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Bed Basics: Compare mattress upholstery (part 2 of 2)

black mattress
black mattress
You're so close to choosing your perfect mattress!

Still shopping for a new bed? Learning how to compare mattress to mattress? Now that you’ve gotten the tutorial on how to compare innersprings and the foam layers that are considered upholstery in a mattress, you can think about the final outer layer of quilting before you make that big decision.

Ticking, and how it’s attached, can make or break comfort

When you’re on the hunt for the most comfortable bed possible (did someone say Black mattress? hint hint), you probably think about the mattress or the bedding, but did you know that the fabric encasing your mattress can have just as big of an effect on your comfort? The same goes for how it’s attached, too.

Yes, you are covering your mattress with a set of sheets and likely a mattress protector, but think about the way the mattress will interact with the layers on top. Will something too tightly woven keep you overly warm at night? Will something slick make you feel like you’re falling out of bed? Will something too tight take away from that plush feel?

Whether you’re interested in traditional mattress fabrics, such as cotton and polyester, high-end mattress fabrics or even some of the new environmentally-friendly fabrics, here’s a look at the pros and cons at the standard mattress fabric types.

cotton mattress fabric
So natural, so absorbent, yet so...not quite comfortable. Look for a blend.

Cotton and wool:

Pros: Two of the first fabrics to be used for mattress ticking, cotton and wool, both natural fabrics, remain just as popular today because of how comfortable they can make a mattress. Also, cotton and wool are highly absorbent with natural moisture-wicking attributes. Cotton and wool are also naturally fire resistance, which cannot be said for several other mattress fabric types.

Cons: Since these are natural fabrics, they will break down faster and need to be replaced sooner than a synthetic fabric. Also, neither of these fabrics are known to feel particularly luxurious against the skin.


Pros: For many people when they compare mattresses, the most important thing they’re looking for is a mattress that will last as long as possible.  For these people, a synthetic mattress fabric, like polyester, is a great option.  Polyester, since it is petroleum-based, is guaranteed to last the longest out of any other mattress fabric type. And polyester is easy to wash.

Cons: Unfortunately, polyester fabric is less comfortable than other materials. And if you have any skin issues or chemical sensitivity issues, a polyester mattress covering also might not be the best option.


Pros: One of the greatest things about silk covered mattresses is that the fabric is nearly always comfortable and luxurious, whether the silk is manmade or derived naturally. The process to create silk has been refined and produces such a high-quality silk that you would never know otherwise.

Cons: Silk can be too slippery for some sleepers. Instead, look for a silk blend in a mattress fabric, which is becoming more and more popular.

As a side note, most other luxury fabrics and blends, like cashmere, are designed to be softer to the touch with a little more give, and you’ll typically see that reflected in the price tag.


Pros: Bamboo is actually one of the most commonly mixed fabrics with silk mattress covers. Bamboo, which is naturally derived from the environment, grows fast and can be renewed often. It’s also highly comfortable, and its texture is a lot like silk, but a bit more robust. Bamboo fabric is naturally antibacterial, can be cleaned easily, and is inexpensive.

Cons: The lifespan of bamboo ticking isn’t as long as that of polyester, cotton, or wool.

compare mattress fabric
Quilting is the most common method of attaching the ticking.


Don’t just look at the fabric on top of the mattress. Consider how tightly it’s attached as well as the mattress’ firmness. A very plush top layer does better with a fabric that has plenty of give. A firmer mattress doesn’t require as much stretch in the ticking.

You will most commonly see the outer fabric quilted on, with rows of stitches or buttons connecting the fabric to the layer below. Look closely at the quality of stitching on the mattress quilting. Make sure they’re consistent and unbroken, which can be a problem with some lower quality ticking procedures.

Whether you’re interested in comfort or durability, remember, compare mattress fabrics in addition to the spring construction and the comfort and support layers. Look at the whole bed before you buy, and make sure you’re getting one that meets all your needs.

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Bed Basics: Compare mattress upholstery (part 1 of 2)

Sleep City comfort layer foam
Sleep City comfort layer foam
Mattress foam comfort layer.

As we mentioned in a previous post, when you compare innerspring mattresses, you’re really looking at three basic components: coils, upholstery, and foundation. Upholstery refers to both the fabric covering the mattress and the layers of foam and cushioning inside the mattress. We’ll start by taking a look at the inside layers, which include insulator, support, and comfort layers.

