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Why Have Waterbeds Failed? 2024 [Are Waterbeds Discontinued?]

By: Susie
Updated On: September 23, 2023

Do you remember waterbeds? Maybe you or someone you knew had one gathering dust in the attic, a nostalgic yet neglected icon of the 1980s?

They were well-loved then, but these beds full of water are now largely out of vogue. You might be asking: Why have waterbeds failed?

Let’s shed some light on this, not for nostalgia or simple curiosity’s sake, but to fully understand how a once-popular trend can sink to near oblivion.

After all, planning to furnish your bedroom isn’t just about styles and trends but also involves understanding each piece’s comfort level and functionality.

A History of Waterbeds

A History of Waterbeds

A waterbed is a type of mattress that is filled with water. Waterbeds were first conceptualized and designed as medical therapeutic devices in the early 19th century. For a while, they also became popular in residential settings.

The history of waterbeds can be traced back to 1833 when a Scottish physician, Neil Arnott, developed a “hydrostatic bed” for hospital patients.

He intended to give patients bedridden for extended periods greater comfort and reduce the risk of bedsores.

In 1871, the first patent for a water-filled mattress was filed in England. However, this design never gained popularity due to its complexity and high maintenance requirements.

Waterbeds didn’t resurface until the late 1960s when an American design student named Charles Hall presented a vinyl mattress filled with liquid as his Master’s thesis. His novel creation eventually became famous as the modern ‘waterbed.’

Hall’s version of the waterbed became widely popular in America during the 1970s and 1980s when it was often marketed as a piece of luxury furniture – not unlike a status symbol. The unique comfort provided by these beds also fueled their popularity.

Interest in waterbeds began to decline in the mid-1990s due to advancements in other types of mattresses, such as air and memory foam mattresses, that offered similar comfort levels with less maintenance.

Despite their reduced popularity compared to their heyday, waterbeds are still available today. They have seen modern updates and improvements, ensuring they remain relevant to those seeking unique sleeping experiences.

Explore More: Is A Waterbed Good For Back Pain? 2024 [Pros & Cons]

Different Types of Waterbeds

Types of Waterbeds

As with any furniture or bedding, there isn’t a single standard design that fits all waterbeds. These unique beds have evolved, adapting to user preferences and technological advancements. Essentially, waterbeds fall into two primary categories: hard side and soft-side.

Hard-side waterbed with frame

The Strobel Organic Hanover Complete Padded Waterbed with Hydro-Support HS303 is an excellent example of a hard-side waterbed.

As the name suggests, hard-side waterbeds come with a sturdy, usually wooden frame that holds the water-filled mattress in place. The Hanover model combines this traditional design with modern features to offer unparalleled comfort and support.

One defining feature of the HS303 is Strobel’s Hydro-Support system. It includes a thermo-set vinyl safety liner, a high-volume automatic overfill drainage system, a heater for temperature customization, and additional lumbar support for optimal pressure relief. Its padded sides and base add unique comfort and an aesthetic appeal to the bedroom.

Hard-side waterbed mattress

The California King 80% Semi Waveless Waterbed Mattress with Lumbar Support is a superior choice for hard-sided waterbeds. The “California King” name denotes its size, which is wider and longer than the traditional king-sized bed and offers expansive sleeping space.

This waterbed mattress features an 80% semi-waveless design. This implies that it drastically reduces the wave motion compared to ordinary full-motion waterbeds.

The controlled water flow provides a balanced sleep surface – not too much motion to disturb, yet enough to provide the unique comfort offered by waterbed mattresses.

Additional lumbar support has also been integrated into this mattress model, ensuring optimal spinal alignment and relieving any potential back strain or pressure.

Soft-side waterbed mattress

The Strobel Organic “Sea Hero” Softside Waterbed stands out in soft-sided waterbed mattresses. Unlike conventional hard-sided waterbeds, soft-side waterbeds have a foam casing surrounding the water chamber, which helps it to look and feel more like conventional mattresses while retaining the unique benefits of a waterbed.

The “Sea Hero” model is distinguished by its patented leak-proof design. This feature ensures increased durability and longevity, making it an extremely reliable choice for shoppers. Its robust construction and quality materials enhance the bed’s structural integrity, guaranteeing years of comfortable sleep.

Convenient in terms of standard sheets and bedding, the “Sea Hero” balances traditional mattress comfort and distinctive water-filled support.

Soft-side waterbed mattress

The King Size Softside Pillow Waterbed Mattress is an extraordinary representation of soft-side waterbeds that flawlessly combine comfort, support, and ease of use. Designed to cater to the sleeping preferences of different individuals, this mattress caters to those who prefer a more familiar mattress feel with the added benefits of a waterbed.

Significantly, this king-sized waterbed is designed with a plush pillow-top layer. This adds extra comfort and cushioning that aligns perfectly with your natural body contours for superior sleep quality.

Further distinguishing this waterbed is its ability to work with regular king-size sheets, thus eliminating the need for specialized bedding.

Read More: How To Mix and Match Bedroom Furniture Like a Pro

Why Have Waterbeds Failed?

Why Have Waterbeds Failed?

When you look back at waterbeds’ journey, some crucial factors may make it apparent why they failed to maintain their stronghold in the market. The reasons are many, but the leading causes boil down to a few critical aspects.


The primary reason behind waterbeds’ declining popularity is their high-maintenance nature. Waterbeds require regular care and attention that surpasses what’s typically necessary for a standard mattress.

This includes maintaining the water temperature, adding conditioners to prevent algae growth, checking for leaks and punctures, and changing the water.

