15 Reasons Why Waterbeds Are For Suckers

Sometimes people buy things that they eventually end up regretting. I know I’ve got a long list.

I’ve already explained why corner lots and whirlpool tubs are for suckers.

Today, I’ve got two words for anybody out there who is currently considering spending $1000 or more of their hard-earned money on a waterbed: buyer beware. That’s because, when you add it all up, there are far more disadvantages than advantages.

Believe me. After sleeping on a wood frame “hardside” waterbed with a free-flow mattress for a couple years, I know what I’m talking about.

In fact, there are a whole flock reasons why a waterbed could potentially leave you lying awake at night. Here are the biggest ones:

1. They’re a pain to set up. Assembling a waterbed takes time. Lot’s of it. For the uninitiated, hardside waterbeds can easily take upwards of three hours to build. Just make sure you choose your bed’s location wisely because:

2. Waterbeds are hard to move. A king-size waterbed can weigh as much as 1800 pounds, fully filled. As a result, older homes, especially, may be at risk of structural damage from the heavy weight. Which is a big reason why:

3. Waterbeds are often subject to restrictions. Not all homeowner insurance policies cover damage caused by waterbeds, and many landlords are so wary of potential problems that they prohibit them.

4. They act as a heat sink. Without a waterbed heater the cold water in the mattress rapidly drains heat from the body, making you feel like an ice cube in the process. True, you could forgo the heater in favor of insulative padding, however that often leads to:

5. Mattress condensation. Especially in humid climes. And who wants to sleep on an uncomfortably moist mattress? Even worse, that condensation can lead to mildew problems, which brings up another drawback:

6. They smell. Thankfully, it’s not always the result of bacteria taking advantage of a damp mattress. If you’re lucky, it may only be a temporary odor caused by the newness of the vinyl bladder.

7. Waterbeds can lead to higher electricity bills. According to San Diego Gas & Electric, the typical waterbed heater adds approximately $19 to an average monthly electricity bill — assuming you make your bed daily. If you don’t, it’s $30 per month.

8. Motion issues. If your waterbed has a free-flow mattress and you (or your partner) happen to be a restless sleeper, then you’ll probably have a hard time getting a good night’s sleep. Yes, there are waveless mattresses, however they’re susceptible to baffle failures that are difficult to fix. Speaking of failures:

9. Waterbeds are prone to leaks. While uncommon, leaks do occur. Especially if you own a cat with claws, or have a habit of relaxing on the bed with zippered clothes. It’s particularly annoying when you find a leak late at night because:

10. Fixing a leak can take time. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find the hole quickly and patch it without having to completely empty the water from the mattress. Sometimes, though, that’s not always possible.

11. They’re noisy. While waterbeds are obviously much quieter than, say, a blowing hair dryer, the sloshing sounds they produce are louder than a good-quality traditional mattress — especially if there is a lot of air in the waterbed’s bladder.

12. Waterbeds are bad on the back. Many so-called “experts” insist waterbeds are therapeutic. They’re not. I remember many mornings waking up with a sore back after sleeping on my waterbed; not so with my traditional mattresses.

13. They don’t handle storage well. That’s because waterbed bladders are vulnerable to inadvertent punctures and prone to cracking on the fold lines. The baffles of waveless mattresses are also subject to damage during storage.

14. They’re hard to get in and out of. Believe it or not, getting in and out of a hardside waterbed takes practice; I never could figure out a graceful way of doing it. Hey … Speaking of “doing it”:

15. Waterbeds are overrated as a platform for sex. And you thought I wouldn’t broach this topic. Well, I just did. No, I’m not going to get into any juicy details. You’re just going to have to trust me on this one.

Photo Credit: Jo.Marshall

45 comments to 15 Reasons Why Waterbeds Are For Suckers

  • Never had one, or slept on one, so I will yield to your superior knowledge. Now about the sex part, how bout pictures?

  • I think my parents had one once but I wouldn’t ever want one. If it pops that would be on heck of a mess.