An insulator layer in a mattress is the least glamorous position. The goal of the insulator layer is to separate the comfort foams from the springs. Usually a mesh style fabric covers the coils, possibly with another layer of cotton or batting on top of that. These layers will also help keep the comfort foams from shifting over the life of the mattress.

Support layers help determine the feel to the mattress. Is it firm to the touch, plush on top of firm, or plush all the way through? Support layers can be made of the same material as comfort layers but may be thicker or rated for different densities.

Which brings us to everyone’s favorite part: the squishy, resilient, and sleep-inducing materials that make up the comfort layers. The latest trends in mattress construction involve memory foam, latex foam, and a gel layer. But poly-urethane or visco-elastic foam are also common. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each.

Sleep City mattress comfort
Memory foam conforms to shape based on heat and weight.

Memory Foam

Great for cushioning, cradling, and pressure relief. Probably best as a thinner layer over the top of a firmer support layer. Higher density foam means higher quality, so look for 5.0 lbs per cubic foot or more. The “sink” factor can make it feel more difficult to change positions. First few generations didn’t breathe as well as other materials, so may sleep warmer than other materials. (Simmons created AirCool Memory Foam in the Beautyrest Black mattresses to combat this issue.)

Latex Foam

Molds well to the body. Both supportive and cushioning, so offers great pressure relief. Durable and resilient. Can find in both a denser, firmer style (Dunlop) and a springier style (Talalay). Most breathable type of foam, so regulates temperatures better than other foam options. More expensive than other foam options.

Polyurethane Foam

Must be High Resilience 2.5 lbs per cubic foot (HR) polyfoam to be durable enough as a comfort foam layer. Highest quality polyfoam performs similarly to latex but isn’t very common. Not as durable as memory or latex foams. Best used as a support layer rather than a direct comfort layer.

gel touch layer
The Simmons TruEnergy mattress features a top GelTouch comfort layer.

Gel Layer

New mattress technology, typically found in higher-end models. Great pressure relief, contours closely to the body while also providing support for areas that don’t settle as heavily on the mattress. Works well with a firmer support layer. Especially good for people who sleep warm; dissipates heat and regulates temperature very well. (Simmons’ Beautyrest TruEnergy mattresses have a GelTouch layer that conforms very well to the body shape and keeps you cool throughout the night.)

Natural Fiber

Can include wool, cotton, and hemp. Best for people who sleep in a single position as they need a “break-in” time and don’t adjust as well to position change as foam layers. Extremely durable. Regulate sleeping temperature very well due to natural breathability.

Many innerspring mattresses offer a combination of layer materials, with a focus on one in particular. When you compare mattress upholstery layers, take into account how you sleep. If you move around a lot, memory foam and natural fiber may not be for you. If you sleep hot, the gel layer may be a lifesaver. If you have questions, call our trained sales staff. They’ll be happy to explain the differences in comfort layers from model to model.

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Bed Basics: Compare mattress coils

mattress shopping
mattress shopping
Know how to compare mattresses before you head out shopping.

So you’re shopping for a new mattress, and you need an easy way to compare models. In our last post, we talked about the three basic elements of a mattress: coils, upholstery layers, and foundation. Today, we’ll look more closely at the types of coils, or springs, you’ll see in different mattress styles and what that means for you.

Coils are the steel springs inside the mattress. They’re typically arranged in some kind of pattern with each coil evenly spaced. There are several different kinds of coils, each offering its own benefits and drawbacks. When you’re shopping for a new mattress, be sure to compare mattress coils for a good understanding of how the mattress will respond to your weight at night and over its lifetime.

innerspring mattress coils
The Bonnell coil system.

Bonnell coil – Hour-glass shaped and attached to a frame by knotting the end of the coil over the frame; also laced together with another, usually more slender, spiral-shaped wire called a helical wire. This is the original innerspring bed coil, and the simplest. Usually a lower-cost option, but less flexible, doesn’t mitigate partner movement, and shorter lifespan.

Pocket coil – Barrel-shaped and individually wrapped in a fabric pocket. Each pocket is then attached together in a grid pattern. Thinner gauge wire allows for more initial flexibility, wider middle section of coil provides firmer support. Better motion separation.

Beautyrest black pocket coils
Simmons pocket coils - springs contained in fabric sleeves.

Offset coil – Similar to a Bonnell coil in that it’s hour-glass shaped, knotted to a frame, and connected with helical wires, but the top and bottom of the coils are squared off rather than circular. The squared heads should allow for the spring to contour more closely to the body shape. Typically more expensive.

