Glossary of Mattress Terms

Glossary of Mattress Terms

Apr 13, 2017



Air Bed: - A poly-vinyl bladder (mattress) filled with air, sometimes sold with an external air pump and covered with cushioning materials. Great for camping!

Air Flow: - Amount of air expressed in cubic feet per minute that can be drawn through a foam sample

Allergen - A substance that causes an allergic reaction. For example; dust, mold or dander.

Allergies - 25% of all allergies are due to dust mites, with up to 85% of people with asthma allergic to dust mites. A mattress protector prevents dust mites from living and breeding in your mattress.

Antimicrobial - A generic term referring to a substance or material that inhibits the growth of microorganisms.


- A single-celled organism that can live and proliferate in bedding under the right conditions. The use of a mattress protector prevents bacteria growth in bedding materials.

Bamboo: - A fast growing renewable and sustainable resource used to produce wood and textile products.

Bamboo fabric: A natural textile (fiber) made from the pulp of bamboo plants. Bamboo fabric is very soft, breathable and durable. Bamboo fabric is antimicrobial and has a unique ability to absorb and wick away moisture.

Baffle: - Internal three-dimensional fabric wall boxes allow maximum thickness and comfort while maintaining even distribution within the boxes. Obstruct the movement of fill for maximum comfort and support.

Bed frame: - A frame that maintains the position of the foundation, headboard and footboard.

Bedding: - A general term to describe a mattress set and all the accessories used with it, including sheets, pillows, and comforters.

Bed riser: - Leg extensions, blocks or cones placed under the bed to raise it higher off the floor.

Bed sores: - Painful sores that are caused by constant pressure and restricted circulation at various pressure points of the body.

Bed Support: - Bed rails or frame which prevents a mattress set from twisting and sagging.

Body Alignment: - The anatomical positioning and balance of the spine, muscles and joints.

Body Impressions: - A byproduct of settling upholstery layers in a new mattress. Body impressions are normal and show up within the first few weeks of use. Body impressions settle over time.

Bonding: - The process of adhering two or more components into a multiple-layer component. In furniture applications, flexible polyurethane foam is often adhered to other flexible polyurethane foam.

Bonnell Coil: - A basic innerspring mattress coil which usually has a round or hourglass shape. The bonnell coils are held together with a thin wire called the “helical lacing”.

Border Wires: - A thick (heavier-gauge) wire which connects coils around the perimeter of the innerspring unit to provide edge stability.

Bottom out: - Lack of support under full weight load. This characteristic is often found in low-density foam. This term is very subjective, as the foam may bottom out with a heavy person, and be very comfortable to a lighter-weight individual.

Box Spring: - A foundation that contains springs or is made using some type of steel spring construction.



Cal-King: - A bed/mattress that measures 72”(w) X 84”(L). This is a special order size generally designed for taller people over 6ft 8in.

Cell: - The cavity remaining in the structure of flexible polyurethane foam surrounded by polymer membranes or the polymer skeleton after blowing is complete.

Closed Cells: - Flexible polyurethane foam cells having intact cell membranes thereby reducing or eliminating passageways for airflow.

Coil Fatigue: - A term used to describe when an innerspring or coil softens and loses its load bearing capacity.

Coil: - The individual steel spring in an innerspring support system. A coil provides support and resistance to applied weight.

Coil Count: The number of individual springs/coils in a mattress.

Coil Gauge: - A measure of the wire or coil thickness used in an innerspring unit. A lower gauge number denotes a heavier/thicker wire.

Coil Configuration: - The arrangement of coils in a specific pattern.

Comfort: - The ability of cushioning materials in mattress to conform to body’s shape, preventing a concentration of pressure on the joints and muscles. Comfort is a general term to describe the overall "feel" a mattress.

Corner Guard: - A plastic component wrapped around the corner of a box-spring / foundation to protect against damage during delivery.

