Posted July 17th, 2014
By: Wesley Vaughn

Bamboo

Bamboo

Bamboo is the only kind of grass listed in tree identification guides. It is the largest and tallest grass, growing to tree-size, and it is woody.  Since ancient times in East Asia, bamboo has been an important building material. It has also been used for musical instruments, cooking and eating utensils, hats, mats, ship sails, and many other things, including fabrics.  At least 27 manufacturers reviewed on Beds.Org use bamboo, mostly in cover fabrics.

Bamboo is touted as a “green” material, and the raw material itself qualifies.  It requires no pesticides or fertilizers, grows quickly, does not need irrigation, and does not require replanting after being harvested.  Bamboo’s root system actually stops soil erosion, and it filters ground water. It also takes a lot of CO2 out of the air.

Bamboo closup_Feb09

Besides being “green,” bamboo is also naturally antimicrobial.  Bamboo has a substance called kun, which inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi.

While the bamboo plant is “green,” bamboo fabrics for clothing and mattresses is another thing.  There are actually two kinds of fibers coming from bamboo.  One is the natural fibers of the plant itself.  The other is rayon.

Natural bamboo fibers are not easily obtained, as cotton is.  The process of separating fibers from bamboo is similar to getting linen from flax. It involves crushing the bamboo, then rhetting (using enzymes or chemical agents to free the fibers), a process that is not cheap, especially for fine fibers. Bamboo fibers for textiles are also called “bamboo linen.”

Bamboo_AngelMist_Mounts_Asit

A few mattress manufacturers use natural bamboo fibers. Most of these are in cover or ticking fabric. Some of these are blends with silk, cotton, polyester or rayon.   Some fabrics are described as “bamboo-infused,” meaning that shorter bamboo fibers are spun with other fibers in the yarns used for the fabric.

Much of the bamboo used in  fabrics is “reconstituted bamboo cellulose fiber,” better known as rayon, or “bamboo rayon.” The cellulose in the bamboo is dissolved into a viscose liquid, which is extruded through spinnerets then solidified into fibers, a process similar to making rayon from wood.  The chemicals usually used are toxic, such as carbon disulfide and lye (caustic soda).  Even though the bamboo itself is ecologically friendly, the manufacturing process for bamboo rayon is environmentally problematic.

The Federal Trade Commission in 2010 ruled on the eco-friendly claims for bamboo fabrics.  Only fabrics made from bamboo pulp fibers can be called “bamboo” or “natural bamboo.” Since the only part of the bamboo plant that remains in rayon made from bamboo is the cellulose, it must be called “rayon.” This can be specified as “bamboo rayon” or “rayon from bamboo.”  Also, “viscose” can be used for “rayon.”  Therefore, the only ecological advantage of bamboo rayon over wood pulp rayon is the impact of the source plant.

Out of 27 manufacturers covered on Beds.Org who use bamboo, according to their own mattress descriptions, 15 use natural bamboo fibers, 4 use rayon, 2 use both, and with 6 the type of fiber is unspecified.

170px-Phyllostachys_nigra_folium

In conclusion, a mattress using fabrics made with natural bamboo fibers does have health and environmental benefits, such as being hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, breathable, and moisture wicking.  Using the finer fibers adds the advantage of a soft, smooth cover.  The primary advantage of bamboo rayon is the quality of the fabric itself: texture and durability.

Posted July 4th, 2014
By: Wesley Vaughn

Linen

Flax

What is linen?

Linen is one of the oldest plant fibers used by humans for clothing and bedding.  Our word “linen” comes from linon, the Greek word for flax.  It is made from fibers in the inner bark of flax stalks.  These fibers are separated from the flax by a process called “retting.” In this process, micro-organisms or caustic agents eat away the softer parts.  When the retted flax is crushed and washed, the fibers alone are left.

The cross-section of linen fibers is irregular.  This makes the thickness of strands uneven, thicker in some places, thinner in others, creating “knots” in linen threads which show in woven fabric, what is called the “linen look.”  In spite of this, the fabric is still smooth, strong and durable.

