Someone once said to me, paraphrased, “I do not want to have to become an expert in mattresses in order to buy the right one”. That resonated strongly with me, after all, mattress shopping continues to be a confusing and frustrating experience. Where the rise of the bed in a box retailers were meant to make things easier, they’ve actually made things worse due to the sweetshop mentality. When there is one bed in a box retailer, the choice is easy, when everyone is doing it, it’s just more white noise. Anyway, today we’re going to be looking at the different mattress fillings and upholstery that you are going to come up against when researching a new mattress. Different brands and retailers will call them all very different things at times, but that’s okay, by the end of this post you will have a deep enough knowledge and understanding to be able to take them to task and ensure you are getting the best value for money.
So Dreams launched their marketing campaign a few years ago with the now fairly well known slogan, “replace every 8”. 8 years being the maximum a person should really be utilising their mattress before replacement. Realistically, according to NBF whitepapers, this number averages home at around 7 years, because of that, it's difficult to remain up to date with such a forgotten and rare purchase, and with the fillings industry for mattresses, this is a pretty consistently changing game. This means that when it comes to finding the right mattress, choice can make things incredibly difficult. By understanding these 3 easy to remember facts, you’ll be equipped with all the knowledge necessary to make the right and considered purchase.
We’ll be explaining exactly what to look for, and prevent you from making a disastrous and costly purchase that could be avoided. Our tagline throughout the site is that we cut through the marketing BS that you get with many of the retailers allowing you to better compare and find the genuine savings over the false inflation. The end result is that you will save time, money and stress making the ultimate sleep journey far more of a success. You might even enjoy it, though we doubt it, mattresses are inherently boring, it is what it is.
Mattress filling GSM and what’s considered to be acceptable
Often associated with the paper industry (another exciting subject), is the talk of GSM. GSM stands for grams per square meter and in our case, that's basically how much of the fillings that you are going to be getting in your mattress.The GSM indicates the amount and is critical in ensuring that the mattresses you are comparing are truly like-for-like and going to provide you with the correct level of comfort and support. In this case, GSM is able to reflect on the weight of an upper layer, this means that if your mattress includes, say a polyester upper-layer, but makes no mention of the GSM, then you will have zero bearing for which product to go for. The difference between 100GSM of fillings and 2000GSM of fillings is massive.
Let’s take this example further, the aim with GSM is to get the most for your budget, the more the better, there is no real counter-argument to this and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone suggesting that less is more in the mattress industry. Remember, you’re spending a third of your life in bed. Don’t spend a third of your life wishing you had got more fillings for your money while being uncomfortable and in-pain at the same time. It doesn’t just hurt your wallet, poor fillings can affect your quality of sleep and your health as a result.
If you are able to speak to a salesman and they are puzzled by any questions relating to GSM, simply rephrase, all you are looking for is the height/depth of the layers, it doesn’t have to be polyester like the example above either. It can be wool, memory foam, latex, the lot. Many of your bed-in-a-box retailers have started pushing all-foam mattresses for example, but not all are equal. You are led to believe that your mattress is just pure memory foam but that isn’t true. The truth is that your mattress will be made up primarily of reflex foam, or other cheap foam for the base, and then have a sprinkling of memory foam on top. But how much? That’s what you need to ask, that is where GSM comes in and that’s where depth and height of fillings is so important. I can put a 3mm layer of memory foam on a cheap open coil mattress and call it memory foam and technically I’m correct. But you’ll get ripped off and hate it.
Find out whether the fibres are natural of synthetic
So in the first part of our article we worked out how much fibre or GSM or depth/width, however you want to frame it, was in a mattress. Great, good job and well done for sticking with us, it’s like watching paint dry, but stick with us. Now we need to look at the type of fillings, just as before where mattresses are able to hide the true make-up of their product and not show the GSM of the fillings, the same is true for the type of fillings. When we talk about natural vs synthetic, we’re talking about some key differences that can massively make an impact on your sleep. The good news is that you already know about them (or most of them), we just need to give you a bit of a refresher.
