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I was wondering why most bedding manufacturers do not make mattresses and mattress toppers filled with millet, buckwheat, or rice hulls? They do not catch on fire like foam and therefore would not need any flame retardant chemicals added to them. They provide too much air circulation for pests to want to reside in them and they are for the most part organically grown. I have been sleeping on a buckwheat hull mattress for three years now and find it to be the best mattress I have ever owned.

Also, I am wondering about why silk is not used more as a material for mattress covers and silk floss instead of synthetic batting. Silk has so many properties that a mattress would need such as flame resistance and protection against dust mites.

I have not tried silk yet for bedding, but I plan to make a new set of mattresses for my home and I am trying to understand why these basic and abundant materials are not being currently used in mattresses, or are they? (I do know they are commonly used for pillows, but why do they stop there?)

asked Nov 27 '12
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Lyn C from Kingston, NY
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edited Nov 27 '12


Lyn,

Great point and I'm sure many people will comment on this one.I can tell you that most companies, if not all, use a naturally flame retardant quilt that smolders out the fire. In this country, spray on chemicals are very rare. However this may not be true outside of the US. Unfortunately, silk has a very high burning rate and ranks among the worst in fire testing. I'm assuming thats why you rarely see it being used in mattress covers.

I don't know much about Millet hulls or buckwheat as far as incorporating them into mattress manufacturing. I can imagine that the reason behind not using them might be availability or cost. Perhaps the materials do not properly support body weight or break down faster than a poly-foam, memory foam or latex. I will check with our quilting supplier to see if they have some info on millet, buckwheat and rice hulls.

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answered Nov 27 '12
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Nick Noblit ♦
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As a manufacture, we do look at some of these other products, but a lot of the time, they are not cost effective or practical. While the materials you are talking about would probably not cost that much to obtain, it would take a considerable amount of time to find ways to incorporate them into the finished product, and the ongoing handling would make the cost of the bed skyrocket.

as a result, we use materials that are accepted by the general public. (Innersprings, Latex, Memoryfoam, and waterbeds). we also do not have a large factory light some of our big name competitors, so storage space is an issue.

as far as your comments about the fire retardant chemicals. While there are some manufactures that choose to use chemicals on their products, not all of them do. For example, Sterling Sleep Systems (My Company) instead of going the cheap rout and adding chemicals to our existing fabrics, we found new or similar fabrics that contained a material known as "Safe Sleep". this material meets the Federal and California State guidelines for fire retardation with out using harsh chemicals.

as for Silk, one of the things that a mattress should be is durable. The standard life expectancy of a properly made mattress is 10 years or more. While silk would make a nice sleeping surface, i am not sure that it would be well suited for a long life. that being said, while a lot of people like the idea of a soft sleeping surface, as soon as you put sheets on your bed, you no longer get to feel those soft materials.

Bed Bugs and Dust mites are not as common as you would think. i know there is a lot of hype in the media about both right now, but they don't just occur over time. they have to be introduced. in the case of bedbugs, if you travel a lot, and happen to stay in a less reputable hotel or motel could result in bedbugs coming home with you in your luggage.

if the bed is well made, the bugs and mites should not be able to get into your bed. if the bed is made with removable and interchangeable parts, such as just about every bed in the Sterling Line-up, if your bed is infested, it is a simple matter to disassemble the mattress, clean the parts and re-assemble good as new.

Finally, you mentioned air flow. the same air circulation can be achieved with a latex mattress core or overlays... or better yet, eliminate the airflow entirely and go with a waterbed product. there have been ZERO cases in the US that involved bed bugs, dustmites etc... involving waterbeds because they cant get through the PVC water bed bladder.

I hope i covered everything. you bring up some good points.

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answered Nov 27 '12
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Anton Hochsc... ♦
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Thanks for your answers! I thought pure, raw silk only burns for a few seconds and then self extinguishes like wool . In my mind, it would be better than cotton which would just continue to burn and allow the fire to spread. Since I am making my mattresses myself, I will not be adding any fire proof fabric liners, etc.