Continuous Coil: - An innerspring mattress coil configuration where each row of coils is made from a single piece of wire

Contouring: - The ability to follow or fit the natural curves (contours) of the body.

Polyurethane Foam: - A flexible, durable and resilient material used in a variety of products as a cushioning material. All foams, other than natural latex foam, are polyurethane foams (including memory foam).  

Convoluted: - A foam fabrication process involving the use of a special cutting equipment to produce a foam sheet with peaks and valleys. Generally the process of taking one solid block of foam and cutting it into two pieces which fills the same amount of space as the original piece (with ½ the material).


Damask: – Originally referring to a Belgium damask, is usually a woven 3 color design used to cover mattresses. A material known for its durability.

Deluxe Foam: – A generic name for a higher quality or premium grade foam.

Density: - The weight per cubic foot of foam. Density is independent of firmness but is considered an important indicator of foam quality. A higher density foam generally has a higher durability factor due to its stronger and heavier cell structure.


Double Bed: - Also known as a full or regular size, a double bed measures 54 inches wide by 74 inches long

Discoloration: – Any foam exposed to natural light will discolor. Over time the foam color will 'yellow'. The gradual yellowing of foam due to a photochemical reaction. It is faster in sunlight than in artificial light, although it occurs in both. This will not affect product performance or foam longevity.

Durability: – How well foam retains its comfort, support and shape with use. As applied to flexible foams, the term refers to how well foam retains its load bearing capacity and shape with use.

Dust mites: – Microscopic animals (related to spiders) that can live in our mattress and feed on dead skin flakes. Mostly found in bedding, carpets and soft furnishings. As many as million dust mites can live in a mattress. Their feces (droppings) are major a major trigger of allergies and asthma. Use of a mattress protector will prevent dust mites from nesting and breeding in your mattress.

Dust mite Covers: – Soft Cotton/Polyester fabric with a dust and moisture control barrier. This provides an effective barrier for dust and dust mites for allergy sufferers. (see Mattress Protector)

Damask -  Also known as a Belgium Damask and often used as the fabric of choice in the mattress industry. A glossy multi-colored patterned fabric.



Edge Guard: - Additional foam or wire support to prevent sagging on the edge of a mattress. In addition it increases the useable sleep surface of the mattress.

Egyptian cotton - The world's finest cotton, it is woven with the longest, softest and strongest fibers, resulting in the most luxurious fabric and feel.



False-Loft: - An Industry term used to describe when a mattress is filled with sub-par foams, fibers and other materials to produce a “thicker/higher” look. A thick or high mattress does necessarily equate to a quality mattress.

Fatigue: - A term used to describe when an innerspring or foam softens and loses its load bearing capacity.

Featherbed: – A soft, thick mattress topper filled with down or feathers.

Fiber-fill: – Soft, synthetic material used as cushioning in upholstered furniture and bedding.

Firmness: – A term to describe how much resistance the mattress applies to the body weight and the resulting "give" of the mattress surface.

Foam: – A cellular material made from polyurethane or latex (rubber). Foam can be soft, firm or completely rigid.

Foam Fatigue: - A term used to describe when foam softens and loses its load bearing capacity.

Foam Density: – The weight of 1 cubic foot of foam. Density has nothing to do with the firmness of foam. Density only equates to the weight per cubic ft. Lower grade foams are 1.2lb density mid-grade foams are a 1.5lb density and higher quality foams are 1.8lb and up.

Foam discoloration: – Any foam exposed to natural and UV light will discolor. Over time the foam color will discolor (sometimes yellow). The gradual discoloring of foam is called oxidation. It is faster in sunlight than in artificial light, although it occurs in both. This will not affect product performance or foam longevity.

Foam Oxidation: The gradual discoloring of foam due to UV light. (See: Foam Discoloration)

Foam mattresses: – Mattresses that utilizes a solid foam core for its support system (no metal coils or innerspring). These are becoming very popular in the bedding market. Solid foam mattresses can be extremely comfortable and durable when made form combinations of high quality foams. 

