Why Is It Illegal to Remove Mattress Tags

We’ve all seen the tags on mattresses that say “do not remove under penalty of law.” But what the heck does that mean, and why is it illegal to remove mattress tags from a mattress I bought? Well, it turns out you can. But, if you are like most consumers, you probably haven’t ever thoroughly read the actual tag. Go ahead and rip away, but not if you’re a mattress manufacturer. 

The removal of the tag before it gets to the person who will ultimately sleep on it is the illegal part according to US code. This assures that consumers will always buy new, never been used products from mattress makers and know exactly what’s inside them.  


To understand why the tag even exists on your mattress, let’s rewind to the late 1800s and into the early 1900s. We all know that hygiene in this period was not up to the standards we have today.  

As it turns out, that tag is there for you, the consumer’s, safety and was put there amid a steady increase of consumer protection federal regulations. 

However, the label is meant as a warning for the mattress seller or manufacturer. Government officials got the tip that perhaps the materials being used to stuff mattresses were not above board.  

What they did suspect was that the materials manufacturers used were just that, used. Some manufacturers decided that it was good to use old bedding, old rags, and materials to stuff their new mattresses and cut costs. 

In addition to old bedding, some manufacturers used other foul materials. These included corn husks, newspaper, horsehair, food waste, or anything else they had on hand to stuff the mattress.  

This idea of recycling didn’t sit well with officials. 

Why you may ask? Well, besides being unhygienic and unsanitary, the used materials could be full of bacteria from previous users. Not to mention, they could also be infested with bedbugs or other vermin. The tag ensured that consumers could steer clear of mattresses filled with a myriad of unhygienic materials.  

These underhanded manufacturers were not above using old bedding, even from hospitals, along with the list of materials above. Unfortunately, for the new owner thinking they were getting a fresh mattress, it could contain communicable diseases. Remember that these diseases, such as smallpox or tuberculosis, ran rampant in communities.  

Eventually, the feds and the state officials stepped in. They both began requiring that all mattresses have a tag listing the contents. Also, they would have to provide what materials they used to make the mattress. This would ensure that retailers or manufacturers would not remove the tags and try to sell the mattress as new.  

That put these underhanded sellers at a disadvantage. While initially putting the labels on and meeting the actual legal obligation, some manufacturers got clever. They were tearing off the tag ahead of shipping to the retailers. Sometimes sales associates would rip off the label on slow-moving merchandise. That’s when government officials added the “do not remove” tag.  

So, the tags verbatim stated that it is unlawful to “remove, mutilate, or cause or participate in the removal or mutilation of, before the time any textile fiber product is sold and delivered to the ultimate consumer, any stamp, tag, label, or other identification required. Any person violating this section shall be guilty of an unfair method of competition, and an unfair or deceptive act or practice, under the Federal Trade Commission Act.”

What Happens If the Tags Are Removed?

These penalties vary from state to state. So what are the repercussions of said tag removal? 

Well, that can depend. The manufacturer can receive just a notice to stop removing labels or to correct incorrect tags. On the heftier side, they could also receive a citation or pay a fine of up to $1000.  

The tag is meant to serve as an information tool for consumers, particularly when they could not see the mattress’s contents. Also, it serves as an enforcement tool for manufacturers. So what’s up with both the federal and state level’s involvement?

Federal law only requires that any mattress with the stuffing has a label with the correct information. That’s it. Now, here’s where the state comes in. Each state will design its standardized tag and regulate the mattress label.  

The original label just said not to remove the tag under penalty of law, right? Well, that left consumers scratching their heads. Why would the government care if I took off the label on the mattress I bought? How would they know anyway? Is there mattress police?

Well, if you were thinking the same way as the questions above, you are not alone. The confusion has been referenced often in pop culture. Movies and TV shows have been propagating the myth that tearing your own tags off is illegal. 

Pee-Wee Herman’s Big Adventure, Garfield and Friends, Sanford and Son, Johnny Bravo, and even SpongeBob Squarepants have referenced mattress tag removal. Even the sleep company Serta poked fun at the misconception in an ad where their counting sheep were thrown in jail for tearing off a mattress tag.  

Bonus Facts

In the 1990s, mattress pad tags were updated to say “Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law Except by the Consumer.” Want to learn ten fun facts about your mattress? Read below to gain some information to share at your next party or, actually, maybe not! 

  • Your mattress doubles in weight over ten years from particles and dust such as dead skin
  • Most people sweat anywhere from half a pint to a pint into the bedding and mattress.
  • An average of 100,000 to 10,000,000 dust mites live in an average mattress.
  • With a comfortable bed, you can get an hour more of sleep per night.
  • You are two centimeters taller when sleeping because your spine is compressed during the day.  
  • An average mattress lasts between eight to 10 years.
  • The word mattress is Arabic, meaning “throw.”
  • Mattresses can withstand open flames for at least 30 seconds.
  • Mattresses used to rest on ropes, hence the phrase “sleep tight.”
  • Purchasing a mattress in Washington on Sundays is illegal.


Next time you’re wondering, “Why is it illegal to remove mattress tags?” you can refer to this article and know you’re not alone. Rest assured that this was only designed to keep you, the consumer, safe.