Have you ever read the tag on your bed mattress (or your pillow or winter coat) that says removing it is illegal and punishable by federal fines of up to $5,000 or imprisonment? Egads! That sounds like a Dilbert cartoon.

Have you done so? I haven’t, but I have been tempted to do so.

Fortunately, the federal government changed the original rules to read: “Do Not Remove by Penalty of Law Except by the Consumer” in the 1990s. It is a violation of the federal Mattress Label Act.  “The actual federal regulation states that it’s unlawful to remove or mutilate any stamp, tag, label, or other identification required by this subchapter to be affixed to the mattress before it’s sold and delivered to the consumer. Violators can be found guilty of an unfair method of competition or an unfair or deceptive act under the Federal Trade Commission Act.”1

I have heard and read various explanations for why it is illegal, which are:

  • The laws and regulations were created early in the 20th century because of the many “shady” manufacturers and sellers. These deceptive manufacturers cut corners and stuffed mattresses with all sorts of improper, substandard filling materials, such as food, rags, newspapers, corn husks, animal droppings, and horsehair. Such mattresses often became cozy homes for lice, bedbugs, and other undesirables.
  • Removing the tag is not illegal for the consumer, but it is illegal for the manufacturer and the seller. They can be fined up to $1,000 for each incident.
  • Doing so voids the mattress warranty.
  • To prevent the reselling of mattresses for health reasons, especially allergies to dust and other allergens.
  • The tag must be present when the new product is sold. If they are removed between manufacture and first sale, the seller can lie about where the mattress was made and what’s inside it. (If a manufacturer is found doing this, they can be prosecuted for unfair or deceptive acts or practices per theFederal Trade Commission Act)
  • The tags are supposed to be on the mattress to alert consumers of the potential risks of removing the protective covering.
  • The tag identifies the content of the mattress for allergy-affected consumers
  • It often contains care instructions.
  • Some stores will not accept returning the mattress without the tag intact.

I would not be surprised if a department at the Federal Trade Commission was dedicated to monitoring these violations. Are they watching you and me?

So, is it worth removing? Is the tag that annoying to you? Is this another of the many anachronistic laws that were enacted in the 19th and early 20th centuries, like not being able to walk your horse without sleighbells or criminalizing the act of riding or driving faster than a walk’s pace through a herd of livestock, which was a law in Illinois? No, it appears that the origination was well-meaning when enacted, but since it is rarely enforced, do we still need it?

Is removing the beg tag worth the risks to you? That is up to you to decide.  I sure don’t want to visit you in federal prison for this crime.



1. Image from