Foam types: – Foams come in various types. Standard, HD (High-density)’ High Resiliency (HR), and Visco Elastic(Memory) Type all in different firmnesses and densities.

Footboard: – A board or panel, usually made of wood or metal, that connects to the foot of a bed frame.

Foundation: – A generic name for a base that sits under and supports a mattress. It usually helps to absorb the weight and pressure applied to the bed.


Full Size: - A bed that measures 54”(w) X 75”(L). Also referred to as a ‘double or standard’ size.

Futon: – A full size mattress placed on a frame that can covert to a bed or sofa/chair.

Feather Bed - feathers contained within a fabric shell and lay on top of a mattress as a mattress topper. The featherbed will normally have elastic straps or even have a fitted sheet on it so it fits over your mattress and stays put.



Gauge: - A measure of the wire or coil thickness used in an innerspring unit. A lower gauge number denotes a heavier/thicker wire.

Gusset: – A box-like finish that squares off the edge of a pillow, comforter or layer of upholstery. Gussets are sometimes used to add strength to the edges and corners of an upholstered product.

Gusseted: – Bedding items that have a gusset finish.



Hand: – The feel of the foam as the hand is rubbed lightly over the surface. In home furnishings industry, foam with a good hand has a smooth, elastic and velvet-like feel.
Hardness: – A measure of the foam's ability to support a load - an indication of the suitability of the foam for various applications and its initial feel - not a measure of quality. If a foam is too soft, it will bottom out; if it is too firm it will be uncomfortable.

Hardness Loss: – Softening of foam in use - an indication of foam durability.

Heat-Tempering: - A process where the innerspring unit or coil is heated using electricity to give it a permanent memory. The tempering/memory allows the coil to return to its original height over time and numerous compressions. A process that can weaken the strength of the coil.

Headboard: – A board or panel that sits at the head of a bed.

Helical: – A small spiral shaped wire that is used to connect coils in a mattress innerspring unit. Also known as Helical Lacing.

Hevea brasiliensis (natural latex): – The source of virtually all the world's rubber production. A tree found in warm areas along the equator. Cutting the bark of this tree releases the natural sap which is collected and processed into natural latex rubber.

High Density: – In general terms, a higher quality foam with a stronger, heavier and more durable cell structure.

High Density foam (HD Foam): – A general term to describe foam that is especially dense and durable.

High Resilience foam (HR Foam): – HR foams generally offer superior resilience, comfort and durability and are considered a higher quality.

House brand: – A retailer's private labeled brand that is only available through their store. Often uses the same components as the leading national brands at a discounted price.

Hybrid Mattress: -  A mattress that combines two different types of support technologies such as memory foam and pocketed coil. The Beautyrest NXG  series is a good example of a hybrid mattress.

Hypoallergenic:A term to describe objects and material that does not provoke an allergic reaction.

Hand – Term for how a fabric feels to the touch; for example, bamboo fabric has a smooth hand.



IFD (Indention Force Deflection): See ILD

ILD (Indention Load Deflection): In general, ILD is used to define the level of firmness or softness of a piece of foam (or load bearing characteristics). ILD is defined by how much weight/lbs it takes to compress a sample of foam by 25% (or to 75% of its original height or thickness). Example: If it takes 15lbs of load/force to compress the foam sample by 25%, the foam has a 15ILD rating. The higher the ILD the harder the foam.

Innerspring Mattress: - A mattress with metal coils as its support system.

Independent Coil: - Coils that move independent of each other to limit the transfer of motion and disturbance from your sleeping partner.

Insomnia: – Chronic sleeplessness.

Incontinence: – When control over the bladder and bowel is lost or diminished.

Insulator: - Any material used on the top or bottom of an innerspring unit which prevents upholstery layers from getting entangled in the coils.