  • I had a waterbed and I absolutely loved the temperature. Growing up in the Inland Empire without air conditioning, it was really nice in the summer. I would just unplug the heater when it was 95 degrees all night and I slept like a baby. I also loved how warm it was in the cold winter mornings. It was really hard to get out of bed. Sex is not a problem, as long as you have good rhythm and timing. Unfortunately, it started to hurt my back when I got older and I had to go with a conventional mattress.

    Does anyone even own waterbeds anymore?

    • Len Penzo

      Yes, the waterbed heaters made them extremely cozy-warm in the winter. I’m not sure how you managed to tolerate an unheated waterbed though, Bret — even in the summer time. An unheated bed always sucked the heat right out of me and I was shivering in no time flat!

  • Joe

    I dated a couple of girls years ago that had waterbeds. Motion sickness can be a factor if you’re prone to that sort of thing.

    • Len Penzo

      You know, Joe, I am very prone to motion sickness, but I never had that problem in a waterbed. My biggest complaint was that I tended to wake up whenever my girlfriend or I would toss and turn at night.

      The baffled waveless beds supposedly take care of motion sickness for those couldn’t handle the to and fro. Our bed had a free-flow bladder and we really sloshed around.

  • Ididn’t know they still sold waterbeds. I would not get one for one reason. They leak and my bedroom is upstairs.

    • Len Penzo

      “I didn’t know they still sold waterbeds.”

      I think a lot of folks would say the same thing, Larry. I read that waterbed use peaked in the late 1980s at about 22% of the entire bed/mattress market.

  • Spedie

    I agree with all these points listed. I will never own one again. My last one that I owned in the early 80′s went in to the dump a long time ago….

  • I never owned a waterbed I always try to avoid sleeping on waterbeds because I usually have trouble getting a good night’s sleep on that bed. I always hear some swishing and sloshing noises coming from the mattress which adds to the problem. LOL at Dr. Dean..

  • Kelli

    Waterbeds are terrible for sex. The wave action can work against you at the worst moments. It’s a myth that needs to be put to rest once and for all.

    • Len Penzo

      I’m going to bite, but just this once.

      I think you pretty much summed things up there, Kelli.

      To be sure, those who are lucky enough to hit a resonant frequency with the waves, will have to expend less effort. That situation can also lead to some spectacular, um, fireworks.

      More often than not, however, the waves tend to be out of phase — and that tends to disrupt the symphony, so to speak. Often at very inopportune times.

      Okay. I’ve said enough.

  • Adam Kutner

    Couldn’t agree more! I was lucky and learned my waterbed lessons from others…namely my aunt and uncle.
    They complained about this thing for years(before I engaged puberty and all its glory). I am 32 now and they *still* have this thing. So I would like to add something to your list:

    You pay outrageous amounts of money for them which digs at your pride, so you to keep them around just to feel like you’re getting your value back. If they were clear you could keep fish in them but no, that would add use to this spine destroying monstrosity.

  • You convinced me with three words: “uncomfortably moist mattress.”

    • Len Penzo

      ha ha! I know, huh?

      Actually, Paula, I think I should have taken a lesson from your FINCON talk and economized my words. “Moist mattress” is probably enough to dissuade most people.

  • The last thing I need is a bad back. I like my Euro Top bed. It would be interesting to know who owns a waterbed??

  • Ha! I had one in college and I agree with you on most of the items on the list! ;) The main problem I had with mine was the bed was absolutely huge and took up most of the room. When it was time to get rid of it I couldn’t even give it away, no one wanted it so in the dumpster it went!

  • M Sypniewski

    Have had a waterbed for 30 years. Hubby and I love it.

    Pro: For physical reasons I sleep best on a soft bed. Nice and warm in winter. Sex on a waterbed is just FINE thanks (hubby and I are in our early 60′s).

    Con: It’s more expensive than a regular bed. Sheets cost a fortune.