Synthetic Fibres - Synthetic fibres are, no prizes for getting this right, synthetic, that means they are man made and will include all the usual suspects. These include white fibres, polyester and memory foam. These synthetic fibres are perfectly acceptable, some would argue they are even good, who doesn’t love memory foam? Regardless though, they are cheaper than natural fibres and the saving relative to them should be passed on to you when purchasing. Typically you get synthetic fibres in entry-level products. The cons, and they apply especially to memory foam in this list so take note, is that these fibres are all very good at retaining heat while simultaneously offering a shorter lifespan than their natural counterparts. If you really are looking to only buy one mattress in a decade, these are probably better avoided, equally, if you find yourself getting hot at night, these are again best to disregard.
Natural Fibres - Now we’re talking, you’re likely to pay more for these but you’ll quickly see why. Where synthetic fibres are man-made to the mass market, natural fibres are the likes of bamboo, cashmere, wool and latex. All very posh, but all very good at proving more responsive and breathable. They cost more, sure, there’s only so many sheep you can sheer in a day, but they largely perform better and last longer. Buying cheaper synthetic fibres is a false economy as you pay for it in the long run when you replace your mattress 3 years earlier.
Let’s talk more about the above though because I know you probably love memory foam and aren’t yet convinced. However, it’s hard to overlook the arguments against it, that is, lack of breathability, poor ventilation and getting hot and stuffy. What’s the alternative to memory foam you ask? That’s okay, natural fibres have got you covered and it comes in the form of latex. Latex has many of the same memory-foam-feeling qualities, with none of the downsides at all. Our must-buys across Want Mattress feature many latex mattresses because they really are a catch all when it comes to comfort with very little downsides to mention.
Like in part 1 though, you need to make sure you are getting value and not forget the key points to ask. So part 2 has you sold on latex mattresses right? That’s great but if you don’t get the depth or GSM information then you’re still potentially going to find yourself getting ripped off. Combine part 1 with part 2 and get the right fillings with the right depth of fillings. Make sense? Wonderful.
Avoid Blended Fibre Fillings, it’s too much of a minefield.
While natural fibres are off living their best life and synthetic fibres serve a purpose, something else crept into the mattress industry in the form of blended fibres. Now blended fibres are not necessarily bad, all it does is provide manufacturers a catch all solution to taking a bunch of different materials and throwing them in a blender and using that as your upper layer. Whenever you see specifications that mention multiple different fibres, you’ll typically be working with a blended fibre product. The rub is that these fibres are all mixed together and section one of this article specifically mentioned the importance of getting the GSM and depth information for your fillings.
So now you’ve got a product with blended fillings of say, cotton, wool and bamboo. The salesperson tells you they have a GSM of 1200, great, but what is the makeup, a primary wool filling is going to be priced differently to a primary bamboo filling but how are you possibly going to get this information out of a salesperson. The end result is that manufacturers like to bolster their claims and make their specifications sound better than they are and blended fibres give them the perfect excuse. Only include 1% cashmere in a mattresses fillings, it still gets a cashmere label giving you the impression of quality that just is not there.
That’s not to say all blended fibre filling mattresses are bad, just that it gives a lot of room for bad behavior in the industry and is not one that we can really support as it, more often than not, hurts the consumer.
So we’ve covered the 3 main considerations when purchasing a mattress, at least when it comes to fillings and upper layers within a mattress. By tackling the 3 main points above you are going to be far better prepared when purchasing your new bed, without them, you are left having to trust the industry and the spiel you are being fed, and it isn’t pretty.
GSM - Ask about the GSM, if they cannot answer you that, then rephrase it to include the wordings relative to depth. If they shrug it off, walk away, this is crucial to ensuring you get value from a product.
Synthetic vs Natural - We’ve made our preference clear, but it comes down to your budget and what you want, but we’re still going to recommend latex. Regardless of what you choose you’ll be able to identify which is which.
Blended Fibres - It’s better to just stay away, they can be good, but more often than not they are used to hide poor quality fillings and give the impression of better quality fillings. It doesn’t help you get a better night's sleep and isn’t worth the aggravation of trying to find out exact measurements of each.
So that’s sort of it, if you have found this article useful or need any further help with buying a mattress we’re on hand to help on live chat through most working hours, you;’ll be able to tell by finding the speech bubble in the bottom corner.