TAMPA, Fla. — In a follow-up to a story about how refurbished mattresses sold in local discount stores can have issues ranging from bedbugs to bacteria, we looked into how they hold up in a fire and found an even bigger safety risk.
We put a refurbished mattress we bought to the test.
“This is fireproof,” said Francisco Paredes, pointing out the flame-retardant materials he uses in making refurbished mattresses at his Tampa factory.
He said he spends big bucks to buy the material from Miami when making refurbished mattresses using previously used materials.
But our investigative team in Tampa decided to put one of the company’s mattresses to the test.
We bought one from the store that sells their mattresses, then shipped it to Element Materials testing lab in St. Paul, Minnesota, which conducts tests to make sure mattresses meet federal flammability standards.
“The purpose of the test is to show whether a mattress can withstand a large fire for up to 30 minutes,” said Ryan Trainer, who is President of the International Sleep Products Association.
ISPA has lobbied for stringent fire safety guidelines to protect consumers.
“Those first few minutes after the mattress has been ignited are critical to avoid people dying in the fire or being injured in the fire,” Trainer said.
Trainer says refurbished mattresses are marketed to low-income families, which statistically have the highest risk of a fire in their home.
“Some people smoke,” said Paredes.
Other dangers include non-working smoke detectors, heating sources and kids playing with candles or lighters.
At the lab, our refurbished mattress was put through the test.
The good news... it passed.
“As the lighter is applied to the mattress, you see some initial flaming of the mattress, but it's fairly contained,” said Trainer.
The flame went out after only two minutes.
But trainer says that doesn't always happen with refurbished mattresses since they aren't always made with the same materials or in the same way.
ISPA provided us with video of another test of a refurbished mattress from a different refurbishing factory in Georgia.
Trainer described what happened in that test.
“As the lighter is being applied to the renovated mattress, you can see the fire spread much more quickly,” Trainer said. “It’s getting into the foam, it's getting into the fiber.”
“Not only will that fire create gases and heat that will injure and probably kill the people in the bedroom, but that fire can spread easily to the rest of the house,” he said.
All mattresses sold in the U.S. are required to pass the open flame test and have labels saying they passed.
But our mattress had no label.
“We ran out of them. I reordered them,” said Tony Paredes, when asked why the refurbished mattresses from the factory they own didn’t have tags.
“If you're in a store and don't see that label on the product, that's a warning sign. Don't buy that product,” said Trainer.
ISPA has this advice for consumers when they shop for mattresses:
- Buy a mattress from a reputable retailer.
- Ask the sales associate if the mattress is new or renovated.
- Inspect the mattress for labels – either new or used.
- If you believe a used or renovated mattress is being sold “as new” or without the proper label, file a complaint with the Florida Attorney General at www.myfloridalegal.com [myfloridalegal.com] or by calling 1-866-966-7226.