Linen is soft and breathable and wicks moisture away, keeping wearers cool in hot climates. In addition to being cool and smooth, linen is also lint-free.  The more it is washed, the softer it becomes.

How is linen used?

Egyptian woman wearing linen

Flax was cultivated extensively in ancient times.   Linen has been associated with purity, and was worn by priests of several religions, as well as by royalty and nobility, as we can see in Egyptian art.  Because the production of linen is more detailed and longer, it is more expensive than most other fibers, such as cotton and wool.  Therefore, even in recent times, linen cloth has been regarded as a higher-class fabric.

In the past 200 years, linen has been used for undergarments, nightclothes, fine shirts and blouses, etc.  It has also been used for tablecloths, towels, sheets and pillowcases.  Even today, with other fabrics being used, these items are still called “linens.”

Linen in bedding

Since mattresses were first made, those who could afford it preferred a linen ticking (or cover).  This has been true since the development of modern mattresses in the 19th Century.  Higher-class and more expensive mattresses are more likely to have linen coverings than the less expensive alternatives.  Even with modern linen production methods, few models are linen-covered, such as Linen Experience by Magniflex, The Alameda and The Pittock by Parklane Mattresses, and Tempur-Choice Supreme and Tempur-Choice Luxe by Tempur-Pedic.  And Stearns & Foster sells linen-covered foundations for their mattresses.  Linen used to be mostly woven, but as a mattress cover fabric it is usually knit.

Sheets, pillowcases, blankets and quilts are collectively called linens.  This does not mean that they all contain linen, but some do, especially higher-priced collections.

There are some advantages of linen as the cover fabric for a mattress.  The first is its ability to quickly absorb water, then release it.   This helps keep the sleeping surface of the mattress dry by absorbing perspiration.  The moisture then evaporates, which cools the surface and the sleeper.  Since linen is free of lint, it does not transfer lint to nightclothes.

Conclusion

Linen is more expensive than cotton and polyester, the two most common mattress cover fabrics.  But if you can afford it, and you find a mattresses otherwise preferable which is linen-covered, it is worth considering.

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Posted July 1st, 2014
By: Wesley Vaughn

Wool

"Flock of sheep". Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

“Flock of sheep”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Wool

The simplest definition of wool is hair grown by sheep.  It now includes hair from several types of goats as well as llamas.  Wool is one of the oldest fibers used by humans, and sheep are among the earliest domesticated animals.  From the many breeds of sheep come many varieties of wool, offering many choices to mattress manufacturers and their customers.

Since the beginning of recorded history, wool has been used in clothing, blankets and tents.  It was both woven and knitted.  As far as we know, sleeping mats were first made with straw, but at some point, wool was used in these precursors of mattresses.  Still, it was only one of the available choices.

Early mattresses were made using available materials for the ticking and for the fill: linen, straw, sawdust, moss, cotton, wool.  Wool is still used today, not only as batting and as cover fabric, but also as the base pad on the bottom of the mattress and as a fire retardant in the quilting on the top and sides.

Wool has several benefits when used in mattresses.  The most commonly known are temperature regulation and cushioning.  As to temperature regulation, wool not only keeps us warm, it can also keep us cool.  The texture of wool insulates the user.  Wool clothing is able to keep a person warm even when it is wet.  But wool can also cool.  It is breathable, letting air circulate.  It also wicks moisture, including perspiration, away from the body (or the sleeping surface).  This not only dries the user, but evaporation has a cooling effect.

The structure of wool makes it a cushioning material.  The strands are curly.  In bulk, they act like organic springs, though not as strong as steel.  One manufacturer, W. J. Southard, says they use a blend of wools from several sheep breeds.  The wools are selected for “breed, color, strength and micron-width,” and are blended to maximize resiliency, the key to cushioning.

The lanolin in wool repels dust mites, a major carrier of allergens.  Also, wool is a natural fire barrier, making chemical flame retardants unnecessary.

