Are Waterbeds Still a Thing?

Are Waterbeds Still a Thing

Waterbeds used to be one of the coolest things to have in the home for adults and kids alike in the 1980s.

A study shows that one out of every four mattresses that were sold in the 80s was a waterbed. However, in the 1990s, thousands of these beds remained unsold, and the popularity died down.

Nowadays, waterbeds only make up a small fraction of all sales for beds and mattresses. Most home furnishing retailers and mattress businesses don’t even sell them since it has been years since many sold even one.

Such a popular trend with such substance was set to last in many people’s eyes.

So, why did our enthusiasm for waterbeds die down despite them being popular in the public eye since the 1960s?

Let’s find out now!

History of Waterbeds

waterbed with nice frame

The use of waterbeds has been recorded all the way back to 3600 BCE according to some accounts.

Persians were known to fill mattresses with goatskin with water that had been warmed in the sun.

A Scottish physician, Dr. Neil Arnott, was known for creating a hydrostatic bed in the early 1800s. He created it this mattress for hospital patients that had bedsores. The bed was made with a thin rubber layer covering a warm bath and was then sealed with varnish. 

Dr. William Hooper patented a rubber mattress filled with water in 1853 as a therapeutic bed. It was also designed for hospital patients who were suffering from bedsores and poor circulation.

A sci-fi writer, Robert Heinlein, in the mid-20th century, described waterbeds in detail in his novels. He was inspired by the few months he spent bedridden due to tuberculosis. The bed he wrote about had a sturdy frame, contained pumps, and temperature control.

Patients were able to control the level of water in the mattress. It was designed with compartments for snacks and drinks, which was really convenient for a lot of people.

According to Heinlein, he believed that the bed was the perfect hospital bed, as it was designed by someone who had spent too much time in them anyway.

The modern version of the waterbed was designed by Charles Hall, an industrial design student. In 1968, he submitted a vinyl mattress as his master’s thesis. Hall was taken with the idea that interior furniture could be filled with fluid as a new form of furniture design.

First, he filled a chair with 300 pounds of cornstarch gel, but that began to rot. Another design involved Jello, but in the end, he found that water was the best solution.

Charles Hall created a company called Innerspace Environments and began selling waterbeds across California. Eventually, the waterbed was known as The Pleasure Pit, after which, it was sold in more than 32 retail locations.

However, imitators began to flood the market, resulting in dozens of companies that began selling waterbeds of their own.

Many people considered waterbeds as part of the counterculture movement in the 1970s, even though now they are mostly associated with suburban living. They used to be sold with Doors albums and incense rather than with high thread-count sheets and fluffy pillows.

A huge selling point for waterbeds was sex, and many of the companies used this very idea to advertise their waterbeds. The target customer base included hip bachelors and hippies in the beginning since the waterbed promised them ‘the ocean’s motion.’

Charles Hall offered a complete set called Pleasure Island, including a color television, contour pillows, a bar, and directional lighting for $2,800. Hugh Hefner even joined in and received a green velvet waterbed from Hall.

By the 1980s, waterbeds attained commercial success. These beds were soon available in all sorts of styles, colors, and patterns. People could get everything from Victorian beds with intricate headboards to Colonial beds with four posts.

It was also really popular among people with allergies, too, since they could get a dust-free mattress. Sufferers of back pain preferred the free-floating quality of the beds as well, which only added to the mattress’s already large customer base.

This is why companies like Big Sur Waterbeds began to advertise the health benefits of waterbeds.

Waterbeds were also beloved by kids who loved the gurgling, squishy weirdness. Among children of the 1980s, waterbeds soon became a status symbol. Manufacturers even started created bunk beds, novelty frames, waterbeds for dogs, and even round love nest beds.

They also began innovating with the design to reduce the wave motion feeling that was making people feel seasick.

Waterbeds became a $2 billion industry by 1984. By 1987, 22% of all mattress sales in the United States were waterbeds.

What Is The Point Of A Water Bed?

nice waterbed with mattress

There are many purposes of a waterbed that made these bedroom furniture items popular with so many people in the 80s.

Firstly, they were known to minimize the pressure points of the body and allowed the muscles to relax properly. They conformed to the sleeper’s body, which helped people manage back pain.

Waterbeds were also great for people who may have gotten bedsores from saying in their beds for too long. They were also easy to keep clean since there was no real way for dead skin and dirt to get inside the mattress.

This helped to minimize dust mites, pests that usually find a way to infest regular mattresses. They also contributed to a healthier sleeping environment since the cover of the waterbed mattress could be washed easily.

A lot of waterbeds also come with customized comfort technology and zone heating.

This ensured that sleepers could experience their own ideal level of support and comfort.

Are Waterbeds Dangerous?

waterbed filled with water

While there were many advantages to the waterbed, there are still some drawbacks too.

The United States National Institute of Child Health and Human Development suggested to parents to make sure that babies should not be placed on a waterbed since that can obstruct their breathing.

The problem is that infants don’t have upper body control, which is why they can’t move their faces away from the vinyl cover. This can increase the risk of suffocation.

It is also expensive to heat the waterbed, which is why many people stopped using them after receiving extraordinarily high energy bills at the end of the month.

Additionally, if you want to move a waterbed, it can be really difficult since you need to drain the water and disassemble the frame before moving. After moving, you need to rebuild the frame, the water needs to be refilled, and then the heating mechanism needs to be restarted.

There may be other practical problems for waterbed owners too. Waterbeds are known for their significant weight, which can make it difficult to move the bed if you have back pain.

Motion control is not possible with waterbeds either since motion can transfer through the bed. This means that you may wake up your partner more times than you can count.

Another danger was that the mattress could spring a leak and cause flooding damage to the house.

