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memory foam/foam quality? 14 Jan 2014 17:57 #1

  • brass
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Hello all, i've been watching the forums for awhile now. Like many others, i'm in search of a new bed (on a rather low budget). In an attempt to cut through all the garbage (if i have to hear how nasa flew to the moon to make memory foam one more time..) - I've got a question that's liable to get my head chopped off here. With that being said, foam quality. What is the difference?

I suppose this is more to do with memory foam, but may apply to foam (h.d./h.r.) in general. Everywhere are 'facts' that say american made foams are superior to chinese knockoffs, yet what I haven't seen is _proof_ to support this. Most so called proof is coming from advocates of higher priced companies or those looking to sell more expensive foams. I've heard tales of chinese memory foams being loaded with clay and sand, slave labor, cancer causing agents etc.. which to me sounds more like a bash on the chinese market itself. Forgive me but this sounds a whole lot like 'america first' propaganda from the 50's. While i'm sure chinese make their foam in dirty factories filled with chemicals i'm not about to believe that america picks its' foam from meadows full of daisies.

I'm an american and sure i'd like to think that my country produces better materials. Again, no proof of this. Sadly, I've encountered plenty of incompetence in factory environments, have seen our own factories cut corners and produce shoddy product etc, from factories that produce sporting goods equipment to housing components to machining. At the end of the day, mass produced goods are just that and the employees aren't exactly overachievers - following the 'good enough' approach in many cases. That's just the reality of it.

I'm also not saying chinese based foams are better either, I really don't know. I was hoping someone on these forums had some sort of actual test results rather than the same tired out story of our foam is better than their foam with nothing to back it. I imagine chinese 'knock off' foams are cheaper. Their employees aren't demanding $20-$30 an hour wages and striking every other day. Just hard to condemn and automatically call another country's product a 'knock off' without something of substance to back it up. I mean we're quick to judge, but on the other hand their population is far more educated on the whole than ours so i'm not sure american=better should really be the default go-to.

I've searched and searched and all I can come up with are biased views from manufacturers or retailers to justify their higher prices. Not a single test result or durability comparison. In the end, i'm sure all foams will degrade and break down. That's the nature of the cycle of selling merchandise, it has to fail and be replaced. Otherwise companies would go out of business. Has any lab or qualified facility melted down 'knock off' foams and found sand or clay remaining? Or proven the very same things aren't happening in american made foams? Or is it just unsubstantiated claims or perhaps an isolated incident floating around that has stuck and become the defacto standard definition? (ie, ford motor co. had a problem with explorer suv's and rollover accidents while using firestone tires, later determined to be an issue with inflation etc etc - it doesn't mean all explorer suv's ever sold roll over or that firestone tires are garbage, it was a bad run of luck and circumstances).

If Phoenix or anyone else has any actual links to durability or quality tests to substantiate this, I'd love to read up on it :)

Thanks in advance

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memory foam/foam quality? 14 Jan 2014 19:07 #2

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Hi brass,

Like you ... I tend to take a more "balanced" approach to the issue of Chinese foams.

There are some things that you can know with certainty. One of these is that when it comes to polyfoam and memory foam that the polymer density of the foam (relative to other foams of the same type) is the most significant factor in its durability ... regardless of the country of origin (see post #4 here about the factors that can affect the durability and useful life of a mattress). This is a matter of foam chemistry.

Another is that in terms of the relative "safety" of foam materials they can be tested for harmful substances and VOC's so a certification such as CertiPur would be important.

Another is that foam additives can be used either as a filler to lower the cost of the foam or they can be added to a foam to change or improve its properties (such as gel materials or some types of filler to improve stiffness) so when there are fillers added to memory foam or polyfoam it's difficult to know the effect it will have on durability.

Another is that regulations and oversight in China are not as stringent as regulations in North America (or at least the US and Canada) or in Europe.

