The one thing I really hate about travel is sleeping in rickety hotel beds. Just recently, I laid down onto a hotel bed after a long trip only to be met with persistent squeaking noises at my every toss and turn. Obviously, I’m not going to be able to do much for a hotel bed, but if I can help anyone else avoid going through what I went through during those few nights, I will. So today, we’re going to figure out how to stop a wooden or metal bed from squeaking.
As you know, I’m a firm believer in having a quiet home. Well, sleep factors into that in a big way:
- Sleep reduces stress and the likelihood of mental health issues.
- It improves memory and alertness, making us more productive.
- People who get the recommended amount of sleep are more immune to inflammation, heart disease, or even cancer.
- Sleep also decreases the likelihood of obesity.
So you see, making our environments conducive to sleep should definitely be a priority. But even if you’re able to cover up the sound of your partner snoring, it will all go to waste if the bed itself is making a racket. But before you start taking the whole thing apart, you should try to figure out exactly what’s causing the noise.
The Source of the Squeaking Noise
As with any soundproofing project, the first thing we need to do is locate exactly where the noise is coming from. Doing this, at least narrows down the area we’ll be working in.
Now, there are several things that could be causing the noise, including your mattress, the box spring, the screws or bolts, and the wood itself. Here’s how you can figure out which of those you’ll need to work on, so you can skip right to the tip that will be the most helpful to you later on.
First, check if your mattress is the guilty party. Take it off the bed and put it on the floor, then roll around to your heart’s content. If it’s an older spring mattress, it will almost definitely squeak, though sometimes even memory foam mattresses are noisy. So you should check the mattress this way no matter what kind it is.
If your bed has a box spring (some don’t), you can test it in the same way. As their name suggests, box springs did traditionally have springs in them, which tended to get noisier with age. However, nowadays, mattress foundations are more popular — and those are simple wooden or metal frames encased in fabric. If the box spring can’t come off the bed, check it by rocking it slightly without disturbing the bed frame.
Finally, you’ll need to check the bed frame itself. Push it around a bit, taking it by the posts, the sideboards, and the slats that hold the mattress.
When you’re checking the bed frame, you may not be able to hear the difference between wood-on-wood noises and metal-on-metal ones. Rather than pinpointing the source of the noise, you can just deal with the entire frame later.
Things You Might Need to Fix a Squeaky Bed
Now that you have a general idea of what’s causing the noise, you’ll be able to get what you need to fix it.
If you’ve discovered that the mattress is the primary culprit, you may want to get a new one — especially if you’re still sleeping on a spring mattress. However, in some cases, you may be able to get away with not buying anything at all. Or, you could pad the space between the mattress and the bed frame with an old blanket or a rug. When I was a kid, that’s what stopped my mattress from rubbing against the slats.
On the other hand, if the box spring is the cause of the squeaking, you could either replace it too, or hope that a bit of oil will fix the issue. If you want to try the latter option, you’ll need WD-40 and a stapler or a needle and thread.
In fact, you can keep your WD-40 for your bed frame. If the squeaking is coming from the frame, you may need:
- A screwdriver, a hex wrench, or an open-ended wrench (depending on whether your bed frame has bolts or screws).
- Extra screws or bolts (in case one of the existing ones is rusty).
- Plastic or rubber washers (the flat circular discs that go between the bolts and the wood).
- Beeswax, talcum powder, or another wood and metal lubricant.
- Old socks, clothes, blankets, or rubber to pad the bed frame with.
Now that you’ve put together your toolkit, we can start fixing this problem.
12 Ways to Fix a Wooden or Metal Bed (And Stop the Squeaking)
I’ve found about 12 ways to solve this issue, hopefully once and for all. However, some methods also have temporary alternatives I’ll mention. These will be the quick fix options you could probably use even in a hotel. Let’s just say I could’ve really used these tips a while back.
I’ve listed my suggestions in the order I’d try them, but not everyone will want to do things my way. And if you’ve managed to isolate the source of the noise, you can skip many of the following tips and just focus on the ones that deal with your particular problem. So let’s start with the mattress.
1. Rotate the Mattress
My first tip concerns a squeaky mattress. Sometimes, all it takes to get around this problem is to rotate the mattress so that your head is now where your feet used to go. Okay, so saying it like that sounds pretty unappealing, but I promise it works.
Usually, the weakest, and therefore the noisiest, parts of a mattress are the ones your body presses against the most, especially when you’re turning in your sleep. Spring mattresses are the most vulnerable to this kind of wear, and they often start squeaking as a result.
Fortunately, rotating, or even flipping a mattress often does the trick. I’d even do this every six months or so, since distributing the weight equally helps prolong the longevity of the product.
However, if you need a quick fix that will have a similar effect, some people recommend finding the exact spot that’s causing the trouble and putting a hard object like a book directly under it.
2. Get a New Mattress
On the other hand, some mattresses are simply beyond repair. When I was a kid, I was sleeping on the same one my father had slept on in his teens. That means that the spring mattress was actually about 20 or 30 years old — when they’re only supposed to be in use for a decade and a half at most.
If you want to sleep on a more durable and silent product, I suggest going for foam or latex mattresses. You could even buy a foam mattress and a latex topper or vice versa, depending on what kind of surface you like to sleep on.
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You see, memory foam is such a popular material because it distributes the weight of our bodies evenly. Think about those commercials of people jumping on one side of the bed while an immovable glass of wine is standing on the other side. You may not even have to rotate these types of mattresses. However, some of them do tend to hold onto heat and they could also be too soft for comfort.