    We always say we will keep our waterbed until we are too old to crawl out of it, which so far is no problem.

  • Peggyn Sue

    I had a waterbed for MANY years and I loved mine! I had the waveless kind and used a foam pad on top. ALWAYS had a heater. Never had a leak, moved a lot in my life.
    I liked the drawers stacked under mine (pedestal), which made it very handy for a small bedroom since no dresser was needed.
    To each their own, I guess!
    I use an air bed now, but only because I haven’t seen a waterbed store in at least 10 years!

    • Marie

      You can get the frames on craigslist most anytime for around 1-2 hundred bucks, the mattresses on ebay for around 60, liner and all, and the heaters on ebay for around 75..sooo, 250-300 for the whole set up, which is much much much less than just the mattress part of a conventional bed.. well thats full wave, not sure how much for the mattress on a waveless, still ill bet its less than a conventional bed. Happy sleeping!

      ps, i have had a very bad back for 8 years due to ruptured and degenerated disks, never got any relief until i got my waterbed… its reduced my pain by quite a bit. I HATE going to a motel now cause my pain level shoots way up after sleeping on even a four star hotel bed. bleh.

      • Frank

        Marie I agree with you 100%. I don’t know where anyone got the idea that a waterbed is expensive. I have a beautiful queen size with sliding doors, and attached nightstands with drawers. I went back to a regular bed 10 years ago, but recently went back to a waterbed. Now, I have no more back pain, I never have an arm or leg go numb or have that pins and needles feeling. Full motion is the least cost, but semi-or full waveless ARE good for your back. It’s all a matter of preference, and/or how you sleep.

  • Mauricio Madriz

    i have some motion sickness and i always take some meclizine HCL to remedy it.’

  • Maggie

    I’m sorry, but the blogger is clueless about more modern, foam baffled, waveless waterbeds.

    My husband and I have had one for 25 years. We’ve have only had to replace the mattress TWICE in 25 years. (less frequent mattress replacements than our friends with conventional beds.) Both due to very slow leaks that the inner “pool liner” caught, and no damage was done to the floor or even the wood bed at all. The small leaks were cleaned up with water bed cleaner and paper towels. Then we simply installed the new mattress, which was brought home in a small car, all folded up.

    In 25 years, we have NEVER had a “smell.” They still sell water bed conditioner, and the water is in a sealed environment. In 25 years we’ve never had “mildew” a leak or any problems. Our electric bills are no more than our friend’s with conventional beds’ bills. Newer heaters are very energy efficient.

    Our bed has NEVER been “moist.” The water is sealed IN. No seepage at all. And there is no fear of allergies (you simply wipe the mattress off with vinyl cleaner every time you clean the sheets, then put the (washable) mattress cover back on. No dust mites, no bedbugs EVER!

    Sex is AMAZING on a waterbed…. assuming you know what you are doing. We’ve been married for 27 years have make love more than anyone we know, including newly weds. I give at least part of that credit to our “Love Pit.” (And part to my amazing, imaginative, sexy, persistent husband…)

    Maybe Len had an old 1960s “bag bed.” Newer technologies, with sealed, baffled, foam filled mattresses have eliminated all the problems with old fashioned water beds, and these new beds have been around for at LEAST 26 years.

    At one times, I thought the bed was contributing to some back problems, but I stopped wearing my Birkenstocks and the pain went away.

    We love our water bed.

    • Lacey

      Maggie is right. Lots have things have changed since the original waterbeds. I also had one for nearly 20 years and never had a leak. No doubt they can be a pain to move, but I don’t move my conventional bed all that much. They are more economical, last longer and hold up better than any regular mattress. I have e not had a good nights sleep since I went back to a regular mattress. I’m headed back to Watertown.