The kinds of wool used, as described by manufacturers, are Pashima, Joma, Mira, Merino, Angora, and lamb’s wool.  Places this wool comes from are France, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States.

Some lines of mattresses, or individual models, are advertised as having “organic” wool. This is wool from sheep which have not been subjected to chemical baths (a.k.a. sheep dip), and which has not been treated with chemicals.  Wool produced in the U.S. includes Eco-Wool.  This wool meets the specifications for organic, but is from small ranches which cannot afford the cost of  the certification process.

Wool is not used only for batting and pads.  It is also used in the cover fabric of several mattresses.  Usually this is in a blend, mostly with silk (another animal fiber).  Often it is the quilting material.

At least 29 of the mattress manufacturers reviewed in our mattress reviews here on Beds.Org use wool in some of their models.  However, there are other manufacturers, such as the Wool Bed Company,  who make all-wool mattresses.

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Posted June 28th, 2014
By: Wesley Vaughn

Gel

Tower Gel Layer

Technogel’s gel tower layer

 Infusion of bedding foams with gel was first used in Europe, and is now widely used in the United States.  Gel infusion was first introduced to modify the support properties of the foam.  Later it was promoted as making memory foam cooler.

What is gel?

Gel can be called a semi-solid.  It is both solid and fluid.  The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry defines it as this:  “Gel: Nonfluid colloidal network or polymer network that is expanded throughout its whole volume by a fluid…A gel has a finite, usually rather small, yield stress.”   A gel can be rigid or very soft.  The fluid can be watery, oily or gaseous.  The gels used in bedding foams are polyurethane/polyol gels (polyols are oily).

Gel Support

As said above, support modification was the first application of gel-infusion in memory foam.  Gel increases support, especially under hips and shoulders.  This does not degrade the conformity of the foam, so it still relieves pressure points.  This way, gel enhances memory foam.

Gel Cooling

Gel has been promoted by mattress manufacturers for its cooling properties, but that has been questioned recently.  According to some experts, the addition of gel, promotes open-cell formation, which allows air to circulate through the layer, and this is what cools the memory foam mattress.  But open-cell foams can be made without gel. Gel does have an initial cooling effect. That lasts until the gel has reached its limit.  But gel with open-cell structure is cooler than closed cell memory foams.

Gel Alone

Not all gel in mattresses is infused into foam.  A handful of models now have all-gel layers, usually the top one.  A few manufacturers specialize in mattresses with gel top layers, for example Technogel Sleeping and Blue Chip Medical Products.

Under Consideration

When shopping for a mattress, gel is one more feature you will see.  Mattresses usually cost more with gel than without.  Before you buy a model with gel, consider what you need and whether the gel foam or gel layer is worth it.

Posted June 28th, 2014
By: Wesley Vaughn

Polyurethane Foam

320px-Polyurethane

One of the common ingredients in mattresses and upholstered is polyurethane foam.  In descriptions of mattresses, it is often called “poly foam.” With differing densities, resiliency and other characteristics, it can be a base pad, support core, comfort layer, or quilting foam. It was used before the invention of memory foam, which itself was developed from polyurethane.

Polyurethane (PU) foam is made by linking large molecules, usually isocyanates, to each other with modified oil molecules called polyols, usually petroleum-derived. Polyurethane can be solid or foam. The foam is very supportive, making it useful in cushions and mattresses.

Most of the issues with polyurethane foam are related to its manufacture.  Isocyanates are toxic before becoming part of the PU foam.  I used to work on a line making foam-filled panels for garage doors.  Two liquids were injected between the sheet metal skins of the doors.  They immediate blended and swelled into foam, which cured to become firm.  One of the liquids was an isocyanate, and we had to be extremely cautious around it.

Another issue is outgassing.  For some time after it is made, polyurethane releases gasses with an unpleasant odor.  Careful selection of ingredients reduces the outgassing and the odor. Outgassing is also reduced if the foam is allowed to air out before being packaged for shipping.