Finally most foams that "fail" will tend to show obvious signs of failing in the first few of years of ownership so the experience of mattress manufacturers or retailers that use "poorly made" foams will also play a role in weeding out the worst foam manufacturers.

What can't be known is the specific formulation of memory foam or polyfoam because these are proprietary to the manufacturer although in generic terms the chemistry of the same type of foam polymers is similar.

What you also won't generally be able to find is specific testing for each of the thousands of foam variants that are used in mattresses compared to their specific competitors.

When you take all of this together it's really a matter of the "risk" someone is willing to take or a matter of knowing how to tilt the odds of a good quality/durability choice in your favor. North American foam manufacturers are very competitive in terms of quality and while there are differences between them ... mattress manufacturers will often change suppliers for similar quality/density foams without a significant change in durability. Chinese foam manufacturers are more of an unknown.

For me ... if a Chinese foam manufacturer is well known and on the list of CertiPur certified foam manufacturers* (meaning they are one of the few willing to compete in terms of foam safety and durability testing with North American manufacturers) and the foam hasn't been compressed in shipping for more than a few weeks to a month or so (if you can find this out) and if they don't use fillers (which may not be possible to know for certain) then "in theory" Chinese foams would compare with North American foams of the same density on a relatively equal basis but the difficulty is that you usually won't know for certain so there is always more uncertainty involved about whether the foam densities are an accurate reflection of their quality and durability.
ADMIN NOTE: *Removed 404 link|Archived Footprint: certipur.us/pages/for-industry/find-a-foam-supplier/

You can read more of my thoughts about Chinese foams in post #6 here .

Phoenix
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memory foam/foam quality? 15 Jan 2014 14:31 #3

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Thanks Phoenix

I see a lot of good information and advice for people here in the forums, unfortunately my budget just isn't there for what most would consider good or high quality. Knowing this, I accept that anything I end up with is liable to be less durable in the long run. No such thing as a top end mattress for a few hundred dollars. Regarding your other posts, good info to know as those were some of the brands I've been considering - lucid and spa sensations (zinus). Some of the info out there is misleading, not sure if it's on purpose or just to simplify things for marketing purposes. IE cars are sold with mpg ratings and cubic feet of interior space but don't get into what type of fuel injection they use or traction and speed ratings of their tires and so forth. Which ultimately make a difference but just too many specs for the average consumer who is having a hard enough time choosing between charcoal silver and opal white on the paint lol.

I'll be contacting zinus again and see if the answers I get are the same, but according to the customer service rep I spoke with, their 12" theratouch spa sensations are actually more than just 3 layers typically shown. He was a little reluctant at first but basically cut through the b.s. and was straight with me. Advertised as 3" 3lbs memory over 3" of 'aircool' foam comfort and 6" of h.d. base - I questioned whether the airflow layer was a perforated layer or convoluted, they told me convoluted. The base is actually 1.5" convoluted h.d. over 4.5" solid h.d. at 1.8lbs density and an ild of 24. 24 ild may be a bit on the softer side, but given 6" or maybe more accurately 5" if you account for the convoluted collapse, it may up the overall ild to closer in the neighborhood of 27-30. (according to a curve showing ild measured at 4" thick, the ild will increase slightly with higher thicknesses). If i'm correct, convoluted layers may sink a bit faster since they're not solid by nature, but don't really mean they're less durable in terms of support factor. Although I'd think the peaks would tend to wear down more rapidly just because there's less material and nothing in the valleys to support them.

The other thing I wonder since I'm not familiar with different visco densities is how much the feel will change even if higher densities are more durable and of better quality. Obviously 3lbs is pretty low end, but I've had experience with it. Familiar with the way it gives and returns back, even if it's not ideal it feels pretty decent (just my perception). Will the 4 or 5lb densities have a much different perceived feel being more putty like and longer return time? I sort of like the deadened action and moderately quick return of the 3lb even if it's considered a poor quality. Or will a 4lb react in much the same way with more or less the added benefit of better durability?

