Why Is It Illegal to Remove Your Mattress and Pillow Tags?

Mark asks: Why is it illegal to remove mattress and pillow tags?

pillowsWell Mark, unbeknownst to many innocent consumers out there, the warning that it is unlawful to remove the tags from a mattress or pillow is not for you! It is for pillow and mattress sellers only. How many times does that mean you have unnecessarily awoken with the long pillow tags rhythmically flying in and out of your gaping lips, in sync with your snoring- all because you – a law abiding citizen – are afraid the pillow and mattress tag police may raid your house and find you guilty of snipping off those annoying tags?  Fear no longer!

The specific US Code we’re dealing with here is Title 15 – Commerce and Trade, Chapter 2, Subchapter V – Textile Fiber Products Identification, Section 70c – Removal of stamp, tag, label, or other identification Statute (a) Removal or mutilation after shipment in commerce.  This states:

“After shipment of a textile fiber product in commerce it shall be unlawful, except as provided in this subchapter, to remove or mutilate, or cause or participate in the removal or mutilation of, prior to the time any textile fiber product is sold and delivered to the ultimate consumer, any stamp, tag, label, or other identification required by this subchapter to be affixed to such textile fiber product, any person violating this section shall be guilty of an unfair method of competition, and an unfair or deceptive act or practice, under the Federal Trade Commission Act. “

This became the law in the early 20th century when the US government responded to concerns that some of the materials used in pillows and mattresses easily conducted illnesses or harbored pests such as lice. Some manufacturers would stuff their goods with just about anything including horse hair or corn husks, since the customer could not see them. Mattress and pillow manufacturers were required to clearly define the contents of their products and to identify whether or not these contents were new or recycled materials by placing tags on them. This was important as recycled materials could still contain lice, bedbugs or human excretion. This information allowed consumers to make informed decisions about their purchases. It also meant that based upon their contents, some mattresses and pillows would not sell. In order to ensure no pillow and mattress sellers removed these tags in order to make the sale, they were stamped, in bold letters, with a clear message – “Do not remove under penalty of law”. The words, “except by the consumer” have since been added but not a lot of consumers bother to read the tags in detail.

The myth that it is illegal has been passed down by word of mouth and through popular media. Both the movie PeeWee’s Big Adventure and an episode of Garfield and Friends feature characters who were punished for removing these labels. Before the words “except by consumer” were added to the labels, Fred, a character on a popular 1970s show called Sanford and Son, removed a warning label, tore it up and exclaimed, “power to the people!” Johnny of Johnny Bravo is chased by police in a helicopter after removing a label from a stuffed animal and then saying to himself, “Pfft, what are they going to do?” Even the mattress company Serta, who are presumably well aware that it isn’t illegal for consumers to remove the tags, created a commercial where its famous counting sheep were thrown in jail for tearing off of the label after the mattress’s owner said she didn’t need them anymore. SpongeBob SquarePants also once asked Squidward to hide him from law enforcement when he panics after removing the tag from his mattress.

Although it may not be illegal for you, the consumer, to remove the tags from your pillows or mattresses, it is a good idea if you cut them off to safely store them with your warranty information. Many mattress manufacturers, including Sealy, Serta and Simmons require the tags to be produced in a warranty claim.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

Bonus Facts:

  • Over 10 years, your mattress can double in weight because of accumulated dust and other particles.
  • The average mattress has between 100,000 and 10,000,000 dust mites in it.
  • 10% of the weight of your pillow may comprise dead dust mites and their droppings
  • Our mattresses and bedding take some abuse. Each night, an average person sweats between half a pint and a full pint of fluid into their bedding and mattress…and that is just while they are sleeping! Never mind how many fluids are released during special bedtime Olympic events. We also lose a large amount of dead skin while we sleep which sits on or in our mattresses and pillows.
  • The average life span of a mattress is between 8-1o years.
  • A comfortable bed can give you up to an extra hour of sleep a night.
  • You are actually 2 centimeters taller in your sleep since during the day your spine is compressed. At night it has a chance to straighten out.
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  • Are you kidding me?! It says RIGHT ON THE TAG that it is not to be removed, “except by consumer.” That’s you. You’re the consumer. You’re allowed to remove the tag. Why would you ever have assumed otherwise?

    • Daven Hiskey

      @Jeff: Because as it says in the article, it used to not say “except by consumer”, which got the idea planted firmly in popular culture and the rumormongers that it is illegal for everyone.

    • And just how many mattresses have you consumed?
      Despite all my marshmallow dreams, I’ve yet to eat a pillow.

    • However removing the tag from your mattress is a horrible idea. If you have a warranty issue, your warranty is void if that tag is missing. Not to mention why remove it, what is it hurting you? It’s tucked into sheets and a protector, geez. Plus if you ever need to know what your bed is, there it is, on the tag, so when you go to buy again you will know what you had.

    • The labels did not ALWAYS say except by consumer. For years I thought it was illegal until today when I put my new comforter on the bed and noticed that the tag was an eyesore. I also noticed that my old comforter that I’m replacing also says “except by consumer”. All the bedding and beds still have the tags on them. Glad I can start taking them off.

  • BTW, “awoken” is a terrible mis-use of the English language and makes you sound stupid. You should say “awakened”. You are not stupid and should not sound so. Thanks for all of your informative and interesting articles.

    • You’re not too well versed on the English language apparently. awoken is properly used in the tense used here. Awakened is a different tense entirely of the same word. What you need to do is learn how to conjugate the verb properly before you attempt to teach the writer how to do so. There are several different tenses. Present, past, future, future past, etc, all with their proper conjugation. And if you don’t know the proper conjugation and haven’t at least looked up the proper conjugation than it’s inappropriate to attempt to correct the writer with wrong information.

  • @Malcolm,please look up the difference between the meanings of “stupid” and “ignorant”.

  • Having taught English, I explicitly meant stupid. Ignorant means “not knowing”. Stupid has a much deeper meaning. This is exemplified by the current use of “me and my… “.

  • It is better for not removing the name or price tag of the mattress if you want to return it back to the shop or the retail store.

  • This article missed a perfectly good Fletch reference! I’m afraid i’m gonna have to pull rank on you!

  • It was just like that Johnny Bravo episode