King Size: - A bed/mattress that measures 76”(w) X 80”(L). Also referred to as a standard or eastern-king.


Laminating: - The bonding of layers of foam and/or other materials together into a single composite. This may be accomplished through adhesives or through heat processes like flame lamination.

Latex (Hevea brasiliensis): - In its pure state, natural latex is the milky white liquid substance that is tapped from the trunks of mature rubber trees. The natural latex is usually blended with other additives and the mixture is then cured and processed into a solid known as latex foam.

Latex Foam: - A natural and antimicrobial foam that provides durability, support and comfort. Latex is considered a high quality mattress component.

Loft: - The height or "lift" gained by the depth of the filling material.


Mattress: - A cushioned or upholstered piece of furniture made to be slept on. The sleep surface of bed. The quality of ones sleep is dependant on the support and comfort supplied by the mattress.

Memory Foam: - The generic term used in bedding industry to identify a visco-elastic polyurethane foam. Memory foam material has both viscous and elastic properties which make it an ideal material for both support and comfort in a mattress or other furniture products.

Molded Foam: - A cellular foam product which is produced in a mould. Molded foam products such as pillows are generally considered a high quality and durable product.

Motion Separation: - An innovation which reduces the unwanted transfer of motion between sleeping partners.

Molding: - The process of producing a finished foam shape by pouring liquid into a mold, where it is cured into a solid that mirrors the shape of the mold.




Natural Fibers: - A fiber which comes from a plant such as cotton, wool, silk or bamboo.


Offset Coil: - An innerspring mattress coil that has squared edges to provide more flexibility and better body contouring.

Open Coil: - The most widely used coil, from budget through to mid-price range mattresses (also known as the Bonnell Coil). Rows of round shaped springs that are connected top and bottom by a spiral wire.

Open Cell Structure: - A permeable structure in flexible foam in which there is no barrier/film obstructing the passage of air through the cell windows. An extreme open-cell foam has even larger openings providing greater airflow.

Osteoarthritis: - Degenerative disease characterized by inflammation of the joints between bones

Overlay: - Often referred to as a mattress topper. A foam pad that can be placed on top of a mattress to enhance its comfort and / or reduce pressure points.



Pillows: - Pressure relieving head and neck supports that allow your spine to rest anatomically correct and tension free. Quality pillows are usually molded using visco-elastic (memory material) or latex.

Pillow Protector: - A basic covering for a pillow to protect the pillow from dirt and oils. Can also be made in waterproof or moisture proof material.

Pillow Top: - The type of design in which an extra layer of comfort padding is added to the surface of a mattress. This is generally designed to provide a softer feel without diminishing the support. These mattresses are usually thicker than the average so they might need deeper pocket sheets.

Plush Top: - Similar to a Pillow top but the extra layers of padding are less visible because they are built into the surface instead of layered over the finished surface.

Pocketed-Coil: - Flexible ‘high-carbon’ coils enclosed in a flexible fabric pocket designed to relieve pressure and negate the unwanted transfer of motion between you and your sleep partner.

Polyester: - A synthetic (man-made) fiber used in textiles; durable, wrinkle and shrinkage resistant. Polyester fiber is often blended with cotton or other fiber to produce blended cloth.

Poly-fill: - A synthetic (man-made) fiber used in pillows and cushions.

Poly foam: - Short for polyurethane foam, used in almost all bedding as either an insulator pad or comfort pad that provides extended durability and comfort.

Polyurethane foam: - The most common foam used in bedding and bedding accessories - It is a synthetic flexible foam produced by a chemical reaction, usually in a continuous process.

Pressure points: - Points on the body that bears the most weight and pressure when lying down; common pressure points are the shoulders, hips and knees. Areas of the human body where, depending on sleeping position, your soft tissue is suppressed between the mattress and the bone causing nerve suppression and preventing blood flow. This causes discomfort and numbness, and results in tossing and turning, which leads to poor quality sleep.

