John is looking for a lightweight jacket, one to keep him dry and cool on a rainy summer day. He finds a Windbreaker online “with performance fabrics.”
“Huh?” he thinks, “What’s that?”
Mary needs another jogging outfit. She wants to stay cool and dry, not soggy and itchy as in the old running clothes. Aha! Here on Amazon is a top-and-shorts combo made of “high level performance fabric.”
“Okay,” she mutters, “They’re throwing all these new-fangled terms at me.”
Jack & Jill need a new mattress. Walking through Mattresses Galore, they press down on one mattress after another. Jill lies on one and pops off quickly. Jack tries another one, sighs, and says to Jill, “Let’s take a closer look at this one.”
Jill lifts the tag and reads the specifications. After listing the interior components, such as titanium coils and memory foam, it describes the cover: “Stretch-knit performance fabric to conform to you, keep you dry, and balance temperature.”
“Jack, have you ever heard of performance fabric?”
“I’ve heard the term, but have no idea what it is.”
So, what is performance fabric? How is it made? And what is it used for?
So, what are performance fabrics?
Wikipedia says, “Performance fabrics are fabrics engineered for a wide variety of uses where the performance of the fabric is the major parameter.”
Textile Glossary defines performance fabrics as “Fabrics made for a variety of end-use applications, which provide functional qualities, such as moisture management, UV protection, anti-microbial, thermo-regulation, and wind/water resistance.”
According to one writer, some natural fiber products may be considered “performance fabrics.” For instance, Merino wool is excellent at wicking moisture. But most performance fabrics were designed to perform in certain ways.
Performance fabrics may be ordinary cloth which is coated or otherwise treated to achieve specified properties. The fibers themselves may be engineered to act in certain ways. For instance, synthetic fibers, such as polyester, nylon, or rayon, can be extruded with a cross section forming channels for moisture, or formed with protruding hairs for trapping air.
One old performance fabric was oilcloth. It was cotton duck canvas coated on one side with boiled linseed oil (the same oil used in oil based paints) and metal salts. The result was a flexible waterproof fabric which was lighter and less expensive than leather. In the middle of the 20th Century, vinyl replaced linseed oil in oilcloth. I remember wooden kitchen tables covered with vinyl oilcloth.
Later, silicone was sprayed or otherwise applied to tents, canvas tarps, and outerwear to make it water repellent. A lightweight rain shell is washable, but has to be retreated after washing. A common treatment is Scotchguard by 3M.
A well-known current performance fabric is Gore-Tex. Invented in 1969, it is a membrane fabric coated with Teflon. This membrane is the middle of a layered fabric. It will repel water, but still be breathable, allowing water vapor to escape. In other words, keeping the rain out doesn’t turn your suit into a sweat-box.
Performance fabrics do more than manage moisture. Some manage temperatures directly. One means of doing this is to make the fabric more heat conductive. With common fibers providing the required strength and flexibility, heat conducting materials are spun into the threads, or woven or knit into the fabric. These may be metallic strands. But one choice is carbon fibers (also known as fibrous graphite).
Moisture wicking fabrics provide cooling by the evaporation of the moisture drawn out to the surface. Since a user perspires more when hot, this is when evaporation is greatest, cooling when most needed. But what if it is too cool? Can the fabric switch from cooling to heating.?
Some performance fabrics are actually engineered to keep temperatures within a specified range, not just evaporate drawn out moisture. How do they do this? The fabric is infused with Phase Change Materials (PCMs). PCMs change their physical state (solid-liquid-gas), absorbing heat to cool the fabric, and releasing heat to warm it up.
PCM-infused fabrics are a type of smart (interactive) fabrics. They react to specific changes in the environment.
Two major categories of performance fabrics are value added fabrics and engineered fabrics. Value added fabrics are regular fabric which has been coated, infused or otherwise treated to add the desired properties. Engineered fabrics are formed from fibers which already have the characteristics of the finished material.
Just a few major producers of performance fabrics are DuPont, Milliken and Invista. Milliken has four types of performance fabrics. Invista makes Outlast, and DuPont produces Sorona. Besides these, there are many other perfomance fabric manufacturers.
Now we have enough performance fabrics on the market that, as the saying goes, “You need a score card to know the players.” Performance fabrics are quickly becoming so prevalent that soon they may be taken for granted.
Textile Glossary: http://www.textileglossary.com/terms/performance-fabrics.html
Jack and Jill are shopping for a new mattress. They visit a couple of mattress stores, several furniture stores, and a department store. Just so they don’t miss anything, they check the Internet. Jill read that some brands and models are sold only online.
“Hey!” Jack says, “We didn’t see that when shopping for our first mattress.”
“That must be something new,” Jill remarks.
“We’ve had the Serta for over 25 years,” Jack adds. “A lot can be new in that time.”
Let’s face it; there have been a lot of new things in mattresses in the past quarter century. If it’s been that long since you’ve shopped for a mattress, there’s a lot to find out.
Jill points at the screen. “This model is called a ‘Euro-top.’ What is that?”
“I don’t know,” Jack replied. “Maybe it’s just another name for a pillowtop. What’s the difference? I saw a ‘box top‘ earlier.”
Well? What is the difference between a pillow top and a euro top? Or a box top, for that matter?
First of all, some owners of mattresses found their mattresses were too firm. This was especially true during the time when it was commonly thought that firmer was better for back support. Mattress pads, or toppers, were sold to soften the feel of the bed without having to spend for a new mattress.
Mattress manufacturers have been adding padding to one or both sides of a mattress to soften the feel. Thicker and softer padding is used to make a mattress plusher. This can be done without sacrificing the underlying support of the innerspring or the base foam.
These mattresses can be made even plusher by adding a topper. Toppers have to be held to the mattress somehow. This can be with corner harnesses or with skirts (like a fitted sheet). A topper could shift if not held on tightly enough.
Some manufacturers began sewing toppers to the mattress. Some of these are still called toppers. Then some began to be called pillow toppers or pillow tops, followed by box tops. Essentially, euro tops are box tops. “Euro” sounds more classy.
