Your Mattress

What You Sleep on Matters


What to Know When Picking your Mattress

We spend around a third of our lives sleeping, but beyond comfort, many of us don’t give a second thought to what we’re sleeping on. This can be a huge problem, especially since modern mattress technology involves a whole circus of chemicals, fibers, and glues that could be potentially harmful to your health over years of exposure. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to show you how products like organic mattresses can reduce your exposure and prevent harmful side effects!

What to Look For

What’s inside a mattress ultimately can affect whoever sleeps on that mattress, so knowing how your bed is made is very important! Luckily, there are some standards in this industry that are easily recognizable by logos found on tags and other marketing materials for mattresses. Here’s some icons to look for when you’re shopping:

Specific materials used in your mattress product should always be disclosed as well. Here are some of the materials that you might find in an organic vs. non-organic mattress:

Helpful Terms

Once you start your research, you’ll find that there seems to be more jargon on labels than you might find in a medical textbook! But we’re hear to help. Here’s some of the terms that you might come across and a quick definition for each:

Antibacterial – Refers to fabric that is either chemically treated or whose fiber is created with an antibacterial agent. An antibacterial treatment makes the fabric resistant to microorganisms and inhibits their growth.

Batting– Cotton, wool or synthetic fiber used as a fill or an inner lining for quilts

Bed Frame– The frame, usually made of metal or wood, which holds a bed’s foundation and maintains the headboard and footboard.

Binding Tape– Fabric tape used to bind and close the mattress or foundation where the vertical and horizontal panels of outer ticking come together, providing the edge trimming for the mattress or foundation.  See Tape and Tape Edge.

Border Rod– A heavy gauge wire rod attached to the perimeter of the innerspring unit (top and bottom) by means of a helical wire or metal clips.

Box Spring– Also referred to as a “foundation.” A base for an innerspring mattress, consisting of coils or other forms of springs mounted on a wood or metal frame and secured with a wire-interlaced or welded-wire grid.

Chamber – A wall of fabric sewn inside the basic shell to create a compartment that separates filled portions from each other. Often used in comforters to keep fill in place.

Coil – Springs used in a mattress and/or box spring to provide resistance to applied weight.

Coil Count– The number of coils in an innerspring unit. Though the count can affect weight distribution, it is not the determining factor for firmness.  The count is usually based on the number of coils in a full-size unit.

Cotton – Natural fiber made from cotton plants. Cotton is the softest and most breathable fabric and is known to draw moisture away from the skin. Types of cotton include cambric, Egyptian, Percale, Pima and Supima.

Cushioning – Materials that lie above the insulator and below the fabric covering in an innerspring mattress.  These materials are typically combinations of polyurethane foam, cotton felt, and/or made-made fibers.

Density – A measure of weight per cubic volume, usually expressed in pounds per cubic foot.  Often referred to when discussing foam.

Fabric Cover – Cloth or textile material woven, knitted or felted of any fiber or mixture of fibers. Often referred to as “ticking” or mattress fabric.

Fill – Natural or synthetic material used to stuff bedding pieces such as comforters, pillows and mattress toppers.

Firmness– Describes a mattress’ resistance to body weight and the resulting give.

Gel Foam – Generally a visco-elastic foam containing “beads” or particles of semi-solid gel–also called “gel-infused foam.” Semi-solid, poured gel also can be used as a separate component in the comfort layer of a bed.

Hammocking – An undesirable characteristic sometimes associated with worn out or low-end mattresses.  When weight is placed in the center, the corners tend to rise and bow in response to deep compression much like a hammock.

Hypoallergenic – A product that is largely allergen-free.

Ideal Weight Distribution –   Equalization of support in such a way as to eliminate pressure points that cause discomfort resulting in tossing and turning.

Latex –  A flexible foam created from a water dispersion of rubber, either from the rubber tree (natural latex) or a man-made, petroleum-based product (synthetic latex).

Marshall –  A type of innerspring construction in which thin gauge, barrel-shaped, knotless coils are encased in fabric pockets.  Also known as “pocketed coils.”

Mattress –   A manufactured product to sleep on, consisting of various resilient materials covered with an outer ticking.  Comes from the Arabic term “matrah” meaning to throw down.  Early Arabs traveled with their bedding and threw it down on the ground or floor at night.

Mattress Topper – A layer of support that lies on top of a mattress (for example, a featherbed, fiber bed or foam topper).

Memory –   The ability of tempered steel, foam or some fabrics to return to their original state after being compressed or stretched.

Memory Foam – A type of elastic, viscous synthetic foam that molds to the shape of whatever surrounds it.

Mercerize – Treatment used to shrink fibers and thereby increase a fabric’s strength and luster.

Micro-coils –  A low-profile metal spring unit, typically with individually wrapped coils, used in the top comfort layers of a mattress.

Open Construction – Comforter construction in which the fill can move between chambers.

Panel –  The part of the ticking that constitutes the top sleep surface of a mattress, as well as the bottom of a mattress on a two-sided bed.

Pillow-Top Mattress –  A mattress featuring a surface finishing treatment where a separate encasement of soft materials is attached to the entire surface on top of existing cover and upholstery.

Pocketed Coil –  See Marshall.

Polyester – Synthetic fiber that is durable, non-breathable, wrinkle- and shrink-resistant.

Polyurethane Foam –  (Urethane Foam) –  Synthetic chemical flexible polymer foam used for mattress cores and as a cushioning material.  Also known as memory foam, visco-elastic foam, soy-foam, eco-foam.

Support – Refers to a mattress’ stability and how it distributes body weight.

Synthetic – Man-made material.

Tape –  Fabric material that closes over the rough-sewn edge where the top and bottom panels are joined to the border of a mattress or box spring.

Thread Count – The number of threads in one square inch of cloth. A high thread count results in a finer weave and can increase durability.

Ticking –  Fabrics for covering mattresses and foundations. Also known as mattress fabric. Common types include: stretchy double knits, woven damasks, woven upholstery-style fabrics, knits and nonwovens.

Ventilator –  Metal or plastic screens attached to the sides and sometimes the ends of mattresses to permit the passage of air.

Visco-Elastic Foam –  Also known as “memory foam.”  Slow recovery urethane foams that are temperature sensitive.  They conform to the body and distribute pressure according to body heat and dynamics.

Wood Frame (for box springs) –  The wood frame in a box spring on which the spring construction is mounted.

Information for this page was brought to you by our sponsor, Naturepedic. 



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