What are mattresses made of?
I like to know how things work, and what they are made of. I think it helps me understand and appreciate the things I own and use more if I know where they have come from. “What are mattresses made of” is therefore a question that is naturally interesting to me, as the owner of a mattress site! When I began my research on this topic I truly had no idea just how many different materials and different layers you can find inside of a modern mattress.
It is truly astounding! There are are a variety of synthetic and natural materials in use, along with chemicals to stop fires. It’s a really big topic and one that should be of great importance to you if you are looking to upgrade your mattress, or even just understand your current one a bit better to get the most from it. If you are concerned about the quality of your sleep after reading my article about how important it is for good health, you should also know what your mattress is made of.
Check out this short video to get an idea of what I’m talking about. This father and son got out their saw and hacked a 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.
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
The actual material grade, amounts of material, number of layers and quality of the materials may vary between different companies. Inside my mattress reviews, I undertake to research the materials in as much depth as I possibly can, to help you feel confident about the materials you have chosen to lay your precious body on.
Innerspring mattresses are made of:
Innerspring mattresses usually have at last 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 1800’s.
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 the 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:
Funnily enough… they are made from foam! Memory foam technology was developed in the 1970’s by NASA. The high-density core may be constructed from man-made polyurethane (a petroleum based product), or may also include natural foams and/or latex. A recent development in memory foam mattresses is gel foam, which is incorporated into some mattresses for its cooling properties. The cover may is then usually made of a stretch knit fabric.
Some people complain that their memory foam mattresses smell when they are brand new. This is because the petroleum products can emit gases. I recommend you air out a new mattress for 24-48 hours before using it to minimize any smell.
I remember buying a crib mattress for our first baby. It wasn’t memory foam but it had a strong smell so I can certainly relate to the experience. I was absolutely shocked and unprepared for how strong it smelled! It made me worry about him sleeping on it! I was so glad we had opened it up well before his birth so we could get rid of the chemical smell. The smell went away after a day and night outside on a nice sunny day. I was happy with the mattress once the smell went away and there are no problems with it at all. So be warned about the smell a memory foam mattress (or any mattress) may have initially. This will help you deal with it better than I did!
Hybrid mattresses are made of:
These mattresses combine elements from the mattresses outlined above. Hybrid mattresses contain a coil spring system and memory foam. They are therefore a popular choice as they combine both mattress worlds and are suitable for a wide range of people. They score highly in customer satisfaction surveys and are a very fast growing product in the mattress market. If you watched the video, you would have noticed that the mattress the father and son cut apart contained both pocket springs and layers of foam within the casing.
What will ALL mattresses contain?
As per federal regulations, all mattresses in the United States contain flame retardants. There are a variety of different chemicals that are flame retardants. For a comprehensive rundown of chemicals that may be used, read this article from Mattress Clarity.
If you are concerned about chemicals read this:
You can buy mattresses that have met rigorous testing standards for chemical emissions. You can look for a Green Gold Certified mattress, or a Certi-PUR certified mattress. In the words of the laboratory that does the testing, this is what the certification means:
Scientifically tested for prolonged exposure in environmental chambers to meet rigorous emissions standards for chemical exposure and pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde and phthalates.
If you have any questions about the materials in a mattress you are considering, or would like help in selecting a mattress with the right materials for you, please leave me a comment and I will help you decide.