How to Find the Best Mattresses

The best mattresses have two main qualifications — they are well made from high-quality components (best quality mattress), and they fit your own needs, body type, and perceptions of comfort.

I’m sure it’s clear by now that finding the best mattresses among the thousands of choices out there, is not an easy task.

There is much hidden, insider knowledge about what goes into making high-quality mattresses. Some salespeople and some manufacturers do not bother to tell you these things.

So you will find such realities as “latex mattresses” with polyurethane inner cores, “high coil count” mattresses made with thin, non-tempered steel, “memory foam mattresses” made with low-density, low ILD viscoelastic foams that do not provide the quality you’re looking.

These are just some of the misleading advertising that relies on a large base of consumers who do not know how the best mattresses are made.

So if there’s no Consumer Reports Best Rated Mattress chart to rely on, what do you do?

Fortunately, it’s really not as difficult as it sounds to learn enough about quality mattress construction to make good choices.

But even the best mattress ever made won’t be the right one for you if it doesn’t give you the individualized comfort and support you need. So you also learn how to rate mattresses yourself, according to your height, weight, age, gender, and state of health.

How to Rate the Best Mattresses

Here is a checklist of important characteristics that we’ll discuss more thoroughly in further articles:
If buying an innerspring type, the Coils help determine best quality mattresses

  • Coil Count — this is the number of coils inside an innerspring mattress. A queen mattress needs a minimum of 400 coils. Too many coils may indicate thin, weak springs are being used. That’s why it’s also important to consider type, gauge, number of turns and if tempered steel is used.
  • Coil Type — this is the type of coil used in the mattress, as there are variations in how the spring is shaped, how it is tied together with other coils, and so on. The Bonnell coil is the most common but also the least durable type of coil.
  • Coil Gauge — this is the size of the wire used in making the coil — a smaller number gauge means a thicker wire. The numbers are based on fractions of an inch, so a 13 gauge equals 1/13th of an inch. A thick gauge offers greater firmness and durability, and a thinner gauge gives you more bounce and “give.” Too thin gives you a poor-quality mattress. Between 13 and 15 is standard in the best mattresses.
  • Coil Turns — this is how many times a coil is completely turned. Once per inch is best. That means a five inch coil should have five turns.
  • Tempered Steel — this is the process of treating steel with heat so it becomes stronger. The best mattresses use tempered steel coils, some are double tempered.

If buying a latex mattress, the type of latex determines best quality mattresses

  • ILD — this stands for Indentation Load Deflection and is simply a rating system for firmness levels. What ILD to choose is more a matter of personal preference, but the inner core of a latex mattress should be at least 30 ILD. The standard range for all latex is 20 to 44 ILD.
  • Density — this is the weight of the latex foam that determines its durability and firmness. Look for at least a 4-lb. density.
  • Talalay latex — a processing method that includes freezing as a step — it is neither superior nor inferior to Dunlop latex, but produces a softer, lighter, bouncier texture.
  • Dunlop latex — a processing method that uses heat and pressure — not necessarily better or worse than Talalay, but produces a denser, firmer texture.
  • Natural latex — made from the rubber tree, it has qualities of breathability, resistance to mold, dust mites and is free of petrochemicals. Some people think 100 percent natural is the best latex mattress — other disagree, of course.
  • Synthetic latex — made from styrene butadiene rubber, this petroleum based latex is blended with natural latex in most mass-market mattresses to make what some claim is a more durable, resilient mattress. (Of course all-natural latex mattress people would argue that premise!)
  • Blended latex — a 65-35 ratio of natural latex to synthetic latex is standard for most good latex mattresses.
  • Inner Core — the best inner cores are 6 to 8 inches thick, and made from firm latex, usually a blend, except for all-natural latex.

If buying a memory foam mattress, the type of memory foam determines the best mattresses in this category

  • Density — a high density gives more support to the mattress, so look for at least 4-lb density rating. While some think 5 lbs is better, it may be too firm for others. The number stands for how much a cubic foot of the stuff weighs in.
  • Thickness — the best memory foam mattress has an inner core of at least 4 inches.
  • ILD — determines the firmness of the memory foam. ILD should be between 13 and 15 for best quality mattresses in this category.

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