The distinction between a pillow top and a box top is easy to visualize. A pillow top looks like a mattress-sized pillow sitting on the mattress, while a box top is boxy (squared sides).
The pillow top usually has a single bead around the edge. It is sewn to the top cover of the mattress a little way in from the edge.
The box top, on the other hand, has top and bottom beads. The bottom one is sewn to the top bead of the mattress proper.
Visually, the side of the mattress continues to the top of the box top (now called a euro top) with a seam along the side just below the top, while the edge of the pillow top sits above the top edge of the mattress.
The feel between a pillowtop mattress and a eurotop mattress is slightly different. The pillow top seems a little softer, because there is more give at the edge. The eurotop mattress feels a bit firmer because of the support along the edge. This diference is more noticeable close to the edge of the mattress.
The lifetime of a eurotop mattress is generally somewhat longer than a pillowtop model. This is due to the additional edge support.
Not all mattress makers strictly follow the technical distinctions between pillow top and euro top and use the terms interchangeably. Unfortunately, this causes some confusion. Also, some brands call the top layer a “euro top” when the only distinction is a seam an inch or two from the top surface. Technically, a pillow top or euro top is an attached topper, meaning that it sits on top of the top cover or ticking of the actual mattress.
As to spelling the term as one word or two, this is not standardized, but some distinction is used by some companies, though not always consistently. In this usage, “pillow top” and “Euro top” are the toppers themselves, while “pillowtop” and “eurotop” are adjectives applied to the mattresses. In other words, a pillowtop mattress has a pillow top, and a eurotop mattress has a euro top.
Jack and Jill bought a medium firm tight-top mattress and a plush topper. After reading customer reviews about high profile plush mattresses sagging, they figured it would be less expensive to replace the topper than the entire mattress.
a few pillowtop, boxtop and eurotop models
Lyocell, better known by the brand name Tencel®, is a cellulosic fiber. This means that it is regenerated cellulose. Natural cellulose is dissolved from wood pulp and extruded into filaments which are spun into threads and yarns for textile production.
Tencel® is the brand name used for lyocell produced by Lenzig AG, an Austrian company. Lenzig bought American Enka, the company that first produced lyocell, and it is now the only large scale producer.
Lyocell is further classified as a “third generation cellulosic fiber.” In 2015, Lenzig had produced viscose (rayon) for 100 years, Modal for 50 years, and lyocell for 25.
Rayon is the original regenerated cellulose fiber. Modal is a development from rayon. It has a higher wet strength and is machine washable. It is also much softer.
Lyocell has the advantage over rayon and Modal of a more environmentally acceptable manufacturing process. The production first two fibers requires use of bleach, sulfuric acid, and other noxious chemicals to remove lignin and dissolve the cellulose. Lyocell uses an amide acid, an organic solvent, to dissolve the cellulose from wood pulp. From 97% to 99% of the amide acid is recovered and reused. This leaves a much smaller environmental footprint than producing rayon or Modal.
Lyocell (Tencel) is more expensive to produce than rayon. That is why it is usually found in higher priced luxury products, such as the Aireloom Nimbus Pillow. Patagonia, a manufacturer of outdoor clothing, chooses Tencel over rayon (including bamboo rayon) for use in its products primarily because of the environmental impact of manufacturing rayon. Like the other cellulosic fibers, lyocell is biodegradable.
The properties of lyocell do give it some advantages over rayon. Like Modal, it is more washable. It is also stronger, and it is static free. The signature advantage of Tencel is its extra absorbancy. This alone gives lyocell preference over rayon and many other fibers for controlling moisture and temperatures, which accounts for its use in outerwear and activewear. It is also why it appears in a number of mattress covers, for instance some mattress models by Ashley Sleep, Aireloom Bedding, Northwest Bedding, and Simmons Beautyrest.
The newest development for Lyocell (Tencel) is nano-fibrils, extremely small included fibers that increase absorption while making the thread smoother.
Rayon from bamboo is promoted by many as evironmentally friendly because of how bamboo is grown. But that is offset by the process of making rayon from the bamboo. Ed Mass, the President of Yes, It’s Organic, wishes the process for producing Tencel will be applied to bamboo fiber, introducing bamboo lyocell. Would this be called “Bambocel“?
(all accessed on 01/07/2016)
Lenzig AG: http://lenzing.com/
Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/5572.html
Organic Clothing Blogs: http://organicclothing.blogs.com/my_weblog/2005/11/tencel_sustaina.html
A November 2015 Beds.org review found that most of the top-selling pillows on Amazon featured bamboo. However, on reading the descriptions for individual pillows, some said the covers of the pillows contained “bamboo rayon” (or viscose) or “Rayon from bamboo,” while others just said “bamboo.” So, what is the distinction? What is the difference between bamboo and rayon from bamboo? And are the ones labeled “bamboo” really rayon?
First, bamboo itself is a natural product, a woody grass which grows in dense thickets to tree size. Parts of Asia have forests of bamboo. This plant has been used for thousands of years for building material, fuel, fibers, tools and many other uses, even food.
Bamboo grows so well and regenerates so quickly that it really doen’t need fertilizers. It is also so resistant to microbes, molds and other destructive organisms that it does not need pesticides. And anyone who has seen bamboo take over a plot of ground will testify that growing bamboo does not require herbicides. For these reasons, bamboo itself is billed as a “green” product, consumer safe and environmentally friendly.
When it comes to fabrics, the question is why is it sometimes called “bamboo”? And other times called “rayon”? And what does this mean for the consumer?
Textile fibers are generally classified as natural or synthetic. In a way, rayon is both. The actual substance, cellulose, is made by plants, and the source used in rayon is wood, whether from trees or from bamboo. But the cellulose is extracted from the wood, liquified and extruded as fibers, sheets, or blocks. Sheets of extruded cellulose are called cellophane, blocks are called celluloid, and fibers are called rayon (or viscose). So rayon can be classified as artificial, a natural substance re-formed in a synthetic process.
Here is where the subject of bamboo gets tacky. Bamboo fibers can be extracted by a process similar to producing hemp fibers or linen. This can take a long time and is generally more expensive than making rayon.