At this point, anything has to be better than my 12-13yr old stearns and foster, where the pillowtop is flattened and lumpier than mashed potatoes, the springs feel as if they've bottomed out with maybe an inch or two of give even sitting on the edge. Valleys on both sides and to the point the bolstered or reinforced edge is bowed out and no longer a straight edge. lol

Thanks again for the help and the links

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memory foam/foam quality? 15 Jan 2014 18:49 #4

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Hi brass,

I see a lot of good information and advice for people here in the forums, unfortunately my budget just isn't there for what most would consider good or high quality. Knowing this, I accept that anything I end up with is liable to be less durable in the long run.


It's certainly true that the amount and the quality/durability of the materials and components are the biggest part of the cost of a mattress but no matter what your budget range there will be better and worse quality and value in mattresses and the basic ideas in choosing the "best" mattress for you would be the same.

Some of the info out there is misleading, not sure if it's on purpose or just to simplify things for marketing purposes.


Some of this is intentional or agenda/marketing driven and some of it is just because so many mattress salespeople have very little knowledge about what they are selling. Outside of the better retailers or manufacturers ... most of what they are taught in the mainstream industry is "how to sell a mattress" or "how to close a sale" rather than "how to educate and inform" or how to identify the needs and preferences of their customers. They are salespeople focused on making the sale more than they are "consultants".

If you deal with knowledgeable and informed retailers or manufacturers that are transparent and put the interests of their customers above their own ... then mattress shopping can be much more enjoyable and much less frustrating.

Advertised as 3" 3lbs memory over 3" of 'aircool' foam comfort and 6" of h.d. base - I questioned whether the airflow layer was a perforated layer or convoluted, they told me convoluted. The base is actually 1.5" convoluted h.d. over 4.5" solid h.d. at 1.8lbs density and an ild of 24. 24 ild may be a bit on the softer side, but given 6" or maybe more accurately 5" if you account for the convoluted collapse, it may up the overall ild to closer in the neighborhood of 27-30.


3" of 3 lb memory foam over another 1.5" of unknown density convoluted foam would be a risky construction in any budget range. I would also avoid the tendency to "predict" how a mattress feels or performs based on the ILD of the foam layers because it would take many years of experience and knowledge to be able to even guess this. ILD is also not "additive" and only applies to individual layers not the mattress as a whole so if the firmest layer is 24 ILD then the additional layers would not make the "overall mattress" firmer. If you are considering a mattress you haven't tried or tested in person and without years of experience in mattress design and theory then you will be dependent on finding out how the mattress feels and performs when you receive it and the return policy of the retailer or manufacturer if it isn't a suitable match for you in terms of PPP.

(according to a curve showing ild measured at 4" thick, the ild will increase slightly with higher thicknesses).


This has to do with the thickness of the material when the ILD is measured and "rated"... not the actual ILD when the material is used in a mattress. Different methods used to measure ILD (such as a different layer thickness that is tested or a different percentage of compression that is used to take the measurement) will lead to differences in how ILD is assessed but it doesn't change the ILD of the material when it is used in a mattress (there is more about ILD in post #6 here ).

Outside of "quality/durability" specs (foam density in the case of memory foam or polyfoam and type and blend of latex) I wouldn't get overinvolved in mattress specs (especially "comfort" specs such as ILD) because it will do more to confuse and can lead to information overwhelm and "paralysis by analysis" without providing any information that would be meaningful to most people.

Although I'd think the peaks would tend to wear down more rapidly just because there's less material and nothing in the valleys to support them.


This also isn't accurate because the peaks would be bearing more of the weight over a smaller surface area and would compress more which will break down a foam more rapidly.

The other thing I wonder since I'm not familiar with different visco densities is how much the feel will change even if higher densities are more durable and of better quality. Obviously 3lbs is pretty low end, but I've had experience with it. Familiar with the way it gives and returns back, even if it's not ideal it feels pretty decent (just my perception). Will the 4 or 5lb densities have a much different perceived feel being more putty like and longer return time? I sort of like the deadened action and moderately quick return of the 3lb even if it's considered a poor quality. Or will a 4lb react in much the same way with more or less the added benefit of better durability?