Many mattress manufacturers use “plant-based” polyurethane foam.  From 15% to 20% of the polyols in this foam are from plant-derived oils.  At the current level of technology, no more plant oils can be used and still have a high quality polyurethane.  With further research & development, this may change. The plant-based polyols used are most often from soy oil, but other hydrocarbons, such as coconut oil and palm oil, are sometimes used.  Further technological development may see the use of many other plant oils.

One of the major manufacturers of polyurethane foam in the United States is FXI (formerly called Foamex).  Foamex was the brand name of the first foam mattresses, made by Firestone. Those were foam rubber (latex), but polyurethane was later used for mattresses.  However, much of the polyurethane used in mattresses is made in China.

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Posted June 22nd, 2014
By: Wesley Vaughn

Beware of Biased Reviews

by Wesley Vaughn

Magnifier

Bed and Mattress article on Beds.Org discussed the importance of impartial bed and mattress reviews.  Finding honest, unbiased, impartial mattress reviews and bed reviews is vital if we use them to determine which bed or mattress to buy.  But while looking for impartial reviews, we need to  be wary of those which are slanted, especially those which are fraudulent.

What is the purpose of a review?

A review is usually considered a careful, honest evaluation. Reviews of products are used by many shoppers in deciding whether to buy a certain product, such as a memory foam mattress. Therefore, they depend on having an honest evaluation of the item in question.

Why would review be biased?

There are both positive and negative reasons for a biased review.

Positive: A reviewer wants to promote a model or brand of mattresses, and does it with a favorable mattress review. If the reviewer is someone who owns and uses the mattress and really likes it, that’s OK.

Negative: A reviewer wants to slam a manufacturer or a mattress model. Even if this is from a genuine dissatisfied user, anger has a tendency to exaggerate the faults of the mattress.

Some reviews are fraudulent

If the reviewer is a retailer or manufacturer pretending to be a satisfied user, posting a favorable bed  or mattress review to steer the public to their models, it’s deceitful, fraudulent. This may be on the manufacturer’s own website. Most manufacturers don’t do this, especially if many customers post reviews. But they can be selective as to which reviews are published and the order in which they appear. For this reason, I’m careful when reading customer reviews on manufacturer sites.

Companies have been caught planting favorable reviews of their products on bed and mattress review sites. The manager of this site discovered submitted reviews that came from a manufacturer’s employees, and he disallowed them.

In another example, one person posted positive, 5-star reviews for four Amerisleep models (3 were identical) on Amazon.  Another person noticed this and commented, “How many mattresses did you buy? You reviewed 4 models by Amerisleep. All 5 star reviews, I might add.” So we also need to be careful when using reviews on a retailer’s site.

Impostor Review Sites

But what if an “independent” mattress review website is really run by a mattress manufacturer? Many consumers, unaware of the connection, can be convinced by the “expert” reviews to buy that brand. One manufacturer has several such sites. In fact, Amerisleep (part of One Mall Group, an online marketing firm) is affiliated with eleven* of these bed and mattress review sites. Their reviews and comparisons of products seem genuine at first. But when it comes to memory foam mattresses they favor Amerisleep. Reviews of latex mattresses favor Amerisleep’s affiliate Astrabeds, and those of water beds favor affiliate eSleepmasters.

These sites do not acknowledge their affiliation with Amerisleep and Astrabeds, nor with each other. They do quote the other sites, with links to them. As consumers follow the links, this boosts them in search results. So a search for “mattress reviews” or “memory foam mattress reviews” or “mattress reviews, memory foam” has two to four of the sites on the first search results page, and one or two (or more) on following pages. This dilutes Google, Yahoo or Bing search results.

In spite of slanted mattress reviews and adjustable bed reviews, there are places with unbiased reviews of beds and mattresses, including Beds.Org.  But if an “expert” review site  seems to keep favoring one model or brand, beware.