The real benefit of rayon is its texture and feel, which is very much like silk. However, the process of making rayon is generally not a “green” process. Harsh chemicals are used to extract and liquify the cellulose, hardly environmentally kind.
“But what about the benefits of bamboo?” someone asks. “Isn’t bamboo anti-microbial? Isn’t it anti-fungal?” The original bamboo fibers are just that. But cellulose is the only surviving ingredient of bamboo in the rayon. The plant’s antibiotic properties are lost in the process.
I have traced the question of “Bamboo or rayon?” at least as far back as 2007. In October 2009, the Federal Trade Commission settled with a company charged with claiming that rayon made from bamboo was “green” and had the health benefits of natural bamboo.
The FTC has also issued bulletins on the subject: How to Avoid Bamboozling Your Customers to manufacturers, and ‘Bamboo’ Fabrics to consumers.
The FTC has also published rules and guidelines pertaining to “all environmental marketing claims” and The Textile Products Identification Act (TPIA). In the TPIA, mattress covers are exempt (except for “green” claims).
They have also taken action against retailers (such as Amazon, Wal Mart and JC Penney) and manufacturers (such as The M Group, Inc. and Pure Bamboo, LLC) several times since 2009, including December 2015.
Natural bamboo fibers are rarely used in textiles of any kind. One textile products manufacturer, Patagonia, says that they don’t use natural bamboo fibers, because they already use hemp, and they do not use nylon and rayon because of the envronmental consequences of the manufacturing processes..
I have learned to question whether “bamboo” in a mattress or pillow cover is the natural fiber or rayon. Now I’m inclined to believe that it is rayon unless specifically stated as drawn-out natural fibers. Though the law does not apply to mattresses, it still applies to pillows. The International Sleep Products Association has a Manual of Labeling Laws for its members, which has been updated in 2015.
As to why, after all the FTC and Canadian government actions, several product descriptions state “bamboo” and not “bamboo rayon,” I think the fault lies first with copywriters who may not understand the distinction or the law, then with companies who do not verify the accuracy of the product descriptions.
A previous blog article, Microcoils, covered the use of coils in mattresses that are significantly smaller than innerspring coils. In this article, I noted that some of these smaller coils are much smaller than others, and that there has not been a concensus on terminology.
Until now, the whole category of small springs has been classified as microcoils. But now several manufacturers are placing two layers of these coils above the support core of a mattress. Typically, the coils in one layer (usually the upper one) are much smaller than those in the other. Attempts at differentiating these have been inconsistent. Some call the smaller springs “mini-microcoils,” and some “micro-minicoils.” So which way is it?
Two mattress manufacturers now use terms that make sense. European Sleep Works and Berkeley Ergonomics call the larger European-manufactured coils (2-4 inches) “minicoils” and the smaller ones (1″ or less) “microcoils.” This makes sense, because in common usage “micro-” is smaller than “mini-.”
I propose using this order of terms, first defining “minicoils” as those 4″ or less in height, and much smaller ones as “microcoils.” The real question is, “Where do we draw the line between minicoils and microcoils?” This could be at a certain coil height, such as 2″ or 1½”. On the other hand, small coils with a height smaller than their diameter could be called “microcoils.”
If mattress component manufacturers, such as HSM Solutions and Leggett & Platt Bedding Components, adopted consistent standards for terminology, mattress descriptions would be less confusing to consumers. Some elements in the industry seem to make it hard for a customer to compare one model with another. But overall public confidence in bedding manufacturers would benefit from clarity rather than obfuscation.
It has been almost 4,000 years since Jacob used a stone for his pillow. Honestly, it was not the pillow that caused him to dream about angels walking up and down a tall ladder, but our pillows can affect how well we sleep, and perhaps whether or how we dream.
What is the primary purpose of a pillow? To support and cushion the head. When a person lies down to sleep, the head needs to be high enough to keep the neck in line with the rest of the spine. Notice how many people who don’t have a pillow will rest their heads on their arms, a rolled up coat, a book, or even a stone. Ancient beds were made with head rests built in or attached.
For most of us, pillows are neccessary items—we can’t do without them. I know from personal experience that what pillow you have does make a difference. It can be too large or too small, too firm or too soft. The shape may or may not be suitable for its use, or it may have the right or wrong texture.
There are several kinds of pillows to choose from in a number of categories. The most important of these are Fillings, Size & Shape, and Covers.
The most significant category is the Filling, or to quote a well-known aphorism, “It’s what’s inside that counts.” When I was growing up, most pillows were filled with down, or a mixture of down and small feathers, and covered with cotton. Now most are one kind of foam or another. At home, we do have one buckwheat pillow and some wool pillows, but most of ours are filled with polyurethane foam.
A pillow may be filled with natural or synthetic ingredients, or a mixture of the two. Natural pillow fillings include down, buckwheat, wool, cotton batting, and natural latex. There are even pillows filled with air or water. Among artificial fillings are synthetic latex, polyurethane foam, memory foam, and polyester fibers. A large number of pillows use shredded foam.
Pillows share their history with mattresses. Early pillows had the same fillings as early mattresses, including straw, sawdust, wool, horsehair and feathers. The last three are still used in commercially produced pillows, with the feathers now being down off ducks or geese.
As stated earlier, we have a few wool pillows with cotton ticking, bought at Design Sleep in Ohio. The pillows were made in California by a company affiliated with European Sleep Works. They are comfortable, but do need periodic fluffing.
Pillows with horsehair in the filling are almost always high-end products. They usually have double ticking, with the liner designed to contain the hairs.
Buckwheat is very supportive, but a buckwheat pillow can also be shaped to suit its immediate use. Most covers are zippered so they can be opened, the buckwheat hulls poured into a container, and the cover washed. If you happen to lose some of the hulls, or if you just want a fresh filling, buckwheat hulls are available for sale.
Shape & Size is another important category, which is most often determined by the intended use. A few shapes & sizes are body pillows, bed pillows, throw pillows (small and usually square), neck pillows (straight or horseshoe), slim pillows, and dog-bone pillows. The choice here depends on the part of the body the pillow is intended for and the desired level of support.