There is no specific answer to this because different density memory foams can still have very different properties (see post #9 here and post #8 here ). Density is more closely related to the durability of memory foam than with how it "feels" although lower densities "in general" will tend to be faster responding and less "memory foam like" than higher density memory foams. Some 5 lb memory foams in other words may "feel" better, have a faster response, or be softer than lower density memory foams depending on the combination of chemicals that is used to make it.

At this point, anything has to be better than my 12-13yr old stearns and foster, where the pillowtop is flattened and lumpier than mashed potatoes, the springs feel as if they've bottomed out with maybe an inch or two of give even sitting on the edge. Valleys on both sides and to the point the bolstered or reinforced edge is bowed out and no longer a straight edge. lol


That's probably true ... and is the reason that such a high percentage of people are happy with a new mattress purchase because it's usually better than what they are replacing .... at least for a little while. Their satisfaction level would probably be much different if you were to ask them 2 or 3 years down the road.

Phoenix
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memory foam/foam quality? 17 Jan 2014 00:32 #5

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Phoenix,

I see what you mean about foams not being the same. I'm not sure if this info will help anyone, I did speak with sleep revolution again today and they gave the same answers as before - as far as the spa sensations and night therapy, the gentleman said they use similar if not the same foam quality (though in different configurations) and the reduction of warranty (taken with a huge grain of salt since most warranties are iffy at best) from 10yrs to 5yrs is walmart's call. Apparently walmart sets the warranty period for spa sensations (5yrs) where sleep revolution / zinus set theirs directly from their website at 10yrs at a slightly higher price point. Spa sensations use 3" 3lbs density (6-8ild) over 3" convoluted 'airflow' 1.8 density (20ild), followed by a base of 1.5" 1.8 density (24ild) convoluted and 4.5" solid 1.8 density (24ild).

Also on a side note, I considered piecing foam layers together from fbm and spoke to a lady there. I've seen reference to being careful when dealing with them in the past and perhaps they've improved, but she was very knowledgeable and didn't hesitate to answer questions. I was thinking about forming a similar stack as the spa sensations, but with a little better quality foams and she let me know that their 3lb density visco was actually closer to normal foam than memory. She suggested for a more realistic memory feel, the 4 or 5lb visco. When I mentioned using a super soft as a 'comfort' layer she didn't mince any words about it not being nearly supportive enough between the memory and base layers. I've also heard some people say that fbm's striped covers while somewhat of a jailhouse look are decent quality. She advised me against them for memory based foam configurations since the material is rather heavy and won't stretch with the memory foam and suggested I find a more stretchy cover elsewhere. All in all she was direct, seemed helpful and her suggestions weren't entirely up sell based since she could have easily said sure, we sell covers or just agreed with my initial build and passively suckered me into settling on things that may not have worked well. Maybe I just got lucky but hopefully they're trying harder to be as you say more transparent with customers - which would benefit those of us seeking a budget solution.

You've been a great help, as have others on this forum and will definitely point people interested in memory foam/latex in this direction for advise. Refreshing to see a serious forum with well informed people helping each other rather than the less than helpful blog posts flooding the search engines. Many thanks.

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memory foam/foam quality? 17 Jan 2014 10:43 #6

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Hi brass,

Thanks for the update on your search.

As I mentioned ... I would tend to avoid any memory foam mattress that used that much 3 lb memory foam. Convoluted polyfoam will also be less durable than a solid layer.

The information you received from FBM certainly seems "accurate" to me. I think that the biggest issue with them is the uncertainty involved with ordering from them because based on their history what you think you are ordering may not always be what you actually receive so they can be a "risky" purchase. This is particularly true with their latex. You can read more about them in post #2 here and in post #2 here .

Phoenix
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