A mattress material that has been hyped quite a bit lately is gel.
It can be used as a layer, or as an infused foam. Though this is been presented as a revolutionary advancement in memory foam “technology”, gel has been used in mattresses for decades. I was surprised to see that this was being lauded by manufacturers, and retailers alike as the new cash cow of the mattress industry. Gel was introduced in the 70’s as a means to improve upon waterbed mattresses.
The reason this was briefly successful in the 70’s is the same as why it will be briefly successful now, salespeople in mattress stores will follow the path of least resistance. Many people will come into a store pre-sold on the idea of a memory foam mattress, but they are concerned about the heat issues that many people experience. If you have the ability to say, “Oh, you’re worried about sleeping hot? Gel will keep you cooler, and you can still have the memory foam feel.” you’re more likely to get the sale.
What the consumer doesn’t know, and probably the salesperson, is that “gel” memory foam will not be cool for long. Once your body warms up the gel on the surface (~20 minutes or so), the bed will actually sleep hotter than a standard memory foam; which already sleeps hot. Additionally, the gel reduces the comfort life of the memory foam. Plastic foam will actually lose its shape faster when infused with gel.
Unfortunately for the consumers, this is a gimmick, just as it was the first time.
So what’s it made of? Mineral spirits (petroleum distillate) and plant based oils (usually soy) along with a coagulant which varies depending upon the manufacturer.
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