Pilling - The tendency of fibers of bedding like sheets to eventually work loose from the sheet surface and form little balls that remain attached to the surface of the fabric..

Polyester - A man made synthetic fiber. Durable, wrinkle and shrinkage resistance. Polyester fibers are often blended with cotton or other fibers to produce blended cloth.


Queen Size: - A bed/mattress that measures 60”(w) x 80(L).

Quilt: - This is the technique of stitching used to attach the mattress ticking (its outside cover) to the layers of fillings underneath.




Resilience: - Ability of a foam surface to spring back. An indicator of the surface elasticity or "springiness" of foam. It is measured by dropping a standard steel ball onto the foam cushion and measuring how high the ball rebounds.



Sag: - A depression or body impression in a mattress that exceeds 1 ½ inches.

Slabstock Production Process: - One of the two basic procedures used to manufacture foam. A continuous process in which the reacting foam liquid mix is dispensed on to a moving conveyor belt where the mixture expands into a solid foam block.

Sleep Apnea: - Sleep Apnea pronounced (app-nee-uh) is a condition in which the tongue and cheeks obstruct breathing and your sleep quality.

Sleep set: - A general term to describe the combination of foundation, mattress, headboard, footboard and bed frame.

Slow-Recovery Foams: - A generic term used to describe memory foam, visco-elastic foam. The foam leaves a temporary impression after the applied force is removed. The universal sign for these types of foam is the “hand impression”. 

Support: - A general term to describe how the mattress distributes and stabilizes body weight and maintains proper body alignment.

Support Factor: - Seating foams with low support factor are more likely to bottom out under load.

Synthetic foam: - A polymerized cellular material made from an organic base other than rubber.

Synthetic Fibers - Man-made fibers such as polyester, acrylic, etc.


Therapeutic: - To have healing abilities or benefits.

Ticking: - The outer covering of a sleep set. The protective fabric cover that encases the support and comfort layers of the mattress.

Tight Top: - A mattress that does not have the extra ‘pillow’ of fabric on top. Normally a firmer feel, a mattress can also be plush and feel very luxurious in a tight top.

Twin: -  A bed/mattress that measures 39”(w) x 75”(L). Also called a single size.

Twin-XL: - A twin size that measures 39”(w) x 80”(L). The 5 inches added to the length makes it the same length as a Queen or King.

Torso: - Trunk of human body

Thread-count – A measurement of fabric density reflecting the number of threads per square inch. A high thread count results in finer, smoother weave, and can extend the life and increase the value of your bedding.



Upholstery Layers: - The foam, padding and fibers used between the support system/Innerspring unit and the cover of a mattress.




Vacuum Packed: - An environmentally friendly process used with some foam mattresses, allowing them to be rolled, compressed and vacuum packed for delivery. This means your mattress can be easily moved to the room of your choice.

Visco-elastic: - The characteristics of a material that combines both viscous and elastic behaviors.

Visco-elastic foam: - A polyurethane foam that has both viscous and elastic properties. A material used in mattresses to relieve pressure and absorb unwanted motion. Visco-elastic, or memory foam is a unique material used in mattresses and pillows to relieve pressure, ease and prevent back and neck problems. Visco-elastic foam is made of thousands of tiny cells which mold to any shape and revert back to their original form. Visco-elastic foam is also highly resistant to bacteria, mould and mildew, and dust mites.

Visco Elastic Memory Foam: - same as visco-elastic foam or memory foam.


Warranty: - A commitment by the manufacturer that your mattress will retain certain qualities over a specific period of time that also spells out what they will do if mattress does not live up to this commitment.  Warranties are either prorated, meaning that depending on how long you’ve owned the mattress you may bear part of the cost of replacement, or non-prorated meaning that the manufacturer will replace the entire mattress.  As you compare mattresses, take the time to read through the warranty for each manufacturer. The Bedding Experts only provides mattress products that have a minimum 1-3 year full (non-prorated) warranty.