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.
This entry was posted on Saturday, October 17th, 2015 at 8:35 PM and is filed under beds, coils, cover, fabrics, fabrics, fibers, fire blockers, foam, gel, innerspring mattress, latex, mattress covers, mattresses, memory foam, nylon, padding, PCMs, Phase Change Materials, plastic, polyurethane, quilting, silk, springs, upholstery, wood, wool . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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