Body pillows are intended for more than just the head. Bolsters are meant to support narrow recessed parts of the body, such as the lumbar or the neck. Most head pillows have the familiar rectangular outline and are usually 20″ or more in length. Horseshoe pillows are made for supporting the neck even when the user is standing or sitting, such as riding in a vehicle. There are pillows designed to support arms and knees while sleeping. And wedge pillows are designed to elevate the upper body or the feet.
The Cover (or ticking) of the pillow is a significant factor in how a pillow feels. This involves features such as surface texture, fabric weight and flexibility, temperature control, and substance sensitivities (such as allergies). The ticking serves to contain the cushioning materials inside and to protect them. Down pillows need covers with tight enough weave and and seams to keep the down and feathers from leaking out.
Many fabrics find use in pillow covers. Common ones include cotton, polyester and rayon, Also common are fabric blends, sometimes including bamboo fibers. Silk is used on some high-end pillows, alone or in a blend.
Most pillows used in bed are enclosed in pillowcases. These are usually in sets with the sheets. More than just a comfort or fashion item, a pillowcase serves to keep the pillow clean, just as the sheet keeps the mattress clean.
What you are sleeping on includes not only the bed and the mattress, but also the pillows. What pillows are best for you depends on your own personal needs and preferences. You have to experience different pillows to know what is best for you.
What are you sleeping on? A few of the readers of this article may sleep in a sleeping bag or on folded blankets or quilts on a sleeping mat or an air mattress, especially if they are camping at the time and using a smart phone or tablet. Most of us, however, sleep on beds of one sort or another, also including sofas, futons, semi sleepers, and built-in beds.
The most common configuration for a bed in North America is a mattress on a foundation, which may be on a bed frame. Sometimes the bed and the foundation are the same thing. Platform beds are commonly used with memory foam mattresses. And an adjustable bed is often used without another frame.
Other than wood, wood substitutes, structural metals, and mechanical, electrical and electronic components, the materials in foundations are the same as those in mattresses. Many materials are used in mattresses. The list is long, but it can be organized into a few categories as to their types and their applications.
The types of materials used in mattresses are Fibers, Metals, Foams, Rigid and Semi-Rigid Materials, Chemicals and Special Use Additives, Natural Materials, and Synthetic Materials. The last two categories are sub-categories of some of the other categories.
The application of materials used in mattresses has several ingredients in different categories. These applications are Cushioning (padding & upholstery), Covers & Liners, Separators & Insulators, Climate Control, Safety, Containment, Support and Framing, Decoration, Fashion & Aesthetics, and Convenience & Handling.
Fibers are generally used in two application categories, Covers & Liners and Cushioning.
In Covers, fibers are woven or knit into fabrics to form the top panel, sides (borders) and bottom panel of a mattress. Most of these cover fabrics are very breathable, since ventilation is an important way of keeping the mattress cool and dry. The most common fibers used in covers are cotton, polyester, rayon and wool. Other fibers used are linen, silk, cashmere, and bamboo. Less common in covers are horsehair, mohair, and aloe fiber. Two or more of any of these may be blended or used together in a fabric.
The cover also includes quilting material, which may be foam or fiber. Quilting fibers are usually polyester, wool, cotton or rayon, but may include other fibers. Quilting is used to add loft or cushioning at the top of the mattress. But some of the quilting materials serve in the Safety category as fire barriers to meet federal flammability standards without chemicals. These include dense wool batting and rayon infused with silica.
Liners are usually denser than cover fabrics, since they protect the interior of the mattress from moisture or help contain some loose material, such as horsehair.
Fibers that are used in cushioning are usually looser than in cover fabrics and quilting. The individual strands of the fiber need to be stiff enough for the fluffed fiber or batting to retain its resiliency. This kind of cushioning is usually used to avoid or lessen the use of foam. Common cushioning fibers are cotton, wool, and polyester fiber filling. The use of horsehair as cushioning is usually in high-end luxury mattresses, such as those made by Aireloom, Vispring and Hypnos.
Fibers are also used as Separators (also called Insulators) to protect the contents of one layer from those of another. For instance, innerspring mattresses usually have an insulator above and below the coil unit. This keeps softer materials from being damaged by the wire coils, and keeps them from binding or clogging the coils. An insulator can also separate coil units in a mattress with stacked coils.
Coconut husk fibers are used in coir, which is used for Containment as well as for Support.
The most common use for metal in a mattress is in spring coils. Coils are made from spring steel wire. Steel is iron alloyed with other elements to give it certain properties. Titanium and vanadium makes steel more resilient. Titanium, nickel and chromium are used in stainless steel. The right degree for the kind of steel being used can make it more durable. Steel is also used in helical wire and perimeter rods to hold a Bonnell coil, offset coil or continuous coil innerspring together. Pocket coils are in fabric pockets.
Metal may be used elswhere on a mattress, such as brass for air vents, buckles, and rings. Brass, gold and silver are also used for Decoration.
Foams are used in a number of these categories, most commonly for Support, Cushioning, quilting in Covers, and Containment (as foam encasement).
Foams are what they are made of and how they are formed. The most common basic kinds of foam are polyurethane and latex. Some insulating foams occasionally used in quilting are polyethylene and polyester.
Polyurethane foam is, for the most part, a petroleum based material. Most of the so-called plant-based foams only have a small percentage of polyols made from plant oils. These may be soy oil, peanut oil, or some other oil. Some manufacturers advertise foam made with coconut oil.
Magniflex claims to make water-based foams from soy and aloe vera. This eliminates the use of petroleum. Though I don’t know the chemical details, water-based foams sound a lot like latex, and latex-like substances can be made from several reduced-moisture vegetable liquids, such as aloe vera juice.
Latex foam is made from rubber tree sap. Synthetic latex is made from butadiene, and the two are often blended to combine their benefits. Latex is used for its resiliency.
Rigid and semi-rigid materials are used for framing and support. These include wood, particle board, composite hardboard, and sheets of metal and plastic. They are usually used in framing foundations. A few one-sided mattresses have a base layer that is rigid or semi-rigid.