_______________________________________________________

* These are the 11 mattress review sites affiliated with Amerisleep:
1.  BestMattress-Brand.org
2.  BestMattress-Reviews.org
3.  BestMattressOnline.com
4.  Consumer-Mattress-Reviews.com
5.  MattressJournal.com,
6.  Mattress-Inquirer.com
7.  MemoryFoamMattress-Guide.org
8.  SleepJunkie.org
9.  TheBest-Mattress.org
10. TheSleepyShopper.com
11. WhatsTheBestBed.org

 

Posted June 6th, 2014
By: Wesley Vaughn

Foundations

Triton Foundation

Overview

Just as a foundation supports a building, so a foundation supports a mattress.  When mattresses were first made, they sat directly on the ground or the floor.  Sometimes the mattress was set on a raised area, a platform or ledge, which then became the foundation. This helped keep the bed dry and warm. At some point in time, those who could afford it had beds with legs built to hold the bed off the floor with free space underneath.

Raised beds are not new. The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy records that, about 1400 BC, King Og of Bashan had an iron bed.  Long before that, before 3000 BC, wealthy Egyptians had beds, the predecessors of modern beds and foundations.

Egyptian bed 8

Egyptian Bed

Today, we have several kinds of mattress foundations.  The bed and the foundation used to be one-and-the-same, but now most foundations rest in or on a bed frame (or bedstead).  This began with the introduction of box springs.  Since they did not have legs of their own, they rested on a simple frame with legs or casters. Now all kinds of foundations can be fitted on frames, with or without headboard and/or footboard.

Kinds of Foundations

Triton Foundation

Platform -

The platform bed can be considered the “original mattress foundation.”  The mattress was little more than cushioning for the hard surface.  After the introduction of memory foam beds in 1991 (1992 in the U.S.), manufacturers realized that foam mattresses needed consistent support.  They introduced platform foundations, which could be placed on the same frame used for a box spring.  Introduced for foam mattresses, the platform foundation was perfect for airbeds.  Now it is also used with some innerspring models.

At first, the standard height of a platform foundation was the same as a box spring, 8 or 9 inches.  As mattresses became higher with the addition of more foam comfort layers, they became harder to get into, so the low profile foundation of 4 or 5 inches was introduced.  Now some manufacturers have a 2” ultra low platform foundation for ultra high mattresses.

 

Antique steel bed 2

Antique steel bed with wire grid springs

220px-Eight-way-hand-tied-boxspring_Shifman

Shifman 8-way hand-tied box spring

Box Spring

The first bedsprings were wire grids fastened to the bed frame by tight coil springs.  Used for thin cotton batting mattresses, they provided resiliency and were not as uncomfortably hard as a solid platform.  After the introduction of the innerspring mattress, the box spring was invented.  It is springs in a wood frame (box) covered with fabric.  The springs are firm enough to support the mattress and sleepers, yet resilient enough to absorb shock.  This makes the mattress last longer.  The springs themselves are not necessarily coils.  They can be an array of extra-heavy gauge S-shaped or corrugated spring wire.

ESW mattress_materials_slats_02

European Sleep Works Flexible Slat System

European Wood Slats

Preferred in Europe, these foundations have several closely spaced slats made from a springy wood, such as beech.  Like the box spring, a wood slat foundation absorbs shock.  Unlike the box spring, it does not depend on metal, making it preferred by persons wary of the amplification of electromagnetic radiation (radio waves).  Wood slat foundations are now being made and sold by mattress manufacturers in the United States, such as European Sleep Works (ESW).  The “Flexible Slat System” made by ESW is adjustable so the users can make it customize the response. With a slat foundation, if slats are spaced closely enough, they can be used for memory foam mattresses.

Ergomotion  Series 600_Quarter_slide

Ergomotion Series 600

Adjustable Bases

They began as hospital beds.  Healthcare is still the major market for Invacare and a significant one for others, such as Med-Lift and Flex-a-Bed, but adjustable foundations are now consumer items.  They are promoted not only for health, but for comfort and convenience.  Modern models include massage functions, have electrical outlets and USB ports for appliances and electronic devices., and are Bluetooth enabled.  Most adjustable bases can now fit within existing bed frames.

