How to Buy a Waterbed

First, convince your boyfriend that his free flow waterbed of 20 years is not the ideal sleeping arrangement for two full grown adults who are light sleepers. This may take several years.

Second, compromise on buying a new waterbed with waveless technology instead of a conventional mattress.

Third, do research.

Fourth, briefly mourn the loss of Consumer Reports as your guide when you realize their mattress reviews do not include waterbeds.

Fifth, discover that most waterbed mattress review sites look like they were made in the 70s, although you’re pretty sure that the internet did not exist then. Contemplate the felicity of such color combinations as pink, yellow and orange all within the same comforter.

Sixth, learn that waterbed tech has indeed changed a great deal. There are now softside and hardside waterbeds. Realize that you want a hardside waterbed, even though the name for it is completely counter-intuitive. Because hardside waterbeds have no sides, they’re just the water filled bladders so they are in fact rather soft. Whereas softside waterbeds are actually within the frame of a rigid mattress. So they have firm sides.



Seventh, marvel at the variations available. You have your free flow, semi-waveless, waveless, and ultrawaveless.You have your hydraulic, your fiber layers, your foam layers, your coils, your lumbar support, and your tubes all lined up in a row.

A Plethora of Mattress Types

Free Flow



Hydraulic Ultra Waveless

Inner Coils

Eighth, you go to a Waterbed Store. These are hard to find. The first place you go used to be a waterbed store, but now is just a bed store, and while they have hardside waterbeds, they don’t have any you could try. You wander the store in desperation and find a Boyd softside. So you try it. You lie down on one side, your SO on the other, and take turns trying to make the bed slosh. And you discover that it is possible, hallelujah, to have a waterbed and not disrupt your partner when you move. The kindly salesman unzips the softside for you at which point you see a dual for the first time. Choirs of angels sing. But don’t relax just yet,  your quest has just begun.

Not actually this cheesy.

Ninth, you call the one other store in a hundred mile radius that was once listed as a waterbed store and ask if they have any on display. “We sure do,” they tell you, “come on down!” So you drive an hour in the opposite direction and discover they have three waterbeds on display, but all by the same brand (Land and Sky). Well, try them all you say. The 95% waveless, you discover as you try to bounce and make waves, feels an awful lot like a blanket on a concrete slab. But no waves. The 90% feels good, but when you move, it does jostle your partner. Only for a second. Not the violent slosh-slosh  motion of your current bed. But still. You don’t know why, but you still try the 80% waveless. Slosh-slosh. The salesman nearly convinces you to buy the 90%, he’s got a discounted floor model after all and this, he says, is the best brand. In spite of your skepticism, he’s starting to win you over. But then you learn that he has softsides of other brands. Great! you say.

1980s girl not included.

Tenth, you spend the next two hours hopping from bed to bed. Softside to softside and back to the hardsides. And you like the Boyd softsides better than any of the hardsides. Aside from the squeaking noise. Because it does squeak, with all the passion of vinyl against vinyl. Does this, you ask the salesman, come in a hardside? He does his best to steer you back to the Land and Sky, and so you spend some more time lying on beds in indecision. But then you remember, Aha! People are bad at knowing what they want in the moment. But given time, it’s easier to look back and see. So you’ll sleep on it, you say, back at home on your very own slosh-slosh. You buy fancy sheets, since after all, you did just spend hours in their store lying on their beds.

Eleventh, you go home and you fire up Google. And you don’t much like what you’re reading about the Land and Sky customer service. And you relearn that, really, there are no good review sites for any of these beds, although you do read them all. And each manufacturer has both positive and negative reviews, so it’s about to be a toss up. But then, hallelujah, you see a Boyd hardside dual. It does exist! Twelfth, you ponder for several days. Because while the internal components (the water bed bladder itself) are the same as the softside, the softside does have extra padding on top.

Thirteenth, you order the hardside dual from ABC Waterbed Outlet: 90% waveless, four layers of foam. You figure you’ll find a nice cushiony mattress pad, possibly even one more cushiony for your half than your beloved might prefer because, after all, it’s a dual, and you shall be happy on your side of the bed. And he shall be happy on his. And when you move, you will neither of you wake the other with slosh. All that remains is waiting for the bed to arrive.

Congratulations, you have bought a waterbed.

13 Responses

  1. My partner and I had a waterbed for a few years. We gave it up when we moved to California a decade ago.

    The bed was comfortable for sleeping and fun for sex, but it was quite wavey. There were quite a few problems associated with that. Vigorous sex is trickier to do on a wavey waterbed than on a regular bed. Neither of us could get up in the middle of the night without sending a tsunami to the other side of the bed and waking the other. Reading in bed became impossible as we constantly interrupted each other by every slight motion. But you’re getting the dual-mattress kind with motion-reduction mechanisms, so maybe you won’t jostle each other as much as we did.