Continuous coil – Rows of coils are made of one long, continuous piece of wire. Each row is attached to the next with helicals. There’s good weight distribution with continuous coils, so they may stay in their original condition longer. Also will typically result in a higher “coil count.”

Mattress makers will usually specify the gauge of the coil. The lower the number, the thicker the wire. While common sense would say thicker wire equals better quality or a longer lifespan, the style of the coil plays a significant role.

compressed coils
The springs compress when you lie down. Ideally, the coils compress enough to be comfortable but resist enough to keep your spine straight.

Similarly, you might think that more coils means a better mattress, but it’s equally important to consider how the coils are arranged and the gauge of wire. However, it is safe to say that in general, a mattress with a lot of heavy-gauge wires will be quite firm (at least at the beginning of its life), while fewer coils and thinner wires will have more give.

Simmons mattresses, like the Beautyrest TruEnergy, use a patented pocket coil system. It flexes comfortably when you lay on it but also offers good resilience and support so your mattress doesn’t sag where your weight settles the heaviest. The biggest benefit is motion separation; your partner can flop around without shaking you out of bed.

When you’re shopping for a mattress, make a list of what’s most important, and consider how coil styles can help you get the comfort and support you need.

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Bed Basics: How to compare mattresses

innerspring mattress layers
innerspring mattress layers
Taking away the mystery: how to compare mattresses.

Before you head out shopping for a new bed, make sure you know how to effectively compare mattresses. With all the terminology surrounding mattress marketing (coil counts and torsion grid foundations and a million kinds of foam), it’s hard to know what makes a quality mattress. Well, here’s your guide to comparing apples to apples when you’re mattress shopping. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll stick with innerspring mattresses, since that’s what about 90% of US consumers purchase (as opposed to fully foam mattresses, waterbeds, or air beds).

Simmons advanced pocket coils
Compare mattresses based on coil type, not necessarily coil count or wire thickness.

There are three main components that will help you compare mattresses from different manufacturers: coils, upholstery layers, and foundation. Coils refer to the spring system inside the bed. There are several different ways mattress manufacturers will shape the wire and arrange it within the mattress. Each style of spring has its own benefits and drawbacks. The initial feel of the mattress may not be much different from coil type to coil type, but the lifespan of the mattress and its response over several hours of sleep could be markedly different. You’ll hear some manufacturers talk about their continuous coil and higher coil count, while Simmons mattresses, use a pocketed coil that results in great motion separation. To choose what kind of coil system you want, think about what’s most important to you during sleep. Firm feel? Lots of give? Contoured cradling? Not feeling your partner flop around? (Stay tuned for a post comparing the main types of coil systems in innerspring mattresses.)

Simmons mattress foam layers
Upholstery includes all the foam layers between the springs and the outer fabric.

Upholstery layers don’t just refer to the quilted finish that you promptly cover with a mattress pad and some sheets. Or wish you didn’t have to cover, like the cashmere on the Beautyrest Black  mattress. Upholstery includes the layers of comfort materials between the coil system and the top of the mattress. Here again, you’re faced with a huge number of choices: gel, latex, memory foam, polyurethane foam, or, most often, some combination of these. And again, each type of foam has its pros and cons. Think about how much cushioning you like when you lay down. Do you want to sink a bit, or would you prefer a more solid surface? Also, how hot do you get while you sleep? Some foams are better at breathing and keeping your body temperature stable overnight. Of course, do consider the final layer of fabric. A soft yet durable cover can help your mattress stave off the inevitable wear and tear. (More information to come in another post about types of upholstery layers.)

Compare mattresses on foundation
The foundation is an important part of your mattress comparison process.

The foundation refers to the box spring, platform, or grid that supports your mattress. In addition to improving the lifespan of your mattress, the foundation adds to the supportiveness. It displaces weight across the surface of the mattress, so you don’t get the saggy spot where you settle in every night. Box springs are very common, but a more solid wood platform or a wood and steel frame are other options. Consider your bed style when you’re looking at foundations. If your bed is already high, you may want to consider a lower profile foundation so getting into bed doesn’t require pole vaulting. (And, as you may have guessed, there will be another post detailing foundation options).

Mattress shopping can get overwhelming fast. In order to compare mattresses with the best results, make a list of what you want in a bed before you go shopping. Think about what you like and don’t like with your current mattress (or what you liked about it when it was new). And keep in mind that with all the buzz words you hear, it comes down to three basic components: coils, upholstery, and foundation.