The best known use of chemicals in mattresses is for Safety. Unless the manufacturers use a non-chemical alternative, certain chemicals serve as fire retardants to meet federal guidelines for flammability. These fire resisting chemicals include some nasty ones such as phthalates, which have been linked to cancer. These are still used for lower cost mattresses. Among non-chemical alternatives, silica is infused into rayon to make it flame resistant.
Some additives are used for temperature regulation. These are generally harmless, as these substances rely on physical properties rather than chemical interaction. Phase change materials are added to cover fabrics, quilting materials, or foams to keep temperatures within a desired range. Gel is added to foams to modify their support and absorb heat. Aloe vera extracts and other herbal extracts, such as lavender, are added to fabrics to sooth the skin, control odors, and offer other benefits.
Fibers, ingredients for foams, and additives consist of both natural and synthetic materials. Natural materials are those found in nature, whether wild or cultivated. This also included minerals which have not been chemically altered. For instance, graphite that is mined is a natural material. If it is obtained by reducing compounds to carbon, then processed to crystallize the carbon to graphite, it is synthetic.
For biological natural materials, there is also the question of whether they are organic or not. To be classified as organic, certain standards have to be met as to how the plant or animal was raised, suah as what it was fed, and how the product was handled and processed. Now added to that is the question of whether the animal or plant was genetically modified. With bedding, the concern is the presence of residues from pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and other chemicals, many of which are potentially harmful.
Synthetic materials are the product of creating new compounds from raw materials, usually by chemical processes. Most plastics are examples of this. First with coal tar, then with petroleum distillates, one substance was changed into another, usually by polymerization, the linking of short molecules to make longer molecules. Examples of this are the “poly” materials: polyurethane, polypropylene, polyester, and polyethylene. Other common polymers are nylon and vinyl.
Rayon bridges these two categories. It is cellulose which has been extracted from woody fibers, liquefied, and extruded as sheets, blocks, or fibers. Therefore rayon is natural in substance (it is still cellulose), but synthetic in form. The Federal Trade Commission has ruled that rayon (also known as viscose) should be identified as such, since cellulose is the only substance from the biological source. But the wood from which it is made can be named, for instance “bamboo rayon” or “rayon from bamboo.”
As long as this article is, it is not in any sense exhaustive. I can only hope that I’ve given you something to sleep on.
Aloe is a succulent plant which grows naturally in desert and semi-desert areas. Used for thousands of years as the source of medicinal and cosmetic products, this plant has been so widely cultivated that identifying its place of origin is a matter of educated guessing. It is also known by other Latin names, but the official one is Aloe vera.
The three most active substances in Aloe vera are derived from hydroxyanthrone. Collectively they are called aloin.
Two substances from the Aloe vera plant are commonly used, the juice and the gel. Aloe latex (not to be confused with rubber latex) is made by drying the juice. They are used both externally and internally. External use is safer than internal use, since aloe gel and aloe juice can be toxic in large qualtities or concentrations. Aloe latex, therefore, is generally not recommended for internal use because of its concentration.
Many uses of aloe have been documented over the past 5000 years. Its most common use has been as a skin softener or conditioner. It has also been used for burns and wounds. Many of us grew up learning that fresh aloe gel or aloe juice heals burns, including sunburn. Numerous clinical studies have been inconclusive or contradictory on actually healing burns, but it does have a postive influence. First, the gel will remain long enough to protect a burn or wound. Secondly, Aloe vera juice and gel are anti-microbial, and thus may protect a wound from infection.
One of the proponents of Aloe vera for health benefits is Dr. Andrew Weil, the founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. He has also recommended a mattress reviewed on Beds.Org, the Comforpedic IQ.
The leaves of the Aloe vera plant are fibrous. These are finer fibers than other natural fibers used in textiles, and they are not readily extracted. Therefore they are not commercially important. But recent research explores blending aloe fibers with other fibers. Since these fibers are cellulose, they can be used to make rayon, otherwise known as viscose.
Fifteen mattress models or collections reviewed on Beds.Org use Aloe vera. Most use it in the textiles, and some use it in the foam.
Aloe vera in textiles is most often not as a fiber. It is usually the juice or the gel applied to the fibers or to the finished fabric. The usual motive is cosmetic or medicinal, to sooth skin coming into contact with the fabric. The fibers may be treated by coating them with or soaking them in the aloe. On the other hand, aloe gel and aloe juice capsules can be spun into the threads. This saves the aloe until released by skin rubbing on it. Treament of fibers and/or fabric is the most common use of aloe in mattresses reviewed on Beds.Org.
One of the reviewed models actually uses Aloe vera as one of the fibers. The cover fabric of the Aloe Alexis by Brooklyn Bedding is a 50/50 blend of organic cotton and aloe fiber rayon (literally “Viscose from the Aloe Plant Fiber”).
The most suprising use of aloe in textile fibers I found while researching this article has to do with silk. When silk fibers are processed for spinning, a gummy substance called sericin is removed. Sericin is anti-microbial, protecting the silkworm’s cucoon from being degraded by bacteria. This leaves the processed silk vulnerable to decay. According to an article written by Vinay G. Nadiger and Sanjeev R. Shukla of India, the silk can be treated with an extract of Aloe vera to make it antimicrobial once again.
Of the mattresses using Aloe vera in one way or another, they are a small portion of the models and collections reviewed on Beds.org. However, if treatment of silk with aloe vera extract becomes widespread, beds with silk may have Aloe vera as an un-named ingredient.
Coconuts are not only something you can eat, but something you can sleep on.
Coconuts are the fruit of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera), a tree naturally found on tropical coasts. The coconut palm has spread by means of its bouyant seed floating on water, following ocean currents and tides. From beaches, it spreads to nearby low areas by dropped seeds. Coconuts are rather large and heavy for seeds, so coconut palms do not naturally range far from the shoreline. However, cultivated coconuts palms are found inland.
The coconut has three parts: the outer husk, the inner husk (coir) and the seed itself. All three parts have economic significance. The coconut is a source of both food and fiber.
