Answering Every Single Question About Memory Foam

Here are the 33 most asked questions about memory foam, with its 33 answers.

What is memory foam?

Memory foam is a type of foam. It’s made of polyurethane with viscoelastic properties that increase its viscosity (stickiness) and elasticity (ability to recover its shape after deformation).

Thus memory foam possesses both high-energy absorption and soft characteristics. Which is the reason it’s been referred to as “temper foam” or “slow spring back foam”.

Are memory foam mattresses good?

Yes. Memory foam mattresses are soft, supportive (a consequence of the material’s density), and comfortable; which is the reason why they are usually more expensive than traditional mattresses.

Good quality memory foam mattresses are also more durable than mattresses made of other materials, which contributes to their popularity.

Are memory foam mattresses safe?

Bedding laws both it the US and Europe ensure the safety of the products made under their jurisdictions.

That said, memory foam mattresses, which like other polyurethane products can be combustible, may also cause more respiratory irritation than other mattresses.

Memory foam mattresses manufacturers also caution against leaving small children unattended on them.

Are memory foam mattresses hot?

Yes. Due to its composition, memory foam reacts to temperature. The material becomes harder when it’s cold and it softens when it’s hot.

Memory foam also tends to retain body heat. On the one hand, this is what helps the mattress adapt to your body and provide great pressure relief; but on the other hand, it might become uncomfortably warm during the night.

Some people love this property and some people hate it. If you like your mattress on the cooler side, you might want to try other materials like gel.

That said, there are memory foam mattresses especially designed to diminish heat retention.

Are memory foam pillows safe?

See the question “Are memory foam mattresses safe?”.

Are memory foam mattresses bad for your back?

Generally, people with back problems prefer memory foam mattresses. However, the answer depends on your weight and build. Memory foam is a dense material that adapts to the shape of the body. This should minimize pressure points and align the spine. However, if you’re on the heavier side, the mattress might sink in disproportionately in certain areas (eg. around the hips), which might, in turn, misalign the spine and cause back pain.

Hence why the thickness of the memory foam layer is important. In general, thick toppers are softer (they’ll dip more easily) than thin ones.

Are memory foam mattresses firm?

The firmness of a memory foam mattress depends on its thickness and composition. There’s a wide range of memory foam mattresses in the market and they go from soft to pretty firm.

When looking for a firm memory foam mattress keep in mind that memory foam reacts to temperature, so body heat will always soften it.

Can memory foam be washed?

A lot of slightly different foams fall under the “memory foam” umbrella. Meaning, there’s no universal answer to that question. That said, soaking a memory foam mattress or pillow is usually a bad idea because they can get moldy.

One thing is pretty clear, though: you shouldn’t machine-wash memory foam and much less dry it using a dryer.

Vacuuming, spot cleaning, or deodorizing it (using baking soda) are all good alternatives.

Can memory foam pillows be washed?

You can spot-clean a memory foam pillow, vacuum it, or deodorize it; but using a washing machine is usually not recommended. More about this here.

Can memory foam be recycled?

Yes. Memory foam can be recycled. That’s why it’s important to drop your old mattress at a recycling center when you decide to replace it.

You can even reuse it yourself by making it into other shapes like a nice cushion or a bed for your pet.

Can memory foam cause back pain?

It depends on your weight, build, and the thickness of the memory foam layer; amongst other things. More about this here.

Can memory foam get wet?

Yes, but it’s not recommendable. If memory foam gets wet it should be then left to dry properly. Otherwise, it might lead to mold, mildew, and other not-so-fun issues.

Can memory foam be cut?

Yes. Memory foam is pretty easy to cut. If done by hand, though, you might need to arm yourself with a bit of patience, since it’s a pretty dense material.

Can memory foam go in the dryer?

Unless clearly stated by the manufacturer, memory foam, which is a type of polyurethane, shouldn’t go in the drier.

Can memory foam bath mats be washed?

Yes. Bath mats are among those memory foam goods that can be washed, for obvious reasons. Furthermore, bath mats should be washed regularly, specially if you share a bath, and be allowed to dry fully.

How is memory foam made?

Memory foam, which was first invented by NASA in the 60s, is made in a complex, multi-step, process that may vary from one manufacturer to the other. Succinctly, it usually involves mixing chemicals to create the viscoelastic and then molding and shaping the resulting foam.

How are memory foam mattresses made?

See “How is memory foam made?”.

How do memory foam mattresses work?

Memory foam, also known as “viscoelastic” foam, works because, as the name suggests, it’s viscose and elastic. In other words, it’s soft and molds to the shape of the body minimizing pressure points.

How does memory foam smell?

Memory foam tends to smell like the chemicals it’s made from. That odor, which is the result of a process called “off-gassing”, is usually one of the main complaints of people first using memory foam goods. In any case, the smell does not mean that the product is toxic and it usually disappears after a while.

What memory foam mattress is best?

That depends on personal preference. There’s a huge, huge, array of memory foam mattresses in the market with a wide variety of qualities and characteristics.

What is memory foam made of?

Memory foam is made of polyurethane as well as additional chemicals that increase its density and viscosity.

What memory foam density is best?

It depends on your body type and preferences. When it comes to mattresses:

  • Low-density memory foam (≤3 pounds per cubic square feet) is less durable but better for lighter bodies.
  • Medium-density memory foam (4-5 pounds per cubic square feet) is better for average bodies.
  • High-density memory foam (>5 pounds per cubic square feet) is better for bodies on the heavier side.

When was memory foam made?

Memory foam was invented by NASA in 1966. It was first designed to absorb shock and make airplane seats more comfortable.

Where to buy a memory foam mattress?

You can buy memory foam mattresses from both brick-and-mortar and online stores.

Which memory foam mattress should I buy?

See “What memory foam mattress is best?”.

Why are memory foam mattresses bad?

Memory foam is usually good, but it can be bad if it causes your spine to not align properly.

Why should I use a memory foam mattress topper?

A memory foam topper can be very useful: it can help extend the life of a mattress and change its firmness for a fraction of the price of a new mattress.

Will a memory foam mattress burn?

Yes. Memory foam is flammable since it’s made of polyurethane. However, laws have been passed in several jurisdictions to require that all bedding (this includes memory foam goods) be resistant to ignition from an open flame.

Will a memory foam mattress sag?

Yes. Given enough time, all memory foam mattresses will end up sagging. However, we are usually talking years (10+), and even longer for high-quality mattresses.

Will memory foam help back pain?

A memory foam mattress can help reduce back pain when it provides proper support given your body shape and weight. In other words: when your spine is properly aligned during the night.

There are also memory foam products especially designed to provide back pain relief, like lumbar support pillows, coccyx cushions for tailbone pain or knee pillows.

Will a memory foam mattress get softer?

Yes, memory foam will get softer because of body heat. That helps the material adapt to the body and reduce pressure points.

Will a memory foam pillow get softer?

Yes. A memory foam pillow reacts to temperature, so it will get softer due to body heat when you rest your head on it.

Will memory foam smell go away?

Yes. Memory foam smell usually goes away after a few hours. How long it takes depends on the type of memory foam and the size of the product.

Sources

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memory_foam
  2. https://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2005/ch_6.html
  3. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/memory-foam-pros-and-cons

Last updated on August, 2020.