Shop for a new full, queen, or king mattress long enough and you’ll begin to notice that not all models come with handles stitched to the sides. If you don’t make note of it in the store, you’ll probably be aware once it’s time to move or reposition the mattress. Didn’t mattresses once come with handles as a standard feature? Why are they disappearing?
The likely answer: You weren’t using them correctly.
Innerspring mattresses—those that use steel coils for support—sometimes have between four and eight handles on the perimeter. It’s often the first thing consumers reach for when it’s time to flip, reposition, or move the mattress. But when you examine the fine print of mattress manufacturers or distributors, you’ll find that those handles were never meant to support the full weight of the mattress.
Leading mattress company Serta, for example, provides a cautionary word about the handles on their website [PDF]. Under “Dos and Don’ts,” Serta admonishes: “Don’t lift your mattress by the handles (if included). Handles are designed to position the mattress only.”
Tempur-Pedic doesn’t have any patience for your misuse of handles, either. On their site they warn: “The handles included on some Tempur-Pedic mattresses are for positioning purposes only—not for carrying.”
Simmons offers similar advice, and also indicates why the rule applies: “Handles are provided to assist in positioning the mattress on the foundation. Using the handles to carry the mattress may tear the fabric.”
Handles stitched into the fabric generally aren’t going to be strong enough to support the full weight of a mattress. They might, sure, but it’s a crapshoot. When they’re included, the intention is to help consumers make minor adjustments while the mattress’s weight is supported by the box spring or bed frame. Most newer mattresses don’t require flipping, either, making the handles less necessary.
It's hard to pinpoint when handles began to be phased out. As far back as 2003, industry outlet Furniture Today noted their decline and observed that “removing the handles reinforces to the consumer the fact that the mattress does not have to be turned.”
Handles generally aren't necessary, and some manufacturers may ditch them as a cost-cutting measure; others, to avoid consumers misusing them.
If you need to move a mattress, it’s best to purchase a mattress bag to protect it. Some of these bags have handles. If not, you can use ratchet straps to create a grip.
As for the mattress tag: You should probably listen to manufacturers about that, too. It’s not illegal to remove it, but if you need warranty service—like, say, handles that have been ripped off—they’ll probably need information included on the tag to help you.