Most people know the coconut as a food source. The solid white meat around the hollow interior is edible, as is the watery “milk” inside. Coconut oil extracted from the fruit is used in cooking. It is also used in cosmetics, lotions, ointments and plastics
Coconuts are also used in bedding, especially mattresses. Some bedding foams use coconut oil as an ingredient. The oil is actually infused into some fabrics as a skin conditioner, but this is not common, because that would have only a short term effect.
The fibers of the coconut are also used in mattresses, especially from the inner husk. These fibers, called coir, are extracted from the soaked hulls. The fibers themselves may be included in matting, such as base pads and insulators in a mattress.
More commonly, coir portions or fibers are mixed with rubber tree sap (latex) and cured, forming a very firm sheet, also called coir. India is a significant producer of this kind of coir. Its use in beds is usually as a base pad or an insulator (separating softer materials from coils). In several non-foam innerspring mattresses with pocket coils, coir is used for edge support.
There are dozens of other uses for coconut fiber, so raising coconuts for food and fiber is an important activity in many tropical and subtropical regions.
Wood slatted foundations, more commonly known as European wood slats, were developed in 1956 by Karl Thomas and his son Wilfried Thomas for better support of mattresses. Just as James Marshall invented pocket coils for his wife, Karl Thomas developed the slatted frame for his. In other words each invention was to meet a need.
The Thomases sold the slatted frames under the name of Lattoflex. Wood slats became the standard flexible foundation for beds in continental Europe just as box springs became the standard in America. Over the next 40 years, the Thomas Group improved the design of slatted frames. The first development was adjustability of the slats, a prime feature of slatted foundations used by Design Sleep and European Sleep Works in this country.
Meanwhile, sleep research continued on both continents. Thomas Group used results of this research in their research and development department in Germany.
In 1996, Lattoflex introduced a new kind of slatted foundation. Instead of wooden slats, metal rods went across beneath the mattress. Extending from these rods were wings, plates of metal at the ends of arms. These had two advantages over the wood slats. First, they were more flexible, with more response points under the mattress. Second, they provided full support with much less contact surface. This meant more ventilation for the underside of the mattress, making it cooler and discouraging mildew and mold.
There were–and are–two Lattoflex series, Lattoflex 200 and Lattoflex 300. The firmness of areas in the 300 series can be adjusted. Lattoflex also makes adjustable beds with this kind of surface.
The winged suspension concept is applied in the lower half of Thevo therapy mattresses, made by Thomashilfen, a member of the Thomas Group.
It remains to be seen how this concept will affect foundation designs by other bed manufacturers. But since Dormeo Octaspring introduced the foam spring, other manufacturers have begun making foam springs of their own.
Penicillin was discovered by accident when Alexander Fleming noticed bacteria dying in the presence of certain molds. Vulcanization of rubber by sulfur was also accidentally discovered by Charles Goodyear. In 1898 in Germany, Hans von Pechmann accidentally synthesized polyethylene. It took longer for polyethylene to become widely used than for rubber and penicillin, but now it is one of the most widely used food packaging materials. And it is also being used in bedding.
Polyethylene is a polymer. Polymers are made by linking smaller molecules together into long chains or sheets.
Polyethylene is named after ethylene, the gas it is synthesized from. It is a chain of methyl (CH2) units linked carbon-to-carbon. It is an extremely stable and non-reactive material, which makes it suitable for food and skin contact. It is non-toxic if consumed or inhaled.
Most of the ethylene produced to make polyethelylene is made from petroleum, but it can also be made from ethanol produced by fermentation of plant materials. Unlike “plant-based” polyurethane (in which only a portion of the polyols come from plant oils), it can be 100% bio-generated.
Polyethylene is strong and impermeable to fluids. This is why it is used for food containers and trash bags. This is also why it is used by a few manufacturers (such as Naturepedic) as waterproofing for bedding materials, such as mattress protectors, and mattress covers. Its non-toxicity makes it preferrable to other plastics, such as vinyl, polyurethane and polypropylene.
Since catalysts are used to polymerize polyethylene, there was the possibility of some of the catalyst elements being in the plastic and migrating out of the material. One much-used catalyst has antimony. Experiments show that extremely little antimony migrates from polyethylene when it is there. But antimony does not have to be there. Magnesium chloride, a naturally ocurring salt often found in foods, can also be used as a catalyst, and it causes no concern.
Since polyethylene is very stable, it does not easily break down. This has been a concern for environmentalists, since it can build up in waste landfills. However, bacteria have been found that can digest polyethylene, making it biodegradable.
As of now, only a very few manufacturers use polyethylene for waterproofing covers on mattresses and adjustable beds. Most use sheets of vinyl or polyurethane. Some use high denier nylon, since it is also breathable. It remains to be seen if more will switch to polyethylene.
We in North America (United States and Canada) are conditioned to think of divans as some kind of couch or sofa which may or may not have armrests at the ends. Thus we are initally puzzled when a divan is one of the foundations available for a mattress. However, the two usages are related. After all, many people will stretch out on a divan for a nap.
Ottomans, likewise, come from across the Atlantic with a different application than what we are used to. Here an ottoman is a large, fully upholstered footstool. In Great Britain, however, it is a type of divan where the top is hinged to lift up, revealing storage underneath. This feature does relate to some American ottomans, those with a hinged top and interior storage space.
The word divan comes to us from diwan in the Persian language through Turkish and French. It was originally a long cushion (“mattress” if you will), placed against a wall. Sometimes it was on a raised surface. The wall provided a back for sitting. From here it evolved into a self-standing piece of furniture with its own back.
Divans were introduced into Europe in the Rennaisance and into England in the 1700s as both a couch and a bed. In America, the general sense of the term centered primarily on a couch or sofa, while in Britain the sense moved to beds, then more particularly to a boxed supporting frame.
Ottomans were named after the ruling Turkish ethnic group in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). They came into use in Europe about the same time as divans.
The British divan is a box foundation, supporting the mattress as part of a bed. The kind of support is variable. The sides of the divan are predominantly made of wood. There are several kinds of divans.