    Some things to consider:
    * If the heater gives out, you will feel very cold at night as the water steals your body heat. Make sure you have a well-insulated bed.
    * The heater consumes power, so that adds to your electrical bill. Also, some people consider waterbeds as non-environmentally friendly as normal beds because of the power consumption.
    * We had to “burp” the air out of the mattress every few months. It only takes 20 minutes to an hour, but be aware of this extra maintenance task.
    * No matter how well sealed the mattress is, you will need anti-algae chemicals. So another extra cost.

    Sweet dreams on your bed!

    1. Hi, So I read your waterbed article and am in the same boat. I had a softside waterbed with tubes of water from 1994-just a few months ago. I was going to “be an adult” and buy a regular mattress but I don’t like them as much as I loved my softside waterbed. When I bought that I’m pretty sure the “shallow fill” “deep fill” etc didn’t exist. I am not at all familar with any of that. Like your blog says, you can’t find any in stores, can’t find reviews, 1970’s looking websites, etc. It’s very frustrating. My softside looked like a regular mattress but had tubes of water in it. I am thinking of getting something just like it, but it appears the shallow fill etc are much more popular (not that waterbeds are popular) Any advice?

  2. We are undergoing the same process right now. I am at about step 7 right now and really confused. We live in a small town and there is no waterbed store around. I have found a listing for one 100 miles away, but haven’t called them yet.

    How do you like your Boyd dual? Thanks for the informative post.

    1. We’re very happy with the Boyd dual we got. It actually fixed the problem of us waking each other. Doesn’t have as much wave as the old mattress, but it still feels like a waterbed.

  3. Probably would have been cheaper to buy direct from Boyd than ABC. Everything else was dead on. I don’t understand why with all the improvements in design, waterbeds haven’t made a comeback. No mattress will last as long and stay as close to the way it was as when you bought it. I have been using the mattress from hell for 7 years. It was hugely expensive and began to deteriorate after the first year. Never really comfortable either. I had three prior waterbeds, all hard sided before at over about 18 years. Not because they wore out but because I changed from full wave to semi waveless and later moved and had a husband that couldn’t empty it properly. The baffles were all bunched up so he just went out and got another one. I believe they tether them not so that isn’t as much of an issue. I never had a leak or a bad nights sleep in all those years. I just purchased my first softsided sigh unseen from Boyd and am waiting for them to send it. I hope it is as good as you say. Won’t take much to improve on what we have : )

  4. The website you referred us to has lots of info….Thanks. I sent them a message, that I will ask here too.. Has anyone found a frame/bed for a hard side mattress that is more stylish than the 70’s beds? I want a massive oak 4 poster. We have a dark wood 4 poster but short posts about 3 feet at the foot and about 4 1/2 at the head. I guess I should be lucky it is not as plain jane as it could be. But I really want something that is more in style and big! Anyone have a place I can find one?

    1. Yes, you can find a 2014 stylish waterbed hard side frame!!! The catch is that you will need to build it yourself or remodel an antique from the 1970s. We remodeled a 1970 version. First if was off with the mirrored headboard, then we cut off the frame horns( where the headboard was, then we cleaned and polished the wood. We picked out a new headboard and attached it to the hardside frame. Then we made custom (it was easy) padded side caps and bang!!! a hard side waterbed that does not look like it was from the 1970s. BTW, we used Strobel dual waterbed mattresses with a thermal divider and they are great. I have full motion on my side and 75 percent on the other side. Mine is at 90 degrees and the other side is at 85. We did buy a very thin mattress cover that zips all the way around the mattress and liner. We love the minor amount of soft fiber on top and the amazing warmth that still comes through. I am 50 plus years old and the last 6 months have been the best sleep I have had since I was a kid.

  5. I have found a waterbed place through my studies, it is STL beds, they have waterbeds and other beds. The one thing that impressed me about the beds was if you have problems with any piece you can replace the piece, not the whole bed. The beds they sell are called Sterling and come out of calif. They have been in business since 1986 selling water beds and beds. As I have not ordered, I am still looking, I guess I am wondering if anyone knows anymore about this company or softside waterbeds? Like all you have said waterbeds have became a thing of the past and I do not understand, I loved mine, and can’t wait to get another one!

  6. I have had a Land and Sky 7-tube queen for almost 20 years and just tossed it in a move. Never a leak even with moving the bed several times (I used baby powder to reduce any rubbing) and it just started getting a bit saggy at the hip level. Looking at mattresses and prices – I’m ready for a new soft-side tubed queen. Tubes are so much easier to fill/empty than single/dual bladders (ask me how I know). Seems like you can replace the top of a Somma as well as tubes/liners as needed. Nice.

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