Do you like to know what things are made of, and how they work? Is it important to you to know what you’re lying on when you go to sleep every night? If so, then “What are mattresses made of?” is a question you’ll naturally want the answer to, and I’ll tell you the most durable mattress material at the end of the post.
Did you know how many different ways a mattress can be constructed, and what the different layers do? Let me show you. But first, here’s something fun:
This father and son got out their saw and hacked a (hybrid) mattress in half so we can see all the layers inside! Don’t mind the parts about them talking about the sponsored mattress they received to replace the hacked-up one (I’m not associated with them or that company at all, I just love their cool video). You can skip straight to the goods of them cutting into the mattress at 1:40. I’ll tell you exactly what I can see in the hacked-up mattress below the video.
So, what’s in their mattress?
As you can see, this is a hybrid mattress (it has a pocket coil support core and layers of foam in the comfort layer.
Just from looking at the still from the video, we can see that this mattress has
- It appears to be a pillow top, with wool and some kind of light foam quilted into it
- A layer of latex foam
- Four other foam layers, the first of which looks to have a convoluted design to promote airflow. The fourth layer appears to be very thin and will be there to act as a transition to the coils below
- A layer of pocket coils
- A foam layer (which will be there simply as something for the coils to sit on top of)
There is a lot going on in this mattress! It has many layers and looks like it is quite tall. Is this typical of what you’ll find in other mattresses? Read on.
Most popular mattress types
I’ll outline what materials are commonly found in each of the three mattress types listed below. These are the mattresses commonly purchased for a bed in a home. I haven’t covered things such as roll-out beds, water beds, air beds, etc in this post. We are going to examine these three:
- Innerspring mattress
- Memory foam mattress
- Hybrid mattress
- Latex mattress
The actual material grade, amounts of material, number of layers, and quality of the materials may vary between different companies, and I go into specific details of the quality of materials in my review posts.
Innerspring mattresses are made of:
Innerspring mattresses usually have at least three layers. These include the spring system, the cushioning layer (there may be more than one) and the outer. Spring mattresses have been around since the 1800s.
The coils at the bottom of the mattress are made of steel. These coils are the support system of an innerspring mattress. An innerspring mattress will contain anywhere from 250-1000 coils, but more coils doesn’t necessarily mean more support. The coils are connected to each other with wire. Coils come in two systems: open spring and pocket coil. Pocket coils are popular with couples, as the pockets allow for one person to move without the other person being disturbed. Pocket systems are much more common these days than open spring systems.
The cushioning layers which sit on top of the springs to provide comfort could be natural fibers such as cotton or wool, or man-made ones like polyester or polyurethane foam.
The outer layer, which usually has a quilted stitched appearance (the stitching is both to keep the layer attached to the mattress and to provide a nice look) is usually cotton.
Memory foam mattresses are made of:
Foam! Many memory foam mattresses actually have several different foam layers inside them. They typically have a comfort layer made up of memory foam or another cushioning and responsive foam. Many companies are shying away from using the term “memory foam” in their mattresses these days, because older memory foam gave a sinking response to body weight, as shown in the picture on the right.
While this “sinking” meant that memory foams were great for cradling pressure points, it also meant it was hard to move around on the mattress, and body heat got trapped easily. To get around these issues, mattress companies often develop their own proprietary foams and are even starting to include plant-based foams.
The core of most all foam mattresses is usually a high-density polyfoam.
Hybrid mattresses are made of:
As you saw from the video above, hybrid mattresses contain several different layers. The foams in the comfort layer may be natural latex or other foams (like memory foams) and the support system is usually pocket coils. Some of the better hybrid mattresses offer zoning in the support core, to target specific pressure areas such as hips and shoulders.
My favorite hybrid mattress is from Avocado Green: it has all organic materials (including durable latex) in its comfort layers and zoned pocket coils with strengthened edge support. Read more about it here.
Latex mattresses are made of:
Latex! Latex is a foam made from the sap of rubber trees and can be sustainably collected. The latex may be synthetic (the cheapest and the lowest quality), natural (good quality), or organic (best quality). Natural or organic latex are the most durable materials you’ll find inside a mattress, and they typically outlast other mattress types. Latex is a responsive material that is great for pressure relief and has a bit of bounce. Latex is a great choice for allergy suffers as it naturally repels dust, mold, and other common household allergens.
My favorite organic latex mattress is made by PlushBeds, read about it here.