Are Waterbeds Good For Your Back?

girl with morning backpain

Waterbeds tend to contour according to the body of the user. This can spread the pressure of the body evenly across the mattress.

This process ensures that your spine health improves since it lessens the pressure on the back and joints.

A waterbed can also be heated, which can enable healthier blood flow through the spine. This can help oxygenated blood travel to all areas of the spine, which only serves to ensure the long-term health of your spine and the muscles in your back.

Waterbeds come with an innovative wave option. These small wave effects benefit the spine in the same way that a massage does. It is important to note that if you have a spinal condition, experts recommend using the wave or pulse function for temporary relief only.

Long hours of stimulation can result in more strain and stress to the back, which can end up leaving your back worse for wear.

You can look at wave control and heating features for your back and spine. However, there can be some drawbacks to the waterbeds too, which is why they aren’t recommended for everyone.

Research shows that they don’t control back pain at all. 9% of people have even been known to feel more pain after sleeping on a waterbed, while 15% have been known to find relief.

This implies that people need to try them out before buying them for back pain.

Waterbeds also offer very little in terms of back support even though they displace the pressure evenly throughout. There is almost no active resistance with a waterbed. People can sink in too low into the bed, which can place a lot of pressure on the lumbar spine.

This can shift it a little out of alignment in the long run. A lot of people with back problems may feel more relief with a firmer mattress than a soft waterbed.

Can You Make Your Own Water Bed?

waterbed idea

Making a waterbed at home is definitely possible if you have the right strategy and plan in place.

Here is one way to make a waterbed at home.

Planning the Waterbed

The main things you need to consider are the size of the bed you want, the overall design of the bed, and the kind of waterbed mattress. You can select a size from twin, twin XL, Queen, King, Double, etc.

Once you have a size in mind, you can begin work on the headboard, frame, and pedestal. You can design drawers under the waterbed mattress or even on the pedestal.

However, if it’s your first time making a waterbed, you can just build a simple platform. You can easily make it recessed, which can look like the bed was floating on the floor.

The next step is to get the right tools and materials. 

Materials and Tools

prepare the waterbed for filling

The materials you will need for the waterbed include:

  • A mattress according to the desired size of your waterbed
  • A heater unit, preferably with a control module
  • A Liner according to the mattress size
  • Fill and drain kit for the water
  • Waterbed conditioner
  • Lumber for the headboard, frame, and platform
  • Fasteners, including construction screws

You will need some minor woodworking knowledge and skills as well as some power tools. The tools you may need for the task include:

  • Skill Saw
  • Carpenter’s Square
  • Speed Square With a 45-Degree Side
  • Cordless Drill
  • Cordless Impact Driver
  • Sanding Sponges

You will also need lumber for the project, including:

  • 10 pieces of 2x10x10’s
  • 23/32″ sub-flooring
  • 1/4″ smooth plywood

For finishing, you will need a color you like.

Here, you have the option to choose whatever color you think will go best with the overall design and aesthetic of your room.

Lumber Prep

You will have to cut the lumber according to the size and degree of your bed.


readi to fill

The lumber you cut needs to be put together for the platform. You need to make sure that the platform is strong enough to support the mattress properly.

One King-sized bed should be able to hold around 2000 pounds of weight. Do make sure you get the right sort of decking screws to hold everything together.

As you are putting it together, you should finish, paint, or stain as you since it can be harder once everything is assembled.


You can use sheeting pieces for the framing of the bed. Even OSB sub-flooring can be used for the waterbed. You can use four 2×10 wood pieces that can be attached to the floor.

Drill holes into the wood pieces so that you can attach it to the bed. Remember to finish, stain, or paint as you go.

The frame needs to be laid on the floor. You can use a nice coat of wood glue to attach it to the center on the side and ends. If you have a baseboard planned out, then place it at the very end of the bed’s frame and clamp it into the right position.

Make sure to drive the screws into the pre-drilled holes.


headboard with light

The headboard is also an important part of the waterbed. We recommend using the ¼ inch plywood for a backer and 2×6’s and 2×4’s wood pieces.

Do make sure that you fit everything together and fix it with screws.

Also, ensure that you clean the entire structure properly so that there are no shavings or dust on the frame.

Extra Features

You can even add some extra features for the waterbed. Some people attach a music system to the waterbed.

The materials used for the system can include:

  • 300-watt ATX 20-pin computer PSU
  • Car stereo
  • Speakers (four if you want surround sound)
  • 3-in-1 12v outlet
  • 18-gauge speaker wire
  • 16-gauge wire

The ATX 20-pin is used to supply power to the music system. You can use 10-pin, the +5 v standby, and the +12 wires to make sure that you get constant power.

This way, the waterbed will actually be able to play audiobooks and music as well as charge your mobile phones.

How Long Should A Waterbed Mattress Last?

comgort waterbed

A waterbed can last up to 20 years.

Many of them come with 10 to 20 years of warranty as well. However, some parts of the waterbed can actually start wearing out quicker than that, so you have to keep an eye on the condition of your waterbed as it starts to get older.

A vinyl mattress is only known to last for 5 to 10 years since they are prone to wear and tear.


At the end of the day, waterbeds are no longer popular as a mainstream choice for beds.

They used to be popular in the 1980s due to all sorts of advertisements that used sex, health benefits, and uniqueness as a tool to sell them. However, over time, they have become a thing of the past.

If you want a waterbed for your home, the fact that they aren’t a thing anymore shouldn’t stop you from either going out and buying one or making one yourself.

They are known to help alleviate back pain for many individuals and help provide relief to the pressure points in the body. They also come in a large variety of colors and patterns, so you can select them according to your personal preferences.

It doesn’t matter whether waterbeds are no longer a thing, if you like them, you should definitely go for one!

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