Understanding Foam Quality Can Help You Save Money
Foam suppliers and manufacturers have enough control over the creation of foam to make many different grades of similar materials. While this may sound underhanded or sneaky, the process of manufacturing foam to different levels of quality is actually quite beneficial to consumers, whether they need a new mattress, firm foam for cushions, or packaging foam. As a consumer, understanding why there are different qualities of foam, how to identify which is which, and what each kind is best used for will help you find the products that offer the right amount of performance at the best price.
First, it's important to know why foam is made in so many varieties. The ability to make materials with different levels of quality facilitates the creation of product tiers that directly benefit consumers. Given the thousands of applications that use foam, it makes sense that some have greater requirements than others. An obvious example is a foam mattress. Nobody would argue against a foam bed being a more demanding application than protective storage foam for china or jewelry. Conversely, spending money on mattress-quality foam when the application only requires a storage-quality product is impractical. But with different levels of quality, customers can purchase a grade of foam that fits their needs without overpaying or using material that underperforms.
That leads us to the next point, which is how to tell the quality of foam. It's possible that three foam cubes, placed side-by-side with the same dimensions, appearance, feel, and firmness, can each have a distinctly different level of quality. Luckily, the quality of a foam can be found by identifying a material's density, which is represented by a numerical value listed on its packaging or manufacturer data sheets. To find that density value, the weight of a 1 foot cubic block sample is measured. And yes, it really is as simple as that.
This method of using weight to determine quality works because foam consists of only two basic things; the physical material you see and feel, and the air within the material. Since the procedure that measures the weight is done according to international testing standards, dimensions of tested samples are identical and the results objective. This means that a greater measured weight equates to more performance material within the product. And when a foam contains more material, it is stronger and takes longer to break down, making it a higher-quality product.
Knowing why foam is made at different grades and how to identify them brings us to our final question; what are the best uses for each grade? For a basic explanation, I've broken foam into four quality levels: Fair, Good, Better, and High Quality. The figures used are general values and not official numbers, but are sufficient for explanatory purposes.
Foam in the range of.8 to 1.1 pound density is Fair quality. These are the lowest quality materials, but they also have the lowest cost. Best used as occasional-use products, constant use breaks down Fair quality foam since it's simply not made to hold up. Materials in this range are best utilized as storage materials, like foam sheets for protecting holiday ornaments, fragile china, and other infrequently used, but delicate items. Fair quality foam could even be used as a foam mattress topper for guest beds that only get a handful of sleepers every year.
1.2 to 1.5 and 1.6 to 2.2 pound density form the Good and Better quality tiers, respectively. These foams have the broadest variety of uses, from durable packing and shipping materials at the Good density level, to comfort and support applications in the Better density. They can offer appropriate shock and impact absorption for delicate items in transit and are also used for pillows and body bolsters, creating affordably priced, quality comfort products for sleep, exercise, or therapy.
2.3 to 3 pound density foams and greater are High Quality materials people should utilize when they have heavy-duty jobs that need the foam to last for years. These products last longer, bear more weight, and diffuse impact better than lower quality materials. For that reason, foam in this High Density range is typically used in couch cushions and mattresses, due to the physical stress they endure. And though High Quality materials carry the steepest price tags, they offer the durability and longevity you can't find in lower quality products.
Understanding foam grades helps you make decisions based on what you know you need, rather than what a sales person says you want. Instead of paying extra for a product that does more than it needs to, or even worse, paying extra for an under-performing product, you can get the performance you need at a value that fits your budget.