Hacking a Pillow-top Bed




Introduction: Hacking a Pillow-top Bed

About: robotics engineer

Pillow-top beds are great and all, but over time one's butt has a tendency to mash down the top layer of foam padding. This curvy bed might be nice for a back-sleeper, but as a stomach-sleeper I was getting pretty tired of waking up with a stiff back. Hence, I performed an autopsy on my bed to determine if it was in fact just the top surface or a deeper cause. As it turns out it is quite simple to mod a bed of this type for optimal sleeping performance. The following steps will show you how to hack your own bed for maximum sleepability.

Step 1: Stab It.

Examine the mattress. The mattress is made of several layers of foam and springs and it is all wrapped up with a soft looking textile, kind of like a burrito. The pillow-top layer is a bunch of foam quilted together and then sewn onto the wrapping material. It turns out that you can pull this wrapping away from the underlying foam.

So the first step is to pull the wrapper off the bed and stab it with a nice sharp knife. Be sure to cut below the pillow-top so you will be able to remove it as a whole piece. Also, be sure not to stab your foam, it may be very soft.

Step 2: Circumcise the Bed.

Take the knife and lead it all the way around the perimeter of the bed, use the edge of the top to help keep a straight~ish cut. Be sure to always cut away from your body, this is an instructable about how to mod your bed, not how to clean blood out of it!

Step 3: Expose the Underfoam.

Once you've separated the top wrapper you may find a secondary tyvek like material still sewn into the top foam pad and attached to the side walls of the bed. You can go ahead and slice this too, or I found it was only stapled to the foam sidewalls and was easily removed with a firm yank. Go ahead and peel the whole top off of the bed.

Step 4: Make Your Bed.

Once you've removed the top foam pad you'll find a nice flat foam pad. This stuff is pretty squishy, and if you're into a firmer top you could go ahead and rip this off too. So now you've got a nice flat bed and all you have to do is find somewhere to stash that pillow-top (or maybe use it to pad some outdoor furniture), and put on your sheets!



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14 Discussions

So I bought a pillowtop about 7 months ago on sale for $1000, so no warranty and can't return. I have a 4 month old who cant even lay next to me in the bed without falling into me...also concerned with suffication once he can roll over. Anyways my matress is ok just need it to be way firmer. Would this help? Or do you know of any other way to kake your matress firm?

1 reply

I can't promise. I think they also change the firmness of the underlying foam as well. But certainly the pillow top is way too fluffy and causes that rolling baby action for sure. You might be able to experiment by kinda jumping/hopping on the bed and trying to pay attention to how much compression happens at just the top, versus the lower section. Apologies for maybe sounding a little too goofy here, but: A squishy spring attached to a stiffer spring will squish until the squish force equals that of the stiffer one, and then they'll all squish down together. So you can kind of observe if the underlying mattress will provide the stiffness that you want. If it doesn't, then there's not much you can do.


2 years ago

We had a very expensive inner spring mattress. After tons of research, we decided to take the pillow top off and try a latex foam topper. After reading this I went ahead with it, but instead of cutting through the side of the mattress, we undid the stitching. This took a bit longer than simply cutting, but it left a perfectly usable innerspring mattress core. Plus is separated nicely. Typically, innerspring mattresses are all the same with different toppers on them. They'll have a perfect separation point that leaves the bottom still perfectly encased without cutting through the side.

However, we still didn't like it. The bed moved around and the springs were no longer perfectly perpendicular to the bed frame. They were pushed out ever so slightly. We loved the medium firm 3-inch latex foam we had purchased and decided to just go all the way with it. We tossed the springs and mattress altogether. We now have a DIY 5-layer (latex: 2" firm, 3" medium, 2" soft. 1" foam pad from inside the old mattress, 2 mattress pads as encasements) latex bed. Motion doesn't transfer at all and I sleep like the dead.


2 years ago

I totally recommend this instructable. Did it myself a few years ago for our mattress, and we're still reaping the benefits many years later. I documented my experience of the above on my own blog: http://www.thrifterrific.com/2011/11/picking-apart-a-pillow-top-mattress/

1 reply

I cannot access your blog . I tried several times. Do I have to pay for this

You're so aeesome for this tip! My bed feels so much better. I cut halfway down two sides, pulled out what I could and crawled in for the rest. Three inches of saggy foam out! Thanks so much ?


I'm thinking about doing this but nervous. Having a lot of issues with a pillowtop i paid a lot of money for and can't return. Is your fix still holding up after all these years?

Thx for giving us the courage to hack up our torture bed!

We just cut it below the pillow top on 3 sides, took out the spongy 3" of foam, and closed 'er back up. Left the pillow part on, didn't even have to sew it all back up.

Took about an hour. Mattress is firm, and life is good again.

14 ILD is the density rating (Indentation Load Deflection) of the foam. A 14 ILD foam s fairly soft.

The picture shows that the foam is built up in sections - are these of different grades - I'm thinking of the two stripes in the middle - and are they glued together?
Also, does the pink lettering say "CHILD" or "(141LD)"?


2 replies

The top layer is actually one piece length-wise. It's been molded with varying density. However, the long stripe down the length is a seam between two different pieces. I guess they were fitting scraps together. Oh and that letter, kinda creepy if it says Child eh? I think it's the latter.

I'd recommend adding another layer or two of cloth between you and that foam - say a nice mattress cover, padded or not. If it's hot and you sweat directly into the foam you'll be very sorry! Foam holds odors and grows bacteria surprisingly well. ;)

1 reply

Oh yah, I forgot to add that, thanks. I've thrown a big airy fleece-like blanket and pad on there. The foam definitely feels like it would be a big ol' spongy-petri-dish.