Aesthetics

Appearance isn’t everything, but it does count.  Most foundations sold by a mattress manufacturer are upholstered to match the mattress.  Many mattress sets (mattress plus foundation) are designed to be compatible with almost any room décor or theme.  Some manufacturers who make the mattresses and foundations to order will let you choose the color(s).

The Foundational Consideration

When buying a mattress, don’t forget the foundation.  What types of foundations does the mattress you are considering need?  Does the warranty specify certain foundations?  How much do these foundations cost?  Does the foundation you have meet the requirements?  The right base will extend the life of your mattress, help you sleep better, and benefit your spine.

 

Posted June 6th, 2014
By: Wesley Vaughn

Latex

Tapping Latex

Latex  is used in several ways in mattresses and bedding. It is commonly used in pillows and mattress pads/toppers.  It can be found in cover quilting and comfort layers on innerspring mattresses.  Even memory foam mattresses may have a latex layer.  Then there are latex mattresses, usually a latex comfort section over a base foam support core.  Some latex models also have a latex support core, either (mostly) a high-density and high resiliency latex foam or (seldom) a solid block of latex.

Formerly called “foam rubber,” latex foam is made in a number of ways.  Foam rubber was first made by Dunlop, a tire manufacturer.  Foaming agents were used to whip liquid synthetic rubber into foam.  Then rubber tree sap (natural latex) was whipped and cured into solid foam.  Now there are several kinds of latex foam, depending on the proportion of natural latex and the composition of other ingredients.  All natural latex foam is (or should be) made from 100% natural latex sap. Natural latex foam is partly synthetic.  Then there is synthetic latex foam.  Synthetic ingredients can be petroleum derived or natural ingredients, such as soy oil.

Latex foam is highly resilient.  Its recovery time from pressure is virtually instantaneous.  Latex is conformable, not as much as memory foam, but it is more durable.  Its durability partly depends on the manufacturing process.  Latex is used in some mattresses for the support core.

The oldest method is the Dunlop process.  Liquid latex is mixed with the foaming agents and poured into molds to cure.  The cured latex foam then is cut to specification.

Another common manufacturing method for latex foam is the Talalay process.  The liquid latex is fed into a closed mold from which air has been removed.  Freezing and insertion of carbon dioxide are used in expanding the foam, and heat is used to cure it.  This is a more costly process, but it can be done without toxic ingredients or agents. Also, parts can be molded in their final form.

Like memory foam, latex is sometimes infused with gel for cooling.  Latex foam is naturally breathable, and it is cooler than memory foam, but the addition of gel is seen as an added value for cooling and its smoother support. Latex is naturally resistant to bacteria, mold, mildew, and dust mites.  Properly washed latex foam is hypoallergenic, since allergens have been washed away.

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Posted May 14th, 2014
By: Wesley Vaughn

Memory Foam

Hand Impression in Memory Foam

Hand Impression in Memory Foam

 

Visco-elastic memory foam was developed from polyurethane.  It is denser than polyurethane, and is also more sensitive to heat.  When someone sits or lies on it, the memory foam becomes softer, allowing the person to sink into it. This way it conforms to a sitter’s or sleeper’s body contours.  The memory foam can be formulated to be more or less heat sensitive, therefore more or less conforming. When weight is removed, it “remembers” the body contour for a short time before returning to its original shape.

About the term visco-elastic

A viscous material behaves like a thick liquid, slowly giving way to pressure.  Elastic materials stretch, usually in one or few directions, then return when the stress is removed. Visco-elastic materials show both properties.

Heat and Cooling

One drawback of memory foam is its heat build-up.  When it absorbs heat, it becomes warmer.  For a sleeper, this can become uncomfortable.  Over time, several ways have been used to cool memory foam.

Mgfx 7-zone MF core

Magniflex soy-aloe memory foam core with zoned support

The first solution was to promote air flow to make memory foam breathable.  Ventilating the foam by perforation or by cutting channels in its surface allowed air to flow through it and by it.