Do you have any links to the fame tests of silk you mention? Don't they test fabrics at such extreme conditions that no one would actually be able to survive in the room anyway? What about all the blankets and sheets, wouldn't they really be the problem, not the mattress underneath them? So confusing!

I understand most people want a durable mattress, but all I want is to be able to easily empty and wash my mattresses and hang it in the sun to air out. I do not see any reason why my mattress needs to last for 10 years - just a personal preference, I have had many mattresses and they never last that long, always change in some way or another over the years. I would like my mattresses to be fresh, clean and new feeling and end up in my compost bin and mulching my garden when I am done with it :)

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answered Nov 28 '12
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Lyn C from Kingston, NY
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I cant speak for the test of the individual fabrics, but i have seen a mattress burn test that was done on one of our products by the State of California. literally, what they do is put 2 burners close to the bed. one about 2" over the top of the mattress, and another about 1" from the side. they turn on the flame for under a min, then shut it all off and see what happens. a pass or fail is determine by how much of the bed is burned in a set time period. since this was done several years ago, i do not recall the actual guidelines, but they did show us a fail of someone else's product... a failure is a pretty spectacular thing to watch. ideally i think the bed is supposed to either extinguish itself, or be a really slow burn within 5 min of ignition (don't hold me to that) with little to no flame. i would assume that the fabric company's would have to pass a similar test but i am not aware of the requirements for that field. As a mattress manufacture, believe it or not, we do not make sheets, so i do not know the testing requirements, if any for that industry. i would think they would have a requirement for linens as well, but for the most part, it mainly effects the bed manufactures.

as for the "fresh and clean" aspect. part of the reason Sterling is becoming more and more popular is because we are the only company that offers replacement parts. this would allow you to get 10 years or more out of a mattress by replacing your pillowtop, or side panels, or adding latex and/or memory foam to an existing mattress. since you can replace the parts of you bed that wear out, you are saving money and essentially getting a new mattress for less then the cost of an actual new mattress. please see www.sterlingsleep.com for more information on our products if you are interested.

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answered Nov 28 '12
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Anton Hochsc... ♦
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edited Nov 28 '12

This is a great question. I spent a lot of time and money and tried to use buckwheat in a mattress. Did you know that buckwheat hulls don't burn?

It is hard to find a way to make the buckwheat work. Open Your Eyes bedding has an interesting bean bag type design but in a traditional mattress construction it just is too hard to work with. It is very heavy to fill a full mattress with, and its hard to quilt it into a fabric. Millet hulls the same. Also, its hard to get them free from dust.

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answered Nov 09 '13
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Joe Alexander ♦
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Our company, Harvest Pillows, manufactures buckwheat hull mattresses .

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answered Feb 08 '14
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Elizabeth D from Strathroy, ON
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Fire retardants only came into existence because of the tobacco industry. When people started smoking, falling asleep and setting all sorts of things on fire, tobacco companies had to come up with a way to push the blame away from cigarettes and onto someone else. So, they began a huge campaign about the 'dangers' of using natural materials in furniture production and began lobbying for laws requiring that chemical flame retardants be used on all furniture items. I'm also willing to bet they were, at some level, monetarily compensated by the companies who began producing these flame retardants. Since then, these chemicals have found their way into so many things, including baby pjs.

The result of this campaign and subsequent laws was that many of the natural products that we had been using to make furniture and mattresses became obsolete and were replaced by polyurethane foams and other petroleum based products. Now, the natural materials we once had in abundance at a very low cost are so scarce in the US, sourcing these materials is very expensive (largely due to shipping costs) and very few craftsmen know how to properly utilize them.

The thing I find most ironic about this entire situation is that, if the tobacco companies had just replaced their fiberglass filters with wool filters (which is self-extinguishing), none of this would even have occurred.

Silk is really not as wonderful as it seems to be, either. It's fairly taxing on the environment to produce and not very durable. Linen, wool and hemp, on the other hand, are extremely durable, environmentally friendly, and really beneficial to our health. Cotton is so taxing on our resources with very little tangible benefits, besides a low monetary cost, we really need to start looking into using a more sustainable alternative.

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answered Jan 16 '13
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Miki C from San Diego, CA
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Asked: Nov 27 '12

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