What Makes a Durable Mattress
Why do so many mattresses take a body impression or form a gully where you sleep?
Simple answer: cheap materials.
Most mattresses these days are made using innersprings with various foams and fibers layered on top. The innersprings themselves are durable, of course, as they are made of steel. However, the foams and fibers are vulnerable to fast deterioration.
There are three underlying problems:
- Most consumers are unaware of what goes into a mattress: that is, what determines quality and durability.
- It’s easy to make something last a long time if it’s hard. An asphalt mattress would last 1000 years; a cloud mattress wouldn’t last 10 seconds. The challenge is: how does a manufacturer make something soft and supportive that is also durable?
- Manufacturers have been incredibly successful at keeping secret what goes into a mattress. Slick marketing has manipulated buyers into believing that price has a relationship to quality. This allows manufacturers to use fancy fabrics and cushy foams that they know will not hold up…but that make a great showroom impression and sell well.
Even in the alternative mattress industry, many kinds of memory foam and latex (which is also in the foam category) are simply not made with durable materials.
One measure of foam’s durability is its density. Typical synthetic latex blends vary in density from about 1 pound/cubic foot to about 2.5 pounds per cubic foot. Memory foam varies from about 3.0 pounds to about 7.0 pounds. Bigger numbers mean more durability; lower density generally means lower quality and less durability.
Other than foam density, however, there is no widely recognized or standardized test that measures the durability of mattress materials.
The most durable material available today is made into natural latex mattresses. Typically, natural latex mattresses are advertised as “all natural”, but many actually contain 20% - 40% synthetic materials or fillers such as ash or clay, which will degrade rapidly. Sometimes they are even referred to as organic latex mattresses, which is misleading. A mattress’ casing materials can be organic, but there is no official organic certification for latex rubber itself, which is derived from tropical trees.
Here’s a revealing anecdote about latex durability. A few years back an elderly woman came into our store with her son, who was determined to persuade her to replace her mattress. It was 30 years old and the casing was just worn out, with help from a few generations of cats. This lady thought her mattress was perfectly fine. She loved her bed. But reluctantly, to please her doting son, she tried out 20 different firmnesses and combinations of layers in a natural latex mattress. She liked them, but she liked her old bed just fine. And she didn’t want her son to buy her a new one.
Finally, we thought of a compromise. We offered to make a new casing for her existing latex, and that sealed the deal.
When we delivered the new casing, we put the 30-year-old latex into it and zipped the cover closed. That was over three years ago, and we haven’t heard from her since. Apparently, she’s still sleeping comfortably on 33-year-old latex!
So if you are looking for a very durable mattress, be sure to get high-density foam or natural latex. If you want the best material there is, a natural latex mattress will outlast one made with any other material.