    • Patty

      I had a soft-wided waterbed for 18 years and absolutely loved it. You couldn’t tell it was a waterbed until you sat on it. It was waveless and used the same sheets as a regular bed. There was insulation/padding between the “bladder” and the top cover of the bed so I never used the heater and I lived in Colorado! My new puppies ate through the side in 2007 and I decided to replace it with a tempur-pedic bed and have always regretted it. Yes it’s difficult to move but it was so comfortable for my back. I miss it very much!

      • I’m replacing my 27-year-old waterbed, Patty, and I went searching and looking at reviews and finally decided better the devil I know than the one I don’t and got myself another soft-sided waterbed (this time with drawers in the base). The old bed was the best bed I’ve ever slept in. BTST a waterbed was also the worst bed I’ve ever slept in. The reason? It was a hard-sided one. It also had no baffles in the mattress. You absolutely need baffles. If the bed is for two people you also need a dual-mattress bed with separate heaters.

        Yes, they can be a pain to set up (especially the initial set-up). But what’s a good night’s sleep worth? Plenty of quality sleep is as essential as good food to your health.

        I’m not sure how much my waterbed costs to run but I had the old one’s heater set to zero, and all that did was take the chill off the sheets. I didn’t notice any warmth at all when I got into it. In winter I preferred to rely on a 100% down duvet to keep me warm.

        As for puppies (or adult dogs or cats, come to that) damaging a waterbed, I won’t allow my dogs in my bedroom anyway. If I did how would I convince them that I’M the boss? :-)

  • Jim

    Waterbeds can be fun…wink wink.. but indeed, they are not that practical at all.

  • ray spears

    I have read a lot of bullshit that has been written about waterbeds but your comments beat them all We all perspire ( I know you dont ) and if you were to cut open your conventional mattress you will find mildew,rusty springs, & as much dead skin too feed a multitude of bed mites I have had a waterbed for 46yrs best investment I ever made Do yourself a favour try a softside dual system waveless mattress and see if you feel the same moron. xxx

    • Len Penzo

      No need to get personal, Ray.

      Now, why don’t you give us the name and address of your waterbed store, so my readers can check out your merchandise? After all, it sounds like you’re having a big going-out-of-business sale this weekend. xoxox

  • Carol

    Had a king waterbed for 30 years . When my husband needed to change to a hospital bed because of bone cancer, the bed had to go.I slept on the different mattresses available and am going to be buying a waterbed again. I’ll buy a soft side this time. I never had the issues with my bed that you described, except one tiny slow leak in all those years. Easy clean-up as it was contained in the liner. Quick fix, as well.bed was awesome for a painful back .

  • Carol

    Oh , I forgot…try moving a Temper- pedic/ Memory foam king bed!

  • Lynn

    I have been sleeping on a king size water bed for 35 years. I liked the cheap mattresses that have no baffles, just a big bag of water. I have had no trouble with bad back or any other problems. In my opinion water beds are the most comfortable beds around. No bad smells either…not unless the dog pisses on it. I had a Pomeranian that did this a few times. Other than that, no problems.

  • Ralph

    Reason # 15 is right on. I’m not going to get into any juicy details either, but it’s like trying to play tennis against the drapes!

  • Roy

    I have been married for 32 years now and for 23 of those years years we have had a waterbed. First a queen full wave and have just now got a replacement 99 percent wave-less for our king size bed.

    I can only agree with maybe 2 of your 15 reasons above. They can be difficult to setup or time consuming and once they are in place, they are in place. You don’t move it you move around it.
    In all the years we have had two problems with leakage. One because one of the boys when he was about 10, (now thirty) unconsciously stuck it with a pin a few times, just the cement on the holes fixed it in a matter of minutes. Second time was due to age of the mattress that was bought used.

    I can agree with you half way on the back aches. If the lumbar support in the wave-less get out of position, you may experience some problems.

    There are many advantages that I feel far outweigh the above mentioned including sexual satisfaction. I look forward to slipping between the warm sheets every night and would think that by itself is worth $20.00 a month. In the last 20 or so years I would have spent thousands on replacing a regular mattress.

    I suppose I love to be suckered. I love my bed.

