A lot of people are unaware that there are many more types of futon mattresses than just 100% cotton variety. Cotton futon mattresses and cotton with foam futons are by far the most common but there are a number of other options for those searching for a suitable futon mattress, you can also check the foamglobes’ cheap futon mattress list to find out more.
The Different Types of Futon Mattresses
Cotton Futon Mattress
This mattress is your traditional futon mattress filled with cotton with a cotton cover. It is a firm mattress but can easily fold to form a love seat or sofa. It often comes with a wooden frame that can be folded into a sofa also. The cotton mattress can be prone to moisture, especially from your body heat while you sleep and thus requires airing out in a well-ventilated room. To prevent lumping, rotating and flipping the mattress every few weeks is also recommended.
Cotton & Foam Futon Mattress
This is the most popular futon mattress because it holds its form better than the 100% cotton mattress and yet is still very affordable. It essentially allows for a good sleeping experience while still being firm and holding shape. The core is made up of layers of foam which are surrounded by a cotton batting. The more foam layers there are, the softer the mattress will be. The shape of this mattress will hold for about twelve years before it needs to be replaced.
Wool Futon Mattress
The wool futon mattress is not very common because many people (myself included) have allergies to wool. Still, wool is a natural insulator, which makes this futon mattress eco-friendly and better in cooler climates. These mattresses also have foam cores since wool alone does not hold it’s shaped well. You’ll definitely need to get a futon mattress cover as well since wool tends to be very absorbent. This mattress requires the same amount, if not more maintenance as the cotton mattresses.
Polyester Foam Mattress
Typically, the less cotton in the bedding, the longer it will last. This holds true for synthetic fabrics such as polyester. Polyester provides the support and firmness that a person would want in a futon mattress. It contains a foam core with a single layer of cotton around the foam to provide softness. This mattress can support all body types because they are very resilient and can hold their shape for a very long time. The mattress is lightweight and is made for everyday use. It should be flipped and rotated about every three months.
Futon with Innerspring Futon Mattress
This mattress resembles a typical box spring mattress. It comes in all sizes from a twin up to a king, whereas most other futon mattresses only come in sizes up to a queen. Within the mattress are springs which are encased with several layers of foam. It does not fold up and is only designed for sleeping purposes. This mattress is much bulkier than others and is also more expensive. It will last as long as a typical commercial mattress and it requires light maintenance which includes being flipped and rotated about every six months.
As with most products, the price will be reflected in the design and quality of the materials. However, with futons the lesser the quality of material, the less you will want to use it for sleeping purposes. Cheap cotton futons do best as sofas or as a guest bed. If you want a futon for your permanent sleeping surface however, the other options listed are a better choice.
So which one do I prefer? Well as a traditionalist I actually prefer either a high-quality staple cotton futon or a cotton and foam futon which actually gives you the best of both worlds; the natural fiber of cotton and the high-density foam for long lasting durability and support.
What Makes a Good Futon Frame?
Though the most important part of a futon set is the futon mattress itself, a close second is the futon frame. Traditional Japanese futons do not require frames at all and instead lay directly on tatami mats but for the rest of us living in the west, a good quality supporting frame is vital to the comfort and longevity of your mattress.
Futon mattress frames come in two main varieties, the wood futon frame and the metal futon frame. As a naturalist, I personally prefer a wooden frame but there are a large variety of good metal frames available on the market as well so you need not follow my personal preference. If you go for a wooden frame, choose a solid wood like pine, ash, oak, birch, or maple. These are all strong sturdy woods that will serve your futon well for many years. Alternatively, if you prefer a metal frame, you’ll probably be more limited in the choice of material as most metal frames are made of steel (painted or stainless) through the pricier ones are sometimes made of aluminum.
Probably the most important aspect of a futon bed frame are the slats. When considering the futon frame’s slats remember what I like to call the “rule of 3″. Essentially the slats need to ideally be at least 3 inches wide (2.5 at the very least) and should be no greater than 3 inches apart. If you don’t stick to this rule, you’ll probably find your futon mattress will wear much more quickly and won’t be as comfortable due to the lack of support. In addition to the slats, you may find some of the better futon frames have slat stress supports which look like thin boards underneath the slats that help reinforce them for even greater support. Whatever type of frame you choose, however, be sure to stay clear away from metal frames that use round bars as slats as these provide very little if any support for your mattress.