In that case, you can opt for natural latex mattresses, which are generally firmer and cooler. These two should also be fairly silent since they don’t have metal components that can rust and squeak. Still, knowing how my foam shoe bottoms started squeaking after I got them wet, I’d suggest keeping liquids away from your new mattress.
3. Oil the Inside of the Box Spring
Now, we can deal with the box spring if you have one. Like the mattress, you could rotate this layer 180 degrees to make sure you’re not putting pressure on the same part every time you lie down.
However, even if you rotate it, you could also spray lubricant inside the box spring itself. Open up the bottom layer of the box spring and make sure you hit everywhere two metal or wood parts meet. The WD-40 I linked to earlier is great because it comes with a flexible straw that can help you reach more areas without having to rip too big of a hole in the fabric.
Once you’re done, you can close the fabric back up with a construction stapler or just sew it shut. You can be as sloppy as you’d like here — the bottom side will touch the bed frame, so no one will see it and you won’t feel it while you’re sleeping.
4. Replace the Box Spring if You Can’t Fix It
If the box spring is beyond help, you can swap it out with another product. As I’ve mentioned earlier, if you go looking for a new box spring for your bed, you’ll inevitably stumble onto mattress foundations instead. These metal or wood frames could still make noise at some point due to the wood or metal rubbing against itself. However, new ones should be as quiet as they can be — they even advertise their noise-free properties.
Keep in mind that these things come with some assembly required. In fact, I recommend rubbing beeswax between the parts, even as you’re putting them together. As they say: “The best defense is a good offense.”
The product I have linked to above is also available in both metal and wood. There are also several sizes and heights to choose from as well. Ultimately, box springs and foundations are meant to prevent your mattress from sagging. But if you’re on the fence about the whole thing, or if you figure that your bed frame can do the same thing without any help, you can also plop your mattress down directly onto the frame.
Still, if you decide to eschew bed springs altogether, you can put an old blanket between the bed frame and the mattress. A blanket or a rug would protect the mattress from damages, as it’s slid against the bottom surface. And if you’re sleeping in a hotel bed, you could temporarily fix the problem by padding the slats with clothes.
5. Tighten the Bolts
Now that we’ve done all we could with the mattress and the box spring, let’s see what we can do if the bed frame itself is making the squeaking noises. If your bed is moving around when you try to rock it, the noise is coming from the wood panels rubbing against each other.
Fortunately, this is easy enough to fix. Depending on whether your bed frame has screws or bolts, you may need a screwdriver, a hex wrench, or an open-ended one. Once you figure out what you’re working with, you can go around tightening the loose parts.
However, if your bed frame was only nailed together, you could also reinforce those fasteners. I recommend using corner braces and screws to strengthen everything along the inside of the frame.
6. Lubricate the Screws
If you notice some resistance as you’re tightening the screws or bolts in the frame, you may need something to smooth things over. You could use the WD-40 I mentioned earlier or a bar of beeswax if you prefer something more natural.
Beeswax actually prevents rust, though it could also help the wooden parts of your bed frame slide along each other more easily. But if you don’t have WD-40 or beeswax, rubbing a dry bar of soap or even a candle against the metal should work just as well.
7. Put Beeswax on the Wooden Parts
While you’ve got your beeswax with you, you might as well run it over the inside of the frame too. In fact, if you’ve traced the noise to the frame, you can even disassemble it. Then, you’ll be able to really get into the parts that are rubbing against each other and lubricate them with the beeswax. Once again, a bar of soap or candle wax would be good replacements if you don’t have beeswax.
8. Replace the Bolts and Screws You Can’t Fix
Of course, if the screws and bolts in your bed frame are just not budging, they could be too rusted to function. Try to take them out as carefully as you can, and replace them with new ones. While you’re at it, you can also rub the wood under the corner braces with beeswax and/or put in new washers as well.
9. Replace Metal Washers
As I’ve already explained, washers are the round discs that separate the screw or bolt head from the wood. Most of these fasteners come with matching metal washers. However, having metal rubbing against metal isn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep, and neither is having metal against wood. Instead, you can use rubber or nylon washers for a more flexible and quiet fit.
10. Stuff the Gaps in the Bed Frame
Sometimes, no matter how tightly you fasten your screws and bolts, you’ll still see some gaps in the bed frame. And even if there aren’t any, you could still pad the places where the different pieces of wood meet.
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If you end up disassembling the frame, you can take the opportunity to put rubber or cork strips between the panels of wood before you bolt them together. Both materials will prevent the wood from rubbing together. However, I’d say that the cork would be a more compatible material for wooden bed frames. What’s more, it would probably be a bit easier to cut and position as well.
11. Even Out the Bed Legs (or the Floor)
If your floor isn’t even, you may need to put something under the legs as well. For a quick fix, you could use folded paper.
However, you could also use something like the non-slip furniture pads from X-Protector. Or you can even make your own non-slip pads if you need them to be different heights. Use the rubber strip I’ve linked to above to glue several pieces together.
12. Get Another Bed Frame
If you still haven’t managed to get the squeak out of your bed after all of this work, it may be time to throw in the towel. Let someone else worry about the squeaky bed — you can even donate it to Goodwill. I’m sure there are people who don’t mind hearing the occasional squeak. As for you, getting a new bed frame would surely help your noise problem.
Final Thoughts on Stopping a Wooden Bed From Squeaking
Having recently spent a few nights on a noisy bed, I know how frustrating trying to relax on one can be. You can’t sleep well while hearing the continuous high-pitched sounds every time you move.
So if you’re currently sleeping on a squeaky bed, I hope this article helped you identify and stop the noise. Now, the only thing left to do is test out the changes we just made!