Quick and Cheap Ways to Make Your Firm Mattress Softer

Have you bought a new mattress and are discouraged by how firm it is? Or maybe you’ve had your mattress for a while, and it just hasn’t given you the soft firmness you were looking for. It could be the style of mattress is not for you, but there are ways to work with the mattress you have before you run out to drop a thousand dollars right now on the right one. Whether you’re looking to make a firm mattress softer or a soft mattress more firm, we have a few easy, quick fixes for you to try before replacing your entire mattress.

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First Things First – Your Foundation

Doesn’t matter if you’re trying to figure out how to make a firm mattress softer or your soft mattress firm, sometimes we are so focused on the mattress itself we forget there is a whole support system that drastically affects the quality of the mattress. It matters what foundation you use for your specific mattress. For instance foam mattresses should never be used with box springs; however, a box spring mattress can make other types of mattresses feel soft and springier.

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Types of Foundations

Let’s break down the types of foundations first:

Box Spring

box spring

These were initially designed for traditional innerspring mattresses. They are an enclosed box that contain springs. The springs work as movement absorbers, and work in conjunction with the springs in a mattress (not a foam hybrid though!) to provider a softer, bouncier bed. Don’t use box springs that are older than 10 years old, as the springs are too worn out to provide any kind of support.


Comes in several styles, but is basically a bed frame with a low platform, solid or slatted, foundation for the mattress to sit on. These work very well with most types of mattresses, as long as the slats are close enough together to make a solid foundation. All foundations should have a center support, especially for larger bed sizes. Slatted foundations should never be used with box spring mattresses, but are acceptable for most types of foam mattresses as long as the slats are no more than eight inches apart. Platform foundations are good for just about all mattresses, however they are going to make your softer bed, (or your firm bed), feel firm(er).


A solid base foundation that allows head and foot range of motion. Foam, latex and air-adjustable mattresses can all be used with adjustable foundations.

Pro Tip:

Check your mattress warranty and possibly contact the brand’s customer support team. Some companies have specific requirements for their mattresses and don’t allow certain types of foundations for their products, if you’re found to have used them – you could have voided your warranty right from the beginning, forfeiting any right to warranty benefits.

Foundation Check

With any mattress foundation make sure there is no sagging. If the springs sink too low when pressed on firmly, if the solid base or slats of a foundation sag, or if the slats are out of order and not providing a uniform base, it’s either time to replace, repair, or reinforce. Box Spring Foundations should be replaced with every new mattress. Your mattress purchase may require the matching foundation in order to not void the warranty, it may be more financially sound to purchase them together, and over all – you could be doing yourself an injustice by putting a new mattress on an old box spring.

Change your box spring if:

  • It’s more than 10 years old
  • It’s overly squeaky, the wood creaks, or the foundation is no longer sturdy
  • The springs don’t bounce back, they should be sturdy and quick to spring
  • The wood smells and doesn’t recover with a good cleaning

Change your platform bed if:

  • It moves or wiggles
  • It sags in the center, or the center support is weakened
  • Any part of the platform has become unsafe, weak or unsturdy

Slatted foundation note:

The best thing about a slat foundation is that you’ll most likely just replace the slats first, as long as the rest of the bed is supported well, sturdy and the center support is still holding up. Replacing the slats is much easier and financially safer than replacing the entire foundation.

Because adjustable beds are mechanical in nature and vary widely depending on the manufacturer, it is safe to call the company for any assistance. You’ll want to seek out assistance when it no longer works, becomes uncomfortable, or feels unsafe.

Make Your Firm Mattress Soft

1. Use It!

sleeping on mattress

Sometimes all it takes is giving your new mattress a shot to be more comfortable. If your bed is brand new, it’s more likely to be stiffer than the one you laid on at the store. Don’t be discouraged, this is how it’s supposed to be and why most companies will give you a 90 or more day guarantee trial period. It just may take time to break it in. Lay on it like normal every night, (don’t try any crazy stunts like walk, jump, or do flips on it to accomplish this). Some beds, like a memory foam mattress, respond to body heat and body weight, so gradually throughout the night as you’ve warmed up the mattress with your body heat and pressure the mattress will soften.

Pro Tip:

If you sleep with the room very chilly some mattresses will respond to the room temperature, like it responds to your body heat, that’s why mattresses like memory foam don’t do so well in colder climates for those with softer firmness preferences.

2. Rotate and Flip it!

If your bed is older, and being brand-new-stiff isn’t the problem, try rotating and flipping the mattress (IF it’s a rotatable, flippable mattress unlike pillow tops). You should do this every so often, at least twice a year, like the tires on your car need to be rotated for consistency, so does the wear on your mattress.

3. Add a Mattress Topper

mattress topper

If you foundation has been found to be solid, sturdy, and supportive and you’re still having issues with the mattress, don’t run out to buy a new mattress yet. At least try a mattress topper first.

Types of Toppers

Duvet Comforter

The thriftiest tip you could probably ever receive on topping your mattress is using a comforter or a duvet cover. We don’t recommend this for long term, just to get you buy until you figure something out more long term. How to use it: Tuck the duvet or comforter underneath your mattress cover or fitted sheet and you’ll be sleeping on a cozier surface instantly.

