burying your head under the pillows and struggling to get back to sleep, seek out the problem and repair it. With a bit of ingenuity and some inexpensive hardware, you may be able to eliminate the problem altogether. If you can’t, the only other solution to a squeaky mattress is to replace it. Your back, and your sanity, will thank you.
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