A filled waterbed can be significantly heavy and difficult to move or relocate without emptying it. This weight can also pose a problem in certain home structures unable to support such loads. The need for specific frames and sheets for the hard-side design adds another layer of complexity to their use.

Extremely Heavy

Another key reason waterbeds have dropped in popularity is their immense weight. A king-sized waterbed can weigh 1350 to 2,000 pounds when filled with water.

This extremely heavy weight makes moving or rearranging the bed nearly impossible without draining the water first.

This weight can pose a significant problem for those living in apartments or older houses, as the structure may not support the immense load, leading to floor damage or even collapse in extreme cases.

These practical constraints explain why many have transitioned from waterbeds to lighter, more easily managed mattresses.

Waterbeds Caused Strain on the Lower Back

Waterbeds, known for their unique comfort, have been reported to cause strain on the lower back. The fluid nature of the bed that allows it to contour to the body can sometimes lack the firmness needed for proper spinal alignment. A waterbed’s water-filled core often fails to provide adequate support for the lumbar region of the back.

People with back problems or those prone to them might find it challenging to sit in bed or get in and out of a water-filled mattress without putting undue strain on their lower back.

This is a critical issue as poor sleeping posture and insufficient support can exacerbate existing back issues and lead to chronic pain over time.

Liability Insurance

Liability insurance issues have also been a factor in the decline of waterbed popularity. Given their substantial weight and potential for leakage, waterbeds can pose a risk to property, especially in multi-story buildings where a leak could significantly damage units below. As such, some landlords and homeowners associations have placed restrictions on the use of waterbeds.

In certain instances, owners may be required to carry additional liability insurance to cover potential damages that could arise from a waterbed.

This extra cost and administrative hassle can deter many potential users, contributing to the decreased demand for waterbeds in recent years.

Explore More: How To Arrange Pillows On A Bed [10 Bed Makeover Ideas]

Technical Drawbacks and Concerns

Technical Drawbacks and Concerns

Back in the day, when waterbeds were at the height of their popularity, they seemed like a fantastic choice.

The unique sensation of floating and how it conformed effortlessly to your body had an undoubted appeal.

But as time passed, critical technical drawbacks became more visible, significantly impacting waterbeds’ fame and favorability. These concerns can be broken down into design, practical issues, and health and comfort worries.

Design and Practical Issues

A major setback for waterbeds derived from its very core – the design. Moving or transitioning a waterbed is an arduous task owing to its weight. An average queen-sized waterbed could weigh up to 2,000 pounds when filled!

This weight could exert unnecessary pressure on your home infrastructure, especially if you lived in older homes or apartments not designed to withstand such loads.

Further challenges arose if your waterbed sprung a leak. Remember the famous line — “Never poke a waterbed”? Now you get it, right? Water damage from these leaks often led to expensive repairs for homeowners.

Such beds were not exactly pet or child-friendly—owners with playful pets or toddlers ran increased risks of punctures in their beloved mattresses.

Health and Comfort Concerns

While initially, many touted the body-conforming properties of waterbeds as beneficial for spinal alignment, research did not wholly back this claim over time.

The lack of proper support often resulted in poor sleep quality and appeared to exacerbate back pain for some users.

The temperature control element of these mattresses was another concern area. Though many found solace in warm bed settings during winter nights, maintaining an optimum temperature throughout varied seasons proved challenging.

An uncomfortable chill often emerged when temperatures fell low in winter unless adequately heated, adding utility costs.

Concurrently maintaining the bed’s warmth during hotter months gave rise to potential discomfort due to excessive sweating.

Are Waterbeds Discontinued?

Waterbeds are still available in the market but do not enjoy the same popularity and sales they once did during their peak in the 70s and 80s. Their lesser prominence today is primarily due to the emergence of other mattress technologies that offer similar comfort levels with less maintenance.

Over the years, waterbed designs have evolved. Today, we see two major types: soft-side and hard-side waterbeds. The soft side resembles a conventional mattress and fits regular bed frames more closely.

At the same time, hard-side models maintain their distinctive wood frame design that was popular when waterbeds first entered households.

So, despite decreased popularity, waterbeds have by no means been discontinued. They continue to hold a niche place in the market for those seeking distinct sleeping experiences with the distinctive features of water-filled mattresses.

Also Read About Burrow Chorus Bed Review [Unexpected Results After A Month]

FAQs about Why Waterbeds Failed

Why do many consider waterbeds as high maintenance?

Waterbeds require regular check-ups for leaks, consistent heating to maintain ideal temperatures, and complex filling and draining processes, which makes them high-maintenance.

Is moving a waterbed difficult?

Due to their weight when filled, waterbeds are challenging to move and can exert pressure on a home’s infrastructure.

Were waterbeds troublesome for households with pets or kids?

Definitely! Waterbeds were susceptible to punctures from pet claws or children’s play activities, creating potential leakage issues.

Why are waterbeds not recommended for those suffering from back problems?

Despite conforming to the body’s shape, waterbeds often lacked proper support, leading to poor sleep quality and exacerbating back pain for some users.

Did owning a waterbed increase utility costs?

Yes, the need to keep a waterbed heated often led to increased utility expenses.


While the allure and novelty of waterbeds ushered in a wave of popularity during their heyday, it’s clear that practicality and usability outlast trends in our daily lives.

Like bell-bottom jeans and avocado-colored appliances, waterbeds also faced a decline due to their inherent drawbacks.

Today, your choice of mattresses extends beyond just comfort and luxury, including maintenance, health considerations, utility costs, and even practicality.

Waterbeds’ downfall is a reminder that understanding what works for you beneath the trends and marketplace hype is essential when choosing everyday items like your bed.

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