It depends who you are.

Perri Ormont Blumberg
September 26, 2018

Every time I go shopping for a new mattress, I have two thoughts: I hope I can sleep in tomorrow, and "what's up with that 'Under Penalty of Law: This Tag Not to Be Removed Except by the Consumer' tag?" I'm guessing I'm not the only one.

Here's the scoop: The seemingly odd tag actually has to do with The Textile Products Identification Act, and it's there to keep consumers safe from falsely advertised goods. "For the purposes of this subchapter, a textile fiber product shall be misbranded if it is used as stuffing in any upholstered product, mattress, or cushion after having been previously used as stuffing in any other upholstered product, mattress, or cushion, unless the upholstered product, mattress, or cushion containing such textile fiber product bears a stamp, tag, or label approved by the Commission indicating in words plainly legible that it contains reused stuffing," the act reads. 

Later, it 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, and 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 (15 U.S.C. 41 et seq.)."

In simple terms, this basically means the tags ar there to prevent product fraud (i.e., someone selling you a mattress that is made of low-quality material when it claims to be made of other fillers, or otherwise scams you). While manufacturers and handlers are required to keep the mattress law tag on, the "except by the consumer" phrase you see on the tag itself means it's a-ok for you to remove it.

As Reader's Digest reports, this label on your mattress tag dates back to the early 1900s. "At that time, mattress makers were known to cut corners by stuffing the mattresses with some pretty repulsive garbage, like discarded food, old rags, and horse hair. Inevitably, this would attract lice, bedbugs, and any number of unwelcome bedfellows. It’s safe to say, these were not luxury mattresses!" writes Kristine Solomon. As a result of these not-so-sanitary practices, the government decided to mandate that companies attach labels to new mattresses listing what was used to make them. "Mattress salespeople found a clever workaround, though: just rip off the tag and sell their bacteria-filled products to unsuspecting customers," adds Solomon. That's when the now standard "do not remove" verbiage was added. Who knew a tiny tag could be filled with such a lengthy chronicle.

Now, be right back, running to our bedroom to check our mattresses and make sure that tag is there.