  • K

    My waterbed is so cozy. I’ve never bought waterbed sheets. I buy the fuzzy soft king sized blankets and use them for sheets. I have drape rods around my canopy waterbed with beautiful tapestry drapes all around it to block the sun if I’m taking a nap. Mine has drawers underneath for storage. I feel like I’m wrapped in a soothing cocoon when I’m sleeping. It smells so good. I use gain fabric softener on my bedding. It’s the cleanest bed ever. I can wash everything around the waterbed mattress. Some of the things said seem to be regarding only simplified, original waterbeds. Sex is fun on one and has its advantages. No other bed in the world compares to mine, to me. I love it.

  • Hodd

    I had a softside waterbed years ago. It had some kind of reflector and required no heater. I liked the bed a lot and still wish I had it. I got rid of it when I moved. It had no leaking dampness issues.

  • WaterbedsRGreat

    I’ve used a waterbed for about 30 years, and love it.

    Points the author has wrong:

    * Waterbed mattresses do not get moist unless there is a leak or you sweat a lot.

    * There is no smell, unless you have a leak. There may be an initial vinyl smell, but it goes away pretty quickly. There may be a minor smell on draining it if you don’t use a water conditioner.

    * They may be a pain to set up, but the more simple a frame you get, the less of a pain it is.
    I got mine used for $50, 30 years ago and I’m still using the same frame. Through college, it was much easier to move than a mattress and boxspring. I didn’t have a pickup truck, and the bed can be moved by one person. Try that with a traditional bed!

    * They are only noisy if you don’t periodically bleed out the air bubbles. Use a long wooden yardstick. It’s a little bit of a pain, but worth the noiseless sleep.

    * Unless the mattress is defective, they are only “prone to leak” if your mattress pad isn’t thick enough to prevent skin oils, cat claws and other things from getting to the mattress.

    I will add one disadvantage, though:

    The heaters do not last forever. If you can get yours to last 10 years, you’re doing good.
    And to replace the heater, you have to drain the bed completely. If you don’t fill it with hot water, it can take 24 hours or more to reach a temperature that you can sleep in.

    And the state of waterbed heaters is dismal. Like they’re stuck in the dark ages. Only one model has a digital readout of temperature (in retro LED!), and it’s only the temp you’ve set, not the actual temp of the bed. Every other model relies on a knob which is difficult to read at night, and uses a neon lamp which always die in a couple years, so you can’t see if the heater is on or not.

    Manufacturers take note:
    Because those neon lamps die in a couple years, we can’t see when the heater is on continuously, struggling to keep the bed at temp. That’s a sign that the heater is going bad. If the consumers could see when the heater was going bad, they might replace it sooner! Instead, they wait until the bed goes cold and then they have to rush to find a new one.

  • Liz

    My husband had a water bed for like 20 years, it was recommended by the hospital due to an spine-neck injure. When we married, we replace it for a new model. The price 5000 euros with all the side accessories and state of the art, including set up, double heaters, waveless, fantastic sex (oh, well that one depends on the mood, but I find that the coils on a regular mattress help more on the going, like you have to be more fit to get what you want on a water bed, but they have to be waiveless or they are a nightmare).
    Then, we moved, and the company moved it for us (again only one strong guy needed, man!that company kept sending good looking guys). Our giant dog jumps on the bed and we have no damage whatsoever, he also likes to sleep there but no odor either, it’s very very clean, because we have protection for the bed and we throw it in the washing machine when needed.

    Now after 3 years, we have pain in the lower back, due to not exercising. Soon, will travel for 3 months and sleep on a good normal mattress we have. Done it before, at the beginning all good, then the normal mattress feels not so good anymore, the body becomes stiff and once we go back to our water bed, it feels heavenly.

  • Palapa

    I bought one of those so-called “new and improved” waterbeds a few years ago. I agree with almost all of your points except I didn’t have trouble with motion issues. I sold it a little more than a year after I got it.

    To each his own I guess.

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