What is Memory Foam?

Memory Foam Header

Memory foam, also known as tempur foam, is used in many aspects of our daily lives. From chair cushions to hospital beds, memory foam appears to be extremely beneficial when it comes to comfort and support.

Information on the foam’s benefits runs rampant on the internet. What isn’t so readily available is the ingredient list. What is memory foam made of? And does it even matter?

We think it does. Our company dedicates itself to sourcing natural and sustainable materials that last.

NASA’s History with Memory Foam

The invention of memory foam came about in the 1960’s. NASA wanted to develop a better cushioning support in airplane seats. You can still read about the evolution of their initial invention on NASA’s website, but the article doesn’t touch too heavily on the ingredients of the foam or how it is made.

Instead, it highlights the foam’s introduction and various uses in mainstream culture. Seats, shoes, and mattresses make up a few of the products now engineered with this cushy padding.

Something interesting to consider: It does not appear that NASA ever used the foam in spaceships. A conveniently overlooked piece of information by companies advertising the foam in their mattresses.

So what is this stuff?

First, A Vocabulary Lesson

These are google’s definitions, so you know they’re accurate.

Polyurethane: a synthetic resin in which the polymer units are linked by urethane groups, used chiefly as constituents of paints, varnishes, adhesives, and foams.

Petrochemical: relating to or denoting substances obtained by the refining and processing of petroleum or natural gas.

[cta-title]Want to know more about the petrochemicals used in this process?[/cta-title][cta-desc]Head on over to Shell Global’s website! Yes, that is the same Shell that fills up your car’s gas tank…

Learn about Polyols![/cta-desc]

The Breakdown

It’s hard to list the exact ingredients of memory foam because the recipe is a secret (think Colonel Sanders, only instead of 11 herbs and spices, its chemicals). A mix of Polyurethane plastic and other petrochemicals and fillers, like calcium carbonate, give memory foam its signature viscoelastic properties. Heating the mixture makes the chemicals to react. Whipping adds air  to the mixture. This goes into a mold; alternatively the mix can go on a conveyor belt. It is baked to solidify the block of foam. From there, it is treated with flame retardant chemicals, and then stored until it gets used in a mattress.

The Complaints

Here are a few things to be aware of when looking into a memory foam mattress:

  1. Off-Gassing – Because the foam is made from petrochemicals, it has an odor. This odor, or gas, becomes trapped in the bubbles of the foam during production. When weight is applied to the foam, this gas has a chance to escape. This unpleasant odor can be harmful, especially for people with sensitivities and/or allergies.
  2. Sleeping Hot – The comfort properties of this foam mean that you sink deep into it and become “trapped”. It’s a great feature to help avoid disturbing your partner, but it doesn’t allow for much air flow. As a result, you are likely to overheat.
  3. Breakdown – A memory foam mattress does not last very long. Foam breakdown begins within the first year. Gradual deterioration continues until it eventually needs replacement; usually within the 5-8 year mark. That’s too soon, especially for such a hefty investment.

Why Don’t We Carry It?

We like to focus on sustainable, natural products. If you want a slab of plastic whipped up with some chemicals, you’re gonna have to go elsewhere. If you’re thinking memory foam, we strongly encourage you to check out memory foam alternatives like our Natural Latex Mattresses, made with Botanicore™ Latex, before making your final purchase decision.

[cta-title]Curious about Botanicore™?[/cta-title][cta-desc]Check out the history of our Latex Mattresses. This post covers why and how we produce our own Latex for our mattresses.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.