Moving Impossible: Waterbeds

Author: Alecia Pirulis


When you purchased your waterbed, you probably didn’t consider the day when you’d have to move it. Now, surrounded by moving boxes and packing peanuts, you’re staring at your waterbed and wondering … now what?

First, if you are moving to an apartment, keep in mind that a waterbed holds between 80 and 200 gallons of water– which you will have to replace once you set the bed up in your new place. This can be quite a challenge in an apartment, where it may be more difficult to run a hose. And when your lease is up and you have to move, draining the waterbed will be another challenge. Make sure you have a hose long enough to reach the bathroom sink or tub since hanging the hose out the bedroom window and draining your waterbed of 200 gallons of water could get you into – well, hot water – with management.

To move a waterbed, you’ll have to drain it and then refill it when you get to your new location. Don’t even attempt to try to move a waterbed without draining it first! Your waterbed is basically a giant plastic bag filled with up to 200 gallons of water. Trying to move it without draining it is dangerous – to the bed and to your back.

Here’s how to drain your waterbed:

1. Unplug the heater, allow it to cool down, and then remove the bedding. Make sure to disconnect all electrical connections to your bed before draining your mattress.

2. Depending on the type of mattress, the draining process varies. For baffled mattresses (a waterbed mattress designed to reduce motion), use an electric pump or a drain pump depending on the mattress type (you can rent these from a moving company or get them from the store where you purchased your waterbed). For a tube-type mattress, attach a hose to the mattress valve. Attach the other end to the faucet and turn on the water for 10-15 seconds, then shut it off. This will force the air in the hose into the mattress, creating a siphon. Detach the hose from the faucet and drop it into the tub or sink (you want the hose lower than the waterbed to make sure the water runs out). If the water isn’t flowing out of the hose, suck on the end of the hose to get the water moving. Add weight near the mattress fill so the mattress drains properly. (Anything heavy will work — just make sure it doesn’t have sharp edges that could puncture the mattress.)

3. Put the other end of the hose in the tub or sink and turn on the water for 10-15 seconds to push the air in the hose into the mattress, creating a siphon. You’ll need to monitor the process to make sure nothing goes wrong (especially if you are using a pump). The draining process can take anywhere from one to three hours. As the water drains, move the mattress around and prop it up so the water pools near the hose.

4. Use a Wet-Vac to suck up any remaining water in your mattress.

5. Disconnect the hose and replace the cap and seal on your valve right away so air doesn’t get inside.

A baffled mattress will need extra care when draining and moving. If the baffles shift, it can damage the mattress. Once the mattress is water-free and the cap and seal is back in place, it’s time to fold the mattress. A baffled mattress should be rolled like a rug to make sure the baffling doesn’t shift. Place two large boxes on either end of the mattress and tape them together (be careful not to get tape on the mattress). A tube-type mattress can be folded. Fold it end-to-end, then in thirds. Wrap or tie the mattress and place it in a box where it won’t be vulnerable to punctures. Take the bed frame apart and store all hardware (nuts, bolts, screws) in a separate bag and tape it to the back of the bed frame. Roll up the heating pad and put it in a separate box.

Once your bed is in place in your new home, it is time to refill. Take the aerator off the bathroom (or kitchen) faucet. (Only use an outdoor faucet as a last resort because you don’t want to fill your waterbed with cold water – lukewarm water is best.)

Attach a hose to the faucet using the faucet connector that came with your waterbed (or purchase a waterbed care kit). Let water run through the hose for several minutes to rinse out any bacteria or dirt that may be inside the hose before attaching it to your waterbed. Remove the cap and seal from the waterbed mattress and attach the hose using the attachment kit. Start filling the bed (stop after adding a couple of inches of water and make sure the mattress is positioned correctly – once the mattress is full, it can’t be moved). Once the bed is about a half inch below the bed frame, turn off the water and add some waterbed conditioner (available where waterbeds are sold). Remove excess air from inside the mattress by sliding a pole or broomstick from the head of the bed to the foot of the mattress. Cap and seal the mattress.