Sprung divans have supporting springs, often coils, the equivalent of our box springs. There are two basic types, edge sprung and solid edge. In the solid edge divan, the wood side continues up to or very near the top surface, enclosing the coils on the sides and ends. In a fully sprung divan, the coils continue to the edge, the outer coils providing edge support to the mattress. This kind of support is suitable for Bonnell coil, offset coil and continuous coil innerspring mattresses, but its use is often discouraged for pocket coil, memory foam and latex mattresses.
Another type of mattress support in a divan is wooden slats, the equivalent of the European style wood slat base. Slat bases are the preferred foundations for some American mattress companies, such as European Sleep Works in California and Design Sleep in Ohio. Slatted top divans are quite commonly sold by British bed retailers, paired with all kinds of mattresses.
A solid top divan is essentially a platform bed, and it is a frequent match for specialty sleep beds with memory foam mattresses and latex mattresses. For example, the divans Dormeo pairs with its foam spring mattresses are described as “all wood construction,” the perfect description of a platform bed.
Another style is the adjustable divan. It comes with the adjustable bed fitted into the wood framed box. In the flat position, it looks like any other divan bed.
One advantage of divans as bed foundations is the availability of storage space. Most divans have drawer options: 2-drawer, 2+2 drawer, 4-drawer and foot drawer. In a 4-drawer divan, all four drawers are the same size, while with the 2+2 option the drawers near the head are narrower. The named options are for two-person beds.
Sprung divans may also have storage, but the drawers are not as high since springs take up the top half of the frame. Foot drawers are found on adjustable divans, since that is the only accessible space left.
In US retail terminology, “box spring” has come to mean any box-type foundation, whether it has springs or not. This is a carry-over from when the foundations were almost all box springs. Now real box springs are in the minority. Most box foundations here have solid or fixed slat tops.
Almost all divans Full size and up are split models, with left side and right side units. This is reasonable, since it facilitates delivery and set up.
So far, at least two mattress companies sell divans with their mattresses in the U.S. Hypnos Beds USA is a joint venture of Paramount Sleep of Norfolk, Virginia, and Hypnos, the British luxury mattress manufacturer with a royal warrant. The other is Dormeo North America, a subsidiary through the London branch of Dormeo Octaspring, an international manufacturer of foam spring mattresses. If more British beds are marketed here, we will hear “divan” more often as the foundation for a bed.
Using “divan” as the term for a framed box foundation may be a good thing. Since the market share expansion of memory foam, latex and pocket coil mattresses, real box springs have declined, even as foundations for traditional coil mattresses, replaced by platform and slatted box foundations. Yet many major retailers still habitually call any framed foundation a “box spring,” which is confusing to consumers. “Divan” is an inclusive term, making a box spring one of the divan types.
Ahh! A good massage is so nice! Especially when I am tired and/or sore. A well-done massage stimulates blood circulation. It relieves tension and relaxes muscles. Stimulating the nerves coming out of the upper back will stimulate the digestive system, improving digestion and movement of materials. A massage can sometimes even manipulate joints back into place. And it helps me get a good night’s sleep.
We used to have a Homedic massage pad for our armchair and rocking chair. Zones, intensity, and pulse patterns could be selected to customize the massage for specific needs. It was, within limits, like having our own personal masseur or masseuse.
For the past 30 years, the market for adjustable beds used at home has grown until it is a significant segment of the bedding market. Once used almost exclusively in healthcare facilities, they are now found in many homes and even in some hotel rooms.
Now most adjustable base manufacturers sell beds that have a massage function. For some companies, this is most of their models, for others a few higher end beds. Almost all manufacturers have at least one or two models without a massage, either to make them less expensive, or for customers who’d rather not have a massage.
One or more motors generate impulses, vibrations or mechanical motions which are felt through the mattress. Like the Homedic pad, this is usually a vibro-massage. Also like the pad, most of these have timers for limiting the time to reduce the chance of injury from overuse.
There are two basic patterns of massage, wave and pulse. A wave massage begins at one end of the bed, flows through to the other and back again. Pulse massages can be in various patterns (more common) or for the entire surface.
A massage feature can be either a dual massage or a full body massage. A dual massage has separate massages for the upper body and lower body. It requires two or more motors (three if there is a separate lumbar massage). The motors can be 110 volt AC or 24 volt DC. The newer ones are DC.
Not all massage beds are adjustable bed foundations. There are three notable exceptions. These are the Vivon Prestige II and Prestige III, the Amazing Bed by Innovative Standards, and the Night Magic Sleep Massage Therapy Unit by Innomax.
The simplest of these is the Innomax Night Magic Sleep Massage Therapy Unit. It consists of seven massage motors arrayed in four zones with a wall outlet power adapter and a wired remote control handset. The customer justs arranges the motors on the foundation under the mattress, plugs it in, lies on the bed and turns it on. According to Innomax, the Night Magic has 15-minute and 30 minute preset sessions, speed control, three levels of intensity, and ten customized (or customizable?) modes (rhythmic pulses or soft waves). One button switches between auto or manual modes of operation.
The Vivon Life Positional Mattress was introduced in 2010 by Vivon International (now Vivon Life). It functions as a mattress and adjustable bed in one adjustable mattress (also called a folding bed) with a massage. Two series that followed were the Prestige II and the Prestige III (which is sold by US Beds). This uses a Brookstone massage unit and wireless remote. The full body massage has five modes.
The most amazing massage bed is the Amazing Bed. Designed and made by Innovative Standards, the Amazing Bed has mechanical massage heads that imitate the actions of fingers. These travel between the head and foot of the bed on pairs of rails which can be raised or lowered. The mattress and the foundation are integral parts of this bed, making the whole bed one unit. Innovative Standards has beds for residential use, for spas and chiropractic clinics, and for the hospitality industry.
So, there are basically four options if we are shopping for a bed with a massage: an adjustable bed with a massage function, an all-in-one adjustable mattress with massage, an all-in-one bed with mechanical massage, or massage units we place between the mattress and the base.