Egg Crate Foam

The next cheapest way to top your mattress is egg crate material. It’s easily found, easily customizable, and relatively inexpensive. It may not last long but if you find comfort in it even for a little while it is well worth it. Also, there is a never ending supply, once it stops working for you just grab some more!

A quick Amazon search found an amazing supply of different prices, kinds, shapes, thicknesses, and uses. Top anything to make it softer from wheelchairs to dog beds. Obviously the more advanced and thick it is the more expensive it is, but it is going to suit your needs at least for a little while. You can even find some with memory cooling gel for all you warm sleepers. How to use it: just lay the foam on your mattress and tuck it in nice and tight under your mattress cover and fitted sheet.

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4. Actual Mattress Toppers

Just like mattresses there are many to choose from and they all differ in shape, size, material, purpose. It’s much cheaper than buying a mattress, but don’t slack on your homework before purchasing one. In order to fix your problem, you need to make sure you’ve chosen the right product. If you’re looking for the ultimate topper to improve your crummy mattress and cushion it like a cloud to make it more soft. The Sleep Innovations 4-Inch Dual Layer Topper is wonderful. Quite heavy, but the plush topper is machine washable, and it has cooling technology. Sleep Innovations 4 Inch Dual Layer Topper

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Make Your Soft Mattress Firm

What if a soft mattress isn’t your gig, and somehow you ended up with one? There are ways to fix it without buckling down to purchase a brand new mattress right now. Try one or all of these tips to get you by until you have decided on the mattress you want, and have found the funds to procure it. We’re gonna go back to the aforementioned “Foundation Check”. See above, it could solve a lot of problems! If a mattress is feeling like it is too soft, reevaluate it to see if it is actually sagging, if it is a relatively new mattress, odds are it isn’t sagging and actually just poorly supported.

1. Plywood

If your foundation is solid and doesn’t seem to be a problem, making your mattress firmer could be as simple as a piece of plywood placed underneath your mattress on top of your bed frame. Make sure it has ample center support, and you may have to check it every so often to make sure it isn’t sagging or bowing. But this will create an extra firm layer at the base for support. This just may do the trick.

2. Rotate and Flip it!

If your bed is older, try rotating and flipping the mattress (IF it’s a rotatable, flippable mattress unlike pillow tops). You should do this every so often, at least twice a year, like the tires on your car need to be rotated for consistency, so does the wear on your mattress. This step will get you out of the worn in parts of the mattress and into a brand new part you’ve yet to sleep on.

3.Temperature Control

If your mattress responds to temperature, try turning the air conditioner up (making it cooler). This will help counteract your body heat and keep it firmer throughout the night.


Just like toppers are made to soften your mattress, they are made to make them more firmly supportive as well. Do your homework, but it is very easy to start with something very simple to be very happy. The Sleep Better 3-inch Extra Firm Foam Mattress Topper is basic, easy to use, and effective. Community conversation is how we learn and grow, on any topic! Is there something we missed? Have you tried any of these? Tell us how they worked for you! Let’s get around the table and talk it through, something as important as sleep comfort is necessary to mental and physical health, two very key factors we’re always able and willing to help with when we can!

Photo credit: VGstockstudio/Shutterstock; CEXM/Shutterstock; fizkes/Shutterstock; Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if you need a soft or a firm mattress?

Choosing the right softness or firmness in a mattress to suit your needs can be a tricky thing. Even though you’ll take the time to go to a mattress store and try out different mattress types, five minutes on a bed is not the same as eight hours, night after night. While this may seem an impossible task, you can take heart in knowing that there are some key factors to consider that will help you to decide if you need a softer or a harder mattress. For example, your body weight can be a determining factor. That’s because generally speaking, heavier people prefer a firmer mattress. Soft foams may sink in too much for comfort and not offer adequate support. Conversely, someone who is more of a lightweight may sink in less and find firm beds to be uncomfortably hard, so they generally prefer soft to medium-firm options. Another factor to consider is your sleep position. Back and stomach sleepers tend to prefer a firmer mattress, while if you are a side sleeper, you may be better choosing a softer mattress. While these position preferences are not hard and fast universal rules, they are a good starting point. Finally, if you are sharing a bed with a partner and you are of significantly different weights and have different sleep positions, then you may have to compromise on the firmness or softness of a mattress. If a compromise cannot be found, then consider a specialized mattress where each side of a mattress can be customized.

Can a too soft or a too firm mattress cause back pain?

Sleeping on a mattress that is too soft or too hard may end up giving you many uncomfortable nights’ sleep, but the wrong mattress can also contribute to back pain. A mattress that’s too soft can cause your back or hips to sag and your spine to fall out of alignment. This can lead to back pain. A mattress that’s too firm can put too much pressure on your joints, especially if you sleep on your side or your back, which can also lead to back pain. Using some tips to soften or firm up the mattress you already have can help significantly, although ultimately, if your back pain continues, a new mattress may be the solution.

Is firmness and support in a mattress the same?

While the two might seem the same, they are not. The firmness of a mattress refers to how soft or hard the mattress feels when you are lying on it, while support refers to how well the mattress keeps your body and spine aligned and relieves pressure points. A mattresses’ comfort system is primarily responsible for firmness, while the core plays a bigger role in support. And while firmness does not determine support, the two can work together and influence each other’s benefits.