In addition to the slats, you’ll want to look at the overall construction of the futon frame and whether there is evidence of good workmanship. For metal frames, check the welds for sturdiness and look for any signs of poor metalworking. With wooden frames be sure to check how the pieces of wood are connected together and look for any cracks that might weaken its structure. In general, it’s best to look for frames with merits and tenon construction as this type of joinery will increase the overall strength of your frame and its lifespan. Also, many futon companies are now adding various stress supports which typically come in the form of metal brackets and support beams. These stress supports can help make the bed frame stronger and that much more durable, thus increasing its longevity. In particular check for the existence of angle brackets in your frame. Angle brackets reinforce a joint and help support the various weights exerted on your frame. Striker plates are also beneficial for futon bed frames that transform into a sofa or chair as they protect the wood that is exposed to rubbing. Without these metal plates, the wood can start to wear and weaken especially if you are transforming your bed to its furniture form often.
Finally, there comes the topic of the warranty which can range widely from 90 days all the way up to 10 years and sometimes even longer. Like any type of merchandise, with all other things being equal, the longer the warranty, the longer the company expects its frame to last, and thus the better the overall quality and craftsmanship. If you choose a good quality futon frame and mattress with a decent warranty and all the other aspects I’ve discussed, there’s no reason why your frame couldn’t last well past 15 years or more. Just like the futon mattress, it’s always better not to skimp and buy a cheap futon frame but instead get something you’re going to be happy with for years to come.
Choosing Futon Mattress Covers
Choosing a suitable futon mattress cover often gets overlooked by a number of people who are either buying or who already own a futon mattress. I’m not sure whether this is because there are just so many futon slipcovers to choose from that they feel overwhelmed or if they simply do not know what to look for in a futon cover. Hopefully, this post helps shed some guidance on the matter.
Though it may sound overly obvious, probably the most important aspect in buying a futon mattress cover is getting the correct size. That’s easy you might say; a full futon cover is for a full futon mattress and a queen futon cover is for a queen futon mattress. Well, unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. Though the futon manufacturers normally make their covers based on the standard mattress sizes, it’s not uncommon for them to be out an inch or two and sometimes even 3 or 4! The main reason for these variances is due to the thickness of each mattress. The length and width might match up but the thickness of futon mattresses can range widely from 3 inches all the way up to 8 inches or more. Also, if your futon mattress was custom made or is from a smaller company it may not meet the standard mattress dimensions. Thus, it’s really important to know the exact measurements of both your futon mattress and the futon cover prior to buying. To be on the safe, ensure there is a return policy at the store you purchase the cover from so you can easily exchange it if need be.
The next critical factor for deciding on suitable futon slipcovers is the material they are made from. Some people just go for cheap futon covers regardless of the material they are made from but I personally feel this is a mistake. Instead, be willing to spend a little bit more to get a quality fabric that best suits your needs. There are essentially two main types of futon cover materials; covers made with natural fibers (cotton, linen, wool, hemp, bamboo) and those made with synthetic fibers (nylon, polyester, rayon, and acrylic). Knowing which type of material to choose really depends on the main purpose of the futon.
If it’s predominately to serve as a couch or sofa, you’d probably want to go with a synthetic fiber such as microfiber that is not only very durable but spill resistant as well. But if you are mainly using your futon mattress as a bed, I highly recommend you go with a natural fiber like organic cotton. The main reason for this is a natural fiber breathes much easier than a synthetic one and is also more likely to be hypoallergenic for those people with allergies. Another thing to note about futon cover fabrics however is whether they are machine washable or dry clean only. Futon covers that are machine washable are obviously a lot more convenient than those that aren’t. Be careful though; I’ve often heard of futon covers shrinking in the wash (especially those made of cotton) so much that they no longer fit on the mattress! So be sure to check labels very carefully.
Lastly, and especially if your futon mattress will be used as a sofa or chair, you’ll want to consider a suitable color and pattern. The best way to do this is to consider the rest of the décor in the room where your futon will be sitting and match accordingly. One practical piece of advice I’d like to give though is to buy a darker color over a lighter tone especially if you have kids or pets as stains show much easier on a white cover than a darker color. Of course if your futon mattress is for a bed, white or natural cotton color is perfectly fine and in fact, it is preferred.