Then manufacturers began to make the cells in the foam open and more connected to make the foam itself permeable to air. Open-cell memory foam is more breathable than closed cell foam.

Now it is common practice to infuse the memory foam with gel. The gel acts as a heat sink, carrying heat away to where it can dissipate. The most common method of gel infusion is to stir beads of microencapsulated gel into the liquid used to make the memory foam.  Variations of this are the size of the beads and the kind of gel. At least one manufacturers calls its substance “gel crystals.”

Another method used by a few manufacturers is to swirl liquid gel into the memory foam mixture.  This memory foam has streaks of gel.  Additionally, a layer of gel itself may be embedded in the layer of memory foam.  Some models use this for lumbar support.

Some manufacturers add other substances to cool the memory foam.  Among these are a gel with phase change materials, diamond dust, or graphite.

Since memory foam is basically a kind of polyurethane, there may be some emissions.  Using more plant-derived oils reduces this.  However, memory foam has to be cut more slowly because of its “memory” and has to have time to recover before the next cut.  This extra time allows the foam to air out more before being put into a mattress then packaged for shipping.

Future of memory Foam

Other materials, such as latex, have been engineered to mimic memory foam’s conformability.  And microcoils are being used among the comfort layers to conform to the sleeper’s contours.  Still, with new memory foam cooler than the original version, it appears that memory foam will be used in mattreses for the foreseeable future.

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Posted May 14th, 2014
By: Wesley Vaughn

Cotton

800px-CottonPlant

Cotton bolls ready for harvest

 

Cotton is made from fibers in the seedpods of plants in the Gossypium genus of the Mallow family.  The name “cotton” comes from goz, Arabic for “soft material.”  From Arabic comes the Spanish algodon, then English cotton.  Cultivation of cotton is as old as civilization in Asia, Africa and Central America.  It was introduced into what is now the United States in 1556 in Florida and 1607 in Virginia.  The cotton plant grows in tropical and subtropical areas.  Alaska cotton (also called cotton grass) belongs to the sedge family and is not suitable for making fabric.

Cotton was originally carded by hand to remove seeds and separate long staple fibers from the shorter lint.  Spinning the staple fibers into thread was done on a spinning wheel, weaving on a manually operated loom and knitting by hand.  Then in the eighteenth century machine spinning was invented in England and the cotton gin in America, followed in the next century by machine weaving and knitting, making cotton fabrics widely available and affordable. The United States is the largest exporter of cotton, while China is the largest producer.

Cotton, which is almost pure cellulose, is best known for its softness and absorbency, making it suitable for dressing wounds and wrapping babies.  Piles of cotton are both supportive and cushioning, making it ideal for filling many early mattresses.  Most of those current mattress manufacturers which began in the 1800′s used cotton as padding in their first mattresses.  With the invention of innerspring mattresses, cotton batting cushioned the user from the coils.

Cotton canvas was the covering of most early mattresses.  Even heavier cotton fabric separated the unwoven batting from the coils.  Although foams have replaced cotton as batting in most mattresses, cotton cushioning is still used by several manufacturers.  A few of these are Naturepedic, Organic Mattresses Inc., Savvy Rest, Aireloom, E.S. Kluft and Royal-Pedic.  Almost all manufacturers have at least some mattresses covered with cotton fabric.

Many manufacturers have models featuring organic cotton. This cotton is not genetically modified and not subjected to chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Non-organic cotton may have residue from chemicals, which could irritate skin in some persons. To be certified as organic cotton, the land where it is raised has to have had no chemicals used on it for at least three years.  The cotton also has to have been processed without using certain chemicals.  Organic cotton is grown in at least ten nations.

An important advantage of organic cotton is that it is ecologically friendly. Heavy fertilization and pesticide use have harmed the environment in many places.

As new materials are developed and introduced into mattresses, cotton still remains a staple, and for many people it is the material of choice.


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