Ahh! If I could get one of these beds with a built-in massage, then the bed would be my masseuse!
Absolute Comfort On Sale:
Adjustable Bed Mart:
American Discount Home Medical Equipment:
Leggett & Platt:
American Massage Products:
With just a slip in pronunciation, “sleeping on air” becomes “sleeping on hair,” and is not taken as a joke, because even today horsehair is the stuff (or stuffing) of several luxury mattresses. These include some of the most expensive mattresses in the world, made by high-class names such as ES Kluft and Aireloom, Hypnos, WJ Southard, Hastens, and others. Besides filling, horsehair is also used in the covers or quilting of a few models.
This is nothing new. For hundreds of years, better mattresses were filled with horsehair, along with other natural fibers. Those who could not get horsehair settled for grain husks (chaff), sawdust, straw and other cheaper alternatives. Horsehair was generally for the nobles. Today it is found in mattresses made for English royalty. The feel of a horsehair mattress is used in describing mattresses made by Organic Mattresses, Inc., even though they do not contain horsehair.
The most common sources of horsehair are the mane and the tail. Some of this is obtained by collecting loose hairs from grooming, but most comes from clipping hairs from manes and tails. Body hairs of shaggy northern horse breeds could conceivably be harvested in late Spring, but that is currently unheard of for commercial production.
Horsehair is classified by the length of the hairs. The longest ones (6″ or longer) are called horsetail hair, the medium ones (4″ to 6″) tail hair, and the shorter ones (under 4″) horsehair. This means that horsehair contains some of the shorter horsetail strands. And, depending on the processor, some tail hair and horsehair can have some hair from cattle in it.
Harvested horsehair is washed, steamed and rinsed, but not bleached. This clears it of almost all allergens. The cut and washed horsehair is curly. Since horsehair is stiff, it is cushioning.
Horse hairs are hollow, so they funnel air through the batting. This serves to ventilate a mattress and keep it dry. Being hollow also makes them more resilient. Horsehair is also a very durable material. Some horsehair mattresses have lasted 80 to 100 years. Tail hairs are used in violin bows, and can last a long time even with frequent use.
Often horsehair is used in combination with other natural materials, such as wool, linen, cashmere, cotton and latex. Sometimes two fibers are mixed, but these components are usually in separate layers.
The ticking for a horsehair layer is tightly woven so the horsehairs don’t creep through. The ticking of the horsehair layer for a mattress or topper is normally sewn into chambers, each one filled with hairs. This keeps the horsehair in place, forestalling a lumpy mattress.
In closing, here is a quote from the NovosBed website:
Horsehair: the stuff of luxury for those for whom luxury is a given. Care to hazard a guess as to which is the mattress of choice for the Queen of England? Your average oil sheik? Billionaire-otherwise-obtained? They’re all sleeping on horsehair.
Chas. H Becley
John Ryan by Design
Wall Street Journal
My Custom Bedding
Horsetalk Nrw Zealand
Parker Sleep Systems (Toronto, Canada)
You’ve come to the conclusion that you need a new mattress. The first questions are, “What kind of mattress and bed do we want? What are our needs? What will help us get the restful sleep we really need?”
When you determine what kind of bed you want, you want to know what the best brands and models are. Other people’s experiences can help, so we get online and check the reviews. But which reviews can we trust?
Now it’s time for serious shopping. So do we visit mattress stores? Or do we shop online? This is a choice almost unheard of a decade ago. Now almost anything can be sold over the Internet—clothing & shoes, groceries, appliances, musical instruments, pets, even automobiles and mattresses.
Shopping for clothes involves getting the right fit. I don’t know whether a shirt or a pair of jeans really fits until I wear it. Shopping for a mattress is not far off. We don’t really know if the mattress is right for us until we’ve slept on it. We are like Goldilocks in a way. A mattress can be too soft or too hard, too warm or too cool; it may or may not be suitable for my sleeping position; and so on. So how do we know that a particular mattress is right for each of us before buying it?
A quick check on mattress prices reveals that they are generally lower online than in stores for the same or equivalent model from the same manufacturer. Also, online retailers usually have trial periods, which means that if the mattress is not the right fit, we can exchange it for another or just send it back. However, It has to be shipped back (unless a contract service company picks it up). In some cases you, the customer, have to pay for the shipping, which makes you wonder if returning the mattress is worth the hassle. So, before buying a mattress online, find out what the return policies are—not only for the seller, but for that mattress model—and get it in writing.
If we go to a store which sells several brands of mattresses, we can try several of them for comparison. But one to three minutes on a mattress in a retailer’s showroom is not the same as sleeping on a mattress for a week or a month.
☞Just a hint: Some mattresses manufacturers precompress their bedding materials so that they are already broken-in when you try them in the showroom and when they’re delivered.☜
The uncertainty of a showroom tryout is reflected in the satisfaction rates between mattresses purchased in stores and online, which generally differ by only a couple of percentage points. But returning a mattresss to a local store is easier than shipping it.
According to several reports, the current trend is toward combining shopping online with shopping in stores. This generally takes one of two forms: webrooming and showrooming. Webrooming is researching mattresses online then purchasing them in the store. Showrooming is visiting retail showrooms to look at mattresses up close, even try them out, then purchase the same mattress or an equivalent online. Some retailers sell both online and in stores, which makes either method easier (have you ever tried to compare mattresses at different retailers?).
This only works for lines of matresses available in both venues. However, there are a handful of mattress manufacturers who sell their products exclusively online.
Buying a mattress online and buying one in a store each has its own advantages and disadvanteges. In the end, you have to answer the question for yourself, “Should I buy a mattress online?”
Sleep Like the Dead
US News & World Report – Money
Mattress Inquirer (a supposedly independent review site owned by a mattress manufacturer)
Get Rich Slowly (a financial advice site)
Sleep.org (by the National Sleep Foundation)
Best Latex Mattress
Best Memory Foam Mattress
Best Pillow-Top Mattress
Mattress Ratings Criteria
Best Hotel Beds
Choosing the Correct Bed Firmness
When is it time for a new Bed
Back Pain and Your Mattress